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SPAIN: Moorish Granada and Lorca



I always stand up for people I deem unjustly accused or insulted. John Heelan thinks the bourgeois of Granada, the target of Lorca's scathing remark, unworthy of my quixotic defense: "Prior to confirming your preference, it is perhaps worth reconsidering the context of Lorca's statement about the 1930s Granadine middle-class being the worst bourgeoisie in Spain", otherwise you might be unwittingly allying yourself with strongly right-wing, RC-dominated, homophobic and philistine community composed mainly of immigrants.:-) [I have not lived in Granada, so I cannot comment. I am surprised to hear Granada described as "mainly composed of immigrants". RH].

The statement came in an interview with the columnist Bagaría published in the newspaper El Sol, Madrid, 10th June 1936, some two months before his death. Bagaría asked Lorca his views on the fall of Granada to the Catholic Kings in 1491. [The army of Boabdil was defeated in 1491. The Spanish army entered Granada on January 2, 1492. All Europe rejoiced. RH.].

Lorca replied: "It was a disastrous event, even though they say the opposite in the schools. An admirable civilization, and a poetry, architecture and delicacy unique in the world- all were lost, to give way to an impoverished, cowed town, a wasteland populated by the worst bourgeoisie in Spain". [The reference to schools beings us back to our history textbook project. The official version was that the expulsion of the Arabs represented the final liberation of Europe from the Moorish invaders. Lorca's describing the civilization of Granada as unique in the world is a gross exaggeration. It is true that the city declined badly after the conquest. RH.].

Thus Lorca had angered the Granadine middle class, who formed the bulk of the local Falange and who already were disgusted by his homosexuality and were perhaps jealous of his success. He had alienated the Roman Catholic Church not only by being gay (overtly in his later years and thus a threat to the still closeted members of Granada's gay community) but also by his works, especially his poem "Ode to the Holy Sacrament" and his plays "Blood Wedding" and "Yerma". His close relationship with the loathed Republican government minister, Fernando de los Rios and the Republican Prime Minister, Manuel Azaña clearly had infuriated the right-wing politicians of Granada, who had recently won the local election only to see it annulled by the Córtes in Madrid. As Gibson points out: "In Granada in August 1936 a person with Lorca's reputation and friends could not expect to escape death" (Gibson 1987, p.180). [I knew Fernando de los Ríos when he was Minister of Education and later Ambassador to France. A pleasant, mild person, it was he who promoted the Moorish tradition of Granada. Since Franco, the pro-Moorish group in Granada have disrupted the annual ceremony celebrating the Spanish conquest. Since Franco, the Spanish government has tried to promote both cultures in Granada, thus reviving the plan of Fernando de los Ríos to tmake Granada a center for the study of the Arab world. Azaña infuriated the Catholic Church by boasting that Spain had ceased to be Catholic. My criticism of Azaña is that his indecisiveveness was one cause of the Civil War. I have no opinion of the annulment of the Granada elections. RH].

To my comment that "I can't understand why women fell for him", John replies: "Possibly for the same reason they fall for other gay men, a mixture of potential platonic friendship without sexual overtones or competition and an onrush of the mothering instinct for which gay men often display a deep need?" As for my story that a woman rebuffed by him committed suicide, John says he had not heard it. I read it in a reliable source. I must find it.

John does not mention Granada's gypsies or the bullfights, beloved by Lorca, who wrote a famous poem on the death of a bullfighter "at five in the afternoon". The argument about Lorca is important as the epitome of the history of modern Spain.

Ronald Hilton - 12/22/01


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