Federico Garcia Lorca was a spanish poet, and playwright. He had achieved recognition as a prominent member of a group and artists ,known as the “generation of 27”, whose goal was to pursue new, experimental, and innovative styles and themes of writing and art with respect to Spanish culture and politics during the mid 1920s. At this time the republic of Spain was undergoing many political changes and slowly adopting nationalist and more conservative ideals. It was during this time that Garcia Lorca started to emerge. He is still regarded as one of the most influential poets of 20th century Spain. He had become widely famous and well known for his rejection of mainstream styles and themes of art and poetry through the devotion of his personality, and more importantly through his literary work, in a society in which one could face dire consequences for merely freely speaking against the traditional ideals and values.

Lorca was born to a wealthy family in  Fuente Vaqueros, a small town a few miles west of Granada, southern Spain. When Lorca was eleven years of age his family moved to Granada. For the rest of his life, he maintained an importance to the natural world, praising his upbringing in the country("Biography of Federico García Lorca"). Later in his adolescence, he felt a deeper connection for theatre and music than literature. Lorca first started his career after the death of his piano teacher and his first works, such as “Nocturne”, “Ballade”, and Sonata drew on musical forms("Biography of Federico García Lorca"). This type of poetry was not common at the time, Garcia Lorca had later commented on his first few works and said “It the the mystery of the youth which drives, not only art, but the world itself(Lorca, 23).” During his college years he befriended  Manuel de Falla, Luis Buñuel and Salvador Dalí and many other creative artists who were, or would become, influential across Spain. His talent and captivating writing was recognized by Gregorio Martínez Sierra, and he invited Lorca to  wrote and staged his first play 1920, El maleficio de la mariposa (The Butterfly's Evil Spell).  It was a verse play dramatising the impossible love between a cockroach and a butterfly, with a supporting cast of other insects; it was laughed off stage by an unappreciative public after only four performances and influenced García Lorca new and more unfamiliar themes to conduct his poems and plays upon. The first book of poems that he had officially published was in 1921. They involved themes of religious faith, isolation and nature that had filled his prose reflections. Some of these themes disrespected spanish ideals on religion and marital life. Lorca decided to visit and study a year in the United States at Columbia University in New York during 1929-30, when the stock market had crashed. During his stay he had written a collection of poems which he had called Poet in New York. When he arrived in New York he was stunned by what he saw(Smith). The city was a perfect metaphor for his spiritual condition, its ''extrahuman architecture, its furious rhythm, its geometry and anguish,'' he had never seen such poverty. Yet Garcia Lorca had discovered Harlem, with its thriving gay culture. Amid all the city's corruption, it was one place that seemed spiritually pure(Smith). He described Harlem in one of his poems and wrote ''No anguish to equal your thwarted vermilions, / your blood-shaken, darkened eclipses,/ your garnet ferocity, deaf and dumb in the shadows,/ your hobbled, great king in the janitor's suit(Lorca and Lorca 34-36).'' He had brought these poems back to Spain and had given people insight on how life was like there at the time. Some of the poems had deeply upset traditional Spanish nationalists due to Harlem’s new musical and Homosexual culture which made them question Garcia Lorca’s character.

PictureFederico Garcia Lorca (Left) with Salvador Dali(right)
Although nobody knows for sure, there is sufficient evidence to prove that Garcia Lorca was indeed a homosexual. This was another way in which he had rejected classic spanish traditions and ideals. A biographer, Iain Gibson, described how the poets works were censored to conceal his sexuality(Nash). It was not until the 1980s, after his death, that a collection of his poems titled Sonnets of a Dark Love was released. In these poems Lorca had written about his sexual fantasies such as emigrating to Mexico with his 19 year old friend. Moreover there is sufficient evidence to prove that Lorca had serious and scandalous love affair with surrealist painter Salvador Dali. Dali and Lorca had known eachother since the beginning of college. Dali had also helped Lorca with stage settings for one of his plays and was opened to great acclaim in Barcelona in 1927(Smith).  With the success of "Gypsy Ballads", came an estrangement from Dali and the breakdown of a love affair with sculptor Emilio Soriano Aladrén. These brought on an increasing depression, a situation exacerbated by his anguish over his homosexuality. He felt he was trapped between the persona of the successful author, which he was forced to maintain in public, and the tortured, authentic self, which he could only acknowledge in private("Federico García Lorca's Homosexuality." ). Due to some complications in their relationship, Lorca decided to go to New York in 1929. In one of his letters to Dali, Lorca had written, “Oh, my little cinders! Paint my name into the picture so that my name will mean something in the world, and give me a hug, for I badly need it(Lorca 56).” This is what many speculate, the main cause for his execution by spanish nationalists(Nash).

Even though Lorca’s homosexuality was undoubtedly an extreme form of cultural rebellion at that time, the most prominent evidence of his mainstream rejection was definitely his style of writing and the themes he used in his poems and plays. Lorca had quite a strange style of writing  in which he liked to make use of various symbols in order to convey the meanings behind his work. Many of the symbols he used were related to the subject of death; however, symbols and their meanings could vary from piece to piece. Through out his poems he used a vast amount of metaphors as powerful literary tools. However he used metaphors whose metaphorical meanings were very different in turn very difficult to understand("Federico Garcia Lorca"). One such example could be understood  from this poem. “My head is full of fire/ and grief and my tongue/ runs wild, pierced/ with shards of glass(Lorca and Lorca 34-36).” Unlike Lorca’s poetry which had fallen under its own style, traditional Spanish poetry consisted of various religious symbols and had very straightforward meanings. In terms of themes, Lorca’s work, consisted of folklore and fables combine with a modernist sensibility of despair and the depth of soul or heart. Blood Wedding, one of Lorca’s most acclaimed plays, spoke of his new theories on artistic creation, but more importantly it rebelled against the norms and tradition of the bourgeois in Spanish society(Holman). Another one of his plays, titled Yerma, which essentially is the story of a woman without children, living in rural spain, who is desperately seeking motherhood and ends up killing her husband because of it. Many nationalist conservatives were angry at Lorca because this play had challenged the institution of Catholicism and sexual morality in Spanish society during the time("Biography of Federico García Lorca"). His work challenged the accepted role of women in society and explored taboo issues of homoeroticism and class.

Because Lorca’s work had consisted of themes which challenged the status quo in Spain, he had received much unwanted attention. Once the spanish civil war had started in 1936 there was a sudden increase in mass political killings. The Spanish political and social climate had greatly intensified after the murder of prominent monarchist and anti-Popular Front spokesman José Calvo Sotelo by Republican Assault Guards. It is thought that García Lorca was shot and killed by Nationalist militia on 19 August 1936. Even to this day, Significant controversy remains about the motives and details of Lorca's murder. García Lorca's biographer, Stainton, states that his killers made remarks about his sexual orientation, suggesting that it played a role in his death("Federico García Lorca's Homosexuality."). Other reasons could be due to his works. Even to this day the location of his body is unknown. Many people think Lorca had foreseen his fate when he stated, “As I have not worried to be born, I do not worry to die.”

It is plain to see that Lorca wanted to find a new meaning in art through rejecting the ideals of mainstream society’s ideals traditions. He had accomplished this through his writing style, the themes of his poems and plays, and through his sexuality. He is still regarded as one of the most influential poets of 20th century Spain. He had truly lived by what he had said, “The artist, and particularly the poet, is always an anarchist in the best sense of the word. He must heed only the call that arises within him from three strong voices: the voice of death, with all its foreboding, the voice of love and the voice of art(Lorca, 78).” The Parque Federico Garcia Lorca, in Alfacar, is close to Fuente Grande and was the location of the unsuccessful 2009 excavations that failed to locate Lorca's resting place. Close to the olive tree indicated by some as marking the location of the grave, there is a stone memorial to Federico Garcia Lorca and all victims of the Civil War. Even today his work is celebrated in spanish society and he is praised for speaking out against the status quo under a government in which one couldn't fully express themselves.


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    December 2013