Spanish come to bury Lorca, not to praise him

The poet was murdered for being gay and left-wing, but official centenary tributes ignore this, writes Elizabeth Nash

SPAIN is awash with cultural events marking the birth of Federico Garcia Lorca in Granada 100 years ago this month. But critics complain that the official celebrations have airbrushed away the most important features of the poet's life: his revolutionary politics, his homosexuality, and his murder by a fascist firing squad.

Lorca's biographer, Ian Gibson, whose 1971 book The Assassination Of Federico Garcia Lorca was banned by Franco, said last week that the Spanish authorities were "hiding" the revolutionary sympathies of the poet in the celebrations, and "minimising the political aspects of his death".

Gibson, an Irishman who adopted Spanish nationality in 1984 and lives near Granada, complained: "The conservative Popular Party, which governs both in Madrid and Granada, wants to ignore the fact that Lorca died for his ideas because he was homosexual. A strong political thread runs through the philosophy of his work, which is that of a revolutionary writer. He was outspoken in his condemnation of fascism, a genuine subversive.

"This is what some people want to ignore."

A 700-piece exhibition devoted to Lorca opened last week at the Reina Sofia art museum in Madrid in the presence of the Culture Minister, Esperanza Aquirre, and the heir to the throne, Prince Felipe. In the succession of rooms illustrating Lorca's life, work and view of the world, there is no reference to his sexuality, not the faintest hint of a political opinion, and no indication of how he died. The only exhibit that refers to his assassination in August 1936 at the age of 38, is the official death certificate that attributes his death to "war wounds". The art critic of El Mundo newspaper wrote a blistering critique headlined: "The Reina Sofia presents a Lorca without sexuality or political ideas".

Fuelling the polemic, one of Spain's grand old men of letters, the Nobel literature prizewinner Camilo Jose Cela, recently launched a furious attack on the enthusiastic celebration by Spanish gays of their idol's memory. Asked whether he would like to receive a homage comparable to that granted to Lorca, Cela said he would prefer a "more solid, less anecdotal celebration, without the support of the gay community".

He was "neither in favour or against" their demands, Cela said, but they should "not take men por el culo" (by the bum). This provoked outrage, prompting one commentator to observe bravely: "It is more dignified to take someone by the bum than lick the bum of those in power, as Cela has often done." The local authorities in Lorca's home village of Fuente Vaqueros, furious at the insult, declared Cela persona non grata.

Earlier this month the Prime Minister, Jose Maria Aznar, attended a commemorative event at the Residencia de Estudiantes, the legendary students' hostel in Madrid where Lorca, Salvador Dali and the film-maker Luis Bunuel began their artistic careers in the early 1920s. Oblivious to the dangers of looking foolish in the crucible of surrealism, Mr Aznar solemnly intoned part of Lorca's poem "Romance of the Moon" as if reading his laundry list. He broke off - "there's more of course, but I'm not going to recite it all" - just before the line, "and reveals pure and lubricious breasts of hard steel." The prime minister then laid down the official version, faithfully reflected in the exhibition: "Some Spaniards insist that the rest of us should discuss things that have no sense. Poetry has no ideology, it is spirit and beauty."

The veteran poet Vicente Aleixandre is one of the few to have expressed the truth: "Even the stones knew he was gay." In a tribute written in 1937, Aleixandre evoked Lorca's mysterious, nocturnal personality. "His deepest self, as with all great poets, was not happy. Those who thought him a gaily-coloured bird passing blithely through life never really knew their man."

Lorca adored Salvador Dali, and wanted a physical relationship that Dali was too frightened to consummate. "Dali confessed this to me on his deathbed," Gibson says. In another example, Lorca wrote to a friend, Rafael Martinez Nadal, about a poem that was, in the poet's words: "frankly homosexual". Lorca's letter goes on: "I think it is my best work. Here in Granada I amuse myself these days with delicious things too. There is a young bullfighter ..." At this point, Gibson says: "Nadal, who showed me this letter, folded the page and refused to let me see any more."

Gibson painstakingly reconstructed Lorca's last hours for his book that inspired the Hollywood movie Death in Granada starring Andy Garcia, and discovered that shortly after the poet was killed, one of his assassins confessed he had given him "two shots in the bum, because he was a poof". Gibson also quotes Ramon Ruiz Alonso, the Falangist who took Lorca to his death, as saying: "Lorca caused more damage with his pen than others with a pistol."

Egged on by prudish surviving members of Lorca's family, however, the authorities seek to perpetuate a political and sexual cover-up that persisted during the Franco years, and caused numerous testimonies to be hushed up, says Gibson. "By saying that his work stands alone, outside any political context, they want to forget that Lorca tried through his work to change society. They just don't want to stir things up."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Lucerne’s Hotel Château Gütsch, one of the lots in our Homeless Veterans appeal charity auction
charity appeal
Arts and Entertainment
Tony Hughes (James Nesbitt) after his son Olly disappeared on a family holiday in France

Jo from Northern Ireland was less than impressed by Russell Brand's attempt to stage a publicity stunt

Scunthorpe goalkeeper Sam Slocombe (left) is congratulated by winning penalty taker Miguel Llera (right)
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment
The Apprentice candidates Roisin Hogan, Solomon Akhtar, Mark Wright, Bianca Miller, Daniel Lassman
tvReview: But which contestants got the boot?
Life and Style
A woman walks by a pandal art installation entitled 'Mars Mission' with the figure of an astronaut during the Durga Puja festival in Calcutta, India
techHow we’ll investigate the existence of, and maybe move in with, our alien neighbours
Arts and Entertainment
Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels ride again in Dumb and Dumber To
filmReview: Dumb And Dumber To was a really stupid idea
Arts and Entertainment
Sir Ian McKellen tempts the Cookie Monster
tvSir Ian McKellen joins the Cookie Monster for a lesson on temptation
Tourists bask in the sun beneath the skyscrapers of Dubai
travelBritish embassy uses social media campaign to issue travel advice for festive holiday-makers in UAE
Arts and Entertainment
Jennifer Saunders stars as Miss Windsor, Dennis's hysterical French teacher
filmJennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress
Life and Style
Nabil Bentaleb (centre) celebrates putting Tottenham ahead
footballTottenham 4 Newcastle 0: Spurs fans dreaming of Wembley final after dominant win
Jimmy Mubenga died after being restrained on an aircraft by G4S escorts
voicesJonathan Cox: Tragedy of Jimmy Mubenga highlights lack of dignity shown to migrants
Life and Style
Sebastian Siemiatkowski is the 33-year-old co-founder and CEO of Klarna, which provides a simple way for people to buy things online
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst

£25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established media firm based in Surrey is ...

Ashdown Group: Java Developer - Hertfordshire - £47,000 + bonus + benefits

£40000 - £470000 per annum + bonus: Ashdown Group: Java Developer / J2EE Devel...

Ashdown Group: Head of Finance - Financial Director - London - £70,000

£70000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Head of Finance - Financial Controller - Fina...

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Executive - Nationwide - OTE £65,000

£30000 - £65000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This small technology business ...

Day In a Page

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas
La Famille Bélier is being touted as this year's Amelie - so why are many in the deaf community outraged by it?

Deaf community outraged by La Famille Bélier

The new film tells the story of a deaf-mute farming family and is being touted as this year's Amelie
10 best high-end laptops

10 best high-end laptops

From lightweight and zippy devices to gaming beasts, we test the latest in top-spec portable computers
Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

The batsman has grown disillusioned after England’s Ashes debacle and allegations linking him to the Pietersen affair
Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

The Williams driver has had plenty of doubters, but hopes she will be judged by her ability in the cockpit
Adam Gemili interview: 'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

After a year touched by tragedy, Adam Gemili wants to become the sixth Briton to run a sub-10sec 100m
Calls for a military mental health 'quality mark'

Homeless Veterans campaign

Expert calls for military mental health 'quality mark'
Racton Man: Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman

Meet Racton Man

Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman
Garden Bridge: St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters

Garden Bridge

St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters
Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament: An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel

Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament

An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel
Joint Enterprise: The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice

Joint Enterprise

The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice
Freud and Eros: Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum: Objects of Desire

Freud and Eros

Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum