granada la bella
where anything is possible
Subida el 23 de febrero de 2017
Rafa Merelo Guervós
View from the Mirador de San Cristóbal,
with the Albayzín to the left and the Cathedral in the centre
Blog de Jesús Lens
Mirador de Lindaraja (Alhambra)
Monument to José Antonio Primo de Rivera (Since removed.). From Journalist Javier F. Barrera's blog.
An inscription on the Cathedral wall in honour of Jose Antonio Primo de Rivera,
founder of the fascist Spanish Falange
Taken 21 June 2013
GRANADA LA BELLA was Angel Ganivet's town planning critique of Granada. He saw the city's natural and historic beauty threatened by the city developer-beasts.
Para embellecer una ciudad no basta crear una comisión, estudiar reformas y formar presupuestos; hay que afinar al público, hay que tener criterio estético, hay que gastar ideas.
Porque tengo para mí -y lo declaro en secreto- que en medio de esta oleada de vulgaridades que ha pasado y aun pasa sobre nosotros, si hubiéramos tenido dinero abundante para dar forma duradera a nuestras concepciones (para realizar nuestra esencia, que se dijo años atrás), hubiéramos dejado a nuestros descendientes motivos sobrados para que nos despreciaran.
Pero a veces ¡oh dolor! hay dinero.
Angel Ganivet. Granada la bella.
Whereas Angel Ganivet's idea of the dark side of Granada - the Beast - referred mainly to the architectural and urbanisitc atrocities committed against the old Moorish aesthetics of the city, I refer rather to its social dark side - the ultra-conservative and nationalistic male chauvinist attitudes and deeds of what was for Lorca "the worst bourgeoisie in Spain" with its homophobia, Islamophobia, and gypsy-phobia, and resistence to any form of social equality or liberation.
GRANADA AND LORCA 100 YEARS AGO
Looking back at the life of the poet, Federico García Lorca, in 1920
From January to June he was in Madrid, living at the Residencia de Estudiantes.
It wasn’t easy to get a place at the Residencia de Estudiantes. Entry was restricted to a select circle of the progressive liberal elite of Spain who sent their sons there to improve themselves and prepare themselves for their role as the country’s cultural vanguard. Lorca qualified by virtue of his father Don Federico’s status as part of the new “sugar bourgeoisie” of Granada (see Box) and not least due to the family friendship with the influential Fernando de los Ríos (see below), from whom he carried a letter of recommendation for Alberto Jiménez Fraud, director of the Residence. De los Ríos was nephew of Francisco Giner de los Ríos, one of the founders of the Institución Libre de Enseñanza (ILE), to which the Residencia owed its existence, the ILE having set it up in 1876 with the aim of providing an intellectually and socially stimulating interdisciplinary oriented living space for its residents. When Lorca moved in there in the autumn of 1919, Alberto Jiménez Fraud was running the place very much along these lines.
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The Sugar Bourgeoisie.
In evoking the Vega of Granada, the wide fertile river plain where he grew up and spent most of the summers as an adolescent and young man, Lorca wrote in “The Little Ballad of the Three Rivers” that the rivers of Granada (the Darro and the Genil) flow down from the snow to the wheat. Yet wheat was never a major crop on the Vega. In Lorca’s day, the Vega had been taken over by the cultivation of sugar beet.
Without the sugar beet boom, the works of Lorca are almost unthinkable. For it was on the back of this boom that Lorca's father rose to prosperity and it was this prosperity that assured Lorca the freedom from economic pressures which he needed to dedicate himself to his poetic vocation. The cultivation of sugar beet on the Vega had started some two decades earlier, but it was really after 1898, with the loss of the last Spanish colonies and thereby access to cheap sugar cane, that the boom got underway. For Granada it meant the beginning of a Golden Age of sugar production which lasted until the 1930s.
One consequence of this boom was a confident new bourgeoisie that re-shaped the urban landscape in its own image. In the first decades of the twentieth century, the Gran Vía, a boulevard in the style of Hausmann’s Paris, emerged as a fashionable residential area that reflected their fortune, aspirations and status. As part of this fortunate new bourgeoisie, Lorca's father brought his family to live here, at nº 34, albeit only for one year in 1916. We can suppose that Lorca's liberal-minded father didn't feel at his ease among his fellows of this upcoming social class, which his son would later describe as the worst bourgeoisie in Spain.
The early days at the Residencia with Luis Buñuel.
Needless to say, the rather wild and adventurous binges of these years described by Luis Buñuel in his autobiography are not a topic ever mentioned in Lorca’s correspondence home. Buñuel was one of the first people Lorca got to know on his arrival at the Residencia the previous autumn. The future film director writes about their intense partying and night life, into which they channelled much of their surplus youthful sexual energies. Their favourite haunts, in the years prior to the infamous Orden de Toldedo, were the Rector's Club, where Buñuel and his drinking companions happily splashed out their parents’ money, and then the cocktail bar, Museo Chicote, which he defines as the Sistine Chapel of Martinis, another popular venue for their nocturnal and sexual pursuits .
LEFT: A scene from El maleficio de la mariposa, from the cover of Moon Magazine. RIGHT: Luis Buñuel, of course.
Madrid, ca 1920 Lorca and his new friends taking afternoon tea at the Residencia
El Maleficio de la Mariposa (The Curse of the Butterfly)
22 March 1920: Lorca’s first play El Maleficio de la Mariposa is put on in Madrid. And is received by the audience with a large dose of scorn and derision. PIC
The poet-dramatist had been encouraged to write the play by Gregorio Martínez Sierra, director of the Eslava theatre, and the actress, Catalina Bárcena when he had recited a narrative poem with a similar them to them in the Gardens of the Generalife the previous summer 16 June 1919.
The performance of El maleficio de la mariposa was supposed to earn him a “respectable sum of money” according to those in the know, as Lorca confided to his father in a letter home dated March 1920. At the same time, he asks father to pay his rent at the Residencia until at least the end of May, as he had “more difficult and more interesting” things to tackle after the imminent performance of El maleficio.
His letters home always give the impression that he is leading a happy, healthy and studious existence at the Residencia “all day in the library studying and reading” (as he wrote in this same letter of March 1920) and, unlike at home in Granada, even getting up in the morning to have breakfast! In April, after the failure of El maleficio de la mariposa, Lorca claims that he hardly ever leaves the Residencia, so involved as he is with his “literary affairs”.
Indeed, on hearing of the failure of his son’s play, Don Federico must have written Lorca a serious letter, demanding that he return to Granada and finish his university studies at once. Lorca replies with a defiant manifestation of self-assertion quite in contrast to his usual submissive, cajoling tone. What would he do in Granada now? he asks rhetorically, especially as he was getting a foothold in Madrid literary circles and making something of a name for himself. Now he argues that too early a success would be prejudicial and that a better strategy was the gradual build-up to a “sensational book” in the near future.
But Lorca puts the weight of his argument on the prestige and exclusivity of the Residencia and the loss of face it would cause him giving up his room in the middle of the term. How would family friend Fernando de los Ríos react, after having placed so much trust in the young talent?
If his father refuses to relent, then he would do his duty as a son and obey, but he makes it clear that such an option would be “a mortal blow” that would fill him with gloom and despondency and rob him of his enthusiasm and zest for the struggle for art. “You can’t change me,” Lorca insists. “I was born a poet and artist, just as one is born lame or blind or handsome. Leave my wings in their place and I will respond by taking flight.” (Letter home April 1920)
Lorca’s eloquence seems to win him this battle and he not only holds out till the end of the term but is also allowed to return to the Residencia later that autumn.
However, presumably due to parental pressure and the unpromising start to his career, Lorca does at this time consider taking up his university studies again in earnest. His friend, Antonio Gallego Burín, had recently been appointed part-time assistant professor at the Faculty of Philology and Letters in Granada and in a letter dated 27 August 1920 the as-yet would-be poet and dramatist asks him what subjects would cost him least effort to pass. He makes it clear that he just wants to please his father, so his father would get off his back and let him go to Madrid that autumn and “publish his books”.
At this point, Lorca managed to fail an exam in the history of the Castilian Language. Nevertheless, Don Federico seems to have been sufficiently placated to allow his son to finally return to Madrid on 30 October 1920. He also shelled out for the costs of publishing the Libro de Poemas, which came out the following year, on 15. June 1921. PIC family photo
From July to October he was in in Granada,
spending the summer months of July and August at his father’s farm in Asquerosa (later to be re-named Valderrubio) on the Granada Vega,
writing a number of poems that will appear in Libro de Poemas in the following year,
and then after the harvest moving to the family flat on the Acera del Casino, close to Puerta Real
The Poet’s Summer Routine at Asquerosa/Valderrubio.
While his father was fully occupied with the work on his of his agricultural enterprises in Valderrubio, Lorca would spend the summers in the bosom of the family with no responsibilities to detract him from his writing. His cousin, Merdedes describes his daily routine:
He would get up around dinner time. In the afternoon he would go to the Fuente de la Teja on the nearby River Cubillas talking and reading poetry to the village youth. In the evening, after supper, they would all go to a tavern in the village and stay there till about 2a.m. Then Lorca would go home and write. It was not unusual for farm workers to see the light in his room still on when they went to tend to the animals in the early morning.
We have valuable evidence given by his friend and close confident, Pepe García Carillo, to researcher Agustín Penón in the 1950s regarding Lorca’s sexuality, and while some of his anecdotes may be taken with a pinch of salt and put down to the bravado of a suppressed minority in the face of a hostile environment, they do throw some light on the poet’s attitudes and behaviour in these early years. For example, according to Carillo, Lorca claimed have “slept with all the boys of Valderrubio”. One supposes that many of the boys of Valderrubio would beg vociferously to differ, yet it does reveal a certain defiant pride in his sexuality that could never be expressed freely and openly in contemporary society.
He felt at ease, Carillo suggested, with the simple people of the countryside. He loved the farmworker-type, the more peasant-like, the better; he liked them “dirty and sweaty”: this is according to Carillo’s evidence. This evidence, I hasten to add, is not bolstered by Lorca’s later choice of lovers, who were anything but “dirty and sweaty”.
One of these peasant-types was Frasco, Francisco Santalla Sánchez, who would leave work and go without pay to be with Federico at the Fuente de la Teja. During one of their conversations, Agustín Penón, 20 years after Lorca’s death, notes that goose-pimples suddenly stood out on Frasco’s arms as a result of his memories of the grieved-for poet.
Here, one can’t help sharing the observation of Ian Gibson, who picked out the poem “Madrigal del Verano” from Libro de poemas, to argue that Lorca is describing his own preferences when he asks a fictive “Estrella la gitana”:
¿Como no has preferido a mis lamentos
los muslos sudorosos
de un San Cristóbal campesino, lentos
en el amor y hermosos?
How is it that you didn't prefer to my laments
the sweaty thighs
of a peasant Saint Christopher, ample,
and slow in love?
1. Family portrait (maybe around 1910?)
2. Granada: Puerta Real, Acera del Casino, ca 1920
Below:Lenin at the opening of the II Cominterm conference, 19 July 1920. Attended by Fernando de los Ríos. State History Museum Moscow
Above left: the family home in Valderrubio (then Asquerosa), centre of Don Federico's agricultural operations. Right: family photo on the banks of the nearby River Cubillas.
Fernando de los Ríos (b Ronda (Malaga) 1879; d New York 1949.
He had been appointed Professor of Political Law at the University of Granada in 1911. Under the influence of Francisco Giner, his wife’s uncle, he came to consider the reform of the education system to be the key to the rebuilding and renovation of Spain after the traumatic defeats of 1898. The still adolescent poet had caught the 37-year-old professor’s attention as a talented musician at the Centro Artístico y Literario de Granada in 1916 and although Lorca never figured among his band of political disciples at the law faculty, he recommended Lorca to stay at the Residencia de Estudiantes in Madrid (see above).
In May 1919, impressed by the workers’ protests in Granada of February, he had joined PSOE (Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party of Spain) and in June he was elected to the Cortes, the Spanish Parliament. As we have indicated, Lorca would remain largely immune to his mentor and sponsor’s political ideas until the 1930s and the Second Republic.
Manuel de Falla
Lorca’s burgeoning interest in the popular folk tradition was intensified under the inspiring presence of Manuel de Falla, when the great composer came to settle permanently in Granada in September 1920. The most immediate consequence of this collaboration between poet and composer was the famous Fiesta del Cante Jondo, celebrated in the Alhambra’s Patio del Aljibe on 13-14 June 1922, and for which occasion the above mentioned Poema was written.
Whenever he was in Granada, Lorca was an assiduous participant in the gatherings in the small garden of Falla’s modest residence near the Alhambra Palace Hotel. The relationship between Lorca and Falla was , in spite of their age difference, one of mutual admiration and respect, even if the warmth and closeness of these early years became somewhat strained later by the two men's totally irreconcilable characters and lifestyles.
In October, Lorca returned to Madrid for a short time, but ...
on 25 November 1920 he returned to his family home in Granada for the Christmas winter break.
In the following year, apart from a couple of months in Madrid in the spring, he was grounded in Granada, due to his lack of tangible success and his long-suffering father’s displeasure and mistrust regarding the nature of the poet’s conduct in the capital.
In the summer of 1920 (July-August), de los Ríos travelled to Soviet Russia to attend the meeting of the Comintern, or the 2nd World Congress of the Third Communist International. Here, he voted against Lenin’s concept of the revolutionary party.
In 1926, he would publish El sentido humanista del socialism, his humanist interpretation of socialism, in which his quite moderate ideas of socialism and social reform are laid out. As Gerald Brennan wrote in his book Al Sur de Granada: “in spite of his charm and culture, his moderately socialist opinions earned him the animosity of that deeply conservative town”. This many years later was to have dire consequences for him and many people associated in some way with him, including, of course, Lorca himself.
Lorca and Politics
Throughout his life, Lorca remained aloof from political movements, in contrast to his close companions at the Residencia like Buñuel and later Dalí. Neither did he get much involved in radical artistic movements, such as ultraísmo, which according to Buñuel had a deep influence on the contemporary young generation of intellectuals and artists to which they belonged. “We were interested in everything,” says Buñuel, particularly the social question...and anarchism. (...) In those days, those of us who, like me, were interested in the socio-political aspect could not help but feel drawn to anarchism.”
Yet Lorca remained basically untouched by such tendencies. In the middle of the bread crisis in Madrid in the autumn of 1920, for example, Lorca did not take sides in the dispute between employers and workers that was aggravating the situation. The fight from his point of view was one between two minorities, a bunch of rogues and idiots, which caused suffering for the mass of ordinary people. Nevertheless, he was not immune to the anarchist tendencies of the time, expressing - in a letter to his family, dated 30 November 1920 - his mildly subversive desire to throw stones at the Count of Romanones, Álvaro de Figueroa y Torres-Sotomayor , the minister responsible among other things for recently suspending the constitutional guarantees, first in Catalonia and then in the whole of Spain.