Federico García Lorca

[gahr-see-uh lawr-kuh; Sp. gahr-thee-ah lawr-kah, -see-ah]
' Federico García Lorca (5 June 189819 August 1936) was a Spanish poet and dramatist, also remembered as a painter, pianist, and composer. An emblematic member of the Generation of '27, he was killed by Nationalist partisans at the age of 38 at the beginning of the Spanish Civil War.


Born into a family of minor, but wealthy, landowners in the small village of Fuente Vaqueros, Granada, García Lorca was a precocious child, although he did not excel at school. In 1909, his father moved the family to the city of Granada, Andalusia where in time he became deeply involved in local artistic circles. His first collection of prose pieces, Impresiones y paisajes, was published in 1918 to local acclaim but little commercial success.

Associations made at Granada's Arts Club were to stand him in good stead when he moved in 1919 to the famous Residencia de estudiantes in Madrid, where he would befriend Luis Buñuel and Salvador Dalí, among many others who were or would become influential artists in Spain. In Madrid he met Gregorio Martínez Sierra, the Director of Madrid's Teatro Eslava, at whose invitation he wrote and staged his first play, El maleficio de la mariposa, in 1919-20. A verse play dramatising the impossible love between a cockroach and a butterfly, with a supporting cast of other insects, it was laughed off stage by an unappreciative public after only four performances and influenced García Lorca's attitude to the theatre-going public for the rest of his career; he would later claim that 1927's Mariana Pineda was his first play.

Over the next few years García Lorca became increasingly involved in his art and Spain's avant-garde. He published three further collections of poems including Canciones (Songs) and Primer romancero gitano (1928, translated as Gypsy Ballads, 1953), his best known book of poetry. His second play Mariana Pineda, with stage settings by Dalí, opened to great acclaim in Barcelona in 1927.

Although not shown for the first time until the early 1930s, Lorca wrote the play The Shoemaker's Prodigious Wife in 1926, which was a farce about fantasy, based on the relationship between a flirtatious, petulant wife and a henpecked shoemaker.

However, towards the end of the 1920s, García Lorca fell victim to increasing depression, a situation exacerbated by his anguish over his homosexuality. In this he was deeply affected by the success of his Romancero gitano, which increased—through the celebrity it brought him—the painful dichotomy of his life: he was trapped between the persona of the successful author, which he was forced to maintain in public, and the tortured self, which he could only acknowledge in private.

Growing estrangement between García Lorca and his closest friends reached its climax when surrealists Dalí and Buñuel collaborated on their 1929 film Un chien andalou (An Andalusian Dog), which García Lorca interpreted, perhaps erroneously, as a vicious attack on him. The film ended Lorca's affair with Dalí, along with Dalí meeting his future wife Gala. At the same time, his intensely passionate but fatally one-sided affair with the sculptor Emilio Aladrén was collapsing as the latter became involved with his future wife. Aware of these problems (though not perhaps of their causes), García Lorca's family arranged for him to take a lengthy visit to the United States in 1929-30.

While in America, García Lorca stayed in particular in New York City, where he studied briefly at Columbia University School of General Studies. His collection of poems Poeta en Nueva York explores his alienation and isolation through some graphically experimental poetic techniques, and the two plays Así que pasen cinco años and El público were far ahead of their time—indeed, El público was not published until the late 1970s and has never been published in its entirety (the manuscript is lost.)

His return to Spain in 1930 coincided with the fall of the dictatorship of Primo de Rivera and the re-establishment of the Spanish Republic. In 1931, García Lorca was appointed as director of a university student theatre company, Teatro Universitario la Barraca (The Shack). This was funded by the Second Republic's Ministry of Education, and it was charged with touring Spain's remotest rural areas in order to introduce audiences to radically modern interpretations of classic Spanish theatre. As well as directing, Lorca also acted. While touring with La Barraca, García Lorca wrote his best-known plays, the 'rural trilogy' of Bodas de sangre (Blood Wedding), Yerma and La casa de Bernarda Alba. He distilled his theories on artistic creation and performance in a famous lecture "Play and Theory of the Duende", first given in Buenos Aires in 1933. Lorca argued that great art depends upon a vivid awareness of death, connection with a nation's soil, and an acknowledgment of the limitations of reason. The group's subsidy was cut in half by the new government in 1934, and la Barraca's last performance was in April 1936.

García Lorca left Madrid for Granada only three days before the Civil War broke out, when the Spanish political and social climate, just after the murder of José Calvo Sotelo, became unbreathable. He was aware that he was certainly heading towards a city reputed to have the most conservative oligarchy in Andalucía. After the war broke out, García Lorca and his brother-in-law, the socialist mayor of Granada, were soon arrested. He was killed, shot by Nationalist militia on 19 August 1936. Lorca was thrown into an unmarked grave somewhere between Víznar and Alfacar, near Granada. Significant controversy remains about the motives and details of his death. Personal non-political motives have also been suggested. Lorca's biographer, Stainton, states that Lorca's killers had made remarks about Lorca's sexuality, suggesting that it played a role. The dossier compiled at Franco's request has yet to surface.

Jan Morris ("Spain", p.48) describes how Lorca "foretold his own fate in a remarkable instance of a (typically Spanish) type of mysticism: Then I realised I had been murdered They looked for me in cafes, cemeteries and churches .... but they did not find me. They never found me? No. They never found me.

The Franco regime placed a general ban on Lorca's work, which was not rescinded until 1953 when a (censored) Obras completas (Complete works) was released. Following this, Bodas de sangre, Yerma and La casa de Bernarda Alba were successfully played in the main Spanish stages.

That Obras Completas did not include his late heavily homoerotic Sonnets of Dark Love, written in November 1935 and read only for close friends — these were lost until 1983/4 when they were finally published in draft form (no final manuscripts have ever been found.) It was only after Franco's death in 1975 that García Lorca's life and death could be openly discussed in Spain. This was due not only to political censorship but also to the reluctance of the Garcia Lorca family to allow publication of unfinished poems and plays prior to the publication of a critical edition of Lorca's works.

In 1968, Joan Baez sang translated renditions of Lorca's poems, "Gacela Of The Dark Death" and "Casida of the Lament" on her spoken-word poetry album, Baptism.

In 1986, Leonard Cohen's English translation of the poem "Pequeño vals vienés" by García Lorca reached #1 in the Spanish single charts (as "Take This Waltz", music by Cohen). Cohen has described Lorca as being his idol in his youth, and named his daughter Lorca Cohen for that reason.

The Spanish Poet, Antonio Machado, wrote the poem "El crimen fue en Granada", in reference to Lorca's death.

Today, García Lorca is honored by a Garcialorca madrid lou.jpg prominently located in Madrid's Plaza de Santa Ana. Political philosopher David Crocker reports that "the statue, at least, is still an emblem of the contested past: each day, the Left puts a red kerchief on the neck of the statue, and someone from the Right comes later to take it off.

A forward-looking Foundation, directed by niece Laura Garcia Lorca, has sponsored an array of cultural events together with the Huerta de San Vicente.

Major works


  • Impresiones y paisajes ("Impressions and Landscapes", 1918)
  • Poema del cante jondo ("Poem of Deep Song", 1921)
  • Libro de poemas ("Book of Poems", 1921)
  • Oda a Salvador Dalí ("Ode to Salvador Dalí", 1926)
  • Canción de jinete ("Songs", 1927)
  • Primer romancero gitano ("Gypsy Ballads", 1928)
  • Poeta en Nueva York (1930, published posthumously in 1940, first translation into English as "A Poet in New York", 1988)
  • Llanto por Ignacio Sánchez Mejías ("Lament for Ignacio Sánchez Mejías", 1935)
  • Seis poemas gallegos ("Six Galician poems", 1935)
  • Diván del Tamarit ("The Diván of Tamarit", 1936, published posthumously in 1941)
  • Sonetos del amor oscuro ("Sonnets of Dark Love", 1936)
  • Primeras canciones ("First Songs", 1936)


Short plays

  • El paseo de Buster Keaton ("Buster Keaton goes for a stroll", 1928)
  • La doncella, el marinero y el estudiante ("The Maiden, the Sailor and the Student", 1928)
  • Quimera ("Dream", 1928)


  • Viaje a la luna ("Trip to the Moon", 1929)

Works about Lorca


  • Greek poet Nikos Kavvadias's poem "Federico García Lorca", in Kavvadias' Marabu collection, is dedicated to the memory of Lorca and juxtaposes Lorca's death with the mini-holocaust of the village of Distomo, Greece, where the Nazis executed over two hundred people.
  • American poet Allen Ginsberg's hallucinatory poem 'A Supermarket in California' includes García Lorca: "and you, García Lorca, what were you doing down by the watermelons?".
  • Hungarian poet Miklós Radnóti also wrote a poem about Lorca in 1937 under the title 'Federico García Lorca'.
  • Spanish language poet Giannina Braschi of New York wrote a treatise on Federico García Lorca entitled, "Breve tratado del poeta artista" (Cuadernos Hispanoamericanos, 1986). She later published "El imperio de los suenos," as a poetic homage to Poet in New York (first edition: Anthropos editorial del hombre, 1988; second edition Editorial de la Universidad de Puerto Rico).
  • Poet Charles Bukowski references Lorca several of his poems including Junk, To Weep and again in the poem Style which was written for a film based on his poetry, Tales of Ordinary Madness and directed by Marco Ferreri.


  • Mexican composer Silvestre Revueltas composed Homenaje a Federico García Lorca (a 3 movement work for chamber orchestra) shortly after Lorca's death, performing the work in Spain during 1937.
  • The Italian avantgarde composer Luigi Nono wrote a composition in 1953 entitled 'Epitaffio per Federico García Lorca'.
  • Lorca is mentioned in The Clash song 'Spanish Bombs' from their London Calling album in the lines "Oh please leave the ventana open, Federico Lorca is dead and gone".
  • The American composer George Crumb utilizes much of García Lorca's poetry in works such as his Ancient Voices of Children and his four books of Madrigals.
  • Composer Osvaldo Golijov and playwright David Henry Hwang wrote the one-act opera Ainadamar ("Fountain of Tears") about the death of García Lorca, recalled years later by his friend the actress Margarita Xirgu, who could not save him. It opened in 2003, with a revised version in 2005. A recording of the work released in 2006 on the Deutsche Grammophon label (Catalog #642902) won the 2007 Grammy awards for Best Classical Contemporary Composition and Best Opera Recording.
  • Finnish modernist composer Einojuhani Rautavaara has composed Suite de Lorca ("Lorca-sarja") for a mixed choir to the lyrics of Lorca's poems Canción de jinete, El grito, La luna asoma and Malagueña (1972).
  • Gary Mex Glazner wrote a poem dedicated to Lorca entitled 'Lorca'.
  • Seamus Heaney also referred to Lorca in Summer 1969 (poem), line 17.
  • The Pogues dramatically retell the story of his murder in the song 'Lorca's Novena' on their Hell's Ditch album.

Theatre, film and television


Ian Gibson, La represión nacionalista de Granada en 1936 y la muerte de Federico Garcia Lorca (1971), Guia de la Granada de Federico Garcia Lorca (1989), Vida, pasion y muerte de Federico Garcia Lorca (1998), Lorca-Dali, el amor que no pudo ser (1999)


  • Gibson, Ian (1989). Federico García Lorca. London: Faber & Faber. ISBN 0571142249.
  • Stainton, Leslie (1999). Lorca: A Dream of Life. London: Farrar Straus & Giroux. ISBN 0374190976.
  • Doggart, Sebastian & Michael Thompson (eds) (1999). Fire, Blood and the Alphabet: One Hundred Years of Lorca. Durham: University of Durham. ISBN 0907310443.

External links

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