Sons of Spain: Federico García Lorca

For anyone who has an interest in traditional Spain, reading Lorca is a must. For anyone learning Spanish, Lorca is a great place to start. The brilliance of his poetry comes from his simple language and nostalgic observations of life.

Federico García Lorca is one of Spain’s most loved and most controversial twentieth century figures. A poet and dramatist, he found inspiration in the raw power of life in Andalucia.

As well as being a homage to the beauty and fierceness of nature, his poems and plays explore the complexities of womanhood and the deep-rooted social conventions that are characteristic of rural Spanish life.

Lorca was born on a farm just outside Granada. When he was eleven, his father, a businessman, found success in the sugar industry and was able to move the family to the city. Lorca never really took to city life and often returned to the countryside where he felt most alive.

His mother was a teacher and pianist. Lorca followed in her footsteps and was an accomplished pianist too. He also played guitar. In fact music was his first love, which explains the rhythmic quality of his poetry.

When Lorca’s piano teacher died in 1916, he began his journey into a life of writing. By 1920 he had moved to Madrid and was friends with other Spanish avant-garde artists such as Salvador Dalí and Luis Buñuel.

His first collection of poetry was published in 1921 exploring themes of religious faith, isolation and nature. These themes would persist throughout his life’s work.

The 1920s were a productive time for Lorca. He teamed up with a composer named Manuel de Falla and together they hosted a festival dedicated to Flamenco. As Flamenco evolved from the traditions of gypsies in the south of Spain, Lorca was inspired to delve further into their lives.

In 1928 he published the Gypsy Ballas which would become one of his most popular works. At the same time, he staged two plays. The first was ‘Mariana Pineda’ while the second was ‘The Shoemaker’s Prodigious Wife.’ Both plays feature strong women in the lead roles and were popular with audiences. His popularity amongst the people marked him as a left-wing sympathizer in political circles.

In 1929 he spent some time in New York but couldn’t cope with the austerity of big city life. He escaped to Cuba and then later returned to Spain. His collection of poems ‘A Poet in New York’ reveals the loneliness he felt during his time in the city.

When Lorca returned to Spain in 1930, he was appointed director of the theater group La Barraca (The Shack). For the next six years he dedicated his time to writing plays and wrote his three most famous works: ‘Blood Wedding,’ ‘Yerma’ and ‘The House of Bernarda Alba.’

Traveling from Madrid to his home in Granada just days before the Civil War broke out in 1936, Lorca was arrested by Nationalist militia and shot dead. To this day the exact details surrounding his assassination are shrouded in mystery and his body has never been found.

A Poem by Lorca

Cayó una hoja (The Leaf Falls)

Cayó una hoja
y dos
y tres.
Por la luna nadaba un pez.
El agua duerme una hora
y el mar blanco duerme cien.
La dama
estaba muerta en la rama.
La monja
cantaba dentro de la toronja
La niña
iba por el pino a la piña
Y el pino
buscaba la plumilla del trino.
Pero el ruiseñor
lloraba sus heridas alrededor.
Y yo también
porque cayó una hoja
y dos
y tres.