Federico García Lorca, Poet, Playwright, Martyr


Frederico del Sagrado Corazón de Jesús, or simply Frederico García Lorca as he is better known, was a renowned poet, playwright and theater director of the early 20th century. Lorca made major contributions to Spanish language literature, not only by leaving us with brilliant plays and an opus of poems we still get to enjoy today, but also by influencing literary styles of the time. Lorace helped take elements popular in Europe at the time such as surrealism, symbolism and futurism, and adapt them to Spanish art and culture.

Lorca was born on June 5th, 1898 in Southern Spain, in a town called Fuente just outside of the region’s capital of Granada. Lorca was actually his mother’s maiden name, and if he had abided by accepted naming practices of that era, he would have simply gone by Frederico García. However, García was (and still is) the most common surname in all of Spain, and so he used Lorca to distinguish himself. Lorca was born into an upper middle class family, his father was a landowner and his mother was a local teacher. After spending his childhood in the countryside, his family eventually moved into the city of Granada. Lorca went on to study literature, law and writing as well as piano during his childhood and adolescence.

Lorca’s Esteemed Career and The “Generation of 27”

Lorca’s career, although cut short by his tragic death at a young age, was nevertheless intense, and left a lasting impression on the world. By the age of 25 he was already running with an incredibly influential crowd of poets and artists who would later come to be known as the “Generation of 27”. The “Generation of 27” distinguished themselves artistically from other poets and artists of the time by their experimentation with avant garde themes and styles. Lorca was the youngest member of this esteemed group which also counted among its 10 original members infamous artist Salvador Dalí, and the prolific filmmaker Luis Buñel. Having unofficially formed some years earlier, they are known as “Generation 27” because their first official meeting was held in Seville in 1927, on the anniversary of the death of well-respected poet Luis de Góngora.

Lorca published his first work, called Impresiones y Paisajes, “Impressions and Landscapes”, in 1919. Luckily for Lorca, his upper middle class upbringing allowed him to self-fund the first printing with family money. It was this same year he moved to Madrid, where he met those who would become the “Generation of 27”. Lorca’s literary career wasn’t all success, in fact his first play, El Maleficio de la Mariposa, “The Butterfly’s Magic Spell” was by all regards, a failure and a laughingstock. Lorca was so embarrassed by its existence, he went on to insist that his first play was actually Mariana Pineda, a biography of Mariana de Pineda Muñoz, a famous Spanish historical figure. Mariana Pineda opened with stage setting created by the great artist Salvador Dalí to much success. Lorca’s poems are well known, and have a unique style to them. Due in part to his immense musical talent, many of his poems have a distinct musicality about them, as is evident with such titles as “sonata” and “ballade”- which are, of course, also styles of music.

Dalí remained a close personal friend of Lorca’s throughout his life, and it is rumored that the two shared a more passionate, intimate relationship, although some reports state that it was Dalí who rejected Lorca’s attempts at romance. After Dalí met his future wife, a Russian muse named Gala, Lorca travelled to New York for a year long sabbatical. Here he published some of his most famous poems, Poeta en Nueva York, “A Poet in New York”, where he explored the dark side of unbridled capitalism, inspired by the Wall Street crash of the time that would kick off the great depression.

Lorca’s Later Years, Death, and on Becoming a Martyr

After Lorca returned to Spain, he all but abandoned poetry altogether, focusing instead on writing, producing and directing plays. Lorca’s plays aimed to challenge social norms of the time, including calling into question classist ideals, accepted heteronormativity and the role of women in the public sphere.

Unfortunately, his political and social ideals were far ahead of his time, and when the civil war broke out, Lorca was immediately targeted by the far right political party who called themselves the Nationalists. The leader of the Nationalists, General Francisco Franco, would shortly become the dictator of Spain between 1939-1975. At the young age of 38, Lorca was viciously beaten and subsequently murdered by Franco’s men, and many of his books were burned in the public square of Granada, as a symbol for those who shared Lorca’s ideals.

Lorca’s remains have never been located, despite even modern day search attempts. In 2008 the Spanish government, in an attempt to reconcile Spain’s present with its past tragedies, began a new investigations into his death. However, despite renewed efforts, no headway has been made on locating his remains to give him the proper burial he deserves. Lorca is still revered today for his contributions to Spanish literature, and in fact, three of his previous homes are even now open to the public as museums.

Luckily for the non-Spanish speaking world, we have been able to read and appreciate Lorca’s works due to the diligent translations done by Spanish translation and copy editing professionals such as those at Spanish with Style. It is important that translation efforts such as this be undertaken by Spanish translation experts, who are then able to maintain the rhythm of Lorca’s poetry, the symbolism and the metaphors, all of which are expertly left intact as it is translated. Translation is so much more than simply changing words from one language to another, and requires a nuanced understanding of both languages. This is why it is important for all translation needs to be undertaken by Spanish translation professionals, to ensure the message is being understood by its target audience in the manner in which it was meant.

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