Lorca and the Vega de Granada

granada la bella

where anything is possible

This is a view from the Generalife across Granada towards the Vega.

The San Pascual refinery on the Vega de Zujaira, which we see in this photo, was one of five sugar refineries built in the first decades of the twentieth century on the Vega of Granada. Don Federico, Lorca's father, was the major shareholder, it being mainly his sugar beet that the refinery processed.

The sugar beet boom had really got underway after 1898 with the loss of the last Spanish colonies, including the Spanish Antillas and access to cheap sugar cane. For Granada it meant the beginning of a Golden Age of sugar production which lasted until the 1930s.

In 1910, when the San Pascual refinery started production, Don Federico was one of the most important employers of labour on the Vega. He employed a lot of men on the land as well as a lot of women as domestic servants. Apart from his permanent employees, he employed 50 men on a part-time seasonal basis and another 20 day labourers. They said he had the same amount of staff as the Casa Grande, where the administrator of the Soto de Roma estate lived.

Valderrubio is on the edge of the fertile river plain called the Vega; beyond it are the drylands, where olives are cultivated. The ploughed land in the foreground all belonged to Lorca's father.

"Yo no puede decir lo enorme que es esta vega y este pueblecito blanco entre las choperas oscuras."

Carta a Adolfo Salazar, en agosto de 1921.

"I can't tell you how marvellous the vega is with its little white village among the dark poplar groves

"Asquerosa (hoy Valderrubio) es uno de los pueblos más lindos de la vega, por lo blanco y por la serenidad de sus inhabitantes."

Carta a Melchor Fernández Almagro, en agosto de 1921.

"Asquerosa (today called Valderrubio) is one of the loveliest villages on the vega, partly because of its whiteness and partly because of the serenity of its inhabitants."

Below we see the finca de Daimuz on the carretera de Láchar, one of the properties Don Federico bought in 1895 with his first wife Matilde Palacios’ money. Francisco (Federico's brother) has very fond memories of this farmhouse. It is built where the river Cubillas flows into the Genil and has the beautiful name of Daimuz Bajo, he says. "We lived here when we were very young; the earliest memories I have are of Daimuz: I could hardly walk and my brother must have been about 5." He goes on to tell a story about a painter called Nicasio who came every year to paint the house, and after work liven up the social gatherings with his accordeon, while Don Federico would urge him, Francisco, who could hardly walk, remember, to dance.

It is certainly a fact that Lorca`s and his cousin Mercedes Delgado García’s families used to organise parties here together, and if they could they would get Luisillo el Camborio to come and liven things up by playing the guitar for them.

Francisco tells that he and his brother liked to look at the ancient documents giving right of ownership to the farm. The oldest of these documents were written in Arabic. Daimuz, Gibson tells us, means the farmhouse of the cave.

The Tower of Roma was built in Arabic times as a watchtower. As a small child, Lorca often came here with the children of Fuente Vaqueros. He wrote in an essay Mi Pueblo, written in 1916 at the age of 18, that it was said that a giant lizard lived inside the tower and it would come out at night and dig up the graves in the nearby cemetery of Romilla. It respected the male corpses but, according to the legend, it would devour the female dead. There's a reference to this in the play Así que pasen 5 años where there's a scene between a dead child and a dead cat in which the dead child expresses its fear of the giant lizard. Lorca says he was frightened to death every time he came near the place.


"En la torre, según cuenta Lorca en Mi pueblo, los lugareños decían que moraba un enorme lagarto que violaban las tumbas del cemeterio de Romilla (que se encuentra a dos pasos), y que comía a las mujeres pero "respetaba" a los varones. Naturalmente, aquel niño tan sensible (Lorca) no gustaba de visitar la torre aunque, para no parecer cobarde, accedía, "con un miedo atroz", a acompañar hasta allí a sus compañeros."

    - Ian Gibson, En Granada, su Granada...

Don Federico owned all the land adjacent to the sugar refinery in the Vega de Zujaira, as well as a lot of land between River Cubillas and Valderrubio and at Daimuz. All this land was inherited from or bought with the money that Matilde Palacios brought into the marriage and left to her husband, when she died in 1894.

At San Pascual there was a railway station to transport the sugar produced at the refinery. Here Federico's summer visitors would alight. Six of the poems of Libro de poemas were dated at the Vega de Zujaira, including "Madrigal de verano", written in august 1920.

Junta tu roja boca con la mía

¡oh Estrella la gitana!

Déjame bajo el claro mediodía

consumir la manzana.

This is an extract from Así que pasen cinco años.     In this scene, a child that has just died meets a recently killed cat. The child tells the cat that they will be buried in a dark hole the following day. And that when buried, the lizards will come and eat them up, "their faces, their fingers, and even their willies". "I haven't got a willy," exclaims the she-cat, indignantly. The child thinks this objection is irrelevent, seeing that she will be eaten up completely, paws and whiskers included.


    Por la puerta de la izquierda aparece el NIÑO muerto con el GATO. (...) El GATO es azul con dos enormes manchas rojas de sangre en el pechito blanco gris y en la cabeza. (...)

    GATA: ¿Y nos van a enterrar? ¿Cuándo?

    NIÑO: Mañana,

    en unos hoyos oscuros.

    Todos lloran. Todos callan.

    Pero se van. Yo lo vi.

    Y luego, ¿sabes?

    GATA: ¿Qué pasa?

    NIÑO: Vienen a comernos.

    GATA: ¿Quién?

    NIÑO: El lagarto y la lagarta,

    con sus hijitos pequeños, que son muchos.

    GATA: ¿Y qué nos comen?

    NIÑO: La cara

    con los dedos

    (Bajando la voz)

    y la cuca.

    GATA. (Ofendida.) Yo no tengo cuca.

    NIÑO: (Enérgico.) ¡Gata!,

    te comerán las patitas y el bigote.

Don Federico compró esta finca en 1895 con una parte del dinero que heredó de su primera esposa, Matilde Palacios. Parece que la familia vivió aquí entre 1906 y su mudanza a Granada en 1908. Francisco, el hermano de Federico, que nació en 1902, dice que sus primeros recuerdos son de Daimuz. Además, la prima Mercedes dice que había juergas aquí - está fuera del pueblo y no hay vecinos - en que tocaba el gitano Luisillo el Camborio, prototipo del personaje lorquiano "Antoñito el Camborio", que murió en 1904 (de que nos enteramos en el pueblo Chauchina)

Fuente la Teja

Escuchad los romances

del agua en las choperas.

¡Son pájaros sin alas

perdidos entre hierbas!

Listen to the ballads

of the water in the poplar groves.

They are birds without wings

lost in the long grasses.

"Creo que mi sitio está entre estos chopos musicales y estos ríos líricos, que son un remanso continuado, porque mi corazón descansa de una manera definitiva y me burlo de mis pasiones que en la torre de la ciudad me acosan como un rebaño de panteras."

Carta a Melchor Fernández Almagro, agosto de 1921.

"I think my place is among these musical poplars and these lyrical rivers which let my heart finally come to rest and ridicule my passions which in the city set on me like a pack of panthers."

"Yo siempre estaré encantado si me dejan ese delicioso e ignorado último rincón, fuera de luchas, putrefacciones y tonterías: último rincón de azúcar y picatostes, donde las sirenas cojen las ramas de los sauces y el corazón se abre a punto de flauta."

"I will always be delighted if I could be left this delicious and unknown remote corner, far from all kinds of struggle, putrefaction and foolishness: this remote corner of sugar on fried bread, where the mermaids grasp hold of the branches of the willows and my heart opens at the sound of the flute."

Above we see the house of Frasquita Alba Sierra, the prototype for Bernarda Alba. Frasquita was born in 1858. She had a son and two daughters by her first husband, José Jiménez López, and another son and three more daughters with her second, Alejandro Rodríguez Capilla, who she married in 1893, at the age of 35. Frasquita died in 1924, a year before Alejandro. So we can see the exclusively female composition of the household is an invention of Lorca’s. Another invention is the servant “La Poncia” working here, for although she lived in the village, she never served in this house. Lorca’s cousin, Mercedes García Delgado, daughter of Matilde García Rodríguez, lived in the house adjacent to that of Frasquita Alba and the two houses shared a well beneath the wall that divided the properties. Through this well you could hear what was being said on the other side, which must have provided Lorca with some material for his play, written a good 10 years after the death of Frasquita.

"Frasquita Alba Sierra había nacido en 1858, casándose en no sabemos qué fecha con José Jiménez López y dando luz a un hijo y a dos hijas. Al morirse su marido se casó otra vez, en 1893, con Alejandro Rodríguez Capilla, con quien tuvo tres hijas y un hijo. Mujer de fuerte personalidad, aunque parece que no tiránica, Frasquita murió el 22 de julio de 1924 y su segundo marido al año siguiente. Por ello, la viudedad de Bernarda Alba - sine qua non del drama de Lorca - es invento del poeta. También lo es la composición exclusivamente femenina de la familia de Bernarda." - Ian Gibson, En Granada, su Granada...

Y además, Lorca escribió su obra algunos 10 años después de la muerte de Frasquita Alba.

The River Guadalquivir

flows between olive- and orange trees.

The two rivers of Granada

flow down from the snow to the wheat.


Ah, love,

that went away and didn't come back!


The River Guadalquivir

with its ruddy beard.

The two rivers of Granada,

one tears, the other blood.


Ah, love

that went away through the air!


For sailing ships

Seville has a path to follow;

while only sighs row

on the waters of Granada.


BELOW: The River Genil flowing out onto the Vega - from the snow to the wheat

This dense grove of poplar trees lines the banks of the River Cubillas. The path leads from the Fuente Vaqueros-Valderrubio road to the "La Teja" spring on the banks of the river.

Dulce chopo,

dulce chopo,

te has puesto

de oro.


Ayer estabas verde,

un verde loco

de pájaros



Hoy estás abatido

bajo el cielo de agosto

como yo bajo el cielo

de mi espíritu rojo


In memoriam, agosto de 1920, de Libro de poemas.

(English translation: Sweet poplar/sweet poplar/you have turned/to gold.//Yesterday you were green/a mad green/of glorious/birds.//Today you are dejected/beneath the August sky/as I am, beneath the sky/of my red passion.)

These poplars, photographed in the spring, are anything but "dejected" (abatido).