I was very keen to read Ian Gibson’s re-working of El Asesinato de García Lorca when it came out in April 2018 and I immediately set about analyzing the chapters 8, El poeta en el Gobierno Civil de Granada, and 9, Aynadamar, ‘La Fuente de las Lágrimas’ covering 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. This part deals with evidence about Lorca’s time held in the Gobierno Civil building.
PART TWO: So, when was Lorca taken from the Gobierno Civil?
It is here, when it comes to the moment of the actual disappearing of the poet itself that the trail gets hard to follow and Gibson’s and Caballero’s accounts of what might have happened seriously diverge. Miguel Caballero argues that Lorca was taken away to Víznar to face the firing squad as early as 10 – 10.30 on the night of his arrest.
This doesn’t leave much time for the serious confrontation that certainly took place between Civil Governor Valdés and José Rosales, after which Rosales got to speak, if briefly, with the poet. (Page 187.) In fact, Vila San-Juan in his García Lorca, asesinado: toda la verdad puts the time of José Rosales’s audience with Valdés at 10.30, so they would have had to have acted with lightning speed for Caballero’s time scale to be maintained. Caballero’s main argument in support of the credibility of this rapid action was his conviction that those who wanted Lorca dead were afraid that the great influence of his father would thwart their plans again, as so often had happened in the past, something well documented in Caballero’s investigation.
Even so, there is overwhelming evidence that speaks against Caballero’s thesis. For one thing, it seems certain that José Rosales was not the last person who got to see Lorca at the Civil Government. One who most certainly did was Angelina Cordobilla, Fernández-Montesino’s (Lorca’s brother-in-law’s) maid, sent with a basket of provisions for the detained poet.
Angelina Cordobilla’s Evidence.
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. This narrative then becomes the narrative that she repeats again and again, over the years. (Page 199.)
However, convincing ‘new’ evidence, from 2005, provided by Manuel Titos Martínez, which places Lorca before the firing squad at dawn on the 18th, has become the consensus to the extent it actually appears in Wikipedia as definitive fact.
So, how reliable is Angelina’s narrative?
Those who reject her evidence imply that she was unwell, senile; 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.
Angelina reports seeing Lorca on the morning of the 17th, the day after the arrest. ‘The next day I took him his food,’ she relates, ‘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 makes a strong case for Lorca being held overnight before being moved to Viznar. 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, and that she was mistaken only about the second morning, the 18th?
Backing up Angelina’s evidence, Gibson lists a number of witnesses who saw or claim to have seen Lorca in the Gobierno Civil building after 10.30 on the 16th: Julián Fernández Amigo, Carlos Jiménez Vílchez, Emilio Muñoz Medina, Joaquín López-Mateos Matres, Vicente Lara Jiménez, and Francisco Benedicto Domínguez Aceitero, ‘el Bene’. (Page 191.) The weight of evidence indicates Lorca was still there long after the Rosales-Valdés confrontation and apparently until the following morning.
Another in itself quite minor discrepancy lies in the fact that Lorca left the Rosales’ house wearing a white shirt, as Miguel López Escribano, for example, testifies. (Page 181.) Yet 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 someone had brought him a change of clothes. 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 already faced the firing squad on the morning of the 17th, as Caballero will have it.
Two conflicting reports on when Lorca was taken from the Gobierno Civil to Víznar.
The disappearing of the poet-playwright García Lorca happened effectively just after José Rosales got to speak to him at around 10.30pm on the night of 16 August. Evidence of what happened after that has been clearly concealed and/or tampered with. We know he was then taken to Víznar to be shot. But, did it happen immediately after Rosales’ visit, or was Lorca held at the Civil Government for 24 hours, and if so, why?
An important witness and one who could be used to corroborate Caballero’s theory is Agustín Soler Bonor. He claims to have seen Lorca being taken away from the Civil Government without being able to verify the exact date:
‘One night in the month of August at about 10.30pm I arrived at the Civil Government (...) At the door a car was waiting (...) Inside there were two prisoners, villager-types (...) Going up to the first floor I met Lorca coming down, escorted by two Assault Guards.’
Gibson doesn’t include any information on this supposed eye-witness account. If it is true, the two ‘villager-types’ could have been the anarchists Juan Arcoyas Cabezas and Francisco Galadí Melgar who are known to have been shot alongside the poet. Gibson quotes Molina Fajardo in saying that the two had been picked up from the police station just round the corner from the Gobierno Civil and brought to Víznar with the poet.
Soler continues: ‘He was handcuffed and looked despondent and showed no sign of recognising me.’
The likelihood of this August night being the 16th, and just moments after the poet’s brief conversation with the respected and influential Falangist, José Rosales, seems pretty remote, in view of the evidence of Antonio Galindo, Angelina Cordobilla, Manuel Titos Martínez, etcetera.
But supposing this is the 17th and the man Soler describes is not one who was simply dispirited, but one who had been locked up and held incommunicado for several hours, maybe 24, maybe even tortured? He seems to be oblivious to his surroundings and fails to notice the presence of the witness. How long would it take to get to this state of resignation and apathy? Could he have lost heart so quickly, and so completely, if this incident happened moments after Rosales’s visit?
This evidence does not tie in very neatly with the evidence of Diáscoro Galindo being taken from his home at 2am on the 18th, several hours later. Galindo, I suggest, was possibly picked up later and taken to Víznar separately?
In total contradiction to the evidence given by Soler Bonor, which Gibson for some (undoubtedly well-founded) reason chooses to ignore in his latest overhaul of relevant events, Ricardo Rodríguez Jiménez gives a colourful account of how Lorca was taken from the Civil Goverment, and this Gibson does quote:
‘Each night I used to go to the police station to hear Queipo de Llano’s last bulletin, which was broadcast around 3a.m. (...) That night I left the station at 3.15am. Suddenly I heard someone call my name. I turned around. ‘Federico!’ He threw an arm over my shoulder. His right arm was handcuffed to that of a schoolmaster from La Zubia with white hair. ‘Where are they taking you?’ ‘I don’t know.’ He was coming out of the civil government building, surrounded by guards and Falangists belonging to the ‘Black Squad’ (...) Someone stuck a gun in my chest. I screamed: ‘Murderers! (...) They locked me up for two hours and then they let me go.’ By then, of course, it was too late to do anything.
Gonzalo Queipo de Llano was of course commander of the Nationalist Army of the South and so the supreme authority of the uprising in Andalusia. The white-haired schoolmaster ‘from La Zubia’ is easy enough to identify as Diáscoro Galindo, though he was actually from Pulianas. If Galindo was taken away at 2am, as his son said, it is quite possible that he had been brought to the Civil Government prior to being transferred to Víznar, on the morning of the 18th.
This account can be made to fit in with the evidence of Joaquín López-Mateos Matres, previously mentioned, who says that while on guard at the Civil Government on the evening and night of the 16th he saw Lorca sitting alone, buried in his thoughts and anxieties, ‘all evening and part of the night’ without witnessing him being taken away at any point. ‘Part of the night’ can hardly only refer to until 10.30pm, which is really not that long after nightfall, but to my mind it fits in better with Rodríguez Jiménez’s declaration. What it does not fit in with, though, is the bulk of the evidence about Lorca’s arrival in Víznar, which points to a much earlier time of night.
Why was he held overnight in the Gobierno Civil?
Here Gibson’s ‘dale café’ (give him coffee) thesis is well-known and convincing. Valdés realised that Lorca was a Big Fish and he wanted backing from a higher authority before sending him off to face the firing squad. The higher authority was Queipo de Llano. (Page 200.) Queipo del Llano’s go-ahead could easily have been given by telephone, as the line between Granada and Seville had been re-established that same day, the 17th. In fact, it seems likely that ‘the supreme authority’ called back to make sure his orders had been carried out. (Page 201.)
If we are to accept Caballero’s thesis that Lorca was taken to Víznar before midnight of the 16th, it would mean disregarding or finding an alternative explanation for the ‘give him coffee’ exchange as well as for evidence provided by Diáscoro Galindo’s son and Angelina Cordobilla, and also for Titos Martínez’s 2005 findings. Once again, Caballero’s main argument in favour of his 16th August thesis is that his enemies wanted Lorca dispatched before his highly respected and influential father had time to intervene to protect him.