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Last Updated: Friday, 18 August 2006, 09:55 GMT 10:55 UK
Poet's death still troubles Spain
By Rafael Estefania
BBC Mundo, Granada, Spain

Federico Garcia Lorca
Lorca was murdered at the start of the Spanish civil war
The murder of the poet and playwright Federico Garcia Lorca by nationalists on 19 August 1936 remains one of Spain's open wounds.

A man ahead of his time, he lived in a Spain that was going backwards.

The most gitano (gypsy) of poets - a label which, by the way, he hated - he was also the most international. His evocation of the folklore of Spain should be understood as a distillation of the essence of Spain through the eyes and pen of a man who knew no frontiers.

"I sing to Spain and I feel her to the core of my being, but above all I am a man of the world and brother of everyone."

He was born on 5 June 1898, in the village of Fuente Vaqueros in the province of Granada. When he died, 38 years later, the legacy of his work and personality had already guaranteed him a place in the pantheon of the immortals.

When you go to Granada and the surrounding area it is still possible to see some of the elements which inspired Lorca's work: the light reflected on the white houses in the Albaicin, the clear air of the Sierra, old women dressed in black, sitting in doorways, or a group walking to Mass on Sundays, the religious silence of siesta time, the raucous sound of a group of gypsies singing flamenco on Sacromonte.

"Even today, Granada is a small village, we all know each other's families, and in this sense much of the Granada where Federico lived has not changed."

The speaker is Federico Jimenez, director of the Hotel Reina Cristina, the former house of the poet Luis Rosales. That is where Lorca took refuge and from where he was abducted by Falangists and taken to his death.

"Through this very door they took him out and put him in a lorry with other political suspects. The people who saw this do not want to talk about it even today. Old people prefer to forget and not open old wounds, because they still haven't completely healed," says Mr Jimenez.

Lorca's body has still not been found.

Personal effects

His birthplace, Fuente Vaqueros, is less than 40 minutes by car from Granada.

Lorca's birthplace
His birthplace is now a museum which exhibits his personal effects
Today the house where he was born is a small museum, where some of the personal objects and fragments of Lorca's life are preserved. An old gramophone plays some of Lorca's musical compositions.

The museum displays the cradle, school photographs and a death certificate signed by his parents. "They had no choice but to sign," says Paco, the curator.

"Even though the body was never found, they had to sign, as this was the only possible way to make Federico's death official."

On the upper floor, posters, press clippings, letters, school qualifications and other personal objects give me an insight into the most influential poet and dramatist of the 20th Century.

Paco takes me to a television screen. He switches it on and we see Lorca in the only existing filmed recording of him. It is in black and white and Lorca appears always smiling, helping with the set or performing to the camera. He comes across as a man full of energy.

When the military took power, his execution was only a matter of time - a successful, liberal homosexual could not be tolerated in Franco's Spain
Ian Gibson
Lorca's biographer

"Federico was radiant and he transmitted this energy to all who were around him," Paco tells me.

Another poet friend of Lorca, Jorge Guillen, used to say that when Lorca was nearby the weather was neither hot nor cold, rather it was "Federico" weather. "Such was the state of intoxication caused by his presence that it even made you forget the temperature."

At a time when in Spain hardly anybody travelled, Lorca lived in New York, where he wrote his acclaimed "Poet in New York". He went to Argentina and he spent time in Cuba, where he was inspired to write "In a coach of black water I will go to Santiago".

Free thinker

He was a man ahead of his time, a restless traveller, a homosexual and completely avant-garde.

"Catholic, communist, anarchist, libertarian, traditionalist, monarchist," this is how he once described himself. Federico never had any definite political affiliation, which is one of the reasons why some people believe that his assassination owed more to personal rather than political motives.

"Envy is a very important factor in Lorca's death," says Ian Gibson, Lorca's biographer and an expert on modern Spanish history.

"Lorca was envied for his talent, he had money and he was successful. When the military took power, his execution was only a matter of time. A successful, liberal homosexual could not be tolerated in Franco's Spain."

Federico Garcia Lorca Park
Some believe Lorca's remains are near these olive trees
He was killed a few kilometres from Fuente Vaqueros, between Viznar and Alfacar.

I asked a local villager aged about 80 if he remembered those times. "Many lorries arrived here with prisoners to be shot and they buried them over there, close to this ravine. A shot in the back of the head and into the ditch."

In one of these lorries, they took Garcia Lorca, along with a school teacher and two banderilleros, who participated in bullfighting. It is believed the four were shot and then thrown into a common grave.

In search of the past

Today, Francisco Galadi and Nieves Galindo, grandchildren of the executed banderilleros, are trying to identify the remains of their grandfathers and to clarify the mystery once and for all.

"They are buried some two and a half metres from the stone monument erected in the Federico Garcia Lorca Park just next to the olive tree," says Francisco Galadi.

Now they have appealed to the courts to get permission to exhume the bodies. However, Lorca's family is opposed to the exhumation and wants them to leave the bodies where they are.

"We are not going to find out anything new by exhuming the grave where Federico is buried," says Laura Lorca, the poet's niece and director of the Garcia Lorca Association.

"He was buried there, these were the terrible circumstances. Today for us this place is a cemetery where he rests alongside hundreds of others who, like him, were assassinated. We want the circumstances of his death to be respected and this place protected from commercial speculation and morbid curiosity."

Mystery continues

Meanwhile, the mystery surrounding Lorca's death continues. The refusal by Lorca's family to solve it by opening the grave increases speculation.

Some people say that Lorca's body is no longer there, that the family disinterred it during the war and buried it in the family estate in Granada. "Perhaps this explains the insistence on not opening the grave on the part of the family," Gibson says.

In some part of this park dedicated to his memory lie the poet's remains.

While the dispute over the exhumation of the grave continues in the courts, here, surrounded by trees and the mountains in the background, rests a man whose crime was to be free at a time in Spain's history when to call for freedom was to knock on the executioners' door.

Seventy years after his death, his voice is just as alive as on that 19 August night when bullets tried to silence it.




SEE ALSO
Civil War legacy divides Spain
18 Jul 06 |  Europe
Country profile: Spain
03 Jul 06 |  Country profiles
Spanish Civil War veterans look back
17 Mar 06 |  Northern Ireland

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