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News and comments and events relating to Granada, 'the city where anything is possible, Granada, 'la bella y la bestia, and Federico Garcia Lorca's complicated love-hate relationship with the city, etc


AVE (High Speed Train)Posted by Simon Tue, February 12, 2019 19:02:04
Granada will be linked to the High Speed Train (AVE) network from June 2019. [See previous blogs: Oct 2018 (#91); May 2018 (#85); Jan & Feb 2017 (#54 & 56); March 2014 (48); and Feb 2013 (#29).] This is almost certainly probably definite. It’s what Minister of Public Works, José Luis Ábalos, said last September. And besides, 18 June 2019 is the date that the bus replacement service to ferry people between Granada and Antequera expires. Until now, the bus company contract has been renewed every six months since the railway line was permanently closed for works to be carried out on the new line in April 2015.

Well, we said ‘probably definitely’ because, just in case, the bus replacement contract has been extended for another three months from 19 June, but not, we note, for the usual six. There has never previously been a contract of such short duration. So we have good reason to be optimistic. Something is moving. They’ve started training the High Speed Train drivers, I hear. So if it isn’t June, it will surely be before September?

The High Speed Train was once supposed to start serving Granada in 2007. In 2015 the station was closed ‘for 4 - 6 months’ while essential works were carried out. Then they talked about late 2017 for the first AVE to Granada, then early 2018, etc., etc

But this summer, 2019, you will probably definitely be able to whoosh into Granada at 300kph from either Madrid, or Sevilla. Fingers crossed. Or you could catch a plane from seven European cities. [//]

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Cante Jondo Competition

Historic GranadaPosted by Simon Sat, February 02, 2019 17:21:38

Clockwise from top left

1. A young Manolo Caracol (b 1909) also won a prize

2. a photo of the event

3. Manuel de Falla, portrait by Ignacio Zuloaga;

4. publicity for a recording of the event

5. the Plaza del Aljibe, the event’s venue, today

6. López Sancho’s famous caricature of El Tenazas and his select audience

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Diego Bermúdez Cala

Federico Garcia LorcaPosted by Simon Sat, February 02, 2019 17:12:58

Diego Bermúdez is not a name that immediately comes to mind in association with the creative life of the poet Federico García Lorca, but under his nickname, el Tenazas (Plyers/Pincers), you might recognise him as the surprising winner of the 1922 Cante Jondo Competition organised primarily under the auspices of musician Manuel de Falla, supported by a handful of Granada’s cultural elite, Lorca included, of course.

For Manuel de Falla, the cante jondo and in particular the siguiriya was the outstanding form of contemporary popular musical expression that had kept its purity over centuries and had its roots in the ancient traditions that the gypsies had brought with them from their origins on the Asian continent.

Diego Bermúdez, el Tenazas , el Tenazas de Morón, had helped keep this tradition alive, largely thanks to his friendship with and admiration for the cantaor Silverio Franconetti, recognised as one of the historic greats of flamenco music and who merits a vignette in Lorca’s poem Poema del cante jondo, inspired by the Competition. Franconetti is reckoned to have rescued from oblivion some of the finest primitive forms of gypsy song.

Lorca speculates in his “Portrait of Silverio Franconetti” on how the “dense honey” of his Italian ancestry might have blended with the Andalusian lemon in his rendering of the “deep song”. People who knew him said their hair stood on end and mirrors shattered at the sound of his heart-rending cry. For Lorca, his music, once so definitive and pure, represented the last echoes of that fading tradition.

Diego Bermúdez was, then, one of the few performers to have first-hand experience of this old style of flamenco, to which his own clear and powerful voice would prove that it could still lend an unexpected intensity. One might say that these were, indeed, the last echoes of that legendary music of an almost bygone age.

He was born in Morón de la Frontera (Sevilla), in 1852(?) and died, in dire circumstances, in spite of the recognition his prize must have given him, in Puente Genil (Córdoba) in 1933, where he was already living at the time of the Competition in 1922. He was born into a rural, practically peasant environment, but at the age of 25 he gave up working the land to dedicate himself to his singing, making a name for himself as an entertainer at public and private parties and gatherings throughout Sevilla y Cádiz.

Although Lorca wrote his poem and his talk about the cante jondo before the competition itself, we may say that El Tenazas’ voice fulfilled to perfection the essence of the Deep Song as understood by Falla and his like-minded peers. The gypsy siguiriya, said Lorca in that talk (Arquitectura del cante jondo) starts with a heart-rending cry: “A cry which splits the landscape into two ideal hemispheres. Then the voice stops and gives way to an impressive and measured silence.” This is given poetic expression in Poema de la siguiriya gitana, from which I quote, selectively:

“The ellipse of a cry goes from hilltop to hilltop. From the olive trees, it will be a black rainbow against the blue night. - Oh! - Like a viola bow, the cry has made the long strings of the wind vibrate” ...

[La elipse de un grito,/va de monte/a monte. De los olivos,/será un arco iris negro/sobre la noche azul.//¡Ay!// Como un arco de viola,/el grito ha hecho vibrar/largas cuerdas de viento.]

... while the “ondulating silence” that follows is a silence in which valleys and echoes slip and slide and by which heads are bowed towards the ground.

[donde resbalan valles y ecos/y que inclinen las frentes/hacia el suelo.]

This contextualisation gives us some idea of the wonder and awe El Tenazas’ voice suscitated in the hearts and minds of the Competition’s organizers, as described by Manuel Orozco Díaz in his Figuras en la Granada de Lorca: What started in a murmur ended in the tremendous heart-shattering, violent and brutal cry that made them all shiver with that a rare thrill of authenticity and succumb to the emotion of the performer’s powerful spell.

With his training in the school of the honoured and acclaimed Silverio Franconetti, El Tenazas must have fancied his chances in the Competition, because he set off to walk the 100-odd kilometres between Puente Genil and Granada to take part. That he needed the money need hardly be added.

What appealed to Falla here was the musical purity of the traditional form that he felt had been devalued by the degenerate milieu that had enveloped the cante, where the proud tradition of “our old popular songs” had been reduced to little more than pub sing-songs, easy listening, and somewhat ridiculous in the minds of the majority of people.

But what the purist Falla found hard to accept was that this milieu become to a certain extent part and parcel of the gypsy flamenco performance. Orozco says that while Falla delighted in El Tenazas singing, he found the vulgarity and obscenity of much of his conversation hard to stomach. He also quotes the violoncellist Segismundo Romero as confiding in him, saying: “You understand now, Manolo, Falla’s regret with Amor Brujo, don’t you? He seems to imply that Falla re-wrote this work as a more classically orchestral piece, distilling it of its more low-life Andalusian folk elements, removing the possibly banal dialogue and reducing the flamenco-like vocals from the first version, dissatisfied as he was with its gypsy orientation and storyline, with its more blatantly cantaora voice.

Lorca was more at home with the expressions of unbridled passions, as likely as not to end in a knife fight, that was the stuff of flamenco, as can be seen in sections of the Poema: Puñal and Sorpresa from Poema de la soleá to give two examples. This was less a part of the tradition that attracted de Falla.

El Tenazas, it seems, was no stranger to the world of gang fights or family feuds and himself received a life-threatening knife wound that pierced his lung and affected his ability to perform. Yet this handicap was also a sort of asset in the context of “deep song”. For deep song was the expression of the life experience of its performers and its audiences which the now 70-year-old singer gave free reign to at the Cante Jondo Competition, casting his spell on his appreciative audience, reducing them to tears of compassion and emotion. El Tenazas’ performance , we can imagine, was the net product of a lifetime’s experience of poverty, hardship, marginalisation and oppression that at last found an outlet.

Falla, the old ascetic, and Lorca, the young hedonist, had a lot in common as well as a great deal of respect for each other’s artistic endeavours, but at the same time their contrasting character and lifestyle were the cause a fair amount of friction between them. Their differing outlook comes to light here in their approach to the cante jondo, perhaps for the first but not for the last time.

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Emilia Llanos Medina

Historic GranadaPosted by Simon Fri, January 25, 2019 17:32:15
At the end of calle Elvira where it joins Plaza Nueva, on the second floor, the last four windows in calle Elvira and the first three in Plaza Nueva, was the home of Emilia Llanos Medina, a life-long and intimate friend of poet Federico García Lorca. She was quite a lot older than him, born in 1885, and they were introduced by the painter Ismael de la Serna at the end of August 1918. Lorca was very impressed by Emilia Llanos, as de la Serna expected him to be. He gave her a copy of his first book Impressions and Landscapes (for which de la Serna had done the cover) and dated it 29th August 1918 with the dedication "To the marvellous Emilia Llanos, spiritual treasure among the women of Granada; divine emblem of the 20th Century; with all my fervour and admiration.” - - The marvellous Emilia Llanos

From then on, Lorca was a frequent visitor to this flat, Dolores Cebrián, Emilia's maid, informs us. He came and went with a degree of familiarity; it was a sort of home from home for him.

Llanos maintained a life-long friendship with Ismael de la Serna, mostly by correspondence, as the painter spent most of the 20s and 30s in Paris. She was also a close friend of Manuel de Falla's, and of his sister Carmen.

On one occasion, Falla urged Emilia to use her influence to persuade Lorca to break off his contact with a certain ‘wretched group of young men’ whose company he was known to enjoy. He was of course referring to a certain section of the city’s semi-submerged homosexual milieu. It was her duty as a friend, he argued, to lead the poet onto the path of righteousness. Emilia’s response was indeed marvellous. “Federico is a wonderful person and we should love him as he is, with his virtues and with his defects.” It wasn't for them to judge him.

Who did judge him were the gentlemen of the Tribunal of Political Responsibilites who in July 1941 reached the verdict that Lorca’s public life had been ‘questionable’ (dudosa) and that he had been ‘free’ in his choice of friendships (amistades libres). He was assumed to be a homosexual, although for obvious reasons it was impossible to present concrete evidence for this assertion.

17 August 1936, the day after the poet’s arrest: his mother begged Emilia to go and ask Falla to intervene on her son's behalf, as his life was clearly in danger. Emilia set off but in the Cuesta de Gomérez she met Antonio Gallego Burín, who advised her: "Don't go, don't go. Federico is already dead. You'll only get Falla into trouble." "I swear," relates Emilia, "that if I had suspected there was a chance that Federico was still alive I would have gone myself, on my own, to the Civil Government." (Evidence suggests Lorca was held overnight in the Civil Government building in calle Duquesa before being transferred to Víznar.) When later Emilia told this to Falla, he made an enormous scene. "He made me cry. Your duty was to have come immediately with the message, no matter what anyone told you." The day after news of Lorca's death got out, she went to a friend's house (Cristina Gómez Contreras), terribly upset, pale, and crying bitterly.

She never got over the death of the poet, for whom she harboured intense feelings of affection all her life. She was also convinced that she had not done enough among her influential social contacts to prevent it. In the last years of her life she talked to him as if he were present, on one of his once customary visits, and would insist a place was laid out for ‘the boy’ at mealtimes. She died on 29 August at the age of 82.

Leer más, en español: Lola Manjón. Emilia Llanos Medina. Una mujer en la Granada de Federico García Lorca. Comares 2017.
To my charming Emilia Llanos . With affection and admiration from your devoted Federico 1931

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air pollution

Contemporary GranadaPosted by Simon Tue, January 22, 2019 22:35:42

A few hours of non-stop rain on the night of 19-20 January accompanied by some fairly mild winds was enough to clear the air in Granada, a welcome and long overdue relief for all of us.

On 17 January, Ecologistas en Acción had reported the alarming levels of air pollution that were being built up over Granada due to a noxious mixture of nitrogen dioxide and environmentally pernicious particles. This is part of a familiar weather pattern that is repeated year after year. Something to do with the exceedingly high summer temperatures favouring the creation of a layer of ozone which trap said noxious mixture in the long periods of anticyclonic and windless weather conditions typical in winter. Collected data showed that by mid-January air pollution was posing a threat to all forms of life in the metropolitan area of Granada, home to half a million people.

Fortunately, this threat came to an end on Sunday just a couple of days after the Ecologists in Action’s warning. Nevertheless, the ecologists’ call for a comprehensive plan of action to deal with the poor quality of Granada’s air needs to be heeded in view of the predictability of a repetition of the unfavourable climatic conditions in the next period of anticyclonic winter weather.

BEFORE ... the rain ... and AFTER

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Contemporary GranadaPosted by Simon Thu, January 03, 2019 16:56:18

In case you didn’t know, Spanish dictator General Francisco Franco’s mortal remains are buried at the Valley of the Fallen (Valle de los Caídos), a hideous fascist monument built by the forced labour of political prisoners on a mountainside north of Madrid to commemorate all those who died during the Spanish Civil War, though he himself died peacefully in his bed in 1975 at the age of 82.

However, he is about to be disturbed 44 years after his death. When social democrat Pedro Sánchez became president of the Spanish government in June 2018 via a motion of no confidence in his predecessor, Mariano Rajoy of the right-wing Popular Party, he undertook to have the nationalist leader exhumed and removed from the memorial site, symbol of the dictator and his repressive regime and a pilgrimage destination for his supporters to this day.

At the same time, Sánchez offered to involve the family of the late dictator in the decision as to where the corpse should be re-buried. Right then, they said, if we cannot avoid the exhumation, we’ll have grandfather Francisco moved to the family crypt in the La Almuneda cathedral in Madrid. It’s where his daughter, Carmen Franco Polo, and her husband Cristóbal Martínez-Bordiu, Marques of Villaverde lie buried.

Pedro Sánchez is not very happy about this. If the old tyrant’s resting place at the Valley of the Fallen demands of his supporters some effort in travelling around 60 kilometres from the capital to pay their respects to their hero, La Almuneda is slap bang in the middle of Madrid and along with the Royal Palace one of the city’s major tourist attractions. Imagine the tomb of the Generalísimo being part of this!

So the Government has turned down this proposal, allegedly on account of the threat it poses to public order, with the possibility of violent confrontations breaking out between supporters and opponents of the man who ruled over Spain for 36 years (1939-1975), not to mention the threat of possible terrorist attacks. In other words: technical but no political arguments against the late dictator capturing this top spot at the very heart of the capital.

So far, an alternative to La Almuneda has not been decided on, though there is talk of the cemetery of Mingorrubio, El Pardo (Madrid), where his wife Carmen Polo lies buried in a grave that belongs to the country’s National Patrimony, as, incidentally, does the Valle de los Caídos memorial.

This soul-searching quest for an appropriate place to dispose of the remains of the man who is responsible for close to half a million deaths among the population may sound perverse, but as we know: Spain is different.

There’s no hurry, says President Sánchez laconically. Franco’s mortal remains have been where they are for 40 years, so as far as he is concerned a few more months are neither here nor there.


The other threat of exhumation is of more concern to us. For a while, it looked as if the mortal remains of Emilia Llanos Medina would have to be removed from their niche in the Cemetery of San José in Granada owing to non-payment of long overdue maintenance rates. She died childless on 29 August 1967 and there are no family descendents to take on the payments.

Why is this of such concern to us? The ‘marvellous’ Emilia Llanos was in the words of our poet FGL a ‘spiritual treasure’ among the women of Granada and ‘divine emblem of the 20th Century’, worthy of ‘all his admiration and fervour’. Thus, his dedication to her in the copy of Impressions and Landscapes he gave her, a few days after them having been introduced, on 29 August 1918. She and Lorca remained the closest of friends up until his murder eighteen years later. Emilia was similarly close all her life to the musician Manuel de Falla and especially his sister María del Carmen.

Fortunately, we know now that Emilia will not end up in an unmarked grave - ‘a pauper’s grave’ as they used to say - thanks to the intervention of aware local politicians, who pointed out her key role in the cultural life of twentieth century Granada, allowing her tomb to be recognised as worthy of maintenance by the city council. This, even though she did not figure in the official list of local dignitaries in receipt of formal honours and distinctions from the city.

Her memory may no have the social impact as that of the late caudillo, Francisco Franco Bahamonde, but it does look as if she will be able to continue to rest in peace.

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The Crime of Níjar and Blood Wedding

Federico Garcia LorcaPosted by Simon Fri, December 28, 2018 20:20:45

The Crime of Níjar and Blood Wedding/Bodas de sangre.

It didn’t take Lorca as long turning ‘real events’ into great drama with this case as it did with The House of Bernarda Alba, completed after a creative process that lasted a dozen years or more (blog post #93). Lorca got fascinated by ‘the crime of Níjar’, as did half Spain, when he read about it in the papers in July 1928. The first performance of Blood Wedding duly followed in March 1933 (starring Josefina Díaz as the Bride).

The ‘real events’.

The crime the play is based on took place on the night of 22/23 July 1928. The Wedding celebrations referred to were to take place in the Cortijo del Fraile, a prominent farmstead in the heart of what is today the Cabo de Gata-Níjar Nature Park; the marriage in the nearby church of Fernán Pérez.

The bride-to-be’s real name was Francisca Cañadas Morales. The man she tried to run off with just before the wedding ceremony was Francisco Montes Cañadas, her cousin. The wedding was being celebrated in the Cortijo del Fraile because the bride’s father ran the farm operations there on behalf of its owner.

A few kilometres south of the Cortijo, on the dirt road that runs east-west between Rodalquilar and Los Albaricoques, the fleeing couple were overtaken and Francisco Montes was shot dead, with three bullets in the head. Francisca was later found with serious injuries to the neck and throat. Someone had tried to strangle her. She claimed not to have recognised the people who attacked them, which everyone agrees is an unlikely story.

True-life protagonists: Francisca and Carmen Cañadas Morales; Casimiro and José Pèrez Pino

José Pérez Pino and Carmen Cañadas Morales were found guilty of the crime. A married couple, José was the brother of the bridegroom, whose name was Casimiro, while Carmen was the bride’s sister. These two had probably been prime instigators of the arranged wedding between Francisca and Casimiro.

Francisca was nicknamed Paquita la coja, Lame Paquita, and had been set up by her father to inherit the family property in nearby El Hualix with a respectable dowry. The father was thus trying to atone for the bad conscience he had about his daughter’s handicap. Carmen Cañada and José Pérez saw the marriage of Paquita and Casimiro as a way to prevent this inheritance slipping out of their reach and into the hands of ‘outsiders’. Paquita was known to be unenthusiastic about the arranged marriage and preferred her cousin Francisco Montes all along.

The facts were just the seeds of Lorca’s poetic drama. In Bodas de sangre Lorca has the lovers flee after the wedding, on horseback, not on a mule. Lorca’s Bride was attractive, and not lame. Leonardo, the only named character in the play, is already a married man, with a new-born child, and another on the way; whereas Francisco Montes was single. In the play, Leonardo and the Groom kill each other in a knife fight under the auspices of the silvery Moon. Lorca finds no role in the killing for the in-laws Carmen and José, nor for a firearm. Knives and horses had a recognised and specific symbolic value in the works of the world-famous Andalusian poet.

Lorca also exaggerated the difference between the Bride’s and the Groom’s family background. Lorca has the Groom’s mother boast about the vineyards and fruit trees that her husband had planted on their evidently much more fertile property. This is pure invention. The Bride’s father, by contrast, is proud of his skilful cultivation of esparto grass, a plant used for basket weaving and similar handicrafts, the only crop that could thrive in the harsh and arid climate where he lives. These facts, as far as they go, do correspond to the actual conditions of the Cortijo del Fraile, although out of this fairly impressive farmstead Lorca converts the Bride’s home into a relatively modest cave-dwelling, more typical of Granada than of Almería. Again, the symbol-laden contrast between fertility and barrenness is a familiar Lorca theme.

Interpreting the real events.

When Bodas de sangre was first performed in 1933, the local journalist Carmen de Burgos had already two years previously published Puñal de Claveles, a story inspired by the same events. Her version adopted a clearly feminist point of view and had a happy ending.

Hers was the first of many retellings of the events that became popularly known as the crime of Níjar, the latest of which is ¡Llévame contigo, ahora o nunca! La historia jamás contada del crimen de Bodas de sangre (Take me with you, now or never! The previously untold story of the ‘Blood Wedding’ crime) written by Antonio Torres Flores and Ángel Miguel Roldán Molina and presented recently in the Lorca Centre in Granada, as reported by Enrique Abuín and Isabel Vargas in Granada Hoy, 12.12.2018. Their ‘previously untold’ story is based on a comprehensive and rigorously researched review of the documented events, which they take pains to place in their socio-historical context. The quote in the title of the book are the words with which Francisca supposedly exhorted her cousin, Francisco, to slip out of the cortijo together with her, leaving poor Casimiro napping, and which she repeated to the judge under oath at the murder trial. Torres and Roldán are confident they have written the definitive book when it comes to revealing the true facts behind the crime.

There have in fact been a series of retellings of the events, probably starting with the popular romances that circulated soon after the story appeared in the papers. The literary journalist Carlos de Arce Robledo marked the sixtieth anniversary of the crime with another book, with the straightforward title El Crimen de Níjar, purporting to reveal the ‘previously untold’ truth behind the events. In 2014 Josefina Góngora, grandniece of Francisca Cañadas, published a version of the story titled Amor y traición en el Cortijo del Fraile (Love and Betrayal in the Cortijo del Fraile) told from the bride’s point-of-view, which she felt had been under- or unfairly represented. While, last but not least, Paula Ortiz`s 2015 film La novia (The Bride) was more an artistic reworking of Lorca’s drama than any attempt to portray the real events.

One of the reasons why the crime has never lost its fascination is at least partly due to the behaviour of the protagonists after the events. Francisca Cañadas, who must have known more than she told about her almost-lover’s murder, lived with her niece’s family at El Hualix, the property which she inherited from her father and from which she rarely emerged until her death in 1987. She refused to see or talk to her sister Carmen who lived practically next door. Casimiro never crossed paths with his almost-bride Francisca and never spoke about the event even to his closest family before his death in 1990, 62 years after the crime.

The bare facts are so extraordinary and still open to interpretation it is hard to believe that the last word has been said on the matter, despite Messrs Torres and Roldán’s claim to have exhausted the material.

With the 100-year anniversary coming up, we can surely expect another flurry of new versions for 2028 giving their original angle on the happenings of that now distant summer night and the crime passionnel, or honour killing, that materialised in its arid heat and throat-clogging dust.

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new easyjet flights in 2019

AirportPosted by Simon Sat, December 22, 2018 10:01:33

Two new international flights have been announced for Granada Airport in 2019, one to Bordeaux and one to Nantes.

Flights are bookable on the Easyjet webpage. Flights to and from Nantes start on 31 March; Bordeaux flights start on 15 June.

There will be two flights a week to Nantes (anyone fancy a trip to the Loire Valley?), and three to Bordeaux.

With these two new destinations in France, Easyjet will have routes to a total of seven European cities. They already fly to Berlin, Milan, Naples, Manchester, and London.

That means they will have 206,000 seats available in 2019, an increase of 44% over the 143.000 seats they offered in 2018.

The photo shows the first Easy Jet flight arrival from Berlin earlier in 2018 and it is attributed to LAURA ANAYA.

Director general de Easyjet España, Javier Gándara, points out that one in five of their passengers flies to or from Spain and a significant but undisclosed proportion of them come to Andalusia.

Source: Enrique Abuín. Granada Hoy. 11.12.2018

Meanwhile, it has been reported that Granada is the Andalusian airport with the second greatest increase (20.3%) in the number of flights handled, only behind Seville (24.6%). Internal flights have done slightly better than international ones, and traditional airlines slightly better than low-cost.

Source: R. G. Granada Hoy. 12.11.2018

Apart from Easyjet, we have Paris, served by Vueling, and London City, served “seasonally” by British Airways.

Just over 900,000 passengers used the airline in 2017, so this increase should mean that the target of one million for 2018 has been reached.

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