Today is the birthday of poet and playwright Federico García Lorca, born June 5, 1898. García Lorca was born in the Spanish town of Fuente Vaqueros, a few miles from Granada. He distinguished himself as a writer from an early age, publishing a first book of essays at the age of 20. He moved to Madrid in 1919 to study law, which he quickly abandoned to devote himself entirely to writing poems, organizing theatrical performances, and developing his fascination with Gypsy culture and music.
García Lorca was a member of the Generación del 27, a group of tremendously talented Spanish poets which included Jorge Guillen, Pedro Salinas, Rafael Alberti, Nobel Prize winner Vicente Aleixandre, Luis Cernuda, and more. The Generation of '27 represented a unique cultural moment in Spain during which a permissive atmosphere of artistic experimentation coincided with the political optimism created by the proclamation of the Second Republic. In 1928, his book of verse Romancero Gitano ("The Gypsy Ballads"), was a great success, bringing García Lorca considerable fame. The book was reprinted seven times during his lifetime.
In 1929, he travelled to New York, where he was powerfully moved by the culture of Harlem and African-American spirituals, and where he wrote the collection collection Poeta en Nueva York. Returning to Spain just after the fall of the dictatorship of Primo de Rivera and the re-establishment of the Spanish Republic, García Lorca was named the Director of "La Barraca," a travelling theater charged with introducing audiences in Spain's remote rural areas to modern theatre. Some of García Lorca's own plays, including his three great tragedies Bodas de Sangre, Yerma, and La Casa de Bernarda Alba were first produced by the company.
On the 17th or 18th of August 1936, at the outbreak of the Civil War, García Lorca was arrested at his home by Nationalist soldiers. After a few days in jail, García Lorca was taken to "visit" his brother-in-law, Manuel Fernandez Montesinos, the Socialist ex-mayor of Granada who had been recently murdered and dragged through the streets. When they arrived at the cemetery, the soldiers forced García Lorca from the car and shot him dead. His books were burned in Granada's Plaza del Carmen and were soon banned from Franco's Spain. To this day, no one knows where the body of Federico García Lorca rests.
The Song of the Barren Orange Tree
Cut my shadow from me.
Free me from the torment
of being without fruit.
Why was I born among mirrors?
Day goes round and round me.
The night copies me
in all its stars.
I want to live without my reflection.
And then let me dream
that ants and thistledown
are my leaves and my parrots.