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García Lorca, Federico (1898-1936)  
 
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Born in Fuente Vaqueros, province of Granada, on June 5, 1898, Federico García Lorca is internationally recognized as Spain's most prominent lyric poet and dramatist of the twentieth century. His poetry and plays have been translated into dozens of languages and have been the object of study by critics all over the world.

His books continue to sell, and his plays are staged and applauded every year. Since his murder in 1936 at the hands of Spanish fascist forces, Lorca has become a legendary tragic hero.

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One cannot help speculating about Lorca's unfulfilled projects, the many more works he had planned to write and would have written had he not been the victim of a death that to this day is still clouded with controversy.

Equally controversial are the thinly veiled homosexual motifs and themes present in Lorca's work that have long been intentionally silenced and overlooked by those wishing not to "soil" the reputation of one of Spain's most respected bards; among them, the Franco regime, the Lorca family, and Lorquian scholars who have dedicated their lives and careers to Lorca's work yet refuse to acknowledge a line of criticism that takes into account desire.

Lorca's Early Life and Works

The son of a wealthy landowner, Lorca grew up very comfortably. As a child, he demonstrated an affinity for music, painting, and puppetry. In 1909, the Lorca family moved to Granada, where the young Lorca studied music with Don Antonio Segura Mesa, a former disciple of Verdi. Indeed, prior to turning his creative urges to poetry, the young Lorca intended to pursue a musical career.

In Granada, Lorca blossomed, and in future years, Granada's Arabic culture--a rich legacy of poetry, astronomy, and architecture--would become the subject of many of his poems. In addition, the city's population of gypsies, who since the fourteenth century had been living in the caves of the Sacromonte, would be the inspiration for the poet's Gypsy Ballads (written in 1924-1927 and published in 1928) and Poem of the Deep Song (written in 1921 and published in 1931).

In 1919, Lorca went to study at the University of Madrid and lived at the Residencia de Estudiantes--a student residence founded in 1910 as a center of intellectual life for gifted students. Among the students at the "Resi," as it was familiarly known, were Spain's most talented young artists and writers.

The surrealist painter Salvador Dalí, with whom Lorca fell deeply in love, and Luis Buñuel, later famous as a film maker, became close friends with Lorca, whose room soon became a popular meeting place for intellectuals around Madrid.

The Poet in New York and Cuba

After what has been generally described as a "mysterious emotional crisis" (in fact, a depression brought on by Dalí's sexual rejection as well as by a stormy relationship with a young sculptor, Emilio Aladrén Perojo), Lorca traveled to New York City in 1927. This trip inspired some of his most singular poetic pieces, later collected under the title Poet in New York (1940).

After leaving New York City, Lorca spent three months in Cuba, a place he had dreamed of visiting ever since he was a child and where he spent, according to his own account, the happiest days of his life.

Openly Homosexual Works

Following his stay in New York City and Cuba, Lorca began to be more daring in the representation of homosexuality. Far away from his family and conservative Spanish values, he was able to conceive and begin writing his most openly homosexual work: "Ode to Walt Whitman," the dramatic piece The Public, and the unfinished The Destruction of Sodom.

"Ode to Walt Whitman," published in Mexico in 1934 in a limited edition of fifty copies, but never published in Spain during Lorca's lifetime, reveals the poet's own contradictions concerning homosexuality. The ode takes on a moralistic tone by marking a clear distinction between a pure and desexualized homosexual love, epitomized by Whitman the lover of nature, and a debased sexuality, associated with the "maricas" or faggots (effeminate homosexuals).

The Public, which with the exception of two scenes published in a Spanish magazine during Lorca's life was not published until 1978, and even then in an incomplete version, presents an examination of repressed homosexual desire as well as a defense of the individual's right to erotic liberty.

Lorca categorized The Public, his most experimental play, as belonging to his "impossible theater." Also belonging to the impossible theater is The Destruction of Sodom, of which Lorca apparently wrote one act, although today only the first page of the piece survives. The theme of this play, according to Ian Gibson, was to be "the pleasures of the homosexual confraternity, who have made such a contribution to world culture."

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Federico García Lorca (left) with Salvador Dali, circa 1927.
  
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