This article was published in "Unanswered Questions about Lorca's Death," Angélica [Lucena, Spain], 1 (1990), 93-107.
The following lightly retouched text was presented at the annual meeting of the Association of Hispanists of Great Britain and Ireland, Belfast, March 26, 1991.
Northern Arizona University
"Si Lorca resucitara sigue habiendo gente en Granada capaz de volverle a
Javier Egea, Cambio 16, April 7, 1986, p. 127.
"El trágico final de Federico García Lorca...oscuro todavía
en lo que tiene que ver con los motivos..."
Álvaro Valverde, El urogallo, January-February 1988, p. 20.
Probably all of you here today are aware that
Lorca's death is a topic about which much has been written, and has also
been the topic of creative literature and films. It is, perhaps, the most
important topic in Spanish literary history in the twentieth century. It
is also a topic with political significance.
Lorca's death is linked with the name of Ian Gibson. It is worth remembering that before Gibson, Gerald Brenan and others did their parts, sometimes under dangerous circumstances, to unearth facts about the assassination, such as the execution in Víznar. But it is Gibson who published the first book, unearthing original documents and interviewing key people, many of them now deceased. By transcribing interviews that he surreptitiously taped, by photographically reproducing newspaper articles and such documents as Lorca's death certificate, Gibson has made a crucial contribution to our understanding of that central event. I have taken many facts in this article from Gibson's books.
Gibson's conclusion is not surprising, and does not claim to be. It is that Lorca's death was caused by the insurgents of Granada, by the right-wing: the Fascists killed Lorca. What Gibson claims is only that he has provided much new evidence to support this position. This is true. However, and here is my topic this afternoon, he does not provide enough evidence or answer all the questions. I have been bothered for years by what seem to be holes in his account, and pieces of evidence that he simply ignores when they are not in harmony with his general conclusion(2). Indeed, Gibson seems to have more blind spots than any other writer on the topic(3).
I have structured this talk around unanswered questions, which are arranged chronologically. In part these are real questions that do bother me and about which I have thought a lot. In part this is rhetorical. To some of these questions it may not be possible to answer, because they depend on what was in people's heads, and the people are dead or silent. "Unos amigos han muerto y otros no quieren hablar", complains Gibson; Rafael Martínez Nadal, Manuel Fernández-Montesinos, and Mariano Maresca say much the same(4). Even when people speak, their memories can fail them, and some have surely lied.
Yet we can infer answers to some of the questions, and there are documents yet to be published. In particular, there are the official investigations and reports, which must have included Ruiz Alonso's denuncia of Lorca. There are numerous references to these inquiries and investigations(5). For example, the son of José Valdés Guzmán, the military governor of Granada, described a carpeta, labeled "Asunto García Lorca", which was empty. He believed its contents had been sent to the Nationalist government in Valladolid, which seems highly plausible. To the best of my knowledge, and this is not confirmed, these reports are in the personal archives of General Franco, which are controlled by his family and not open to the public. Valdés' son conserves "únicamente...la minuta, pero ya sólo esto constituye una documentación importante". This minuta has not been published. He adds "tengo otros papeles que mencionan a Federico y que resultarán aplastantes en el momento en que se conozcan.... No sé a quiénes afectará el contenido de estos papeles" (Molina, pp. 133-134). Furthermore, of the various copies of Luis Rosales' declaration of innocence, only one has appeared (Gibson, De Nueva York, p. 476). Presumably each copy is accompanied by other documents. How can we say we have all the data?
So then, what are these unanswered questions?
The first is why Lorca went to Granada at the
outset of the war; the second, why he didn't leave Granada when there was
still the opportunity to do so. These are the questions to which, I believe,
we are closest to an answer. To review the known facts, Lorca went to Granada
just as the military uprising began. He was concerned about his safety, as
were many Spaniards; after the assassination of Calvo Sotelo further violence
was unavoidable, and an uprising was rumored. Lorca had received an invitation
to go to Mexico, and already had a ticket. He discussed with a friend going
to France, and surely there were many places he would have been welcome.
His decision was to go to Granada. After the first threats were made against
him in Granada, he declined an offer of safe conduct to the Republican side.
It was shortly after that he took refuge in the house of the Rosales.
No one seems to have considered what a strange thing it was for Lorca, or his parents for that matter, to go to Granada at that particular moment. It is said that Lorca went to Granada to visit with his family and to celebrate his and his father's santo, July 18th, but celebrations are not a high priority during a war, and in fact there was no family celebration that year. (As early as 1933 people talked of a war; certainly after the Asturias revolt many people felt Spain was already in a civil war.) If Lorca was a leftist, and in danger from the right, Granada was not a rational place to go. No one would have thought of Granada as a safe place for a leftist, and there are no reports of even one other alleged leftist travelling to Granada at the outset of the war. That the city fell promptly into the nationalist side of the uprising was to be expected. While it had a liberal government, swept along on the national politics, the underlying mood of the city was strongly Catholic and conservative. Granada was also a city where there had been much violence, burnings of churches and other buildings(6). Many books on Lorca mention that his brother-in-law the mayor was assassinated. What is less often stated is that Granada had had no mayor for many months, because the city was so disturbed no one dared to accept the dangerous position. When Lorca's brother-in-law Montesinos accepted it, he was killed within days.
So Granada was not a calm harbor at best. Further, Lorca had made many enemies in Granada by his biting attacks on the city's conservatism. In his magazine Gallo, he ridiculed the city's historical and artistic ignorance, as well as the tacky taste of many of the inhabitants. In April of 1936, he gave a radio talk, published in El defensor de Granada, against the current Semana Santa celebrations in Granada, which profaned the Alhambra "que no es ni será jamás cristiana...[con] cursilería, y que sólo sirven para que la muchedumbre quiebre laureles, pise violetas y se orinen a cientos sobre los ilustres muros de la poesía" (cited by Gibson, De Nueva York, p. 425). He was quoted in El sol only weeks before the rebellion that the conquest of Granada by Fernando and Isabela was "un momento malísimo" and that Granada was a "tierra de chavico, donde se agita la peor burguesía de España". Regardless of Lorca's beliefsno doubt many agreed with himthose are very provocative statements to be making at a very tense and disturbed moment.
So why did he go to Granada? And why did he refuse to escape while escape was possible? There are two possible answers to these questions, it seems to me. The first possibility is that Lorca sought martyrdom. We know from juvenilia recently published, or at least described, that the young Lorca was much taken with the figures of Socrates and Christ, both of them figures of immense cultural impact who died early. Without going into details, at least on the surface, or in the traditional view, they died because of their ideas.
Lorca also wrote about death, and must have thought about it. In El sueño de la vida (Comedia sin título) the author is killed by the public. Mariana Pineda is a play about a historical martyr. Lorca wrote the greatest elegy of Spanish literature, that for Sánchez Mejías. Introducción a la muerte was a book project and finally a section of Poeta en Nueva York. He wrote "Cuando yo me muera/ dejad el balcón abierto" in Canciones ("Despedida"); also in Canciones there is a poem entitled "Suicidio". "Cuando yo me muera, enterradme con mi guitarra bajo la arena", are two lines from "Memento", in Poema del cante jondo. "La muerte me está mirando/ desde las torres de Córdoba" ("Canción del jinete"). "Ignorante del agua voy buscando/ una muerte de luz que me consuma" ("Gacela de la huida"). We could go on"Todas las tardes en Granada se muere un niño". "Al estanque se le ha muerto hoy una niña de agua". The romance "El emplazado". "Antoñito el Camborio". The "Romance sonámbulo". "Degollación del Bautista." The list is not exhausted.
Salvador Dalí told us "Cinq fois par jour au moins, Lorca faisait allusion à sa mort". In bed at night, "presque toujours il finissait par discuter de la mort, et surtout de sa propre mort. Lorca imitait et chantait tout ce dont il parlait, notamment son décès. Il le mettait en scène en le mimant: `Voilàdisait-ilcomment je serai au moment de ma mort!' Après quoi, il dansait une sorte de ballet horizontal qui représentait les mouvements saccadés de son corps pendant l'enterrement, lorsque le cercueil descendrait une certaine pente abrupte de Grenade. Puis, il nous montrait comment serait son visage quelques jours après sa mort"(7).
So the possibility that Lorca anticipated his fate and welcomed it is at least worth considering. Some of his last writing, which though unpublished and unproduced was not kept secret but rather discussed with or read to many friends, was libertarian to the point of seeming provocative: sonnets presenting homosexual love as an equally valid type of love, a play in which Juliet is a youth of 15, and a drama about a man in love with his horse (Gibson, De Nueva York, p. 157). Lorca was playing with fire, though perhaps he was right to do so.
But the problem with saying that Lorca sought martyrdom is that he didn't seek any publicity, and left confusion about his views. Those who seek martyrdom are usually strongly and publicly committed to a cause. Federico was not like the protagonist of his "Muerto de amor": "Madre, cuando yo me muera, que se enteren los señores. Pon telegramas azules que vayan del Sur al Norte". He was secretive, conspiratorial, not a publicly identified leader or would-be leader. Those desiring martyrdom do not hide in friends' houses. Lorca's statements before going to Granada also do not suggest an approaching martyrdom: "En Granada tengo amigos. Me voy, me voy". "Me voy a Granada...a mi casa, donde no me van a alcanzar los rayos" (Grande, pp. 62 and 64). Finally, what information we have about his state of mind in the final weeks and days does not suggest someone who is at peace with his fate, ready to receive the great boost to his popularity and influence that his enemies would cause. Rather, the news we have is that Federico was terrifiedchain-smoking, depressed, anxious.
The second possible answer is that despite
the situation in Granada I have laid out, Lorca still believed he would be
safer in Granada than elsewhereof course a fatal error. Since it was
by no account likely that Granada would resist the uprising, which was much
talked about even if the precise date was a secret, we must suppose that
he wanted to be and felt safer in the part of Spain that soon became called
nacional. This would imply that Gibson has misunderstood Lorca's politics,
and failed to perceive the change in Lorca's political views and loyalties
during the final period of his life. This implies also that Lorca was in
sympathy with the facciosos, as was Unamuno and as there came to be
Marañón, Menéndez Pidal, and Ortega. Opinion within
Spain was never as uniform as it was among foreign intellectuals.
There would be a revoltno one expected the lengthy war that ensuedand he would be on the winning side. There is much evidence to support this position. It is true that Lorca was member of a Masonic lodge and of the Amigos de la Unión Soviética, had been a protegé of Fernando de los Ríos, that he had signed a statement of support for the Brazilian Communist Carlos Prestes. Still, he was distant from De los Ríos during the final years, and despite strong pressure from Alberti and others he refused to sign a "manifiesto comunista" at the outset of the revolt (Gibson, De Nueva York, p. 448).
In supporting Lorca as a leftist a lot is made of his statements of solidarity with el pueblo, which are clear and undeniable. "El mundo está detenido ante el hambre que asola a los pueblos. Mientras haya desequilibrio económico, el mundo no piensa... El día en que el hambre desaparezca va a producirse en el mundo la explosión espiritual más grande que jamás conoció la Humanidad. Nunca jamás se podrán figurar los hombres la alegría que estallará el día de la Gran Revolución. ¿Verdad que te estoy hablando en socialista puro?" (Gibson, De Nueva York, p. 427). What is the Gran Revolución? This quotation is from an interview of April 1936. Could this be the uprising of July? If not, what other revolution was in view in April of 1936? The Falange, according to Serrano Suñer, "soñaba en regeneración española revolucionaria"(8). And as far as being socialista, of course the Falange claimed to be this too, and to be the party of the working class, a patriotic alternative between the two opposed poles of repressive aristocracy and international Communism(9).
We do not need to rely on the "Himno a los muertos de la Falange" which Lorca is reported to have proposed to Rosales. Rosales has repeatedly denied having told anyone of it, although Rosales' alleged testimony was repeated in 1973 by Narciso Perales, credited by Rosales with saving his life(10). It is well known, and not disputed by anyone but Gibson, that Lorca was a friend of José Antonio. Lorca told Gabriel Celaya that he and Primo de Rivera "cenaban juntos cada viernes"in 1936and "cuando cogían un taxi bajaban las cortinillas, porque ni a él le conviene que le vean conmigo, ni a mí me conviene que me vean con él" (Gibson, De Nueva York, p. 423). Gibson's comment on this is that it was "una broma". A strange joke to tell about oneself in the midst of an argument about politics. The context, which Gibson ignores, is that the Falange came up in conversation because Lorca was accompanied by Aizpurúa, described by Gibson as a "destacado falangista" of Granada (De Nueva York, p. 424). Lorca is also reported to have been offered "un puesto importante" in the Falange early in 1936(11).
Lorca was an intimate friend of Luis Rosales, who though not a falangista himself, was certainly a sympathizer and an active participant in the revolt (Gibson, Asesinato, p. 195; De Nueva York, p. 474). His family's house was the headquarters of the Granada Falange, and his mother was sewing shirts for the falangistas. Lorca was also very close friends with Martínez Nadal, José García Carrillo, and Joaquín Amigo, who with Federico is described as "maestro" of Rosales (Grande, p. 356). Also he was on more or less good terms with García Gómez, who wrote a prologue to Diván del Tamarit, and with Falla. Save for Nadal, who favored neither side, all of these were Nationalists. Of the prominent leftists, only with Altolaguirre was Federico on close terms at the end of his life.
The early falangistas consistently said Lorca was with them. "Federico era, quizá, el poeta más admirado por José Antonio. En sus huestes, bien abastecidas de alevines de poetas, muchos compartían su gusto"(12). They dedicated a poetic tribute to him: "La España imperial ha perdido su mejor poeta"(13). To dismiss it means that one has to assume that falangistas were publishing tributes to and hailing a leftist solely to disguise their own execution of him, which I find far-fetched. The Falange was not what it was soon to become, with the unificación of 1937(14).
Finally, against seeing Lorca as a leftist is his religiosity. He made many drawings of the Virgin Mary, and wrote a long poem on Christ and the mass. He had participated in a Semana Santa procession, that of Santa María de la Alhambra, and he gave a talk on what Semana Santa should be (Gibson, De Nueva York, p. 425). In 1936, Federico's family, including him, is described thus by Pablo Suero: "Están con el pueblo español, se duelen de su pobreza y anhelan el advenimiento de un socialismo cristiano" (Gibson, De Nueva York, p. 412, emphasis added). And I'm going to conclude this discussion of Lorca's politics, which may get me tarred and feathered, with two telling quotations. In 1934, he said "Siempre seré partidario de los que no tienen nada y hasta la tranquilidad de la nada se les niega" (Gibson, Asesinato, p. 23) In 1936, however, he is quoted by Morla as saying "Soy del partido de los pobres, pero de los pobres buenos"(15). Huelgan comentarios.
Everyone knows that after Lorca was threatened by visitors to the Huerta de San Vicente, he took refuge in the house of the Rosales family. A question that I had for a long time about Lorca's death that did get answered is how those who arrested him knew that he was at the Rosales' house. Perhaps this could have been guessed by someone who knew his friendships in Granada, but it wasn't. Anyhow, this has been clarified: it was his sister Concha who said: "he's gone out to read some verses" when the father was threatened.
This pointed clearly to Rosales, and explains how Lorca's hiding place was known. Since Rosales' fatherwho seems to have been, as in Federico's own family, the most liberal member, 180 opposed politically to Rosales' Catholic and falangista mothersheltered other leftists, it seems that no conclusion can necessarily be drawn from Lorca's refuge in the Falange headquarters of Granada, which the Rosales' house was. It does perhaps provide some additional support for the view that we have misunderstood Lorca's politics, and explains the confidence the Lorca family had in the security of Federico's new refuge. As Grande has recently and helpfully pointed out (p. 150), after Federico's hiding place was revealed, and it was to be surmised that someone was on his way to arrest him, no telephone call was made from the Lorca house to the Rosales, warning Federico so that he could take further precautions for his safety. Indeed, when the first news of Lorca's death reached Madrid, Isabel didn't believe it, she was so confident of his safety.(16)
Yet Lorca was taken from the Rosales' house.
The third unanswered question, and here the questions get more difficult,
is whether any one or ones in the Rosales family had foreknowledge of Federico's
arrest, or even sought the arrest, and why they would have done so, if that
were the case. The conduct of the Rosales family, taken as a whole, has been
called "strange" by many observers. It is strange, certainly, that none of
the six male Rosales were present when Ruiz Alonso showed up, and only Miguel
hijo could be located during "un buen rato" on the telephone in such
a small city. Did Federico's mother, Vicenta, exclaim "Los Rosales nos han
traicionado"? If so, why? After Lorca was arrested, Luis went to protest,
at great risk; José "Pepiniqui" also went to see Valdés; the
father went for his lawyer, whose participation, if any, is unrecorded. Antonio,
the oldest member of the Falange of Granada, with more guns under his control
than Valdés, did nothing. In none of the many discussions of the Rosales
family is it even said that he was asked to help. Luis, at least,
must have asked him, and the silence implies that Antonio refused. This cries
for an explanation. I don't have it.
Possibly there is something about this in the official report referred to earlier. Luis Rosales is the only one still alive that could tell us of it directly. He is quoted by Auclair as saying "La muerte de Federico ha sido para mí una prueba decisiva. Yo quería mucho a Federico. Debo a los sufrimientos de todo orden que padecí entonces, y padezco aún, no sólo la pena más grande de mi vida, sino el conocimiento definitivo de mí mismo y la certidumbre de que uno no se puede fiar de nadie en este mundo" (pp. 389-390). Who was it that Luis learned he could not trust?(17) Luis has never told the full story; Time magazine, in a letter to me, denied Rosales' claim that he sent it a written version (Auclair, p. 389).
Anyone who has read any of the recent examinations of Lorca's death is familiar with the name of Ramón Ruiz Alonso, at that moment former diputado from Granada. It was Ruiz Alonso who spearheaded the move to extract Lorca from the Rosales house and turn him over to the military authorities. Furthermore, this was a large, planned, and unusual operation. There were many men involved. The house was surrounded. There was no other arrest in Granada for which such precautions were taken. When questioned shortly afterwards "on whose authority he did this", Ruiz Alonso said several times that it was "on his own authority".
The fourth question is, then, what the motives
of Ramón Ruiz Alonso were for carrying out this action only with Lorca.
(One should note that the motives of members of the Rosales family, if any,
would make unnecessary Ruiz Alonso's motives, and vice-versa. There is a
surplus of possible motives.) Reading his 1937 book Corporativismo,
for which Gil Robles wrote a prologue, one easily arrives at the conclusion
that Ruiz Alonso was an desequilibrado, an unbalanced paranoid. He
was full of anger at setbacks in his career, economic and political. One
of the characteristics of times of disorder is that the societal forces that
normally hold such people in check fail to function.
As for Ruiz Alonso's motives, again I don't have a good answer. No doubt his "denuncia", if we could get access to it, would shed some light. What was said from memory by José Rosales, who read it, was that "entre los cargos contra el poeta figuraban ser espía de los rusos, estar en contacto con éstos por radio, haber sido secretario de Fernando de los Ríos y ser homosexual" (Gibson, De Nueva York, p. 476). The only one of these that is true is that he was a homosexual. Ruiz Alonso is also quoted as having justified Lorca's death because "era un maricón": "Francisco Herrera m'a raconté que quelques années après la guerre civile, il rencontra le tel Alonso. Il ne lui donna pas la main en l'apostrophant en ces termes: `Je ne donne pas la main à un assassin'. Savez-vous la réponse du linotypiste? C'était un maricón!" (Olagüe, p. 46; emphasis in the original).
The problem with taking homophobia as the motivation of Ruiz Alonso is that there were other homosexuals executed in Granada during those days; indeed the question of a limpia de maricones, already documented in Nazi Germany, should be examined. However, no one mentions Ruiz Alonso in connection with any other execution(18). That Ruiz Alonso's acts regarding Lorca were not aimed at the Falange, as has often been speculated, seems clear since the falangistas of the Rosales family were left uninvolved.
There have also been a number of statements over the years that Ruiz Alonso had a personal motive. Manual de Falla, who had the advantage of being in Granada at that time, and was a very formal sort of person, not chismoso, said of Lorca's death that "fue una venganza personal, y yo sé quién fue el autor, pero mi conciencia me impide denunciarlo"(19). It has bothered me from the beginning that Gibson knows this statement of Falla, as he quotes Falla from the same book, but excises this statement from his evidence and does not explain how Falla could have been mistaken, if he was, or why he might not have been truthful, if that is the explanation.
The most detailed statement in print about a personal motive is that of Eric Bentley, who wrote me that he had heard it from Joaquín Casalduero. "Garcia Lorca broke his engagement, and was killed by his fiancée's brother. That politics enters into even this version comes about through the brother's being a supporter of the Franco forces.... Lorca was a homosexual, and as such had realized that getting married would be a big mistake. Thus the murderous brother was avenging the family honor in a double sense: his sister's betrothalalmost tantamount to marriage in Spanish traditionhad been desecrated and, secondly, the guilty party was, by his very nature, an insult to Spanish womanhood, not to mention manhood. If [this version] is correct, then Lorca's death was one of the Monstrous Martyrdoms Oscar Wilde predicted for gay people"(20).
Regarding all of the above there are three not-quite-overlapping statements by friends of Lorca, the evaluation of which is left to the reader. The earliest, and the strangest, is that of Martínez Nadal. His position is clearly that Lorca's assassination was not a political act, though it is incredible that the well-informed Nadal would have been unaware of the involvement of Ruiz Alonso, or of Ruiz Alonso's connections with the CEDA: "In the first days of strife, some Falangistas, intimate friends of the poet and admirers of his work, invited him to their house as a protection against the possible excesses of the moment. Accounts received from trustworthy sources coincide in stating that, taking advantage of the temporary absence of his friends, an armed group whose political filiation, if any, cannot at present be established entered the house, dragged Lorca away and assassinated him"(21).
The second, the most poetical, is by Jorge Guillén, the most sober and trustworthy of the three. His biographical evocation "Federico en persona" was first included in the Aguilar Obras [in]completas with its conclusion removed. Those who read the original Argentinian publication, or who read the text after the conclusion was restored in late editions of the Aguilar Obras, will find that Guillén mentions four figures in discussing Lorca's death: Marlowe, Rimbaud, Villamediana, and Pushkin. All of them were the victims of violence involving, or thought to involve, homosexuality.
Finally, José Bergamín is quoted as saying "A Federico García Lorca lo mataron los señoritos de Granada por un doble motivo, porque era famoso y porque era homosexual, aunque lo fuera muy discretamente. Los machitos de Granada no lo admitían de ningún modo"(22). This of course needs be reconciled with Bergamín's statement, in his prologue to Poeta en Nueva York, that "A Federico García Lorca lo asesinaron quienes han asesinado a España"(23). Since Ruiz Alonso could scarcely be called a "señorito de Granada", one wonders whether Bergamín had some of the Rosales in mind.
The fifth question is the impact that Lorca's
execution had on the course of the Civil War, and after the war on the perception
of the Franco regime around the world. The most surprising event of the war
was the resistance of Madrid. If Madrid had fallen, the war would have been
much briefer, the aftermath perhaps less repressive. Guernica might not have
But Madrid did not fall, it held on. There was an artists' and writers' conference in the midst of the bombardment. It provided an inspiration to the rest of the country, an exampleone of the greatest examples of all timesof what determination and solidarity can accomplish in a hostile environment with meager resources.
The extent to which the successful resistance of Madrid reflected the outrage over Lorca's death is worthy of study. Especially we should look at the support loyalist Spain was getting from other countries, seen in the arrival of legions of foreigners to fight with them (intellectuals, most of those from the English-speaking countries). This was the Hora de España, the name of the Civil War magazine. The sympathies of the good people of the world were with the resisters: here had come foreigners, at their own expense and sacrifice (Americans could lose their citizenship), to support them. Not just those encouraged by their own governments, as in the Soviet Union, but those whose governments opposed what they were doing. Presumably this made the Spaniards fight harder, just as foreign volunteers more recently have given material and, more important, moral support to Cuban and Nicaraguan Communists, and Israeli kibbutzim.
What have not been studied sufficiently are the motives of the members of the international brigades: what made them decide to volunteer. There have been many wars before and since, including civil wars, but not many in which significant numbers of foreigners have participated. Why this one? The question is, then, "to what extent was the news of Lorca's execution, rather than other events in the war, the turning point that moved the international volunteers to action?" The chronology fits very well. Remember that while Lorca was killed in August, this was not known in Madrid, and the world, until September, and the International Brigades began in October.
And of course it took place, if indeed Lorca's execution had this putative effect, because his execution was publicized around the world as a right-wing execution of a Republican poet. Perhaps revealing of the influence of Lorca's execution on the war is the virulence of the outcry whenever it is suggested that Lorca's execution might have had a non-political component, or that Lorca was not in sympathy with the loyalist government. If Franco's junta had not sought Lorca's execution, then it was a little less bad than had been maintained.
A postscript with a final unanswered question.
Franco's minister Serrano Suñer later said that Lorca's death was
the work of "unos incontrolados..., de los que actúan casi siempre
en toda revuelta sin poderlo evitar" (Gibson, Asesinato, p. 265).
And "El jefe del grupo que sacó a Lorca de su casa y lo mató
fue el diputado derechista y antiguo tipógrafo Ramón Ruiz Alonso.
Por allí anda, sin que nadie lo haya molestado nunca, a pesar de que
el crimen fue idiota e injusto, y de que nos hizo mucho mal" (Gibson,
Asesinato, p. 264). If this is so, why did no one discipline Ruiz
Alonso? Again, this is a question for which a definite answer is not going
to be forthcoming. There hasn't been much punishment of those on the winning
side. If they started with Ruiz Alonso, they'd have to go on to others who
were responsible for executions. Ruiz Alonso, for all his faults, was on
the side of the Spanish church; Lorca wasn't. And of course it wasn't Ruiz
Alonso who killed him; he only arrested him. World opinion would have simply
thought that a trial of Ruiz Alonso was scapegoating, while Valdés
or even Queipo de Llano were the ones who really should have been punished,
and that was out of the question. The Franco government would again be perceived
as cynically trying to manipulate opinion to exonerate itself. There was
no way to "win" on the topic. Peor es meneallo. Leave it alone. Nothing
they could do would bring him back anyway.
If Lorca was a sympathizer of the Movimiento, then why were his works prohibited in Spain from 1939 to 1954? First, because the right itself had changed, and the old Falange had been destroyed. Secondly, because the exiles were eagerly republishing Lorca and claiming he was one of them. If the exiles wanted the world to read Lorca's poetry and see his plays, then there must have been something wrong with him.
The upshot of all this, to the extent that the incomplete evidence permits, is that Lorca's death is not the symbol it was soon taken to be. He would not seem to represent, in Mario Hernández' words, "la inocencia asesinada", nor does he symbolize "en grado eminente...al mismo pueblo martirizado"(24). Even less does it seem that he was, in Gibson's words, "víctima...de una implacable máquina de terror y exterminio puesta en marcha con la intención de suprimir a todos los enemigos del Movimiento" (Asesinato, p. 285). Nor was he merely "una entre varios miles de víctimas"(25).
What, then, does Lorca's death symbolize? People want it to be a symbol. It is not very satisfying to say only that it symbolizes that in wars people get killed, including non-combatants, and that wars rarely progress as planned. It is also a symbol of the risks that controversial writers and artists run. Beyond that, however, I'm going to wait for the suppressed documentation to be made available before taking a position on the meaning of his death.
But I cannot resist ending with this final conundrum and example of how Lorca's death does not "add up". Martínez Nadal wrote that when he saw Lorca off to Granada in the Atocha station, Lorca saw there, and was very frightened of, a "gafe y mala persona". The potential links of this person to his death the following month would seem worth exploring. Lorca described him as "un diputado de la CEDA por Granada". Nadal thought that Lorca referred to Ramón Ruiz Alonso, who was indeed "diputado de la CEDA por Granada", although since May he had been an ex-diputado. We would thus have Lorca in great fear of Ruiz Alonso even before the uprising began, and we would need to think about the explanation. Yet it turns out that Martínez Nadal had not seen the man's face, and only assumed, from the subsequent role he played, that the diputado in question was Ruiz Alonso. Ruiz Alonso, a subsequently discovered newspaper article states, had already left for Granada by car, had had a serious accident in route, and was being treated for his injuries in Granada on the day Nadal said goodbye to Lorca for the last time (Gibson, Asesinato, pp. 45-46 and 151-152). Was the newspaper article false(26)? Did Nadal's memory fail him? Or was Lorca frightened of a different diputado de la CEDA, and if so, of whom and why? So many questions, and so few answers.
1. This article was presented as a paper before the Association of Hispanists of Great Britain and Ireland, Belfast, March 26, 1991. It is also the introduction to a projected collection of unpublished or little-known texts relating to Lorca's death. The author (College of Arts and Sciences, Northern Arizona University, Flagstaff, AZ 86011-5621, firstname.lastname@example.org), would be glad to hear from a publisher interested in the collection. One item from it, "Correo para la muerte. (Carta amarga a José Luis Hidalgo)" of Ramón de Garcíasol, was published in Journal of Hispanic Philology, 14 (1990 ), 129-141.
2. It is somewhat alarming to see Gibson's progressive uncertainty about such a basic fact as the day of Lorca's death. In his first book, it is "Lorca tiene que haber salido del Gobierno civil camino de la muerte durante la noche del 18 de agosto o las primeras horas del 19", being executed, then, on the 19th (La represión nacionalista de Granada en 1936 y la muerte de Federico García Lorca, Paris: Ruedo Ibérico, 1971, p. 90). In Granada en 1936 y el asesinato de García Lorca (Barcelona: Crítica, 1979), p. 217, he is less certain: "a García Lorca creemos que le mataron el 19 de agosto". In Gibson's biography, however, we find that "lo más probable, pues, parece ser que la salida de ambos se produjera, efectivamente, en la madrugada del 18 de agosto, aunque la desconsoladora verdad es que no lo sabemos a ciencia cierta" (Federico García Lorca. 2. De Nueva York a Fuente Grande, 1929-1936, Barcelona: Grijalbo, 1987, p. 482). And in an interview: "En la fecha de la muerte no estamos seguros, yo me inclino a pensar que fue el día 18, pero pudo ser el 19" (La vanguardia, November 10, 1987, reproduced in Boletín cultural, No. 73, December 1987, p. 10).
3. The following are the most significant published criticisms of Gibson's biographical research on Lorca: Piero Menarini, "Moventi veri e falsi per una fucilazione: perché García Lorca?", Spicilegio moderno, 3 (1974), 219-222; Eisenberg, Hispanic Review, 44 (1976), 138-139; Luis Fernández Cifuentes, "La verdad de la vida. Gibson versus Lorca", Boletín de la Fundación Federico García Lorca, 4 (1988), 87-101; Ronald Fraser, "Staying at Home", London Review of Books, July 27, 1989, pp. 16-17. The book of Molina Fajardo, cited in note 5, is also a reply to Gibson's work.
4. Gibson: La vanguardia, November 10, 1987 (see previous note). Maresca: "La conspiración del silencio sigue existiendo en Granada.... Durante años el fusilamiento de Lorca fue un tema tabú.... Aún subsiste un cierto miedo, mucha gente dice saber quién mató en verdad a Lorca, pero nadie habla. De cuando en cuando te enteras de que ha muerto alguien que podría haber dicho algo sobre lo que ocurrió entonces" (Cambio 16, April 7, 1986, pp. 126-127). Nadal: "Muchos verdaderos amigos de Federico no hablan; unos, por esa vergüenza ajena; otros, por miedo a no sé qué moral; otros, porque dicen que si la familia no habla, ellos tampoco" ("Lorca, el oscuro", Cambio 16, September 9, 1978, pp. 39-40). Montesinos: "Todavía queda gente viva que debe saber, quizá con más precisión, qué es lo que pasó exactamente aquellos días de agosto" (Eduardo Castro, "Todavía queda gente que debe saber lo que pasó con mi tío", El país semanal, July 30, 1978, pp. 6-8).
5. José Luis Vila-San-Juan, García Lorca, asesinado: toda la verdad (Barcelona: Planeta, 1975), pp. 45-46; Ignacio Olagüe in a letter to Schonberg (published in Textos y documentos lorquianos, Tallahassee, 1975, p. 45): "Queipo de Llano avait envoyé à Franco un dossier sur la mort de Lorca"; Eduardo Molina Fajardo, Los últimos días de García Lorca (Madrid: Plaza y Janés, 1983), pp. 75-76 and 264: "de la propia casa civil del Caudillo se preguntó todo cuanto se supiera sobre el caso García Lorca".
6. Detailed in the book Rojo y azul en Granada of Ángel Gollonet Megías and José Morales López (3rd ed., Granada, 1937). Also see Félix Grande, La calumnia (Madrid: Mondadori, 1987), pp. 70-71.
7. Salvador Dalí, "Les morts et moi," La parisienne, May 1954, pp. 529-538. For what they are worth, here are the comments of Dalí on Lorca's death, at which, he reports, he shouted "Olé": "Les rouges, les semi-rouges, les roses et même les mauve pâle profitèrent à coup sûr pour une honteuse et démagogique propagande de la mort de Lorca, en exerçant un ignoble chantage. Ils essayèrent et essayent encore aujourd'hui de faire de lui un héros politique. Mais moi, qui fus son meilleur ami, je puis témoigner devant Dieu et devant l'Histoire, que Lorca, poète cent pour cent pur, était consubstantiellement l'être le plus apolitique que j'aie jamais connu. Il fut simplement la victime propiatoire de questions personnelles, ultrapersonelles, locales, et avant tout la proie innocente de la confusion omnipotente, convulsive et cosmique de la guerre civile espagnole" (p. 533).
8. Marcelle Auclair, Vida y muerte de García Lorca (Mexico: Era, 1972), p. 381.
9. The Falange wanted "una justicia social rectificadora de las condiciones inhumanas de vida en que vegeta gran parte de nuestras gentes proletarias" (Obras completas de José Antonio Primo de Rivera, ed. Agustín del Río Cisneros, [Madrid]: Instituto de Estudios Políticos, 1976, I, p. 358).
10. "Narciso Perales me salvó la vida" (Molina, p. 181). On the "Himno" and Rosales' denials of it, see Vila-San-Juan, pp. 234-237.
11. Robert Brasillach, quoted by Gibson, En busca de José Antonio (Barcelona: Planeta, 1988), pp. 210-211. Brasillach also stated that Lorca and José Antonio corresponded, and that Lorca addressed José Antonio as "Mi gran amigo".
12. Rafael García Serrano, cited by Gibson, Represión nacionalista, p. 127.
13. This may be read in Gibson, Asesinato, pp. 259-260. It was first published in Unidad, San Sebastián, March, 1937, according to Gibson. Molina, facing p. 272, reproduces the front page of Arriba España from April 3, 1937, which republished the same tribute, adding a new one. The caption says that "En abril de 1937, varios periódicos [falangistas] publicaron homenajes a Federico".
14. In the tribute "A la España imperial le han asesinado su mejor poeta", mentioned in the previous note, the curious line "Andalucía y Grecia te recuerdan," with which it ends, suggests a homosexual element within the early Falange, just as there was within the German S.A. on which it was modeled. Note also the bare-chested males, and the Greek satyrs, pictured on the cover of the falangista magazine Haz (reproduced by Gibson in En busca de José Antonio, p. 23).
15. Carlos Morla Lynch, En España con Federico García Lorca, 2nd edition (Madrid: Aguilar, 1958), p. 492. The failure to publish the remainder of Morla Lynch's diary, in the possession of his children, is a major loss to our understanding of Lorca and his circle.
16. Rafael Alberti, Federico García Lorca, Poeta y Amigo (n.p.: Biblioteca de Cultura Andaluza, 1984), p. 238.
17. On October 31, 1956, Maurice Noël, editor of the Figaro littéraire, wrote in an unpublished letter to Jean-Luis Schonberg: "Je suis en butte à de nombreuses démarches: après Couffon, ce sont des amis en qui j'ai confiance, qui ont des relations à Madrid et à Grenade, et qui me disent: `il est acquis que le dénonciateur de Lorca a été Antonio Rosales....' Ils m'indiquent aussi que la présomption la plus lourde est que cette dénonciation explique pourquoi Luis Rosales, l'ami de Lorca, installé à Madrid, a rompu avec sa famille." A similar statement, criticizing the Rosales family in general but pointing to the father as seeking Lorca's removal because his son "vivait `maritalement'" with Federico, was made by Ignacio Olagüe (p. 47). In La gallina ciega, Max Aub quoted an accusation of Francisco García Lorca against the father, which Francisco then denied to Vila-San-Juan (pp. 263-265). See also Grande, pp. 296-305.
18. "Nos están matando",
one is reported to have remarked in panic to a friend in Granada, during
those first days. "La justificación de este asesinato ante el pueblo
era la `limpia de maricones'. Hay un fenómeno psicológico (no
se sabe por qué cauces telepáticos) de que sin orden ni consigna
alguna se fusilaran homosexuales en Sevilla y en Valladolid, sin otra causa
que su homosexualidad" (Molina, p. 110). "Nadie recuerda en Granada que
Trescastro o Ruiz Alonso participaran en la persecución de alguna
otra celebridad local (a pesar de las afirmaciones de Couffon, Schonberg
y otros de que Ruiz Alonso era uno de los jefes de la Escuadra Negra, un
temido asesino, etc.). Quizás había algo en lo que Lorca
representaba que les resultaba sobremanera odioso, algo especial que les
llevó a denunciarle y así acabar con él" (Gibson,
Represión nacionalista, p. 105). On the preceding page, Gibson
quotes Trescastro as follows: "Venimos de matar a Federico García
Lorca. Yo le metí un tiro en el culo por maricón" (p. 104).
That Lorca was, at his execution, called "maricón rojo" has been recently
reported, with gruesome details, by another witness ("Muerto cayó
Federico", El país, August 19, 1990, pp. 18-19).
For the limpia in Germany, see Richard Plant, The Pink Triangle: The Nazi War Against Homosexuals (New York: Holt, 1986).
19. José Mora Guarnido, Federico García Lorca y su mundo (Buenos Aires: Losada, 1958), p. 200. He continues: "Palabras que en otros labios me habrían parecido de un innoble cinismo, que en los de Falla estaban purificadas".
20. New York Times, June 13, 1976. Juan Marichal replied in a letter published June 27, 1976. He called Bentley's statement ludicrous, and referred readers to Gibson. Bentley's letter to me is of July 20, 1976.
21. Introduction to Poems, trans. Stephen Spender and J. L. Gili (Oxford University Press, 1939), p. xxvii. On Nadal's politics, see the letters to and from Guillermo de Torre I published in "Nuevos documentos relativos a la edición de Poeta en Nueva York y otras obras de García Lorca", Anales de literatura española [Alicante], 5 (1986-1987), pp. 67-107.
22. "He sido tan sentimental que tengo el corazón hecho un trapo", El país, September 4, 1983, pp. 1 and 8, cited by Ángel Sahuquillo, Federico García Lorca y la cultura de la homosexualidad (Stockholm, 1986), p. 60.
23. Poeta en Nueva York (México: Séneca, 1940), p. 7.
24. The formulation is by Mario Hernández, "Federico García Lorca: el significado de su muerte," in Poeta en Nueva York y otras hojas y poemas (Madrid: Tabapress, 1990), p. 22.
25. Manuel Fernández Montesinos, in "Todavía queda gente que debe saber lo que pasó con mi tío", p. 8. Gibson: "uno entre muchos miles de víctimas" (La vanguardia, November 10, 1987).
26. The accident occured in Madridejos, in the province of Toledo, and caused the destruction of Ruiz Alonso's car, which "dio cuatro o cinco vueltas de campana", causing him "fuertes magullamientos" (Gibson, Asesinato, p. 151). Despite thisone might think he would have been treated in Toledoaccording to the newspaper article he was almost immediately taken by car to Granada, from where his friends came by car to get him. There is no mention later of any aftereffects of his injuries. If the accident did happen, records must exist of the accident or Ruiz Alonso's medical treatment; apparently no one has looked for them.