where anything is possible
IN THE LIFE, TIMES AND WORKS
OF FEDERICO GARCIA LORCA
The Cante Jondo Competition held in Granada.
We see the winner of the competition on stage
Lorca is there towards the back, holding on to his boater.
Paco Soriano is at the front in glasses.
La nina de los peines is waiting for her turn, the only woman, foreground left.
A man who played a hugely influential role in the life of the poet was undoubtedly Fernando de los Ríos Urruti, born in Ronda in 1879. From March 1911 he was Professor of Spanish Political Law at the University of Granada and Lorca came into close contact with him when he started his studies there in 1916. Influenced by the Madrid Free Institute of Education, he saw that the key to the rebuilding and renovation of Spain after the defeat of 1898 lay in the reform of the education system. In 1919, deeply impressed by the workers’ protest against the cacique Juan Ramón La Chica, he joined PSOE, being elected Socialist Deputy for Granada to the Cortés this same year. Lorca's brother Francisco comments that he and Federico were members of a group characterised in its majority by a marked apoliticism, spontaneously rejecting any form of party discipline. That didn’t mean, he added, that we weren’t all inclined towards an open and generous Left, with a social conscience and a sharp sense of criticism towards Spanish society, particularly in its provincial forms. Lorca could never be counted as one of de los Ríos’ active student supporters.
However, when José Mora, a close friend of Lorca's during his university period, selects two men who were invaluable guides on Lorca’s "somewhat arbitrary and confused way to knowledge as an autodidactic", he picks out Francisco Soriana Lapresa (see below) for generously sharing the benefits of his vast general knowledge of art and culture and of his extensive private library, and secondly, the old university librarian, so cultured, so friendly, so enthusiastic and well-mannered... Between the old librarian and Lorca arose at once a deep friendship, Mora tells us. To be able to enjoy that huge, abundantly stocked - in the classics, if not in contemporary works - library under the guidance of such intelligently and enthusiastically given advice was a great advantage to the young poet. They stayed behind in the evenings after closing time; through the tall windows that looked out on the Botanic Gardens entered the rosy light of dusk, the smell of myrtle, magnolias and jazmin, and the singing of the countless nightinggales which had built their nests in the luxurious foliage of the Garden. One of those tall windows is pictured right and the library itself is very much as it was in Lorca's day. “Look, you go up the ladder; your legs are younger than mine; the book we're looking for must be up their on that shelf, the tenth or the eleventh from the right. It’s ages since it’s been taken down; nobody asks for these things any more.”
The consensus of opinion is that the leading member of El Rinconcillo group was FRANCISCO (PAQUITO) SORIANO LAPRESA (1893-1934). Ian Gibson describes him as a kind of Spanish Oscar Wilde. He was tall, excessively fat, due to a hereditary illness that affected many of his family. He had long, straight black hair, thick, sensuous lips and a palid complexion. He was a Doctor of Philosophy and Letters of the University of Granada. He passed the entry exams to the Consular Corps, but never applied for a job. He taught at the Escuela de Estudios Arabes in Granada. In the early 1920s, the Rinconcillo had a project to set up a library on property he owned in La Zubia dedicated to Abentofail and other Arabic poets of Granada. He lived with his family in a second floor flat at Puentezuelas 9, where he had a magnificent library, which, it is said, included a large section of erotic and pornographic literature. He was said to practice sadomasochism. He was President of the Music Conservatory and a member of PSOE, organising the Cultural Section of the Casa del Pueblo. Lorca dedicated the chapter of Impresiones y paisajes entitled Jardines to him, referring to him as "an exotic and admirable spirit". Around 1918-19 he was interested in Lorca’s sister and believed that Lorca opposed the relationship. He married Concha Higaldo Rodríguez, a cheerful and good-humoured girl who liked to wear outrageous costumes and behaved in a exageratedly mannered way. They made a scandalous and exotic couple. This I got from Ian Gibson.
MANUEL (ANGELES) ORTIZ (1895-1984) was also a painter, illegitimate son of Isabel Angeles Ortiz Gallardo, whose name he used, and a very close friend of Lorca’s. One day they saw two gypsies in the street who had been very badly beaten up by the Guardia Civil. They were in such a bad state that Manuel fainted and had to be brought here to the Café Alameda to be brought round. In 1919 he married a gypsy, Francisca, who dies in 1922, after giving birth to a daughter, Isabel Clara. She was Lorca’s goddaughter and he dedicated to her the poems “Primera Página” and “Canción China en Europa”. After the death of Francisca he went to Paris to join the Spanish School of Painters with Picasso and Miró. He made the decorations and the puppets for Falla’s “Retablo de Maese Pedro”.
Martín Domínguez Berrueta, Professor of the History of Art.
the numbers, 2,368 officially matriculated students in the year 1911-12, enabled a close, informal relation between students and teachers, as in the case of Martín Domínguez Berrueta, Professor of the History of Art.
Martín Domínguez Berrueta (1869-1920), was Professor of the Theory of Literature and Arts in Granada from 1911 to 1920. He was influenced by the Free Institute of Education and sought to overcome the traditional formality of the Spanish University and to create an atmosphere based on sharing and cooperation. From 1913 he organised his annual study trips. Mora congratulates Buerrueta on managing to secure from the ministery a modest subvention for these study trips, which all seemed to pass through Salamanca, the professor’s home town. It was on return from his second trip, Mora points out, that Lorca came home with the notes for his first book in his suitcase.
Lorca’s friend, José Mora Guarnida, describes Berrueta thus: “He was a spectacular parody of a teacher. His cheap histrionics and his vanity inclined him towards exaggerated and exalted attitudes.”
The influence of these two men at the university in genral and on Lorca in particular is certain.
MELCHOR FERNANDEZ ALMAGRO (1893-1966) was from a cultured liberal family. He was influenced by Angel Ganivet and interested in local history. He was co-director of the bulletin of the “Centro Artístico” dedicated to Zorrilla in 1917 that included “Fantasia Simbólica”, Lorca’s first published work. He was a close friend of Lorca’s family and did all he could to encourage Lorca’s literary inclinations. He was a post office civil service and got posted (pun) to Madrid in 1919, where he acted as a cultural “St John the Baptist” for Lorca who moved to Madrid shortly afterwards. He was also a journalist and newspaper critic, writing for the conservative-monarchist La Epoca until 1927, then moving to the liberal La voz, a move which Lorca heartily approved of.
ANTONIO GALLEGO BURIN (1895-1961) was Mayor of Granada under Franco’s dictatureship from 1938-1951 and later Director General of Fine Arts at the University. He has written possibly the best guide to Granada. He was also editor of the magazine where Lorca’s first published Lorca “Crisantemos blancos” appeared.
JOSE FERNANDEZ-MONTESINOS LUSTAU (1897-1962) was the founder of the magazine “Granada”. In 1922 he went to Hamburg and in 1927 he published there an anthology of contemporary Spanish poetry providing an introduction and notes in German. On Lorca, he wrote that the poet lacked a formal cultural education which was noticable in the poems. Later he went to Berkely, USA. His brother, Manolo, who married Concha in 1929, and as Mayor of Granada was executed three days before Lorca, was an occasional participant in “El Rinconcillo”.
ISMAEL GONZALEZ DE LA SERNA (1898-1968) was a painter, a Bohemian, who designed the cover of “Impresiones y Paisajes”. He moved to Madrid and then to Paris.
HERMENEGILDO LANZ (1893-1949) was an artist who helped Lorca and Falla with their puppet theatre for children, and also made decorations and puppet heads for Falla’s “Retablo”. In 1927 he was responsible for the decorations and figures for “El Gran Teatro del Mundo” by Calderón, put on by Antonio Gallego Burín in the Plaza de los Aljibes during Corpus.
ANGEL BARRIOS FERNANDEZ (1882-1964) was, like Lorca, a pupil of Antonio Segura Mesa. His father, Antonio Barrios, was a flamenco singer, El Polinario, who ran a tavern which is today the Museum Angel Barrios, and was then a meeting place for artists visiting the Alhambra. Apart from being a flamenco singer he had two more qualities that were unusual in an innkeeper: he was an art-lover and he didn’t water down the wine. Angel played the piano, the violin and the guitar and also composed himself a little. With the Trio Iberia (guitar, lute and bandurria) he toured Europe, performing before King Edward VII of England.
FRANCISCO GARCIA LORCA (1902-1976) participated in “El Rinconcillo”. He graduated in 1922, just before his brother, and in 1925-6 had a scholarship to study in France. In 1927 he was awarded his Doctorate in Law. In 1931 he entered the Diplomatic Corps, on the outbreak of the Civil War he was in Cairo. In 1939 hw went into exile in New York, where Fernando de los Ríos was Ambassador of the Republic. In 1942 he married Fernando’s daughter, Laura. Until 1966 he was Professor of Spanish Literature and published various works of literary criticism.