Lorca's Grave to be Opened

Date Added: 23 September 2008
Federico GarcĂ­a Lorca's remains look set to be exhumed. Lorca's niece, though reluctant, will acquiesce. But is this action appropriate?
In the course of ongoing investigation into Civil War deaths and the excavation of mass-graves of murdered republicans, the remains of one of Spain's most celebrated poets, Federico García Lorca, is probably to be exhumed from where they a believed to lie outside Granada. The poet's niece, Laura García Lorca, is unhappy about it but will comply with the wishes of the families of the other victims buried with him. Those supposed to be sharing his grave are a one-legged school teacher and two anarchist banderilleros.

First let me say that in general I applaud the policy of "recovering national memory" for two reasons: the first (as I have asserted elsewhere on this site) is that the rights of the surviving family members of those murdered by Nationalists are important, and that, as Zapero has said, far from re-opening old wounds as his opponents have contended, it is closing existing ones.  The second reason is that it is making an important contribution to historical knowledge.

However in the case of Lorca, I can see the case for letting him rest.  Much posthumous respect has been paid to him, and his death has been thoroughly investigated.  Moreover a memorial park has been built on the presumed site of his burial.  So however dishonarable the manner of his murder and burial in an unmarked grave, he has been subsequently honoured and his presumed grave has been subsequently marked.

The concerns Laura García Lorca raised in an interview in El País deserve respect (see interiew.) One of them is that there are between 1,000 and 3,000 people buried in the grave there, and that to have a partial exhumation would mark a difference between them.

To this I might say that a complete excavation of the sight might be appropriate.  Granted the findings would be grim.  But all this raises another issue: the right of victims of mass-murder to be commemorated, as has long been acknowledged in the case of victims of the Nazi Holaucaust.  After all, what does Granada mean to average tourist?  Maybe Flamenco, the achingly beautiful old Muslim quarter, Moorish Palaces, the romances of Washington Irving, the last Moorish king of Spain uttering his famous last sigh before going into exile, the haunting music of Manuel De Falla or the famous song of the same title rendered by Sinatra, Mario Lanza et alia. Maybe those enchanted by the beauty and romance of the fabled city should spare the horrible events that it played host to.  (Incidently, the above mentioned composer Manuel De Falla was reportedly damn near executed himself in spite of being a staunch Catholic just for having the temerity to ask after his friend Lorca who had by then, unbeknowest to him already been shot.)

And the accounts of what happened in Granada when the nationalists took over were horrific.  Thousands were executed, often for trivia.  The schoolmaster who is supposed to have died and been buried with Lorca, one Dióscoro Galindo González, was targeted for teaching a secular education and executed for "denying the existence of God".  (As I've said elsewhere, the substance behind the "Black Legend" perception of Spain was present well into the 20th Century.)

Maybe bringing this all to light again is opening old wounds, but perhaps one last airing of the full horror of it should be made known before the wound can finally heal.

A second objection of Laura García Lorca is that her uncle's exhumation will yield no further invaluable knowledge about the her uncle's murder.  Enough, she believes, is already known thanks to, among others, Ian Gibson, a famous Irish hispanicist who is the author of an investigation into Lorca's assassination.

However Mr Gibson himself has long campaigned for the truth to be known about what the manner of Lorca's death.  "Uncovering his remains would clarify exactly where and how he was shot, and whether he suffered torture during the night or two he was detained before they killed him."

But I feel a slight misgiving about this. As Gibson has himself stated, one of the thugs who is supposed to have shot Lorca, a certain Juan Luis Trescastro Medina, is said to have boasted on more than one occasion of having shot the poet twice in the arse for being a "maricon" (a pejorative term for homosexual.)  If Lorca did suffer this final indignity, maybe it would be a kindness if he were allowed not only to have taken the truth of the matter to his grave but also to keep it there.

Another worry Laura García Lorca had was that the exhumation might turn into a morbid spectacle.  She was concerned that it should be performed with privacy and respect.  With this I fully concurr.

She also stated a wish that afterwards the remains should be put back where they now lie.


El País Interview with Laura García Lorca 
El País Feature by Ian Gibson: "Era una noche sin luna"

Suggested Further Reading

The Face of Spain by Gerald Brenan
The author, in the course of his journey across Spain, stops at Granada and makes a preliminary attempt to locate the grave of Lorca of whom he was a friend.
The Assassination of Federico García Lorca by Ian Gibson