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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.

Wow! What a line-up!

Contemporary Granada, Federico Garcia Lorca Posted on Mon, June 29, 2020 11:40:04

Every summer for the last eighteen years the Agencia Andaluza de Instituciones Culturales in collaboration with the Patronato de la Alhambra has organised the outdoor summer concert cycle ‘Lorca y Granada’ in the Gardens of the Generalife. This year, the nineteenth, is a pretty impressive line-up, representing la crême de la crême of contemporary flamenco. The consejera de Cultura y Patrimonio Histórico (Counselor of Culture and Histroic Patrimony), Patricia del Pozo, is not wrong when she says “this year’s programme is absolutely exceptional” bringing us four productions involving some of the best-known bailaores/-as and cantaores/-as of today.

1. Estrella Morente

Estrella brings her new show Tesela to the Generalife on 30 and 31 July, with the special collaboration of her brother Enrique Morente Carbonell and Moroccan violin virtuoso Jalal Chekara, and supported by an ensemble of 14 outstanding musicians, including the Israeli jazz guitarist Dan Ben Lior. “A fusion of Gypsy, Arab, and Jewish cultural values and meant as a modest contribution to an anti-racist dialogue in which music is our only weapon against the madness and meanness of racial prejudice.” (Very free translation.).

Morente’s two performances will be followed by

2. Manuel Liñán

From 3 to 12 August, with a break on the 9th, Granada’s celebrated bailaor, director y choreographer presents ¡Viva!, a dance spectacle in which six bailaores-bailarines celebrate women’s creativity in the world of flamenco, challenging and breaking down gender stereotypes and clichés.

3.Carmen Linares, Marina Heredia y Arcángel

The 14 and 15 August is the turn of these three brilliant exponents of cante jondo in a production called Tempo de luz (Speed of Light) directed by Isidro Muñoz and with the collaboration of bailaoras Ana Morales and Patricia Guerrero.

4. Eva Yerbabuena

From 20 to 29 August, with a break on the 23rd, Eva Yerbabuena and her company will present Carne y hueso (Flesh and Bone/Flesh and Blood). Five bailaores, voice, percussion, and guitar will lend a five-star backing to this leading performer of flamenco dance.

In announcing this absolutely exceptional summer programme, the fact is not lost on the city’s Counselor of Culture and Historic Patrimony that a top-quality cultural offer that includes Lorca means good business for Granada.

Tickets go on sale on 1 July, next Wednesday, and are available from, in the Corral del Carbón, the Generalife and at the Post Office.

Prices are 35 euros for Tesela and Tempo de luz and 34 euros for ¡Viva! y Carne y hueso. Furthermore, these two dance spectacles offer discounts for the unemployed, youth, students, and pensioners as well as 2×1 on Mondays and Tuesdays.

Strict health safety norms will be in place to ensure the public, participating artists, and workers will not be put at risk. The maximum permitted capacity has been reduced to 1000, representing 65% of the actual possible physical capacity, and this will ensure the 2m distancing rule can be maintained.

Source: Isabel Vargas, Granada Hoy, 26 June 2020


Federico Garcia Lorca Posted on Sat, September 21, 2019 06:05:21
Lorca, in his element, in Montevideo 1934

Lorca was evidently deeply troubled by his less-than-successful homosexual relationships prior to his New York visit. We have valuable evidence given by his friend and close confident, Pepe García Carillo, to researcher Agustín Penón in the 1950s regarding Lorca’s position in provincial Granada’s gay scene, and while some of his anecdotes may be taken with a pinch of salt and put down to the bravado of a suppressed minority in the face of a hostile environment, they do throw some light on the poet’s attitudes and behaviour. For example, according to Carillo, Lorca claimed have “slept with all the boys of Valderrubio” (the village that was the centre of his father’s agricultural enterprise throughout much of his childhood and early youth). One supposes that many of the boys of Valderrubio would beg to differ, and not take kindly to the assertion, but it does reveal a certain defiant pride in his sexuality that could never be expressed freely and openly in contemporary society.

Whatever, during the years Lorca spent the summers at his father’s farm in Valderrubio, up until 1925, it is a fact that he liked to spend evenings at the nearby Fuente de la Teja, a spring on the banks of the River Cubillas, in the company of the local youth, the farm workers, who made up a captive audience. There he would read his works, talk about poetry, tell stories. He felt at ease, Carillo suggested, with the simple people of the countryside. He loved the farmworker-type, the more peasant-like, the better; he liked them “dirty and sweaty”: this is according to Carillo’s evidence. This evidence, I hasten to add, is not bolstered by Lorca’s later choice of lovers, who were anything but “dirty and sweaty”.

One of these peasant-types was Frasco, Francisco Santalla Sánchez, who would leave work and go without pay to be with Federico at the Fuente de la Teja. During one of their conversations, Agustín Penón, 20 years after Lorca’s death, notes that goose-pimples suddenly stood out on Frasco’s arms as a result of his memories of the grieved-for poet.

Here, one can’t help sharing the observation of Ian Gibson, who picked out the poem “Madrigal del Verano” from Libro de poemas (1921), to argue that Lorca is describing his own preferences when he asks a fictive “Estrella la gitana”:

  ¿Como no has preferido a mis lamentos
los muslos sudorosos
de un San Cristóbal campesino, lentos    
en el amor y hermosos?
How is it that you didn't prefer to my laments
the sweaty thighs
of a peasant Saint Christopher, so ample,
and slow in love?

After recovering from his depression and after the crucial months spent in New York and Cuba, it does seem that Lorca came to terms with his own sexuality and even came to feel rather comfortable with it: He learnt to stop fighting against his own instincts, as he himself put it.

An indication of this I would suggest is the friendship he maintained with Rafael Rodríguez Rapún which lasted from the time they became acquainted in 1933, with Rapún working as his secretary during his spell as artistic director of La Barraca travelling theatre group, until his death. It coincided with the period of Lorca’s great social, commercial, and artistic successes, which saw the acclaimed performances of the rural tragedies Blood Wedding and Yerma, the whole  Argentinian furore of 1933-4, the completion of Poet in New York, the House of Bernarda Alba, the collection that became known as los Sonetos del amor oscuro, andthe development of numerous other projects cut short by his politically motivated murder. The passionate stage of this relationship may not have lasted beyond the Argentine sojourn, as some suggest, but the friendship does seem to reflect a certain maturity in the life of the great poet. Photographs of the two men show them as relaxed in each other’s company, in contrast to the posing of so many of those showing him together with Dalí, or the one with a smirking Emilio Aladrén.  

with Rafael Rodríguez Rapún
With Emilio Aladrén

Rapún was heterosexual, it is said, but came under his boss’s thrall during the Barraca period. Rapún enlisted in the Republican Army shortly after Lorca’s murder became public knowledge and died as a result of injuries sustained, seemingly fatalistically, on the battlefield a year to the day after Lorca was shot, make of that what you will.

Lorca was notoriously promiscuous, driven by a pervasive and obsessive fear of death and hence an overwhelming need to seize the moment, to live life to the full, to defy death’s menacing proximity, which he seems to have been constantly and painfully aware of. Dalí, Buñuel and other residents of the Student Residence where Lorca resided during much of the 1920s witnessed their friend’s anxiety in this respect; how he would go through a ritualistic performance of his own death before he could fall asleep at night, a purpose of which seems to have been exorcising the horror of physical decay after death.

Sexual fulfilment contributed a means to this end, keeping the horrors of death and physical decay at bay when they most threatened to overwhelm him.

Parallel to his intimate friendship with Rapún, Lorca also maintained an emotional relationship with Eduardo Rodríguez Valdivieso, fifteen years his junior, through much of the 1930s, as secret correspondence between the two would reveal. An aspiring actor, Valdivieso read for Lorca in an audition for a possible role with the Barraca. Lorca’s notes were compassionate and complimentary, without reaching any firm decision as to the suitability for the troupe of his young admirer. On his Saint’s Day, 18 July 1936, the same day as Franco’s nationalist uprising, Valdivieso was guest at the Huerta de San Vicente, now the family’s preferred summer residence on the edge of Granada.  

On the very day he was playing host to Valdivieso at the family summer home, Lorca posted a letter to another young admirer and lover, Juan Ramírez de Lucas, at 19 barely half the poet’s age.  At the age of 38, Lorca was now at the height of his powers and his fame and the target of admiration for many a budding poet, or would-be actor.

Lorca had met Ramírez the year before and had been at once smitten by “that fair-haired boy from Albacete, tall, solitary and friendless.” The letter that he posted on that fateful July day of 1936 reveals to us that the now well-established poet-playwright was harbouring a hare-brained scheme to take this fair-haired teenager with him to Mexico, where he was to promote the Margarita Xirgú Company tour of performances of what were already his classic plays.

Ramírez was in Albacete to seek paternal permission for the trip, a mission that was so clearly doomed to failure that one must wonder if Lorca was not trying to back out of the commitment. In his letter, Lorca urges his young devotee to get his family’s approval for the trip and to persuade them to “accept his ideas”. Yet, we know that Lorca was far from certain of getting his own father’s assent to the Mexico project, and took some care to conceal his own sexual preferences from him.

It has relatively recently been pointed out that the creative process that brought us the Sonetos del amor oscuro corresponded so closely to the poet’s love affair with Juan Ramírez de Lucas that it is reasonable to suppose it was their inspiration. [This is in the Wikipedia entry for Juan Ramírez de Lucas, for example.] Lorca started to compose the sonnet series in Valencia in 1935 in a period of forced separation at the start of their relationship, and we know from Félix Grande that Lorca was working on perfecting them right up to his arrest on 16 August 1936 at the Rosales family home in Granada.

In other words, right up to the last minute of his literary productive life a passionate desire for sexual-emotional fulfilment went hand in hand with the fervour of poetic creation, as it did so often.

The close conjunction between unconquerable sexual attraction, leading to deep spiritual suffering, and ultimately self-realisation and -satisfaction is a repeated facet of the poet’s life experience. It hints at an inability to form deep and sustained long-lasting relationships due to his existential anxiety that had him searching always for new and intense experiences out of fear that life might otherwise somehow pass him by. These short-lived and intensive passions made him suffer, and out of that suffering, that gave him so little respite in his short and artistically fecund life, his poetry and drama took shape.

These observations of mine give us a glimpse into something of what we might expect from the Maurer exhibition. The truth is, argues Maurer, that we have hardly explored this aspect of Lorca.

It’s on till 6 January 2006, open from 10 – 14 Tuesday to Sunday, additionally 17 – 20 Tuesdays to Saturday, closed on Mondays.


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

Diego Bermúdez Cala

Federico Garcia Lorca Posted on Sat, February 02, 2019 17:12:58

Diego Bermúdez
is not a name that immediately comes to mind in association with the creative
life of the poet Federico García Lorca, but under his nickname, el Tenazas (Plyers/Pincers), you might
recognise him as the surprising winner of the 1922 Cante Jondo Competition organised primarily under the auspices of musician
Manuel de Falla, supported by a handful of Granada’s cultural elite, Lorca
included, of course.

For Manuel de
Falla, the cante jondo and in
particular the siguiriya was the
outstanding form of contemporary popular musical expression that had kept its
purity over centuries and had its roots in the ancient traditions that the
gypsies had brought with them from their origins on the Asian continent.

Diego Bermúdez, el
, el Tenazas de Morón,
had helped keep this tradition alive, largely thanks to his friendship with and
admiration for the cantaor Silverio
Franconetti, recognised as one of the historic greats of flamenco music and who
merits a vignette in Lorca’s poem Poema
del cante jondo
, inspired by the Competition. Franconetti is reckoned to
have rescued from oblivion some of the finest primitive forms of gypsy song.

Lorca speculates in his “Portrait of Silverio
Franconetti” on how the “dense honey” of his Italian ancestry might have
blended with the Andalusian lemon in his rendering of the “deep song”. People
who knew him said their hair stood on end and mirrors shattered at the sound of
his heart-rending cry. For Lorca, his music, once so definitive and pure, represented
the last echoes of that fading tradition.

Diego Bermúdez was, then, one of the few performers to
have first-hand experience of this old style of flamenco, to which his own
clear and powerful voice would prove that it could still lend an unexpected intensity.
One might say that these were, indeed, the last echoes of that legendary music
of an almost bygone age.

He was born in
Morón de la Frontera (Sevilla), in 1852(?) and died, in dire circumstances, in
spite of the recognition his prize must have given him, in Puente Genil
(Córdoba) in 1933, where he was already living at the time of the Competition
in 1922. He was born into a rural, practically peasant environment, but at the
age of 25 he gave up working the land to dedicate himself to his singing,
making a name for himself as an entertainer at public and private parties and
gatherings throughout Sevilla y Cádiz.

Although Lorca
wrote his poem and his talk about the cante
before the competition itself, we may say that El Tenazas’ voice fulfilled to perfection the essence of the Deep
Song as understood by Falla and his like-minded peers. The gypsy siguiriya, said Lorca in that talk (Arquitectura del cante jondo) starts
with a heart-rending cry: “A cry which splits the landscape into two ideal
hemispheres. Then the voice stops and gives way to an impressive and measured
silence.” This is given poetic expression in Poema de la siguiriya gitana, from which I quote, selectively:

“The ellipse
of a cry goes from hilltop to hilltop. From the olive trees, it will be a black
rainbow against the blue night. – Oh! – Like a viola bow, the cry has made the
long strings of the wind vibrate” …

elipse de un grito,/va de monte/a monte. De los olivos,/será un arco iris
negro/sobre la noche azul.//¡Ay!// Como un arco de viola,/el grito ha hecho
vibrar/largas cuerdas de viento.]

… while the
“ondulating silence” that follows is a silence in which valleys and echoes slip
and slide and by which heads are bowed towards the ground.

resbalan valles y ecos/y que inclinen las frentes/hacia el suelo.]

contextualisation gives us some idea of the wonder and awe El Tenazas’ voice suscitated in the hearts and minds of the
Competition’s organizers, as described by Manuel Orozco Díaz in his Figuras en la Granada de Lorca: What
started in a murmur ended in the tremendous heart-shattering, violent and brutal
cry that made them all shiver with that a rare thrill of authenticity and
succumb to the emotion of the performer’s powerful spell.

With his
training in the school of the honoured and acclaimed Silverio Franconetti, El Tenazas must have fancied his chances
in the Competition, because he set off to walk the 100-odd kilometres between
Puente Genil and Granada to take part. That he needed the money need hardly be

What appealed
to Falla here was the musical purity of the traditional form that he felt had
been devalued by the degenerate milieu that had enveloped the cante, where the proud tradition of “our
old popular songs” had been reduced to little more than pub sing-songs, easy
listening, and somewhat ridiculous in the minds of the majority of people.

But what the
purist Falla found hard to accept was that this milieu become to a certain
extent part and parcel of the gypsy flamenco performance. Orozco says that
while Falla delighted in El Tenazas
singing, he found the vulgarity and obscenity of much of his conversation hard
to stomach. He also quotes the violoncellist Segismundo Romero as confiding in
him, saying: “You understand now, Manolo, Falla’s regret with Amor Brujo, don’t you? He seems to imply
that Falla re-wrote this work as a more classically orchestral piece, distilling
it of its more low-life Andalusian folk
elements, removing the possibly banal dialogue and reducing the flamenco-like vocals
from the first version, dissatisfied as he was with its gypsy orientation and
storyline, with its more blatantly cantaora

Lorca was more
at home with the expressions of unbridled passions, as likely as not to end in
a knife fight, that was the stuff of flamenco, as can be seen in sections of
the Poema: Puñal and Sorpresa from Poema de la soleá to give two examples. This
was less a part of the tradition that attracted de Falla.

El Tenazas, it seems,
was no stranger to the world of gang fights or family feuds and himself
received a life-threatening knife wound that pierced his lung and affected his
ability to perform. Yet this handicap was also a sort of asset in the context
of “deep song”. For deep song was the expression of the life experience of its
performers and its audiences which the now 70-year-old singer gave free reign
to at the Cante Jondo Competition, casting his spell on his appreciative
audience, reducing them to tears of compassion and emotion. El Tenazas’ performance , we can
imagine, was the net product of a lifetime’s experience of poverty, hardship,
marginalisation and oppression that at last found an outlet.

Falla, the old
ascetic, and Lorca, the young hedonist, had a lot in common as well as a great
deal of respect for each other’s artistic endeavours, but at the same time
their contrasting character and lifestyle were the cause a fair amount of
friction between them. Their differing outlook comes to light here in their
approach to the cante jondo, perhaps
for the first but not for the last time.

The Crime of Níjar and Blood Wedding

Federico Garcia Lorca Posted on Fri, December 28, 2018 20:20:45

The Crime of Níjar and Blood Wedding/Bodas de sangre.

It didn’t take Lorca as long turning
‘real events’ into great drama with this case as it did with The House of Bernarda Alba, completed after
a creative process that lasted a dozen years or more (blog post #93). Lorca got
fascinated by ‘the crime of Níjar’, as did half Spain, when he read about it in
the papers in July 1928. The first performance of Blood Wedding duly followed in March 1933 (starring Josefina Díaz
as the Bride).

The ‘real

The crime the play is based on took
place on the night of 22/23 July 1928. The Wedding celebrations referred to
were to take place in the Cortijo del Fraile, a prominent farmstead in the
heart of what is today the Cabo de Gata-Níjar Nature Park; the marriage in the nearby church of Fernán Pérez.

The bride-to-be’s real name was
Francisca Cañadas Morales. The man she tried to run off with just before the
wedding ceremony was Francisco Montes Cañadas, her cousin. The wedding was
being celebrated in the Cortijo del Fraile because the bride’s father ran the
farm operations there on behalf of its owner.

A few kilometres south of the
Cortijo, on the dirt road that runs east-west between Rodalquilar and Los Albaricoques,
the fleeing couple were overtaken and Francisco Montes was shot dead, with
three bullets in the head. Francisca was later found with serious injuries to
the neck and throat. Someone had tried to strangle her. She claimed not to have
recognised the people who attacked them, which everyone agrees is an unlikely

True-life protagonists: Francisca and Carmen Cañadas Morales; Casimiro and José Pèrez Pino

José Pérez Pino and Carmen Cañadas
Morales were found guilty of the crime. A married couple, José was the brother
of the bridegroom, whose name was Casimiro, while Carmen was the bride’s
sister. These two had probably been prime instigators of the arranged wedding
between Francisca and Casimiro.

Francisca was nicknamed Paquita la coja, Lame Paquita, and had been set
up by her father to inherit the family property in nearby El Hualix with a
respectable dowry. The father was thus trying to atone for the bad conscience
he had about his daughter’s handicap. Carmen Cañada and José Pérez saw the
marriage of Paquita and Casimiro as a way to prevent this inheritance slipping
out of their reach and into the hands of ‘outsiders’. Paquita was known to be
unenthusiastic about the arranged marriage and preferred her cousin Francisco
Montes all along.

The facts were just the seeds of
Lorca’s poetic drama. In Bodas de sangre Lorca has the lovers flee after
the wedding, on horseback, not on a mule. Lorca’s Bride was attractive, and
not lame. Leonardo, the only named character in the play, is already a married
man, with a new-born child, and another on the way; whereas Francisco Montes
was single. In the play, Leonardo and the Groom kill each other in a knife
fight under the auspices of the silvery Moon. Lorca finds no role in the
killing for the in-laws Carmen and José, nor for a firearm. Knives and horses
had a recognised and specific symbolic value in the works of the world-famous
Andalusian poet.

Lorca also exaggerated the
difference between the Bride’s and the Groom’s family background. Lorca has the
Groom’s mother boast about the vineyards and fruit trees that her husband had
planted on their evidently much more fertile property. This is pure invention.
The Bride’s father, by contrast, is proud of his skilful cultivation of esparto
grass, a plant used for basket weaving and similar handicrafts, the
only crop that could thrive in the harsh and arid climate where he lives.
These facts, as far as they go, do correspond to the actual conditions of the
Cortijo del Fraile, although out of this fairly impressive farmstead Lorca
converts the Bride’s home into a relatively modest cave-dwelling, more typical
of Granada than of Almería. Again, the symbol-laden contrast between fertility
and barrenness is a familiar Lorca theme.

Interpreting the real events.

When Bodas de sangre was first
performed in 1933, the local journalist Carmen de Burgos had already two
years previously published Puñal de Claveles, a story inspired by the
same events. Her version adopted a clearly feminist point of view and had a
happy ending.

Hers was the first of many
retellings of the events that became popularly known as the crime of Níjar, the
latest of which is ¡Llévame contigo, ahora o nunca! La historia jamás contada del crimen
de Bodas de sangre (Take me with you, now or never!
The previously untold story of the ‘Blood Wedding’
by Antonio Torres Flores and Ángel
Miguel Roldán Molina and presented recently in the Lorca Centre in Granada, as reported by Enrique Abuín and Isabel
Vargas in Granada Hoy, 12.12.2018
Their ‘previously untold’ story is based on a comprehensive and rigorously
researched review of the documented events, which they take pains to place in
their socio-historical context. The quote in the title of the book are the
words with which Francisca supposedly exhorted her cousin, Francisco, to slip out of the
cortijo together with her, leaving poor Casimiro napping, and which she repeated
to the judge under oath at the murder trial. Torres and Roldán are confident
they have written the definitive book when it comes to revealing the true facts
behind the crime.

There have in fact been a series of
retellings of the events, probably starting with the popular romances that
circulated soon after the story appeared in the papers. The literary journalist
Carlos de Arce Robledo marked the sixtieth anniversary of the crime with
another book, with the straightforward title El Crimen de Níjar, purporting to reveal the ‘previously untold’
truth behind the events. In 2014 Josefina Góngora,
grandniece of Francisca Cañadas, published a version of the story titled Amor
y traición en el Cortijo del Fraile
and Betrayal in the Cortijo del Fraile)
told from the bride’s
point-of-view, which she felt had been under- or unfairly represented. While,
last but not least, Paula Ortiz`s 2015 film La novia (The Bride)
was more an artistic reworking of Lorca’s drama than any attempt to portray the
real events.

One of the reasons why the crime has never
lost its fascination is at least partly due to the behaviour of the
protagonists after the events. Francisca Cañadas, who must have known more than
she told about her almost-lover’s murder, lived with her niece’s family at El Hualix, the property which she
inherited from her father and from which she rarely emerged until her death in 1987. She refused to see or talk to her sister Carmen
who lived practically next door. Casimiro never crossed
paths with his almost-bride Francisca and never spoke about the event even to
his closest family before his death in 1990, 62 years after the crime.

The bare facts are so extraordinary and still
open to interpretation it is hard to believe that the last word has been said
on the matter, despite Messrs Torres and Roldán’s claim to have exhausted the

With the 100-year anniversary coming up, we
can surely expect another flurry of new versions for 2028 giving their original
angle on the happenings of that now distant summer night and the crime passionnel, or honour killing,
that materialised in its arid heat and throat-clogging dust.

The House of Bernarda Alba

Federico Garcia Lorca Posted on Fri, December 21, 2018 18:57:20

The House of Bernarda Alba is
now open to the public as the third Lorca-related museum on the Vega, where the
poet-playwright first saw the light of day and learnt to walk, read and write,
then started to write music, and finally drama and poems.

The first of these, in Fuente Vaqueros, where the poet-playwright was born
on 5 June 1898, was opened to the public in 1986.

The second is the house in Valderrubio that his father bought in 1895 along
with a deal of farmland along the banks of the River Cubillas. This house was
the centre of Federico Senior’s commercial-agricultural operations for many
years and was opened to the public as a museum and cultural centre in the Lorca
Anniversary Year of 1998.

The house of the Alba family, Frasquita not Bernarda in reality, is built
along the same functional lines as the other two, with two floors, storage
space for grain and harvested crops, and a spacious courtyard for agricultural
operations. When Valderrubio became an independent rural council in 2013 one of
its priorities, finally achieved with its inauguration on 18 December 2018, was
to convert the house into a museum.

The Alba family was one of three families which vied for social and
economic prominence in the area, the others being García Rodríguez, the poet’s
father, and Alejandro Roldán Benavides. For an account
of the bitter inter-family and internecine disputes and rivalries between these
three families that festered for over half a century I refer you to historian
Miguel Caballero Pérez, whose study Las trece últimas horas en la vida de
García Lorca
(2011) identifies these conflicts and rivalries as a key
factor leading to the murder of the poet in August 1936. See this blog’s post

According to Javier Arroyo (El País, 19.12.2018), the role of
Bernarda Alba was created specially for Margarita Xirgú who, after her
acclaimed lead role in Doña Rosita la soltera, requested the
part of “a villain” in Lorca’s next drama. That was in December 1935 and we
know the new play, though not published or performed until many years later,
had a public reading a few days prior to the nationalist uprising in July 1936
to a chosen section of Granada’s culturally sensitive bourgeoisie, among which
would have figured relatives or friends of the Alba and Roldán families.

We know that Frasquita’s descendants
did not welcome visitors and Agustín Penón was the only Lorca researcher that I
know of who managed to get through the front door.

I managed to slip in the back when
they were building the new flats next door, many years ago. See pics.

Lorca claims to remember Frasquita
as a widow of advanced age who exercised a veritable reign of terror over her
unfortunate unmarried daughters who he might occasionally cross in the street,
always dressed in black, silent, their eyes downcast, avoiding eye and any kind
of social contact.

The story goes that Frasquita Alba’s
neighbour was Lorca’s Aunt Matilde, whose daughter Mercedes Rodríguez Delgado
the poet was fond of and would visit with some frequency. The two houses shared
a well built beneath the wall that divided the properties and through this well
Lorca was able to eavesdrop on exchanges going on between members of the Alba
household. These eavesdropping sessions provided Lorca with much of the
material for his somewhat libellous play. “Change the surname, too,” his mother

Be that as it may, it is
known that Frasquita died in 1924, aged 66, that is, some eleven years before
Lorca started working on the play with the villainous role requested by Xirgú.
Not only that but, although she had five daughters, two by a first husband and
three by a second, she also had two sons, one by each of her husbands.
Furthermore, she was outlived by one year by her second husband, Alejandro
Rodríguez Capilla. So we can that see the exclusively female composition of the
household is an invention of Lorca’s, and that Bernarda is not

Another invention is the servant “La Poncia”
working here, for although she lived in the village, she never served in this
house. Says Ian Gibson. En Granada, su
Granada …(

The raison d’être of this new
museum is, of course, first of all to focus on the importance of the work La Casa de Bernarda Alba,
connecting it to the local customs and traditions of rural society in
pre-Franco Spain on the one hand and to the village of Valderubio as a source
of inspiration for the local universal poet-dramatist. Visits can be booked via during which a cast of actors will
reproduce crucial passages from the play. The visit lasts an hour and a half,
of which the performances take up some 40 minutes.


Enrique Abuín. Granada Hoy, 18.12.2018
Javier Arroyo. El País, 19.12.2018

Leonard, Lorca, and the Little Viennese Walz

Federico Garcia Lorca Posted on Sat, December 09, 2017 14:57:13


Leonard Cohen was a poet
and some of his greatest inspiration he says he found in the works of Federico
García Lorca. So great was his admiration, he actually called his daughter
Lorca. But, as he said in his Fundación Principe
de Asturias
prize acceptance speech1, he developed his own
voice; he knew he could never copy Lorca: he wouldn’t dare, so he never tried.
On another occasion, he describes how he stumbled on Lorca’s universe of
imagery- dawn throwing fistfuls of ants in his face, or thighs that slipped
away like shoals of silver minnows’. He did not simply copy these images, he
explains2; rather, they made it possible for him to find his own
voice, which he defines as a sort of unique poetic ‘self’.

Cohen visited Lorca’s birthplace in 1986

‘Take this Walz’ is,
everybody knows, a homage to Lorca, and if it is a translation of ‘Pequeño vals
vienés, it is quite a free one, where Leonard’s voice deviates significantly
from Federico’s. To compare the works of the two poets, I will turn to a set of
schemata that contrasts a classical
approach to art with a baroque one,
not in any historical sense, but as a general tendency applicable at any point
of time. Here, ‘classical’ is used to talk about a style that is simpler and more
restrained, aspiring to formal harmony and clarity via
the balanced proportions of its parts. A baroque approach, by
way of contrast, is formally less straightforward, with a more elaborate
provision of detail, allowing a greater degree of emotional expression
and conveying a richer sense
of drama and movement. Within the framework of these schemata, which is
explained in the Encyclopaedia Britannica3, I find Lorca’s poetry as
more classically inclined, Cohen’s as more baroque.

To demonstrate my point,
let’s compare the first stanza and refrain from the Spanish poem and the
Canadian song (see below). Revealingly, Lorca uses 46 words to cover this
ground; Cohen 67, half as many again. Cohen’s style is wordier, then: Cohen
spells things out for us, in more detail, whereas Lorca is less condescending
to his reader/listener. There are more discourse devices in Cohen, to help us
follow his argument. ‘There’s’ occurs five times, with obvious, almost laboured
parallel repetitiveness. In this repetitiveness we also hear the insistent
rhythm of the walz in Cohen’s song, unrestrained, almost exuberant. The
Canadian draws us in with ‘Now…’, making it sound more confidential (this is
between you and me). Lorca itches straight in with ‘En Viena …’ and ‘hay’
occurs just three times, to indicate (with one minor exception) a new simple
sentence, and while his ‘y’ is used to link three noun phrases in one of the
sentences, Cohen uses ‘and’ to link two clauses. So, in the six lines of the
first stanza, Cohen uses as many as nine clauses to Lorca’s four: the three
‘hay’s plus ‘donde solloza la muerte’. Clauses, built round a verb, are
necessarily more dynamic than noun phrases.

In Lorca, there is in
fact only one action verb: ‘solloza’; whereas Cohen gives us six: ‘comes
to cry/ goes to die/ was torn/ hangs’. There
is much more movement, more drama, more telling here; Lorca’s walz is static by
comparison. It is restrained and relies on a simpler, barely embellished
structure. Cohen’s version more deliberately tugs on the emotions.

For Lorca ‘En Viena hay
diez muchachas’ and he doesn’t tell us if they are ‘pretty women’ or not.
Cohen’s song is more poetic in conventional terms. He gives us more detail,
fills things in for us, is more visual. ‘A tree where doves go to die’ is
easier to see than ‘un bosque de palomas disecadas’. Even 900 (windows) comes
across as more precise, concrete than 1000 (ventanas), which appears to be more
of a neat rough estimate than verifiable tangible fact. Finally, in the
refrain, Cohen gives us the unexpected and visually powerful ‘with a clamp on
its jaw’ for Lorca’s simple ‘con la boca cerrada’. Clamp = ‘abrazadera’,
‘grapa’, or ‘cepo’, something restricting by force and not simply closed. This
is bold poetic translator’s license and lays bare a relationship that is not
revealed in Lorca.

The great Leonard with the great Enrique Morente.

In the end, both poem and
song offer us the same five images, rather startling in their juxtaposition;
only in Lorca’s version, stripped down to the essentials, they make more of an
impact: 1) ten girls, 2) a shoulder where Death sobs, 3) a wood of desiccated
doves, 4) a fragment of the morning in the gallery of frost, and 5) a hall with
a thousand windows. What are we to make of this? Fistfuls of ants thrown in our
face! Lorca offers us little help.

So even in this little
homage, Cohen takes care to maintain his own distinct voice. He knows that to
copy would be fatal. Lorca’s verse, and his startling imagery, is rather a
catalyst for Cohen. Cohen is giving us his view, while Lorca leaves more
work for his reader/listener to do: his ‘self’ is harder to locate. And this
observation is, I believe, generally valid for the poetic works of the two men.

But I may be wrong.

The official photographer at the casa museo in Fuente Vaqueros told me that Cohen asked him to leave the room where Lorca was born while he meditated in the youga lotus position. This photo is not in the room where Lorca was born and it is not the lotus position, though it is clearly in Fuente Vaqueros.





These are the lyrics I
refer to:

Now in Vienna there’s ten
pretty women
There’s a shoulder where Death comes to cry
There’s a lobby with nine hundred windows
There’s a tree where the doves go to die
There’s a piece that was torn from the morning
And it hangs in the Gallery of Frost
Ay, ay, ay, ay
Take this waltz, take this walz
Take this waltz with the clamp on its jaws

Viena hay diez muchachas,
un hombro donde solloza la muerte
y un bosque de palomas disecadas.
Hay un fragmento de la mañana
el museo de la escarcha.
Hay un salón con mil ventanas.
¡Ay, ay, ay, ay!
este vals con la boca cerrada.

Lorca’s breakthrough

Federico Garcia Lorca Posted on Fri, June 09, 2017 19:10:27

Lorca fought with some determination to
establish himself as a poet and found himself frustrated in his mid-twenties
when his play Mariana Pineda ran into
trouble with Primo de Rivero’s censorship. The end of the summer 1926 finds Lorca
at an impasse. His father is angry with him for what he sees as the lack of
direction in his son’s life, with little apparent promise of any artistic
success. He threatens to put an end to his idle versifying. “Summer is coming
to an end and I’m left stranded without the least sign of any start to my work
as a dramatic poet in which I have so much faith and which would bring me such happiness,”
he writes to the theatre empresario Eduardo Marquina in the hope that this man might
yet rescue Mariana Pineda for him.

Such is his desperation that he begins to toy
with the idea of getting a proper job. At the beginning of September, he writes
to his friend Jorge Guillén that he has decided to do the exams for the Chair
of Literature. He tries hard to convince himself that he has a vocation for the
academic life. “Tell me what I have to do,” he asks Guillén, who has just
been appointed to the Chair of Literature in Murcia. “Remember I’m neither
intelligent nor hard-working. A lazy-bones!”

Guillén’s good humoured and humorous reply
seems to be designed to put the aspiring poet off from embarking on any
academic career. “First, you must read a lot”, he says. “Not only poetry and
prose, but also all the books that have been written about those poetry and
prose works. And you must make notes of what you have read.” “But that’s not half so bad,” he continues,
“for then you need to keep a file so that you can find all the notes that you
have written. As a first step, buy a box to file your notes. That will impress
your father no end and show him you are serious about your new academic bent.”

Salvador Dalí, for his part, is equally
scathing about his friend’s new-found academic ambition. “Dear Federico, you’re
not going to do exams for anything,” (he
wrote laconically). “Persuade your father to leave you in peace to publish your
books, that is what will make you famous … “

“If Mariana
were to be performed, I would win over my father once and for all,” Lorca
predicted. And indeed he was right. The success of Mariana Pineda, when it was performed in Barcelona in June 1927,
combined with the publication of Canciones
also in 1927, and then followed by the extraordinary success of the First Gypsy Ballad Book, published in
1928, marked the literary break-through Lorca was seeking and after that
parental pressure let up. Lorca’s father came to accept his son’s literary
vocation, and the poet was spared further traumas of having to look for a
proper job.

Final note: As with other books published in
his lifetime, Lorca gave all his friends and family copies of The Gypsy Ballad Book with a dedication
inside the front cover. In the copy he gave to his parents, and only in theirs,
he added in brackets after his signature the word “poet”, a telling gesture,
asserting his finally achieved independence as a creative writer.

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