CABALLERO VERSUS GIBSON: 13 HOURS, OR TWO AND A HALF DAYS?
Part 2: Angelina Cordobilla.
The testimony of Angelina Cordobilla, Concha’s (Lorca’s sister’s) maid, on which Gibson relies heavily, is a stumbling block for the 'thirteen hour' theory. I made this point six years ago [//blog.granadalabella.eu/#post23] and it still seems to be problematic when it comes to unravelling the course of events leading up to Lorca's death. If Caballero is right, then Angelina’s testimony has to be disproved, or discarded.
At first, in her interview with Agustín Penón in 1955*, Angelina insisted that she had seen Lorca only once at the Civil Government building but then, in relating the events, she seemed to remember seeing him twice on consecutive days. That would have been on the mornings of the 17th and 18th. Angelina reports seeing Lorca in a sparsely furnished room, with no bed, but, curiously, one with a table and writing materials. ‘Master Federico was hoarse and very tense. His good humour had left him completely. (...) The next day I took him his food and a packet of Camel. He hadn’t touched the food I had taken the day before, but he had smoked the cigarettes.’ Her vivid testimony, then, points to Lorca being held for two nights before being moved to Viznar. Or could it be that on this second morning, when she noticed the food had not been touched, Lorca himself was not present, that she last saw him on the 17th?
On discovering Lorca’s absence, she went to the prison where she left the basket of food and other supplies, hoping it would get to him somehow. Two witnesses, Antonio Pérez Funes and Cesar Torres Martínez, said they saw the basket which stayed there unclaimed all day. The question is: Which day? Antonio Pérez said somebody asked him ‘the day after the arrest’ if Lorca was there (in prison). He said ‘no’ and they passed the message on to his family. Could he be talking about Angelina? The day after the arrest was of course the 17th, whereas Angelina’s testimony indicates she went there on the 19th. The testimony of Pérez Funes and Torres Martínez about seeing the basket lends some credibility to Angelina’s evidence, but there is no way we can be sure about the exact date of these events. Did Angelina see Lorca only once, as she first recalled in her interview with Penón, and go to the prison on the 18th, the day after the news of Lorca’s arrest became common knowledge?
If Angelina really did get in to see Lorca at the Civil Government, how did she get past the guards on the door? In an attempt to ridicule her testimony, Francisco Valdés Escóbar asserts that ‘there was a continuous guard on the door and they didn’t let anyone through’. On the other hand, Julián Fernández Amigo describes the situation rather differently: ‘There was very little control. There were guards on the door, there were the old Assault Guards, who acted very decently in Granada; then there were the new ones... as well as those militia men...’. By ‘old Assault Guards’, he means those who had been recruited to serve the Republic, whereas the new ones, and the militia men, supported the rebels and the uprising. It is supposed that Angelina encountered a couple of guards who acted decently.Photo: ayuntamiento de durcal http://www.adurcal.com/enlaces/cultura/zona/historia/periodico/periodico99/septi99.htmThere is also the story of Enrique García Palacios, a cousin of Federico’s, telling Manuel Angeles Ortiz, an old friend of the poet, in Buenos Aires that Lorca was kept prisoner ‘for a week’ and that a cousin of his, the priest Enrique Palacios from Asquerosa (Valderrubio), went to see him every day, as did the Montesinos’s maid (Angelina) who took him his meals. How many steps there were between the actual events and their being reported to Ortiz thus resulting in an increase in the chances of the message getting distorted along the way is hard to say. Unfortunately, Enrique Palacios does not seem to have left any direct testimony about his supposed visits to Lorca in the Civil Government. Let’s take ‘for a week’ with a piece of salt. This evidence may have been based on hearsay, but at least it was contemporary hearsay, and not reminiscences thirty years after the event.
If Lorca was held for two days, or even one, in a small room, on the first floor of the Civil government building (possibly overlooking the Botanical Gardens), there is remarkably little evidence for it. There are two possibilities: one, he had been disappeared, so his captivity was kept secret; or two, he was never there.
Was Angelina’s memory playing tricks? Those who reject her evidence say she was unwell, senile, implying she was unsound in body and mind. When Gibson interviewed her in 1966, she was getting on, yet he found her lucid and had absolute confidence in her evidence. This same woman, who Penón interviewed in 1955 and who he judged to be around sixty-five, was physically active, neither senile nor unwell.
There are, besides, in Angelina’s favour, witnesses who claim to have seen Lorca in the Civil Government building after nightfall. Joaquín López-Mateos Matres, on guard duty at the Civil Government that night, says he saw the poet sitting in a small room on the first floor ‘hour after hour’, ‘all evening and part of the night’. Another witness, Emilio Muñoz Medina, saw Lorca ‘in the room they kept for prisoners’ while on duty on the first floor of the Civil Government building. ‘He offered me a cigarette saying “What a life! What a life!” We smoked without speaking. All the time I was on duty, Lorca remained alone in that room.’
We know that up to 10.30, Lorca received a number of visits, including the one by José Rosales, probably the last. Mrs Rosales sent a boy with supplies, maybe blankets, which suggests she had reason to believe that he was going to be detained for some time. The previously quoted police officer, Julián Fernández Amigo, persuaded the decent guards to let him in and spend fifteen minutes with the poet, this according to Molina Fajardo himself.
But the evidence of both López-Mateos and Muñoz Medina suggests that the poet was being held there on his own, incommunicado, ‘hour after hour’, ‘all the time I was on duty’ as Muñoz says, well into the night. Can ‘all evening and part of the night’ be made to fit in with Caballero’s time scale? Certainly if their testimony is to be credited and if they are talking about the time after José Rosales’s visit, it seems hardly possible that Lorca could have been taken away as early as 22.00 - 22.30 on 16 August, as Caballero would have it, arguing that the nationalist authorities moved so quickly because there were elements among them very keen to be rid of the prisoner and they were in a position to act.
Another in itself quite minor discrepancy lies in the fact that Lorca left the Rosales’ house wearing a white shirt (as Miguel López Escribano testifies). Yet all later testimonies speak of him wearing a pyjama top; for example, Agustín Soler Bonor claims to have seen him leaving the Civil Goverment wearing ‘a pyjama jacket, not a shirt‘, and later, at Víznar. Manuel Martínez Bueso, who accompanied Lorca’s car from the Falangists’ Viznar Headquarters to Villa Concha, the improvised prison for the disappeared, reported to his superior, José María Nestares, that he was wearing a pyjama top. If Lorca left the Rosales wearing a shirt and arrived at Viznar wearing a pyjama top, it is reasonable to suppose that Angelina brought him a change of clothes, and Indeed, Angelina told Penón specifically that pyjamas were among the supplies she carried the last time she went on her distressing errand.
Last but not least, there is the testimony of Antonio Galindo Monge, son of Dióscoro Galindo González, another victim who we know was shot alongside Lorca. Antonio says his father was taken away at 2am on the 18th and he went to the military command a few hours later in the hope of getting him released but was told his father had already been put to death. The son’s evidence is backed up in this case by an official death certificate. Galindo’s and Angelina’s evidence combined make for a strong argument against Lorca having faced the firing squad on the morning of the 17th.Notes. Agustín Penón. “Angelina.” Miedo, olvido y fantasía. Edición de Marta Osorio.