He is recognizable as the author of The Gypsy Ballads, Blood Wedding, Yerma, and that Ode to Salvador Dali which commensurates the tumultuous but passionate relationship with the artist. But Federico Garcia Lorca has ties, too, to Little Spain, that small enclave that attracted immigrants and creatives alike.
Spain’s most renowned poet and dramatist was born on June 5th, 1898 in Fuente Vaqueros, Granada province, Spain. He would spend the first ten years of his life in rural Andalusia but at age 10 he would move to Granada with his family, where he would grow up.
In his youth, Garcia Lorca attended both a Catholic public school, and a private secular institute – a privilege awarded to him by the local elite status and wealth of his family. His father was a wealthy granadino landowner while his mother was a schoolteacher. In what was a conservative and provincial city his family’s ties to the Spanish Republic’s liberal values, as seen in their commitment to a secular education and even Lorca’s sister’s marriage to Granada’s socialist mayor, would prove troubling for Lorca later in life.
He attended the University of Granada to obtain his bachelor’s degree, which only took him nine years, much of which was spent composing on the piano until one day in his late teens he was compelled to write, at which point he began experimenting with prose, poetry and drama. He was influenced by Shakespeare, Goethe, the Spanish poet Antonio Machado, and the Nicaraguan poet Rubén Darío, father of Hispanic Modernismo. His work soon demonstrated the internal social and sexual tensions which would preoccupy the writer for the rest of his career. This was the beginning of the Federico Garcia Lorca we recognize today.
His move to Madrid in 1919 would facilitate his relationships with other writers and artists, the likes of which included Juan Ramón Jiménez, Rafael Alberti, Jorge Guillén, and Pedro Salinas. Madrid is also where he would meet Luis Buñuel and the Salvador Dalí, both of which would would affect his work in direct and indirect ways.
From 1925 to 1928 Lorca became closer to Dalí, who encouraged him to experiment with avant garde trends. Perhaps what set Lorca apart however was his refusal to adhere to any particular movement, choosing instead to be a stylist – to blend and try and taste various genres and currents. It is at this point that he joined the Generation of 1927, a group of poets that exalted the work of Don Luis de Góngora, a poet whose work sought to be devoid of personal sentiment but strived for a dispassionate, deeply metaphorical lyricism, from the 16th century. During this time he added to his artistic talent-list the title of gifted sketch artist, showcasing his imaginative work in 1928. This time in Madrid brought him artistic expansion as well as fame; but the price of these things left him with a series of personal crises, including a sort of coming to terms with his own sexuality, a plunging depression, and the collapse of some of his most cherished relationships. This was a set of crisis from which his family would sponsor him to escape from in the Americas, specifically New York City and Cuba.
From June 1929 to March 1930, Lorca visited New York City. His stay yielded the collection of poems, Poeta en Nueva York. In Cuba, he wrote the play, El Público. By 1931 he had returned to Spain. 1933 saw the premiere of Blood Wedding. He would return to the Americas, from 1933-34, but this time to Argentina in the Southern cone, where he would meet and befriend Pablo Neruda. In the two years before his death, Lorca premiered Yerma, and completed a draft of The House of Bernarda Alba. The latter of which he was working on in the summer of 1936, when the Spanish Civil War broke out.
That same year, Lorca left the manuscript of Poet in New York on the desk of his Madrid publisher with a note saying he would be “back tomorrow.” Lorca never returned. He was arrested and imprisoned without a trial by National forces a few weeks later. In Granada, at the onset of the war, his liberal views, well known Republican sympathies, and relatively well known sexuality was enough to have him killed. On August 18 or 19, the poet and dramatist, along with two bullfighters and a schoolteacher was driven to a deserted hillside in the outskirts of town, where he was shot unceremoniously. Lorca’s body was then hastily buried at the edge of a road, where his grave would remain unmarked for many years.
To read more about Federico Garcia Lorca’s stay in New York City in Little Spain…