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The saga of the fruitless search for the universal poet’s mortal remains

What we think we know about the killing of García Lorca. Reliable evidence indicates that Lorca was shot and buried alongside the anarchist bullfighters Francisco Galadí and Joaquín Arcollas and socialist schoolteacher Dióscoro Galindo one August morning, probably the 18th, in 1936 on the road between Víznar and Alfacar, and their bodies were buried there on the roadside. For a long time, it was generally believed that the exact burial place was close to the spot that is now marked by a monolith in the commemorative park in his (Lorca’s) name. The Barranco de Víznar (the Viznar Gorge) became notorious for the unmarked and mass graves of the victims of the nationalist repression in the years following the uprising against the democratic republic.



The monolith placed in the García Lorca Park in Alfacar to comemmorate the death of the poet at the spot Ian Gibson pointed to as the probable site of the grave he shared with Galadí, Arcollas and Galindo

The Barranco de Víznar, the site of numerous unmarked individual and mass graves of victims of the nationalist repression after the fall of the Republic in Granada.


I realised they had murdered me.
They searched ...
... But they didn't find me.
from the ‘Fable of the Three Friends’ in the Poet in New York collection:

1955: the Franco dictatorship makes an offer to the poet’s family to have his remains exhumed and re-buried with due honours at the Valle de los Caídos. The family members turn down this offer on the grounds it would relegate the killing from a political event to a private episode with no social resonance. A censured version of the poet’s complete works published in the 1954 raises the suspicion that this might have been a bargaining chip by means of which the Franco dictatorship hoped to win over the family’s acquiescence in removing the body away from this sensitive area.

It was in the mid-50s that Emilia Llanos told Agustín Penón that she had it from Antonio Gallego Burín that Lorca’s remains had been secretly moved to a mass grave nearby to make it harder for them to be found and identified. A move possibly prompted by the poet’s family’s rejection of the Generalísimo’s said offer.

 Then, in 1957, in a coded message to Penón, Llanos tells him “the one they are looking for is no longer there, you understand?” And further: “It’s been known for some time that he is in Madrid with his family. I was told this by someone who should know.”  (Gallego Burín?)  

Also in the 1950s a copse of pine trees was planted just across the road from the place identified as Lorca’s grave, in order precisely to cover unmarked and mass graves in the vicinity in the hope of developing and gentrifying the area.

They didn't find me?
No. They didn't find me.

from the ‘Fable of the Three Friends’ in the Poet in New York collection:

1983: the posthumous publication of Eduardo Molina Fajardo’s account of the killing Los últimos días de Garcá Lorca (Lorca’s Last Days).

The pine copse across the road from Lorca's supposed burial place planted in the 1950s to hide the evidence of extrajudicial killings and burials that are believed to have taken place there

12 September 2003. In an elaborate and rather complicated statement signed unanimously by the poet’s six nephews and nieces, Manuel Fernández-Montesinos García and Laura García-Lorca de los Ríos among them, the poet’s descendents explain the reasons for their preference of leaving the poet’s bones undisturbed, while emphasising their full respect for anyone, including those killed alongside Lorca, who sought to exhume their own ancestors’ remains. Furthermore, no stone should remain unturned, they insist, in efforts to bring to light the truth about what happened at the Barranco de Víznar after the fall of the Republic, as a step towards recovering the collective historic memory, silenced by the forty-year dictatorship.

2006:  the documentary film Lorca, el mar deja de moverse [Lorca: And the Sea Stood Still] directed by Emilio Ruiz Barrachina and building on new evidence provided by Miquel Caballero y Pilar Góngora, reveals the bitter envy and festering resentment of members of two families from Valderrubio (then Asquerosa) – the Roldáns and the Albas (yes, that’s Bernarda’s family) – towards the economic and social successes of Lorca’s father, Federico García Rodríguez. One Antonio Benavides, grand-nephew of Matilde Palacios, Lorca’s father’s first wife, actually took part in the death squad that killed the poet. As the flamenco dancer, Rafael Amargo (significant Lorca-inspired choice of stage name), from neighbouring village Pinos Puente, exclaims in a throw-away comment, recorded in Barrachina’s film: “But everyone knows it was his cousin who did it”.

In February 2009, Laura Garcia-Lorca, the poet’s niece, in an interview with the BBC, strenuously denies that the family had any undisclosed knowledge of the whereabouts of the elusive cadaver.

2009: The first attempt at exhumation carried out at the request of descendents of Francisco Galadí and Dióscoro Galindo reveals that Lorca’s corpse was not and never could have been in the spot pointed out by Manolo el comunista, whose evidence had been vital in locating the poet’s supposed burial place. The excavation hit solid rock immediately beneath the surface. Impossible for anything or anyone ever to have been buried the

I realised they had murdered me.
But they didn't find me.
They didn't find me?
No. They didn't find me.

from the ‘Fable of the Three Friends’ in the Poet in New York collection:

1986: the García Lorca commemorative Park in Alfacar opens to the public. Just as the work is nearing completion, workmen dig up some bones, a more detailed examination of which they are afraid will hold up the inauguration event. (It was election year.) So they put the bones in a plastic fertilizer bag and re-bury them, carefully recording where: directly underneath where the massive stone fountain stands today, the fountain inscribed with Antonio Machado’s famous verses dedicated to the death of the poet:
Labrad, amigos,
de piedra y sueño en el Alhambra,
un túmulo al poeta,
sobre una fuente donde llore el agua,
y eternamente diga:
el crimen fue en Granada, ¡en su Granada!
[Construct, friends, from stone and dreams in the Alhambra, a sepulchre for the poet, over a spring where the water weeps and eternally repeats: the crime was in Granada, his Granada!]

I won’t go into any more details of this extraordinary only-possible-in-Granada episode but you can follow it up in my blog dated April 17, 2018.


Luis Avial, GPR (ground-penetrating radar) expert, first got involved in investigations in Víznar during that first search for the poet’s grave in 2009, when, prompted by Víctor Fernández, local journalist and avid Lorca-researcher, he actually probed the base of the fountain. While noticing some anomaly in the geological structure, the signal from his GPR did not suggest anything like a common grave with human remains, so he discarded his findings as irrelevant. How wrong he was, he would say later  (Granada Hoy, 16/04-2018). He hadn’t been looking for a bag of rubble and bones. See above: 1986.

December 2010. The search for Lorca’s remains is off again, after the digging at Alfacar failed to reveal anything of significance.

2011: The publication of Caballero’s book entitled The Last Thirteen Hours in the Life of García Lorca.

The thirteen hours in the title refers to the time from which Ramón Ruiz Alonso turned up at the Rosales’ house on the afternoon of the 16th August until Lorca’s death in front of a semi-official firing squad, which must have taken place around 4a.m. of the 17th according to Caballero’s sources. The failure of the 2009-2010 search had put Gibson’s whole hypothesis about Lorca’s last days in doubt, - and the way was cleared for alternative theories to be put forward, again. Caballero’s work gives renewed credibility, as its title acknowledges, to Eduardo Molina Fajardo’s findings published in his book Los últimos días de García Lorca, largely ignored due to the weight and prestige of Gibson’s work. Fajardo’s research located Lorca’s burial place some 400 metres in the direction of Víznar from the monolith in the Garcia Lorca Park that today commemorates the victims of the Nationalists’ savage suppression in Granada.

Miguel Caballero’s evidence builds on official archives and records - police reports and civil and military documents and such - avoiding “as much as possible evidence based on oral testimonies.” In this way, Caballero launches a flimsily veiled attack on Ian Gibson’s work, which is dependent on oral interviews with contemporary eye witnesses of events which already lay 30 years or more in the past when they were recorded.

A second systematic search for Lorca’s remains, based on evidence and arguments detailed in Miguel Caballero’s book and centred on the Peñón del Colorado, took place in the autumn of 2014 with no anomalies in the terrain and no evidence of extrajudicial killings or burials coming to light.


This was followed up by a third attempt that was abandoned on 20 October 2016, after the removal of tons and tons of earth, this time centred on a spot 500 metres west of the Barranco and 800 east of the Lorca Park opposite the cortijo de Los Llanos de Corbera.

The removal of tons and tons of earth from a spot between the the Barranco and the Lorca Park fails to reveal any evidence that the remains of Lorca,
Galadí, Arcollas and Galindo were ever here.

The to-date last and also unsuccessful attempt to resolve the enigma of the poet’s disappearance was carried out in November 2018 and was restricted to checking the base of the monumental stone fountain with Luis Avial’s GPR for the bag of bones and rubble allegedly deposited there in 1986.

Various views of the stretch of road between the Barranco and the Lorca Memorial Park. The crime must have been committed here, somewhere.