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García Lorca, Federico (1898-1936)  
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Retun to Spain and the Poet's Death

In 1930, Lorca returned to Spain during a time of political tension and unrest. From 1930 to 1936, he wrote prodigiously, completing some of his better-known works: Blood Wedding, Lament for Ignacio Sánchez Mejías, Yerma, and The House of Bernarda Alba.

On July 18, 1936, generals Francisco Franco and Yoldi Orgaz seized control of Las Palmas in the Canary Islands, an event that marked the beginning of the bloody Civil War that would last until 1939. Days before this event, Lorca, who was living in Madrid and becoming more and more alarmed by the increasing violence and chaos gripping the capital, decided to return to Granada to be with his family.

But safety was not to be found there. On the afternoon of August 16, he was arrested by fascist extremists, and two or three days later, without formal accusation or trial, he was shot at dawn and buried in an unmarked grave near the village of Víznar.

To this day, exact details concerning Lorca's death are unclear. For close to forty years, the Franco regime efficiently silenced information concerning the writer's death. Why such an extraordinary writer and human being endowed with genuine charm, wit, and inventiveness would be brutally assassinated can only be explained by a militant fascist mentality hostile to the fame and recognition that the liberal homosexual poet from Granada was receiving nationally and internationally.

In his well-documented biography of Lorca, Ian Gibson writes: "Among the assassins ... was Juan Luis Trescastro ... who boasted later that morning in Granada that he had just helped to shoot Lorca, firing, for good measure, two bullets into his arse for being a queer."

Although many reasons have been cited for Lorca's assassination (among them, his liberalism, his rebellion against traditional values, his communist leanings), it is evident that his homosexuality was not absent from the motives of those who tortured and killed him.

Lorca's Concealment of His Homosexuality

Spain's traditional inquisitorial Catholicism refused to permit the expression of a sexuality at variance with the dominant Christian morality. This intolerant environment well explains Lorca's fears and deliberate concealment of his homosexuality both in his personal life and in his work.

Lorca avoided ever using the word homosexual in his public life or in his writing; his texts and letters speak only of silences and guarded secrets. Yet his silences, half-sayings, and innuendoes speak volumes to the reader who carefully listens.

In his famous "Ode to Walt Whitman," for example, the poetic voice alludes to the silencing of homosexual desire: "men with green gazes / who love men and burn their lips in silence" (my translation). In life, Lorca was forced to censure and speak only indirectly of homosexual desire.

Critical Responses to His Homosexuality

Even after his death, his homosexuality remained severely closeted in Spain. Although this silence may have been understandable during Franco's conservative regime, even after Franco's death in 1975 many critics were still reluctant to mention Lorca's homosexuality and its relevance to his works.

The first studies to do so were Paul Binding's Lorca: The Gay Imagination, published in London in 1985, and Angel Sahuquillo's Federico García Lorca y la cultura de la homosexualidad masculina, a doctoral dissertation that was completed in 1986 and finally published in Spain in 1991.

Whereas Binding's work is elementary in its scholarship and suffers from a great number of inaccuracies, Sahuquillo's work has academic rigor and for the most part has been well received by Lorquian scholars. Yet, as Sahuquillo himself attests in his study, for over fifty years anyone attempting to study homosexuality in Lorca's work was accused of being "irresponsible, ignoble, envious, and vile."

Among Sahuquillo's many contributions to and insights into this theme are his analyses of five poems that illustrate how the Andalusian poet encoded homosexual themes in his texts.

Sahuquillo's thesis is that Lorca's obscure poetry, which has been described by its haunting lyrical beauty and ambiguity, encodes, through the use of mythological references and recurrent symbols, homoerotic desire.

Sahuquillo also presents letters from Lorca's archives in which it is not uncommon to hear the poet express his pain at not being able to demonstrate his emotions and feelings openly: "Everything in my poetry strikes me as pitiful in that I have not expressed nor can I express my thoughts" (my translation). Such statements are indicative of an individual suffering as a result of having to live under the values of a society that morally rejected him.

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