From his earliest days, Lorca was keenly aware
of social injustice, inequality and the suffering of the poor “from the deepest
roots of his generous condition”. (We have this from his brother, Francisco.) Nevertheless,
in spite of his sensitivity to social evils, Federico was never a political
activist. Even though Fernando de los Ríos, who was one, befriended him early
on, the poet never belonged to the dedicated group of student followers that
the Professor of Law won at the University of Granada in those years after his
appointment in 1911.

When Spain’s political and economic crisis reached
its climax in Granada on 11 February 1919, with a demonstration of students
throwing stones at the house of the Mayor, Felipe La Chica, and three citizens getting shot dead, Lorca locked himself
in his room for the duration of the disturbances and refused even to look out
from his balcony, where demonstrations took place daily right in front of his flat,
in the Acera del Casino, close to Puerta Real*. (This is from his friend, the
painter Manuel Angeles Ortiz.) “I frequently went to Federico’s place to keep
him informed of the latest events, for during the two weeks that the incidents
lasted, he never left the flat.” Any kind of violence went against his
sensitive nature, concludes the painter.

Lorca’s caution was perhaps not so
excessive, when one considers that one of the three fatalities on that fateful
February day was Josefa González, a young
housewife, who was hit by a stray bullet fired from nearby Plaza del Carmen while
she was in the interior of her parents’ home in calle (street) Reyes Católicos,
on the corner of calle Mariana Pineda*. In fact, only one of the three victims
of the Guardia
Civil’s repression of that day’s student demo was actually taking part in the
protest. He was local medical student Ramón
Ruiz de Peralta, shot in the head by a zealous Guardia Civil agent. The third casualty
was railway worker, Ramón Gómez, father of a seven-year-old girl, who just happened
to be passing by the puente del Carbón* (calle Reyes Católicos) when he was
killed.

Tangible outcomes resulting from these
deaths were a minor shake-up in the corrupt electoral system and Fernando de
los Ríos’s commitment to socialism, joining the Spanish Socialist Workers’
Party (PSOE) and getting elected to the Spanish Parliament in June that same
year.

The protests were
directed against corruption in the municipal administration and most
specifically at the liberal “cacique” (despot) Felipe La Chica whose turn it
was to be in office. “Caciquismo” was still rife in Granada, with conservative and liberal politicians conniving to rig election results, dividing
up sinecures and influential public posts between them, raiding the municipal
coffers to their own benefit, and aided and abetted by corrupt civil servants
who wholeheartedly joined in the graft by falsifying official documents,
including voting lists and election returns. All of this occurred against a
backcloth of economic crisis and poverty, hardship and want for the mass of the
population.

There is little trace of these events and
circumstances being reflected directly in the works of the poet. Nonetheless, Lorca
was not indifferent to what happened and we find his name in a list of
signatories to a telegram of protest from the Centro Artístico addressed to the
President of the Council of Ministers which was published in the Gazeta del Sur
on 15 February. The telegram, while ostensibly trying to avoid taking sides in
the political struggle, condemned and protested energetically against the violence
of the suppressive measures while taking a clearly critical position vis-à-vis
the practices of local despotism and calling for the resignation of La Chica,
who was indeed subsequently suspended from office.

* See the forthcoming blog for an outline
of the location of these places: Acera del Casino, Puerta Real, Plaza del Carmen, calle Reyes Católicos, calle Mariana Pineda,and Puente
del Carbón.

Acknowlwdgements to: José Luis Delgado, Granada Hoy, 10 Feb 2019 https://www.granadahoy.com/granada/ayer-hoy-Delgado-Granada-muertos-huelga-estudiantes_0_1326767749.html