Ian Gibson’s re-working of El Asesinato de García Lorca, originally published in France in 1971, came out in April 2018 and I immediately devoured the bits I had been waiting for: primarily Chapter 8, El poeta en el Gobierno Civil de Granada, and Chapter 9, Aynadamar, ‘La Fuente de las Lágrimas’. They cover the events from Lorca’s detention at the Rosales’s house to his death by firing squad on the road between Víznar and Alfacar, a few kilometres to the north of Granada.
Gibson’s decision to re-publish this work was, I am convinced, prompted by Miguel Caballero Pérez’s 2011 publication Las trece últimas horas en la vida de García Lorca. Caballero’s work is a deliberate and polemic challenge to Gibson’s original findings.
One thing that convinces me of this is the trouble Gibson goes to to stress the political aspect of Lorca’s social status, downplayed by Caballero, who prefers to see Lorca’s murder in terms of personal vengeance and family rivalries. Indeed, Caballero implies that Gibson is swayed in his judgements by his own political sympathies. Be that as it may, Gibson dedicates his first of ten chapters, plus a lengthy appendix of 35 pages, to demonstrate Lorca’s conscious political leftwing posture.
Otherwise, in reducing the time scale between Lorca’s arrest and his death to thirteen hours as stated in his book title, Caballero is demonstratively refuting Gibson’s originally much longer time frame. For me, the evidence indicates that Lorca was held in the Gobierno Civil building overnight; that Caballero’s timescale is unconvincing; that Gibson is closer to the truth.
PART ONE: The Detention.
While major contradictions between the two investigations open up once the poet has been disappeared, the facts about the detention of the poet at the Rosales’ house are relatively straightforward. Caballero places the arrest with some confidence between 1 and 1.30pm, although he is a bit vague about how events subsequently played out over the afternoon. Gibson also, in this updated version, tends to avoid specific time references. One of the very few is given in José Rodríguez Contreras’s much quoted description of the exaggerated police operation around the Rosales’s house deemed necessary to carry out the detention: It must have been about one o’clock, he says, because ‘it wasn’t every day you got released from prison!’ (Page 179. All page references to Gibson’s Asesinato.)
Even so, there is general agreement that the detention itself was held up for some time because Esperanza Camacho (‘Mrs Rosales’) refused to let Lorca be taken away without one of her sons being present, and it was Miguel Rosales who was first located, at the nearby Falange Headquarters in the Monastery of San Jerónimo. It was about 4.30, according to one version I read, when Ramón Ruiz Alonso, the man with the arrest warrant, brought him back to the house. Then Lorca needed time to get dressed, bid his farewells, which included saying a prayer with Aunt Luisa (page 181), so it wasn’t until maybe 6 or 7pm that they arrived at the Civil Government building. In his declaration to Ian Gibson in 1967, Ramón Ruiz Alonso says it could have been 5, or 6, or 7pm, he doesn’t know. (Page 349.) Another witness, Miguel López Escribano, a teenager at the time, says it would have been 3.30pm when he saw Lorca leaving the house. But, as I said, Gibson refrains from giving specific time references in this latest version of his chronicle, admitting only the evidence of Eduardo Carretero, who reckoned that, judging by the quality of the daylight, it must have been some time in the afternoon. (Page 180.)
So Lorca may
have arrived at the Civil Government as early as 4pm or as late as 7pm. What is
beyond a doubt, however, is that Civil Governor José Valdés Guzmán was away all
day on the 16th and didn’t return to Granada until 9.45.