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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


otherPosted by Simon Sat, November 11, 2017 10:33:05

Lorca biographer Ian Gibson declares himself finished with his lifetime project and does not intend to revise or update what he has up to now written and published aboutthe poet-playwright’s life, times and works. Time for me then, after eight successive blog posts on the theme, to take a page out of his book and turn my attention to the present day. And in present-day Spain the big issue of course is Catalan independence, its defiance of the Spanish state. ‘What the Generalitat (autonomous Catalan government) has done is a terrible mistake’ is Gibson’s view. It is not mine.

In his view, what they, the independistas, have done is illegal. Gibson is a self-declared Sanchista, that is, a supporter of Pedro Sánchez, on the more progressive wing of the PSOE (Spanish social democratic party) and now party leader. ‘We are the Left,’ declares Sánchez, a tad defiantly. As social democrats, that means they are committed to act ‘progressively’, but within the parameters of capitalist society and so of the Spanish state.

The illegality of Catalan independence that Gibson speaks of relates to the Spanish Constitution of 1978, a central tenet of which is the ‘indivisibility’ of Spain, - with its long history of resisting moves to self-determination, especially in Catalonia and the Basque Country. The Constitution of 1978 was written, it needs to be said, with the generals of the Franco regime looking over the shoulder of the politicians to make sure their concerns were taken into consideration. And one of the main concerns of the old nationalist right was to uphold the ‘sacred and eternal’ integrity of the nation state. We might say that the Constitution of 1978 was shaped under the ominous shadow of the then recently deceased Generalisimo Francisco Franco.

So, as long as the Constitution stands, goes the legalists’ argument, any declaration of independence of any part of Spain is technically illegal. Before Catalan independence can be considered, the Constitution must be amended accordingly. That is the law which Catalan separatists are flouting.

However, and although it may sound almost self-contradictory, laws are not in fact ‘written in stone’. Laws are made to meet particular social needs at a particular time and may grow outdated and be amended. Very often laws come about as a result of popular demands, pressure, and struggle. Let’s just take the question of universal suffrage, which was a right that had to be hard fought for in many countries, and in the United Kingdom culminated in the illegal direct actions of the suffragette movement. These illegal actions were vindicated by history and are now understood as a legitimate response to unjust and outdated laws.

This brings us to the question of whether Catalonia’s declaration of independence is politically legitimate. The principle of the right to self-determination is simply that a people has the right to freely determine its own destiny. This was the purpose of the referendum held on 1 October and violently aborted by the force of the Spanish state. It is a basic democratic principle, one that is indeed enshrined in the Charter of the United Nations.

The question may be raised whether Catalans make up an independent people, distinct from the Spanish people as a whole. The legitimacy of Catalonia’s declaration of independence stems from the conviction that Catalonia is a region which is culturally and linguistically distinguishable from the rest of Spain and also has a long political history that defines it as a recognisable entity within the Spanish state.

Catalan cuture: sardanas and castellers. Spanish culture: bullfights and sevillanas.

However, what is immediately at stake is not so much Catalan independence, but the right of the Catalan people to self determination. When the referendum of 1 October, asking the Catalan people to decide if they were for or against the constitution of an independent republic, was wrecked, sabotaged, and declared illegal, the Catalan people were effectively denied their right to self determination.

Just as a claim to self-determination can be deemed legitimate or not, similarly the indivisibility of Spain requires political legitimacy. Such legitimacy depends on the support or at least acquiescence of all sections of society and cannot be imposed through a statute of law, willy-nilly. The surest way to achieve and demonstrate such political consensuated unity is by allowing sections, minorities, to freely secede if they no longer feel their interests adequately promoted in the greater union.

A common argument against Catalan separation from Spain, and one that Gibson endorses, is that that region has a higher standard of living than the Spanish average and enjoys privileges over and above other parts of the country.

I do not dispute that the Catalan bourgeoisie has done very well out of its union with Spain, being provided with a ready market for its products that might have fared less well in a broader less protected European or world market. Nor do I not doubt that sections of the Catalan bourgeoisie are now interested in a greater degree of autonomy in exploiting their own assets, including their ‘own’ workforce. These people may be using the demand for self determination as a tool to win a better position vis-à-vis the Spanish ruling class at the negotiating table. But in doing so, they have unleashed a demon: the popular sentiment of vast sections of the Catalan people, including the working class. For these people, the fight for self determination is an integral part of the fight against austerity imposed by the central government and at the same time embodies the aspiration for a fairer and more democratic society. This intervention of ‘the popular classes’ is what is alarming governments across Europe.

People across Spain should feel encouraged by any gains made by the Catalan people and try to emulate them, rather than envy and resent their real or imagined privileged position.

But this state of affairs is depressing Ian Gibson, who thinks such a fight for political and economic progress can be won by voting in PSOE (social democrats) and using a PSOE-led government to implement policies favourable to the great majority of Spanish people. This is classic reformism and has bound working people to their national exploiters time and time again. It is not exaggeration to say it is the same logic that turned masses of working people against each other in defence of their national blocks in 1914 at the start of World War One.

It is evident that Ian Gibson adores many aspects of Spain, rejecting its narrow antidemocratic nationalism in favour, as he says, of a federal republic of Spain, or better still, he says, an Iberian federal republic, from the Algarve to the Pyrenees! (With its two languages, he adds in a traitorous self-giveaway.)

But in denying the Catalans the democratic right to determine their own destiny, he is accepting the logic of nationalism, where the rights of the nation supersede the rights of its parts and would make his federal republic a pipedream. If Spain is indivisible it must be so by the consensus of all its parts. And it must demonstrate its indivisibility by giving the Catalan people a free choice of being part of it, or not.

Ian Gibson’s opinions reproduced here are from:

Pedro Blasco. 28.10.2017 Vox Populi: Política

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Federico Garcia LorcaPosted by Simon Thu, November 09, 2017 13:42:37


Part 4: The Killing

There are, as we have seen, two different theories about the exact time that Lorca faced the firing squad, one night in August 1936 on the road between Víznar and Alfacar. At 4:45 on the morning of the 18th has been the consensus until now and is what it says in Wikipedia. When I began this analysis of the evidence, I did not realise that this date had been close to verified by a letter dated 18 August 1936 and discovered by chance by Manuel Titos Martínez*, in which José María Bérriz revealed that he had just heard from reliable sources that Lorca had been killed that same night. Of course, this evidence is not entirely conclusive, for Lorca had been disappeared and who knows how long it might have taken for the news to reach the public domain? However, one of Bérriz’s informants was his brother-in-law, Manuel Rodríguez-Acosta, a nationalist related by marriage to and on intimate terms with Nicolás Velasco Simarro, acting Civil Governor on the day of Lorca’s disappearance. (This man’s role in the persecution of the poet is discussed in // Who...? Why ...? And where ...? a critical review of Miguel Caballero’s Las trece últimas horas en la vida de García Lorca.)

Caballero, meanwhile, places the killing as not later than 4am on the 17th. He gives two arguments to substantiate his claim. One is that José María Nestares Cuéllar was removed from his position of command at Víznar for two days, 18 and 19 August, so he would not have been present to register Lorca’s arrival if he had been brought there on one of those days. But if Lorca arrived in Víznar on the 17th, and was shot before dawn on the 18th, then the question of Nestares´s removal from command for these two days becomes irrelevant. Secondly, Lieutenant Rafael Martínez Fajardo, who was encharged with bringing Lorca to Víznar to face the firing squad, was member of a column that captured the village of Huétor Tájar on 17 August, an operation that lasted twelve hours leaving Granada at five in the morning. If, as Caballero argues, the killing was carried out on the morning of the 17th, it had to leave Martínez with enough time to join his column at 5am. But, once again, if Lorca was brought to Víznar on the night of the 17th and shot in the early morning, this argument also loses its force.

The Falangist guard Pedro Cuesta Hernández is an important witness and seems to be fairly reliable: ‘The firing squad was organised before dawn, at around 4am, and it was made up of the same men who had come from Granada’ and he lists J.L.Trecastro, the Security Guards Ayllón, Correa, Villegas, whom he describes as belonging to the same ‘Black Squad’ as ‘the Pugnose of Plaza Nueva’ and ‘the Baker’, and Benavides, the man who we have seen bore a grudge against the victim and who was to boast of his part in the murder. He also includes in the squad one ‘Blanco’, and ‘the Baker’ himself. Plus Arenas, the driver. And, less willingly, by his own account, Cuesta himself.

Correo, Caballero names as Fernando Correa Carrasco. According to Caballero, however, Cuesta was mistaken about Antonio Ayllón Fernández’s participation, as he did not in fact take over as head of the firing squad until 22 August, replacing Mariano Ajenjo Moreno, who would have been the man in charge. Caballero also denies Juan Luis Trecastro’s participation in the killing. I am inclined to agree, partly due to his cocky copycat claim of firing two bullets into the victim’s arse, obviously minted on his friend Antonio Benavides’s abhorrent bragging. Even so, the possibility of a sort of ‘guest appearance’ cannot be totally ruled out. Although his proximity to the black squads was common knowledge in certain circles, Trecastro himself was too prominent a member of the respectable local bourgeoisie to appear in Nestares´s paperwork. (See below.)

It seems to me pretty likely that ‘the Baker’ was involved in the killing. Francisco Murillo Gámiz, taxi-driver and once Lorca family chauffeur, said he knew that the Black Squad that killed Lorca was made up of the Assault Guard Villegas, the Baker and the Pugnose, and he relates how on ‘the day they shot Federico’ the Baker approached him: ‘Have a Lucky (Strike). We took them off Lorca’s body after we shot him this morning.’ Bravado? Maybe. There were plenty of people in Granada who wanted to be associated with this abominable crime; Trecastro being, of course, one of the most prominent.

Nestares recalls the Black Squad that ‘the Baker’ belonged to. ‘They were really paid killers. They were organised by Julio Romero Funes (Valdés’s right-hand man at the Civil Government: there was no love lost between Nestares and Valdés), although on some occasions they acted on their own account.’ José Rosales says he knew the Baker from before the Uprising and names him tentatively as Eduardo López Peso. ‘We would give him a few pesetas to carry out reprisals.’ I presume by ‘we’ he means himself and his closest Falangist associates and by ‘reprisals’ he means acts of violence against leftwing opponents.

In the early days, Lorca’s death used to be talked about as being at the hands of these black squads, a name that has a frightening ring about it, presenting them as gangs of uncontrollable psychopathic thugs taking advantage of a situation of chaos and social breakdown. Luis García-Alix Fernández: ‘From the first days of the Movement, diverse elements, among them Ramón Ruiz Alonso, organised groups that, sometimes with the knowledge of the Civil governor and at other times without it, went round dragging out of the houses or the places where they were hiding those people they considered dangerous. And they met every night in the central cafe La Granja, to draw up the lists of executions they were going to carry out.’

In fact, Caballero’s account reveals that there were no clear lines between the official firing squads and the black squads, which were anyway by April 1937 fully integrated into the process of systemic state terror. Such is the case of Salvio Rodríguez García, mentioned by Caballero as one of Lorca’s killers, who was a black squad member up to April 1937, when all still existing unofficial murder squads were formalised. Until then, black squad members would sometimes support the official ones and gradually be absorbed by them. Antonio González Villegas, for example, was a black squad member in the first two weeks of the Uprising and was then incorporated into the assault guards, while evidently maintaining his links to his unregulated associates, the Baker and Pugnose. To me, it seems the term ‘black squad’ came to be used to distract attention from the state-sponsored elimination of oppositional forces, whereas in fact these murder squads were well organised and already, just four weeks into the uprising, pretty much under the control of the Civil Government authorities.

Both Valdés and Nestares seem to have been quite meticulous in recording their respective roles in consolidating the nationalist hold over Granada. Valdés was so meticulous in recording how he executed his savage repression that he kept well-ordered and detailed files, the one labelled ‘File 8: Re García Lorca’, significantly, found to be empty, though. Nestares, who was effectively in control of a battle front, needed to keep accurate records, in particular of movements between Granada and Víznar, but also to cover his back with regard to the unofficial executions that were taking place in his area of command.

Caballero expresses his great satisfaction with the testimony of Nestares, especially in the way it ties in so neatly with that given by his ‘assistant and friend’, Martínez Bueso, a factor which he thinks gives it particular credibility. Yet we know that Nestares was with some frequency questioned about the events of that moonless night, events that were classified as top secret. And we know that he gathered his team to school them on the facts, as Emilio Moreno Olmedo reported to Fajardo Molina, to make sure nobody strayed from ‘the truth’. His official paperwork relating to the events of that night shows signs of having been doctored, with the observation of three people being brought from Granada (Lorca, Gadalí and Cabezas) amended to ‘five’, to include a couple of petty communist-criminals and possibly a villain nicknamed ‘el Terrible’. When Manuel Castilla, Manolo el comunista, says the people buried that night were ‘the teacher from Pulianas, Galadí, Cabezas, and him, Lorca; nobody else’ he is referring to this clumsy effort on the part of Nestares to falsify the evidence. Elsewhere, Nestares reports that Funes gave the order to Martínez Fajardo to bring Lorca plus Galadí, Cabezas, and ‘the Terrible’ to Víznar; but I have found no other trace of or reference to this latter individual. I mention it here as an example of Nestares’s occasionally creative record keeping

Testimony of Lorca’s last moments comes from two sources: José Navarro Pardo and Manuel López Banús. From the former we hear how ‘the driver who had brought Lorca to Viznar’ (Arenas, supposedly) told him how the victim survived the first salvo of shots, an account confirmed by the latter, who says Cuesta himself related how, after the initial salvo, Lorca got to his knees and said ‘I’m still alive’ and had to be put out of his misery with a fresh barrage of shots. This may well be the occasion that Antonio Benavides fired two bullets into the victim’s head.

Photos: the drawing is a version of Goya’s ‘2 May 1808’ celebrating the people of Madrid’s resistance to the Napoleonic invasion, slightly amended to suggest Lorca’s facial features in the figure of the martyr. The painting is in the Prado of course and I think I got the drawing from an article about Lorca in the ABC newspaper, twenty years ago.

Note:*Titos Martínez, Manuel (2005). Verano del 36 en Granada. Un testimonio inédito sobre el comienzo de la guerra civil y la muerte de García Lorca. Granada.

So, by way of conclusion, what do I think happened?

The detention proceeded more or less as described by Miguel Rosales with Lorca being taken to the Civil Government in the late or mid afternoon of the 16th. But he was kept in custody until Valdés was able to get the go-ahead for the killing from Queipo de Llano. On the night of the 17th he was transferred to Víznar along with the anarchist bullfighters Gadalí and Cabezas. Schoolmaster Diáscoro Galindo joined them in the improvised prison known as ‘The Colony’, until Martínez Fajardo arrived from Granada with the official firing squad and an unknown number of black squad members. Then the killing went off more or less as Cuesta described it, plus Benavides´s credible addendum.

Does it matter?

Does it matter? Whether it was the 17th or 18th? The time he was ‘disappeared’ from the Civil Government? Who was ‘ultimately’ responsible? To what extent was Horacio Roldán able to pull strings and influence events? Did Queipo de Llano have the last word? Was Ruiz Alonso manipulated by Juan Luis Trecastro or was he motivated by his petty grievances vis-à-vis the Falange? Should we blame Valdés’s stomach ulcer and his consequent bad humour? Or maybe the offence taken by Velasco at Lorca’s anti-Guardia Civil poems? And the million-dollar question: the location of the poet’s remains.

It shouldn’t matter, but somehow it does. To some extent I share Ian Gibson’s exasperation at not knowing what happened to Lorca’s bodily remains. ‘If we don’t find them,’ Gibson complains, ‘the unanswered questions, the theories, the arguments – and the lies – will go on forever’+. (Personally, I am not convinced that the locating of Lorca’s remains will tie up the loose ends. Frankly, I feel it might throw up as many questions as it answers!)

After five decades, Gibson declares himself finished with his Lorca project. ‘I do not intend to revise my books nor write any new ones.’+

Perhaps it is time for me to take a page out of Gibson’s book and turn my attention to other matters, matters that are more pressing in the present than unpicking the tangle of testimonies, facts and fictions, lies and half-truths, arguments and counterarguments that lie eighty years in the past. Then again, they dug up Richard III in a Leicester car park after more than 500 years, so ...

Note: +María Serrano. 27/02/2017 pú

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Federico Garcia LorcaPosted by Simon Tue, October 31, 2017 08:34:04


Part 3: The disappearing

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. For me the date and the time of the transfer to Víznar are still unresolved questions. Did it happen immediately after Rosales’ visit, or was Lorca held at the Civil Government for 24 or even 48 hours?

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.’
Civil Government building, calle Duquesa; today part of Faculty of Law; behind Botanical Gardens:

If this 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. The only problem with this is that it contradicts testimony saying they were captured in a cave outside Granada and then taken directly to Víznar. However, Galadí’s family are convinced he was captured in Granada, at the Fuente del Avellano.

Soler continues: ‘He was handcuffed and looked despondent and showed no sign of recognising me.’

This could have been just moments after the poet’s brief conversation with the respected and influential Falangist, José Rosales. Feeling rather optimistic on account of Rosales’s promise to make an official intervention with higher authorities on his behalf, Lorca’s high hopes are then dashed when immediately afterwards he is handcuffed and led away. Maybe he has heard that he is being taken to Víznar and knows it can mean only one thing...

A second possibility occurs to me. Was the man Soler describes one who was simply dispirited, or one who had been locked up and held incommunicado for several hours, maybe since the day before, 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?

In total contradiction to the evidence given by Soler Bonor, Ricardo Rodríguez Jiménez gives a colourful account of how Lorca was taken from the Civil Goverment: ‘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 supposedly Diáscoro Galindo, though he was actually from Pulianas. If Galindo was taken away at 2am, as his son said, it is not impossible that he had been brought to the civil Government prior to being transferred to Víznar, though this of course would have been on the morning of the 18th, not the 17th.

This account can be made to fit in with the evidence of Joaquín López-Mateos Matres, previously cited, 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. ‘Part of the night’ might possibly 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.

Basing his evidence on what Nestares reported, Caballero says Lorca arrived in Víznar shortly before midnight, on the 16th. Pedro Cuesta Hernández, who was one of the regular guards at the Villa Concha, improvised prison for the condemned, testifies that Lorca was brought there between 10.30 and 11pm on one of the nights between 17 and 20 August, though elsewhere he says about 10pm on 16 -18 August. [This is an old photo of Villa Concha. It was demolished not long after these events.]

The general consensus is that Lorca arrived in Víznar after nightfall, after the gravediggers had been locked in, otherwise somebody would have recognised him, the gravediggers being mainly composed of liberal university professors, politicians, professionals, and the like: people who would definitely know the famous poet and dramatist by sight. At nightfall they were locked in on the upstairs floor.

The testimony of José Jover Tripaldi, who gave Agustín Penón such a hard time in the 1950s, colourful and attractive though it is, must be discarded as unreliable. Most of what he says could have been picked up in village gossip or in the cafés of Granada, and even the picturesque anecdote about Lorca’s last-minute improvised confession was in certain quarters part of contemporary street folklore. Caballero insists that documentary evidence indicates that Tripaldi was not around at the time of Lorca’s disappearance.

Finally, last but not least, there are the well known ‘Give him coffee’ instructions that Valdés received from Queipo de Llano which is supposed to have given the go-ahead to have the poet eliminated. Valdés was used to consulting with his superior over cases of exceptional importance and for the express purpose of such consultations a radio had been installed at the Civil Government. We have it from people close to the civil governor that Valdés, every night after Queipo’s speech on Radio Seville, would consult the General about the day’s events and it was after one such consultation that Lorca was dispatched. In one version Germán Fernández Ramos, a drinking companion of Valdés’s, claims he heard Valdés phone Queipo twice before sealing the poet’s fate. The Ideal newspaper, incidentally, reported the re-establishment of telephone communications between Granada and Seville on 17 August.

If the exchange really took place after Queipo de Llano’s radio broadcast, it must have been late at night. The earliest this consultation could have taken place of course is after Valdés’s return to Granada at 9.45 on the 16th, and in all events Valdés would have to have moved very fast and it hardly seems possible that he could have had this conversation and then got Lorca sent off to Viznar to arrive there shortly before midnight. Against that, Ruiz Alonso always insisted that Valdés himself had told him on the morning of the 17th that Lorca had been shot, on orders received from Seville, i.e. from Queipo de Llano. To complicate matters further, the radio broadcast theory fits in rather nicely with the dramatic testimony of Rodríguez Jiménez.

In any case, if we are to accept the evidence that points to Lorca being 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. Once again, Caballero’s main argument in favour of this thesis is that his enemies wanted Lorca dispatched before his highly respected and influential father had time to intervene to protect his son.

Gobierno Civil/Civil goverment building 5.11.07 Fernando Guijarro Arcas

'The Colony'/Villa Concha 09.06.13 EUROPA PRESS | GRANADA

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Federico Garcia LorcaPosted by Simon Mon, October 23, 2017 17:49:53


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 [//] 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

There 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.

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Federico Garcia LorcaPosted by Simon Thu, October 19, 2017 10:19:03


LEFT. Miguel Caballero Pérez. Source:Cronistas Oficiales de Andalucía RIGHT. Ian Gibson. Source: Paco Sánchez. Fotografía Corporativa.

Part 1: The Arrest.

Miguel Caballero chose the title of his book (Las últimas trece horas en la vida de García Lorca) setting out the findings of his investigation into the killing of Spain’s greatest twentieth century poet as a direct challenge to Lorca-biographer Ian Gibson, around whose own more tentative conclusions there had developed a sort of consensus. ‘It seems certain that Lorca was shot around 4.45 on the morning of 18 August,’ says Wikipedia (last assessed 18/10/2017) quoting not Gibson but Manuel Titos Martínez*. Caballero’s ‘The Last Thirteen Hours in the Life of García Lorca’ states boldly what he considers to be the definite time scale of events from the moment when Ramón Ruiz Alonso turned up with his arrest warrant at the Rosales’ house on the afternoon of Sunday, 16 August until Lorca’s death in front of a semi-official firing squad, which cannot have taken place later than around 4am the following morning. According to Caballero’s investigation.

It was mostly Ian Gibson’s research that led to the widely held belief that Lorca was shot and buried close to the spot that is now marked by a monolith and a commemorative park in his (Lorca’s) name on the road between Víznar and Alfacar, a few miles north of Granada. This belief was based mostly on the testimony of Manuel Castilla, ‘Manolo the Communist’, (see #post 9) who, as a grave-digger, claimed to have been one of those who buried the poet. There is much in his evidence that is very credible, such as the fact that as a young political activist, he said he recognised the two anarchist bullfighters he buried, but not Lorca, who had been absent from Granada for long periods in the years prior to his death, and was not, anyway, politically active. But when an attempted exhumation in 2009 revealed that Lorca’s corpse was not and never could have been in that spot, Gibson’s whole hypothesis about Lorca’s last days was put in doubt, - and the way was cleared for alternative theories to be put forward, again.

Did Manolo the Communist lie, or did he make a mistake? It was twenty years after the event that he, apparently with some reluctance, led Agustín Penón to the supposed site of the crime in 1956. If he was mistaken then, it would have been easy for him to repeat the mistake with Gibson, and with growing conviction, ten years later.

Caballero makes a point of emphasising that his evidence is based on contemporary police reports and civil and military documentation rather than on unreliable oral testimonies, as Gibson’s was. This is to some extent point-scoring for of course the sort of oral evidence that Gibson collected could never have been recorded by official reports and documentation and anyway these in turn could have been falsified by a regime whose legitimacy was questionable and which did not necessarily want the truth, the whole truth, to be revealed. In any case, Caballero’s faith in the written word must strike us as a bit naïve, considering the nature of the regime that had taken control of Granada, and the chaos that existed in those early days of the Civil War. Such records themselves are often written reports of spoken declarations, the veracity of which may be legitimately questioned.

Nevertheless, the fact remains that if Caballero is right, not only Manolo the Communist’s testimony but that of many other key witnesses for Gibson’s case is put in doubt, and needs to be reconsidered.

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 not seriously problematic. Let’s start with Gibson’s witness, José Rodríguez Contreras, who says he was released from prison at about 12am on 16 August and was on his way home. He relates how he was turned back by an Assault Guard1 (who he names as José María Vialard Márquez) when he tried to get through to his own house because the area around the Rosales’ house and the Civil Government^ building had been cordoned off on account of Lorca’s imminent arrest. It must have been about one o’clock, he says. Rodríguez Contrereas was sure of his facts because, as he said, it wasn’t every day that you got released from prison!

Caballero places the arrest with some certainty between 13.00 and 13.30 although he is a bit vague about how events subsequently played out over the afternoon. Much of Gibson’s reconstruction of events is based on the evidence of Miguel Rosales, whose version may have been agreed on after consulting the rest of the family. However, there is general agreement that the detention was held up for a while because Esperanza Camacho, Miguel’s mother, refused to let Lorca be taken from the house without one of her sons being present and it was Miguel who was located at the nearby Falange Headquarters, in the Monastery of San Jerónimo. It was about 4.30, according to Miguel, 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, and prepare himself for the ordeal ahead, so it wasn’t until 6 or 7pm, again according to Miguel’s statement, that they arrived at the Civil Government building.

One witness, quoted by both Gibson and Molina Fajardo (Caballero’s main source), neighbour Miguel López Escribano says he saw Lorca leave the house earlier; ‘at 3.30pm’, he reports. This would have got Lorca to the Civil Government by 4pm. Against that we have Miguel’s claim that he had had lunch at home before going back to work, with Ruiz Alonso coming for him at about 4pm. Then there is the question of the whereabouts of Gerardo, the youngest of the Rosales brothers and the only one who was not in the Falange. Miguel says he went to the cinema around 4pm and didn’t return till after 8; though in another version, given by Gerardo’s son, he was at the painter José Guerrero’s studio ‘on the day of the arrest’.

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, as was reported in the Ideal newspaper. Then José Rosales, Miguel’s brother and an influential member of the Spanish Falange, got to speak to him but was told that, ‘regrettably’, there was nothing to be done as there were official charges against the poet that had to be looked into. Vila San-Juan# puts the time of José Rosales’s audience with Valdés at 10.30 and confirms that he was even allowed to see Lorca who was being held in a room nearby, in the same corridor, on the first floor. Indeed, José was not the only person who got to see Lorca at the Civil Government, but the timing and circumstances of these visits is unclear. They will be dealt with in Part 2 of this discussion. For now, let us just say that Lorca was held there until well after 10pm.

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 22.00 – 22.30 that night, which raises the question: what time did José Rosales get to see the poet? Whatever the exact time the transfer to Víznar was, they must have acted with lightning speed for Caballero’s time scale to be maintained, once Valdés had reassured Rosales that he would do what he could for Lorca in the light of the charges against him. 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, and as is well documented in Caballero’s investigation.

Caballero’s version of events follows closely that of the Falangist journalist, Eduardo Molina Fajardo, just as its title deliberately echoes Molina Fajardo’s Los últimos días … (The Last Days ...) published in 1983. Perhaps it is time here to consider whether the left-leaning Ian Gibson let his opinion be swayed by his political sympathies. The seventeen-year-old Manuel Castilla Blanco apparently only narrowly escaped the firing squad himself, being reprieved so that he could work as gravedigger for other victims of the nationalist repression. These circumstances, if true, seem to make him a more credible witness than, say, Molina Fajardo, whose work in all likelihood was written to exonerate his Party the Falange from any guilt in this political crime.

Gibson, meanwhile, relies heavily on oral interviews with Angelina Cordobilla that took place three decades after the events by which time she was rather an old lady. According to her testimony, Lorca must have spent two nights in the Civil Government building. Was Gibson wise to have given so much credibility to her recollection of what was such a traumatic episode in her life? It is Angelina’s evidence that we will take another look at in the next part of our examination of the two hypotheses, Ian Gibson’s and Miguel Caballero’s.


1 Special police force created to deal with urban violence

^Highest political authority at a provincial level

* Verano del 36 en Granada. Un testimonio inédito sobre el comienzo de la guerra civil y la muerte de García Lorca. Granada: Atrio.2005.

+ El silencio de los Rosales

#José Luis Vila-San Juan. García Lorca asesinado, toda la verdad

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Review of Las 13 últimas horas ...

Federico Garcia LorcaPosted by Simon Thu, October 12, 2017 09:30:01

Who killed Lorca? Why? And where did they dump the body? is a review in three parts of Miguel Caballero’s investigation, Las trece últimas horas en la vida de García Lorca, into the poet’s assassination at the hands of right-wing nationalist extremists.

Part One takes issue with Caballero’s assertion that the killing was not politically motivated, but an act of personal revenge. Yet the political and personal were so intertwined at the time it is practically impossible to unravel them. The truth of the matter is that, although he would have liked to be seen as ‘unpolitical’, for the hard right in Granada Lorca was a ´red’ (a communist, or at least a Friend of Russia, - a communist sympathiser). As was virtually anyone who did not agree with them.

Part Two examines Caballero’s point that on the day of Lorca’s disappearance, 16 August 1936, the Civil Governor José Valdés Guzmán was being substituted by retired lieutenant general of the Guardia Civil Nicolás Velasco Simarro and it was this man who was ultimately responsible for what happened that day. My point is that Velasco and Valdés were the Tweedledum and Tweedledee of the Civil Government: both pursued enemies of the Glorious Movement with equal vehemence and fanaticism. Lorca would have fared no better if Valdés had been in charge that day.

LEFT: Illustration of Tweedledum and Tweedledee for chapter 4 of Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking Glass published 1871, by John Tenniel. RIGHT: Matt Lucas’s Tweedledum and Tweedledee in Tim Burton’s 2010 film Alice in Wonderland.

Part Three deals largely with the part played by and the relationship between Juan Luis Trecastro and Ramón Ruiz Alonso, who played Pinky and Perky to Velasco and Valdés’s Tweedledum and Tweedledee. My conclusion is, and I feel it is backed up by Caballero`s meticulously assembled evidence, that some of those involved had personal reasons to pursue Lorca to his death, while others did not, but they all went about it with a similar and shared zeal and commitment to the reactionary nationalist cause, aiming to stamp out the freedoms and opportunities opened up by liberal republican democracy.

Trecastro and Ruiz Alonso. (Pinky and Perky were BBC TV puppet stars of the 1950s.)

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Who...? Why...? And where...?

Federico Garcia LorcaPosted by Simon Mon, October 09, 2017 19:54:10



In re-assessing the circumstances that led to the poet Federico García Lorca meeting his untimely end in front of a firing squad outside the village of Víznar, Granada, Miguel Caballero in his study Las trece últimas horas ...* argues that personal revenge rather than political antagonisms was the decisive factor behind the killing, and he identifies the poet’s cousin, Horacio Roldán, as the man who set the process in motion and to some extent at least steered the events to their end, remotely through his social and political networks. In particular, Roldán used his influence with Nicolás Velasco Simarro, acting Civil Governor on the day in question, to metaphorically slip the noose around the neck of his quarry.

If we accept the contention that Velasco was the prime mover in the disappearance of the poet, what of those who carried out the detention at the house of the Rosales? Here, Caballero’s thesis is that the man who has hitherto been seen as Lorca’s nemesis, Ramón Ruiz Alonso, was actually manipulated by Juan Luis Trescastro Medina, who was also present at the Rosales’s house from where Lorca was seized and who in fact provided the car in which they took their victim to the Civil Government building.

Trecastro had long been a member of the old Conservative Party and in 1931 he joined the newly founded and more militant Acción Popular, where he coincided with both Ruiz Alonso and Horacio Roldán (p109*). His relationship with Ruiz Alonso is particularly relevant. There seems to have been some sort of mutual admiration between the two, who had collaborated closely in the run-up to the November 1933 elections. The following year Ruiz Alonso chose Trecastro to be godfather to his second daughter.

26 years his senior and member of the Granada landowning bourgeoisie, with connections to some prominent families in Santa Fe on the Vega, Trecastro may have been held in awe by Ruiz Alonso, who, being a bit of an outsider, may have felt flattered by being taken under the wing of such a major pillar of local society. There is no doubt that Ruiz Alonso identified with the violent political language of the older man, while Trecastro appreciated the youthful activism of his protégé, who, while less tuned in to the strife and rivalry between landowning families on the Vega, was always keen to make an impression on his social superiors. Caballero, at least, is convinced of the dominant role played by Trecastro (left photo) in the events of 16 August 1936, even though Ruiz Alonso (right) was the more visible actor.

Many of the other key actors in the concatenation of events had no obvious family or personal connections to either side of the Roldán-García Rodríguez rivalry, either, but acted rather out of loyalty to like-minded political colleagues or superiors. This observation applies to Inspector Julio Romero Funes, the man at the Civil Government who gave Lieuenant Martínez Fajardo the order to transfer Lorca to Víznar; to Martínez Fajardo himself; and to José María Nestares Cuéllar, in command at Víznar; and even to the head of the firing squad, Mariano Anjenjo Moreno. One of Caballero’s major contributions to clarifying the events leading up to Lorca’s death is to spell out the shared political motivations of and frequent inter-connectedness between these men: many of them were old-shirts in the Falange, had experience of dealing out repression dating back to the time of the Primo de Rivera dictatorship and would continue their practices throughout the Civil War and beyond; some had experience of the war in Morocco, where they practiced and perfected, Caballero suggests, their brutal merciless methods. None of these men show any qualms about the fate they are engineering for the poet. Nowhere is there any hint that Lorca might be being unjustly treated.

Barely a handful of actors in these events showed any remorse at all; one of those who did being prison guard Eduardo González Aurioles, who wept at his own impotence when he realised he was not in a position to intervene to save the poet’s life. Another was Juan Jiménez Cascales, chosen for the firing squad apparently because of his reputation as a marksman and not there for any ideological reasons: Although he stayed on the Víznar front for much of the Civil War, he managed to get out of firing squad duties, showing symptoms of being on the verge of a nervous breakdown due to the nature of what he was asked to do. The rest of the men involved went along with the inexorable process quite happily, regardless of their relationship – or lack of one - to the warring families.

Of the men making up the firing squad, however, there is one name that stands out as someone who had some reason to bear a personal grudge: that is Antonio Benavides Benavides, son of Emilio Benavides García and Adelaida Benavides Palacios and grandson of Francisco Benavides Peña and Emilia Palacios Ríos. This Emilia was the sister of Matilde Palacio, the first wife of Federico García Rodríguez, Lorca’s father. She died childless in 1894 after fourteen years of marriage. It was a classic marriage of convenience that Lorca’s father did rather well out of, during which time his farmlands on the Vega around Asquerosa were concentrated and extended significantly. Emilia had had to resort taking Lorca’s father to court to claim her full rights to her sister’s assets.

Antonio, then, was Matilde Palacios’s sister’s grandson; he was also cousin of José Benavides (Pepe el Romano), whose nephew was Horacio Roldán. It is not hard to picture how a feeling of resentment was built up between the three men directed at Lorca and his father’s social status and success, which seemed to come at their own families’ expense. This resentment was lived out by Antonio Benavides at Víznar in the early hours of August 17: ‘I fired two bullets into the poet’s fat head,’ he was reported to have boasted to his like-minded circle of friends, an expression echoed by Juan Luis Trecastro’s ‘I fired a bullet into the homo’s fat arse’ (p186), though Trecastro was I guess too much visibly part of Granada’s high bourgeoisie to have actually taken part in the killing itself.

All of this must have delighted Horacio when the news got back to him.

So there is no doubt that Caballero is right when he says there was a concatenation of causes that led to the poet’s death and that a significant number of these had their origin in inter-family and internecine disputes and rivalries between a group of inter-related provincial dynasties on the Vega of Granada going back over half a century. This is a valuable contribution to our knowledge and understanding of Lorca’s death. But where he fails to convince is in his assertion that these localised disputes and rivalries were not grounded in the heightened political conflicts of the day, which in fact they almost certainly contributed to and fed on.

As a final footnote, the final question that Caballero was confident of being able to answer: ‘where is the body?’ The latest physical systematic search, based on Miguel Caballero’s investigation, drew another blank and was abandoned on 20 October last year, 2016. I refer you to my post: ‘No. They didn't find me’, dated 20 February 2017 [/].

The conclusion is that the body was dug up shortly after the killing and reburied elsewhere. This hypothesis corresponds with what Antonio Gallego Burín told Emilia Llanos Medina and she told investigator Agustín Penón in the mid-1950s: the shock waves caused by Lorca’s murder were such that his remains were secretly moved to a mass grave nearby to make it harder for them to be found and identified.


* Miguel Caballero Pérez. Las trece últimas horas en la vida de García Lorca. La Esfera de los libros. 2011. Page numbers refer to this publication.

The photographs are of:

Juan Luis Trescastro Medina, published in Granada Gráfica (March 1922, p28), so fourteen years before these events; reproduced by Gabriel Pozo Felguera in El Independiente de Granada, 19 March 2017

Ramón Ruiz Alonso, published in the IDEAL newspaper, 15 February 1936 [Hemeroteca Ideal] taken from a CEDA election poster

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Who...? Why ...? And where...?

Federico Garcia LorcaPosted by Simon Mon, October 02, 2017 16:38:00



Shortly after the nationalist uprising against the democratic republic of Spain, the poet Federico García Lorca was seized by the local authorities and disappeared. The circumstances around the disappearance are still unclear, though Miguel Caballero Pérez presents what he considers to be the definitive answers to these questions in Las trece últimas horas en la vida de García Lorca (The Last Thirteen Hours in the Life of Garcia Lorca), published in 2011.

His thesis is that there was ‘una concatenación de causas’ (p25*), a whole constellation of interrelated causes, which had their origin not in political differences but in inter-family and internecine disputes and rivalries that had festered over half a century. At the heart of these disputes and rivalries Caballero identifies Lorca’s cousin, Horacio Roldán, who, he suggests, had reason enough to believe his own prospects in life had been obstructed by advantages and favours his cousin had enjoyed at his expense.

Horacio, Caballero’s argument goes, used his social and political networks to set off and direct the chain of events that ended with Lorca facing a firing squad on the roadside outside the village of Víznar on the morning of 17 August 1936.

Here we are going to examine some of Caballero’s arguments and evidence, starting with the man who he identifies as the linchpin in the concerted effort to destroy the poet: Civil Guard Lieutenant Colonel in retirement, Nicolás Velasco Simarro, who on the day of the poet’s arrest was substituting head of the Civil Government, José Valdés Guzmán (p38). Caballero assembles the evidence to convince us that it was Velasco Simarro who had the power, the opportunity and the motivation to engineer the physical elimination of the troublesome poet, Horacio Roldán’s socially favoured cousin.

Before discussing what it was he had against Lorca, Caballero goes almost out of his way to emphasise this man’s right-wing political convictions and the zeal with which he pursued anyone he considered to be an opponent, starting with the earliest days of his career in the Guardia Civil when he was active in the suppression of strike movements in Catalonia and later, in Zamora, receiving praise from King Alfonso XIII for his part in putting down several disturbances that were a threat to public order and endangered the higher common good of the nation (p41). Caballero also draws our attention to his presence in Malaga in 1918 when a demonstration of working women was violently suppressed by the Civil Guard (p42), resulting in four deaths, two of them women demonstrators.

Stationed in Granada from April 1930 [p44], Velasco Simarro continued his crusade against ´left ideology’ which he observed flourishing under the Republic, and his position in the Guardia Civil made it his business to get to know personally a number of its leaders and supporters (p40). Before his retirement from active service in December 1934, he had an opportunity to put this knowledge to use when workers in Granada took action in support of the Asturian miners’ October revolutionary strike. Although the situation in Granada was anything but revolutionary, Velasco arrested and imprisoned practically all the socialist and trade union leaders around as subversives and traitors to the fatherland. Caballero points out that the evidence provided against them was so weak that virtually all the arrested were released within a few days. But for Velasco the experience would serve as a rehearsal for what was to happen when the nationalists rose up against the Republic two years later (p61).

So much for manifestations of Velasco’s general right-wing political attitudes and commitment: What of his more personal vendetta against Lorca?

In this context, Caballero makes much of the offence that the Lieutenant Colonel might well have taken at the poet’s writings on the Civil Guard, an institution to which he had dedicated his life, in particular the poems Escena del teniente coronel de la Guardia Civil from the Poema del cante jondo, and his Romance de la Guardia Civil española.

The Romance draws on real events that occurred in the countryside around Jeréz de la Frontera in the summer of 1923 and presents a powerful depiction of the sinister menace of agents of the Civil Guard as they approach ‘the city of the gypsies’, and of the havoc they wreak there and leave behind. The more satirical Escena, which includes Canción del gitano paleado, surely alludes to an event from the beginning of 1919 when the poet and his artist friend Manuel Angles Ortiz witnessed the arrival in custody in Granada of two gypsies accused of killing a Civil Guard in Sierra Nevada .To say they had been beaten black and blue would be understatement. Ortiz fainted. Lorca wrote his Escena with the absurd lieutenant colonel and the beaten-up gypsy in 1925, being published in Poema del Cante Jondo in 1931.**

There is no doubt that these poetic attacks on the Guardia Civil ruffled some feathers in high places and there is little reason to believe that they left Lieutenant Colonel Velasco indifferent. It is worth remembering here that Lorca himself expressed his alarm to Antonio Otero Seco*** that he had been summoned to court to defend himself against legal proceedings being initiated by ‘a gentleman from Tarragona’ who took exception to the anti-Civil Guard sentiment of the said Romance. To think that the man had been carrying this resentment around with him locked away within his heart for all these years, conjectures the poet. This was early 1936 and Romancero Gitano had been published in 1928. The gentleman from Tarragona was hardly an isolated case.

Be that as it may, what for me more than anything else reveals the retired lieutenant colonel’s unconditional support for the Roldán clan and fellow despots on the Vega, and consequentially his opposition to the more liberal García Rodríguez (Lorca’s) family, was his response to the young Republic’s Agrarian Reform Law, which on paper at least provided some protection to land labourers from the arbitrary practices of local petty despots, especially in vulnerable Andalusia and Extremadura. This law had the effect of strengthening the bargaining position of workers’ organisations and was felt by the conservative landowning classes as intolerable government interference and a restriction on their natural right to exploit their lands and their workforce in any way they thought fit, and they resisted it wherever they could.

Landowners resisted the application of the law often with the connivance of the Guardia Civil, as in the case cited by Caballero in Pinos Puente (p47), on the Vega of Granada, where the Roldán clan and like-minded landowners used their influence with the local Civil Guard and the Mayor of Pinos Puente, in fact nothing more than a puppet politician put in place by the Roldáns (says Caballero). If not directly involved, Velasco Simarro certainly approved of these goings on, otherwise he would have felt obliged to act against such blatant and deliberate obstruction of the legal process on the part of one of his men.

In such cases it is truly difficult to separate the personal from the political; they merge almost seamlessly into each other. However, it seems clear that Velasco’s positioning himself on the side of the Roldán clan and against Lorca’s family, - this assertion based on Caballero’s own evidence and argument -, was as much politically motivated as due to personal or family ties and affections. That is to say, personal or family ties and affections tend to consolidate political attitudes and vice versa.

Besides, Caballero goes to some lengths to demonstrate that Velasco was substituting the regular Civil Governor, José Valdés Guzmán, on the day of Lorca’s disappearance and implies that he used Valdés’s absence to clear the way for the disappearance of the poet. Yet it seems very unlikely that Lorca’s fate would have been any different if Velasco’s superior had been in charge. Just two days before the incident at the Huerta de San Vicente referred to in Part 1, Valdés had actually visited the Roldán clan’s dominions at Asquerosa and if he had not encouraged it, he had certainly emboldened the local posse of men to take the action they did at the Huerta on 9 August.

Furthermore, Valdés and Horacio Roldán were neighbours at San Antón Street number 81, and had been close collaborators in organising the uprising of 18 July; and thirdly, Valdés, suspected by the central government of active participation in the planned uprising, had been recalled to Madrid a few weeks before, where he would have been, if his doctor, Eduardo López Font, another man related to the Roldáns, had not ordered a two-month period of convalescence, keeping him in Granada to lead the coup. Last but not least, another tie between Valdés and the Roldán family: Captain Antonio Fernández Sánchez, Valdés’s right-hand man at the Civil Government, was Horacio’s brother-in-law (p118/201). So we see that in fact Valdés had probably closer personal and family links to the Roldán clan and to Horacio in particular than Velasco did.

But again, let’s face it, Valdés hardly needed any such personal motivation in eliminating any person that might have been considered in any way hostile to his plans to bring down the Republic. His unrelenting cruelty was legendary, intensified it was reported by a chronic stomach ulcer he suffered from, and in April 1937 he was actually removed from his post because of his overzealous fulfilment of what he saw as his duty and for which he felt compelled to apologise to the citizens of Granada!. The threat issued on 13 August to impose heavy fines on anyone regardless of status seeking to intervene in favour of detainees of the Civil Government, such as Lorca just a few days later, was indicative of the sour-grapes attitude of the man in charge.

In Part 3, we will have a look at more of the actors in this ‘concatenation of events’ and see to what extent their personal dislike of the poet and his father played a motivating part in their actions, and whether the personal really did outweigh the political in these cases.


*Page numbers refer to Las trece últimas horas en la vida de García Lorca. La Esfera de los Libros, 2011

** Ian Gibson. Federico García Lorca: A Life. Faber & Faber, London, 1989. pp135-6

*** Federico García Lorca. Obras Completas 3. Prosa.Una conversación inédita ... (From a previously unpublished interview with Antonio Otero Seco). p 625

The photograph is by Eugene Smith (1918-1978), dated 1950, from:

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