Federico García Lorca: Biography of a Silenced Poet

Learn all about the tragic life of Federico Garcia Lorca in this article.
Federico García Lorca: Biography of a Silenced Poet

Last update: 17 August, 2021

Federico García Lorca remains one of the most celebrated Spanish writers. If he hadn’t been executed, he would’ve celebrated his 121st birthday recently. In fact, his death serves as a constant reminder of what the Spanish Civil War meant. Truly, it’s an episode that’s difficult to forget.

As well as being one of the countless victims of the Spanish Civil War, Lorca was one of the best writers Spain has ever had.

In this article, we study Lorca with both sadness and enthusiasm. Indeed, his work is still acclaimed today. However, unfortunately, people only started to celebrate him after his death. In fact, many of his most well-known works were published posthumously.

This article is a small tribute to remember the life and work of Federico García Lorca. Furthermore, we must never forget the cruel and tragic way in which he left the world, despite the fact that it’s not a pleasant subject to dwell upon.

The life of Federico García Lorca

Lorca was born on June 5th, 1898, in Fuente Vaqueros in the province of Granada, Spain, into a wealthy family. He wasn’t especially interested in academics but he did have an interest in writing. Actually, he showed an interest in all subjects but had a special talent for music. He went to high school in Almeria.

He then began to study philosophy and law at the University of Granada, in the province of Andalucia. However, he didn’t stay there very long.

In 1919, he decided to move to Madrid and stay in the student residence where he met many of the great intellectuals of the time. It was here that he cultivated friendships with other important Spanish cultural figures of that era. These included Luis Buñuel, Salvador Dali, and Juan Ramon Jimenez.

Throughout his life, Lorca always had a close link with his homeland and especially with his family. In fact, his work also reflects this tradition. In 1920, Lorca’s first play, El Maleficio de la Mariposa (The Butterfly’s Evil Spell) premiered at the Eslava Theater in Madrid. According to some, it’s a “corny” play about little animals. Nevertheless, the play contained certain core elements that became the distinguishing features of his later plays.

The work became an important success and, in the following decade, there were some theatrical premieres that gave Lorca a certain prestige. For example, these works include La Zapatera Prodogiosa (The Shoemaker’s Prodigious Wife), Bodas de Sangre (Blood Wedding), and Yerma (Yerma). At the end of 1932, he made a trip to Argentina where he gained recognition in Latin America.

Federico García Lorca remains the most performed Spanish playwright in the world. In addition, he made contributions to poetry. The complexity of the study of Lorca contrasts with the limited distribution of his work during his lifetime.

Lorca’s death

On August 18, 1936, Federico Lorca Garcia was executed between Viznar and Alfacar in Granada. Actually, he could have escaped death had he gone to Latin America. However, he preferred to seek refuge with his own people in Huerta de San Vicente in a family home in Granada.

The Civil War had just broken out at this time. Lorca’s brother-in-law, Manuel Fernández Montesinos, the socialist mayor of Granada was also executed shortly before Federico’s death.

The playwright never really took a position on politics, but he was a man of the world and a homosexual. In fact, it was his homosexuality and an alleged allegiance with the Russians that would lead him to his death. This was despite the fact that he demonstrated his overwhelming support for Spain and his roots on more than one occasion.

Lorca was a friend of Luis Rosales, a Falangist poet, and decided to take refuge in his family home. However, on August 16, 1936, he was arrested.

The mystery of Lorca’s death

From this moment on, a series of contrasting ideas surround Lorca’s death. This is because nobody really knows for sure what actually happened to the poet. But we do know of the involvement of Ramón Ruiz Alonso. It’s possible that Lorca had collaborated with the socialist Fernando de los Ríos, along with the Russians. However, there’s no doubt that his homosexuality was one of the triggers of his murder.

Juan Luis Trescastro, a lawyer loyal to the Falange, seems to have been involved in his shooting. People claimed that they heard him say: “I’ve just come from shooting García Lorca twice in the ass, for being a faggot”. His death and his remains, to this day, are still a mystery. However, there’s no doubt that Spain at the time along with the growing and dominant Francoism, ended his life. The life, in fact, of one of the best ever writers.

There are some police reports of the time that seem to shed some light on the facts surrounding the murder of García Lorca. However, the poet wasn’t the only victim of this unjust war.

Federico García Lorca and the Generation of 1927

When we mention a generational study of Spanish literature, it’s important to clarify what exactly we mean by “generation”. According to some scholars such as Petersen or Dámaso Alonso, there exist certain common circumstances among the authors considered to be of the same generation. These are:

  • Similar age.
  • Same education.
  • Intense personal relationships among the members.
  • Existence of a  model.
  • Generational language.
  • Rupture with the previous generation.

Damaso Alonso tries to define what occurred in Spanish poetry between 1920 and 1930. His approach attempts to closely define what this group of poets’ intentions were. He mentions poets such as: Jorge Guillen, Pedro Salinas, Gerardo Diego, Federico Garcia Lorca, Rafael Alberti, Vicente Aleixandre, etc.

The name of this group, Generation 27, was named after the year 1927, which marked the tricentenary of the death of Luis de Góngora, the famous Spanish Baroque poet. The group held meetings in the Ateneo of Seville. They also contributed to magazines like The Pen, Spain, etc.

At the beginning of the 1920s, these writers collaborated in a series of works. At the same time, their student residence became one of the centers for the intellectuals of the time to meet.

García Lorca lived in the residence with other artists and participated in the great literary moments of his generation. Naturally, his is one of the names that come up when speaking about the Generation of 1927.

A statue of Federixo Garcia Lorca.

His works

Lorca’s manuscripts were stashed in drawers and their publication was delayed. One of his most popular works from 1921 was Poema del Cante Jondo (Poem of Deep Song). However, it wasn’t published until ten years later.

During the last years of the 1920s, Lorca published Canciones (Songs). Supposedly, it’s one of the most essential collections of poems for those who are fans, known as “lorquistas”. During the last years of his life, Lorca was very prolific, but few of his works from this time are known. Nevertheless, there are some, such as  El Llanto por Ignacio Sánchez Mejías (The Lament for Ignacio Sanchez Mejias) and Seis Poemas Gallegos (Six Galician Poems).

In his poems, we see a wide variety of registers and a strong link with the music world. Not surprisingly, Lorca wrote lyrics to songs, but only for research purposes. He broke with traditional barriers and introduced elements of other cultures, like Arabian in his work. Because of this, we find his works both rich and innovative.

Lorca took inspiration from his Andalucian roots with his work, Poema del Cante Jondo (Poem of Deep Song) It’s in this book that we find La Baladilla de los Tres Ríos (The Ballad of the Three Rivers).

Andalucia in his works

He crossed the Andalusian landscape in his works. However, he didn’t describe but rather insinuated, all the time nourished by his great knowledge of flamenco.

Lorca included Andalusian cities in his works. We find the majestic Seville and discover Granada through its rivers. However, besides geography, he also addressed issues such as impossible love. In addition, he approached the popular but never omitted the cultural poetic element.

Lorca’s connection with his roots led him to work for a long time on a book of romance in which the gypsy culture played a special role. In fact, it was at this time that he began to develop what became Romancero Gitano (Gypsy Ballads). However, this work attracted a certain amount of criticism. In fact, many of his contemporaries labeled it a costumbrismo.

His poetry

Lorca’s poetry was impregnated with many cultural elements. However, he was also influenced by Góngora’s poetry. As a result, he wrote a collection of 18 romances that combine his knowledge of cultured poetry with popular poetry.

Gypsies became the main protagonists in his work, and the lyrical took over from the ballad. Lorca’s narratives contain a story, dialogues between characters, and even interjections that go far beyond the poetic genre. In fact, Lorca chose popular expressions and turned them into theatrical language. Furthermore, he delved into the soul and depths of a culture that the mainstream has always considered marginal.

Lorca was the poet executed by Franco’s regime. He’s been elevated to mythical status by being seen as “the first important person they killed’. Indeed, there’s absolutely no doubt that his killing remains an extremely dark shadow in the history of Spain and reminds us of the undeniable horrors of the past. However, we are also reminded of the indisputable magic of literature.

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  • Colecchia, F.: García Lorca. A selectively annotated bibliography of criticism (Nueva York-Londres, 1979).
  • Gil, Ildefonso-Manuel (ed.): Federico García Lorca (Madrid, 1973).