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granada la bella blog

About this blog

Here you will find my personal view about selected events relating to Granada, 'the city where anything is possible', Granada, 'la bella y la bestia', and particularly about the city's uneasy relationship with its greatest son, Federico Garcia Lorca, who alternatively loved and loathed it.


Contemporary Granada Posted on Fri, July 19, 2019 19:03:04

Athens has
not one, but three buried rivers, the Kifisos, the Iridanos, and the Ilissos:
“a crime against the city” the daily newspaper Kathimerini calls them. [This I
read in the Guardian Weekly of 14 June 2019; a report by Yiannis Babqulias.]
There, in Athens, the question of reburying or unburying the Ilissos has taken on some urgency
because its walls are crumbling and the tramlines that pass overhead have
become unsafe. Rather than rebuild the walls, wouldn’t it be better to re-route
the trams, and recover – that is, UNcover – the river? That is the current line
of Greek thought on the matter.

It is a
line of thought that can be identified as part of the ‘Daylighting Urban
Waterways’ movement, which and has had successes from Seoul in 2005, where and when the
Cheonggyecheon stream was resurrected from its urban death bed, to Sheffield in
2017, where the River Sheaf was opened up and incorporated into a pocket of
parkland. (GW again.)

So moves to
rescue our River Darro from under the Reyes
Street (see blog post 109, dated 2/6/2019)
are part of a global movement, something that improves their chances of realisation,

The idea of
burying the River Darro underground was conceived, according to Angel Ganivet (see blog post 109),
at the depths of a dark, dark night towards the end of the 19th century.
Is it not now time for it to be daylighted, in tune with the urban regeneration tendencies of the 21st?

1, The River Ilissos in classical times. 2, The Ilissos today. 3, The River Darro where it goes underground at Plaza Santa Ana. 4, The River Darro in the 19th century.


Contemporary Granada Posted on Sun, June 02, 2019 09:46:50

Perhaps you know that under the Reyes Católicos street, that vital city traffic artery that
connects Puerta Real with the Gran Vía for buses, taxis and bikes,
runs the River Darro on its way to its meeting with the River Genil, it in turn
on its way down “from the snow to the wheat”. (Quoting
Lorca: Baladilla de los tres ríos in Poema del cante jondo.)

Well, at the recent local elections, the leftist
list, Podemos-IU, led by Antonio Cambril, included the uncovering of
the Darro beneath Reyes Católicos in its election programme. And
unsurprisingly, the demand won the support of Lorca and Granada admirer and
expert, Ian Gibson, as revealed by Alba Rodríguez‘s interview with him in Granada Hoy, 15 May, 2019.
Gibson, convinced by the left coalition’s cultural and environmental proposals,
added his name to Cambril’s electoral list. Air pollution, as we know (blogs #post97 &
#post106), has
reached a critical level and Granada needs more green. Verde que te quiero verde,
he quotes (Lorca again: Romance sonámbulo
from Romancero gitano): “Green how I
love you green”. As for
uncovering/recovering the Darro: it’s a great idea and Gibson has thought so
for decades.

The idea, of course, is not really his. It
goes back to the powerful, coherent and influential urban criticism of Angel
Ganivet, who wrote in his work Granada la
that he knew many cities with rivers running through the centre of
them (London, Paris, Berlin, etc) but only in Granada had they hit upon the mad
idea of covering theirs over. The idea, he suggested, had been conceived at the
depths of darkest night. The Reyes
, vulgar in itself, was out-of-place in relation to the shady and
narrow streets that – then, and to some extent still – lead off it.

For Ganivet (1865 – 1898), the burying of the Darro
was a contemporary event and the more deeply felt for that. Until the 1880s,
what today is calle Reyes Católicos
used to be the Revés del Zacatín, the
Back of the Zacatín, and it was where the local craftsmen, specially the dyers
and the tanners and leather workers, dumped the waste from their artisanal
workshops. Straight into the River Darro. Like they still do today, I believe,
in Fez (Morocco.)

Since Arabic times, the Zacatín and the Alcaicería, on
the left bank of the river, had been the home of craftsmen, the Alcaicería in particular being for
centuries an important centre of Arabic craftsmanship, though the original
workshops were actually burnt down in a devastating fire in 1843, and the area
never recovered anything of its former character. Today, only Orientalist-themed and kitschy souvenir
shops remain.

By the 1880s, be that as it may, the River Darro had
been identified by the authorities as a health hazard for the densely populated nearby area, and hence the crude
decision to simply cover it over. And by 1884 it was virtually all over.

Then, just a
few days after the Ian Gibson interview, a photomontage appeared on the front
page of Granada Hoy (21 May G. Cappa) giving architect Saúl Meral’s impression of
what Reyes Católicos could
look like, gentrified and beautified, with the river recovered from its gloomy
tunnel. His artwork was an attempt to imagine a harmonised continuation of the
aesthetic of the river as it runs along the Carrera
del Darro
, Darro Road, before disappearing into its tunnel just next to the
Santa Ana Church. How closely it may reflect a credible potential
reality is open to discussion, says the architect, but in the end he is clearly
in agreement with Gibson’s attitude of: Verde
que te quiero verde
with regard to Granada’s urban development.
Above: Architect Saúl Meral’s impression of the River Darro uncovered. Below: carrera del Darro

Darío Jaramillo’s cat poems

poetry Posted on Wed, April 24, 2019 21:07:17

In a reading of Darío Jaramillo’s poetry at the Lorca Centre on Tuesday,
Rafael Espejo (local poet) chose poems completely at random, he said, and in accordance with
his own preferences and based on his familiarity with the Colombian’s body of

I noticed he chose six poems about cats and later I saw that Jaramillo –
like TS Elliot (Old Possum’s Book of
Practical Cats
) – has published a book of cat poems. He (Espejo) started
with this one:

Estados de
la materia.
Los estados de la materia son cuatro:
líquido, sólido, gaseoso y gato.
El gato es un estado especial de la materia,
si bien caben las dudas:
¿es materia esta voluptuosa contorsión?
¿no viene del cielo esta manera de dormir?
Y este silencio, ¿acaso no procede de un lugar sin tiempo?
Cuando el espíritu juega a ser materia
entonces se convierte en gato.

Aletargados en perpetua siesta
después de inconfesables andanzas nocturas,
desentendidos o alertas,
los gatos están en casa para ser consentidos,
para dejarse amar indiferentes.
Dios hizo los gatos para que hombres y mujeres aprendan a estar solos.

From DARÍO JARAMILLO AGUDELO, Gatos , Editorial Pre-Textos, Colección
“El pájaro solitario”. Valencia, 2009

This is how I’ve translated it:

States of matter.
Matter can exist in four states:
liquid, solid, gas and cat.
The cat is a special state of matter,
even if there is some room for doubt:
is it matter, that voluptuous contortion?
is it not from heaven, that way of sleeping?
And that silence, does it not perhaps come from a place without time?
When the spiritual plays at being material,
that’s when it becomes cat.

Lethargic in their perpetual siesta
after clandestine night wanderings,
whether oblivious or alert,
cats are at home to be spoiled,
to let themselves be loved unconditionally.
God created cats so men and women would learn to live alone.

¡Uy, uy, uy,
uy, uy, mi gato, …

2018 winner Darío Jaramillo

The Lorca Prize Posted on Wed, April 24, 2019 12:03:27

The winner of the Lorca Poetry Prize 2018 is Darío Jaramillo, from Colombia.
It was South America’s turn. Born in 1947, he is the second successive Lorca
Prize winner younger than me, so that must have brought the average age down a
bit. (See for example // dated 24/9-2015.) Another interesting feature is that Jaramillo has not got a large number of
poetry prizes in his display cabinet. Having said that, he did win last year’s
Colombian National Poetry Prize for ‘the existential and poetic maturity’ of
his latest publication El cuerpo y otra
(The Body and Other Things), a prize worth 60 million pesos, which at
around 17,000 euros is a similar amount to what he’ll get for the Lorca.

Darío Jaramillo Agudelo (Santa
Rosa de Osos, Antioquia, Colombia, 1947), miembro de la llamada Generación
Desencantada, es considerado uno de los mejores poetas colombianos del siglo XX
y renovador de la poesía amorosa en castellano. Graduado como abogado y
economista por la Universidad Javeriana de Bogotá, desempeñó importantes cargos
culturales en organismos estatales y fue miembro de los consejos de redacción
de la revista Golpe de Dados.
De su poesía se han hecho tres reediciones completas: 77 poemas (Universidad
Nacional, 1987), 127 poemas (Universidad
de Antioquia, 2000) y Libros de poemas (Fondo
de Cultura Económica, 2003); así como diversas antologías, entre ellas: Aunque es de noche (Pre-Textos,
2000), Del amor, del olvido (Pre-Textos,
2009), Basta cerrar los ojos (Era,
2015) y Poesía selecta (Lumen,
2018). Es también autor de aforismos, Diccionadario (Pre-Textos,
2014); ensayo y prosa autobiográfica, Historia de una pasión (Pre-Textos,
2006) o Poesía en la canción popular
(Pre-Textos, 2008); y novela, La muerte de Alec (1983,
Pre-Textos, 2013), Cartas cruzadas (1993)
o Novela con fantasma (Pre-Textos,
2004), entre otras obras. El 14 de noviembre de 2018 obtuvo, en su decimoquinta
edición, el Premio Internacional de Poesía Ciudad de Granada Federico García

My translation: Darío Jaramillo Agudelo (b.
Santa Rosa de Osos, Antioquia, Colombia, 1947), member of the “Generación
Desencantada” (Disenchanted Generation), is considered one of the best
Columbian poets of the Twentieth Century and a renovator of love poetry in the Spanish
language. He graduated as a lawyer and economist at the Universidad Javeriana of Bogotá and held important
positions of responsibility in various state cultural organisms as well as
being a member of the editorial council of the magazine Golpe de Dados. There have been three complete re-editions
of his poetry: 77 poemas (Universidad
Nacional, 1987), 127 poemas (Universidad
de Antioquia, 2000) and Libros de poemas (Fondo
de Cultura Económica, 2003); as well as various anthologies, among them: Aunque es de noche (Pre-Textos,
2000), Del amor, del olvido (Pre-Textos,
2009), Basta cerrar los ojos (Era,
2015) and Poesía selecta (Lumen, 2018). He is
also the author of a collection of aphorisms, Diccionadario (Pre-Textos,
2014); autobiographic essays and prose, Historia de una pasión (Pre-Textos,
2006) or Poesía en la canción popular
(Pre-Textos, 2008); and novels, La muerte de Alec (1983,
Pre-Textos, 2013), Cartas cruzadas (1993)
or Novela con fantasma (Pre-Textos,
2004), among other works. On 14 November 2018 he was awarded, in
its fifteenth edition, the City of Granada- Federico García Lorca International
Poetry Prize.
Here we have Darío Jaramillo (right) and Santiago Auserón discussing poetry in the popular music of Latin America (bolero, tango, ranchero). At the Lorca Centre, Granada, Tuesday 23 April.

Air Pollution (2)

Contemporary Granada Posted on Mon, April 15, 2019 17:37:48

In January, I first posted about the alarming levels of air pollution in
Granada, to which the city’s particular topography contributes [//]. Now a 30kph speed limit has been introduced for the whole urban area and
will be maintained as long as the problem remains unresolved (the foreseeable
future). It is one measure to fight pollution among others, which include the
gradual increase in the number of electric and hybrid vehicles, the elimination
of diesel and other highly contaminating fossil fuel-burning engines, and the promotion
of environment-friendlier means of transport such as scooters, skateboards,
roller skates, and bikes.

The town council voted in favour of the 30 kph speed limit on 1 March and
at the moment traffic signs are being changed throughout the city.
A further measure will be to reduce the speed limit on the ring road from
100 to 90kph.
These new measures are designed to reduce not only air pollution but also
noise pollution levels, not to mention accidents, thus improving the quality of
life Granada.

I read somewhere that Granada used to be a quiet, almost silent city, and
that when the wind blew in from the Vega it would not encounter a sound until
it reached the gurgling of the fountain in Plaza Nueva. Lorca? Another anecdote
said that the bell on the Veleta tower of the Alhambra was rung to signal
changeover times for the irrigation canals out on the Vega, where it could be
heard clearly at all hours.

Those days are gone and will not
return, but we know: air pollution is a killer, – and silence is golden…

Acknowledgements: Susana
10 Abril, 2019 – 14:12h

Left: the 30 kph speed limit applies to the entire road network inside the ringroad. Right: environment-friendly means of transport

Granada, second most highly rated tourist city in Spain

Contemporary Granada Posted on Sat, April 13, 2019 11:19:22

If Granada is only the second, what is the first?
is the obvious question to be asked. And the answer is: Santander.

The ratings are achieved by a comprehensive box ticking
method with altogether fifteen categories to be evaluated, including the
quality of public transport, preservation of the cultural heritage, cultural
and tourist facilities, hospitality, a feeling of safety, entertainment for
children, gastronomy, night life, shopping, and prices, plus a box for global

Granada did well on preservation of the cultural heritage, shopping and
prices, scoring a total of 85 points out of 100. (Did less well on hospitality,
maybe, what with the ‘malafollá granadina’…) It was pipped by Santander which
scored 87 and outdid Granada on hospitality, gastronomy and safety. E. P. 11 April, 2019

* The ratings are from a survey carried out by the Organización de Consumidores y Usuarios (OCU) which asked Spanish, Belgian, French, Italian and Portuguese
tourists who had stayed in a city inside or outside Spain for at least one
night in the last two years.

The gastronomy of Granada: The Essential Guide: Where to Eat Tapas in Granada April 3, 2019

The Origin of the ‘Tapa’.

Contemporary Granada Posted on Tue, March 26, 2019 15:56:30

The definition of ‘tapa’ according to the Spanish Royal Academy is a small
portion of food accompanying a drink.

This definition leaves out two essential elements that make up what we
understand a tapa to be in Granada today and they are 1) that it’s free, and 2) that everyone without exception is offered one.

If it’s not free, it’s a snack, or a bite to eat, a light meal, a tidbit, a
morsel of food, a mini-portion … anything, but not a tapa. Similarly, if it’s
not offered indiscriminately, it may be a treat, a favour, preferential
treatment for some unknown motive, a reward for some special service, a bribe,
a personal incentive, … but it’s not a tapa.

The verb ‘tapar’ means to cover and a ‘tapa’ is then a lid. The story goes
that the custom developed of covering the wine glass with a slice of ham or
sausage, either to prevent foreign bodies (flies, flecks of dust or dirt, etc) entering
the glass, or to prevent the aroma of the wine from escaping.

I once heard that the tradition of the free tapa, which is typical for East
Andalusia but not for the rest of the country, developed in cash-strapped
Granada in the 1930s as part of the fierce competition among bar owners vying
for custom and I’ve always believed it. The story I was told mentioned the bar
and its location, in one of the small streets close to Plaza del Carmen, but
I’ve forgotten the name and can’t trace it at the moment.

Anyway, now, a ‘tourist development agent’ by the name of Gabriel Medina has by accident
discovered the earliest documented reference to the phenomenon while
researching the gypsy zambra – a
style of Flamenco dance associated with wedding ceremonies. In his research, he
came across an advert in a newspaper for a tavern which offered macetas
(obviously not a flower-pot
but a drinking receptacle) a 10 céntimos
con tapaderas de salchichón
[drinks at 10 centimes with sausage ‘covers’].

This ad points to the date of 13 October 1909 as being the documentary birthday
of the tapa as we know it in Granada today.

This said tavern went by the name of Café Económico de Antonio el Aparcero
and in 1909 it was situated
in the calle (street) Tendillas de Santa Paula,
on the corner of calle de San Jerónimo.
Antonio el Aparcero subsequently
changed his premises a number of times before, in 1912, opening a tavern in the
central calle Sierpe Baja.

In this same year, the following announcement could be read:

El Aparcero tiene costumbre de servir con la maceta algún aperitivo, sin que
por ello empeore la buena calidad de sus géneros

[Antonio ‘the Sharecropper’ has the custom of serving some kind of appetizer
with your drink, without affecting the high quality of his beverages.]

Antonio el Aparcero was Antonio Quirosa Mendoza, born 8 October 1870, not far away
at calle Puente de la Virgen, 3. We do not know how long Antonio kept up the custom of serving a tapa with
the drink ordered by his customers, or if he was ever aware of the time-honoured
tradition that can now be dated back to that October day, shortly after his 39th

El origen de
la tapa de Granada / G. M.

M. V. Granada, 21 Marzo, 2019 – 20:23h


Federico Garcia Lorca Posted on Sun, March 17, 2019 10:56:49

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

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

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

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

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