Federico Garcia Lorca is possibly the most important Spanish poet and dramatist of the twentieth century. Garcia Lorca was born June 5, 1899, in Fuente Vaqueros, a small town a few miles from Granada. His father owned a farm in the fertile vega surrounding Granada and a comfortable mansion in the heart of the city. His mother, whom Lorca idolized, was a gifted pianist. After graduating from secondary school Lorca attended Sacred Heart University where he took up law along with regular coursework. His first book, Impresiones y Viajes (1919) was inspired by a trip to Castile with his art class in 1917.
In 1919, Lorca traveled to Madrid, where he remained for the next fifteen years. Giving up university, he devoted himself entirely to his art. He organized theatrical performances, read his poems in public, and collected old folksongs. During this period Lorca wrote El Maleficio de la mariposa (1920), a play which caused a great scandal when it was produced. He also wrote Libro de poemas (1921), a compilation of poems based on Spanish folklore. Much of Lorca’s work was infused with popular themes such as Flamenco and Gypsy culture. In 1922, Lorca organized the first “Cante Jondo” festival in which Spain’s most famous “deep song” singers and guitarists participated. The deep song form permeated his poems of the early 1920s. During this period, Lorca became part of a group of artists known as Generacion del 27, which included Salvador Dali and Luis Bunuel, who exposed the young poet to surrealism. In 1928, his book of verse, Romancero Gitano (“The Gypsy Ballads”), brought Lorca far-reaching fame; it was reprinted seven times during his lifetime.
In 1929, Lorca came to New York. The poet’s favorite neighborhood was Harlem; he loved African-American spirituals, which reminded him of Spain’s “deep songs.” In 1930, Lorca returned to Spain after the proclamation of the Spanish republic and participated in the Second Ordinary Congress of the Federal Union of Hispanic Students in November of 1931. The congress decided to build a “Barraca” in central Madrid in which to produce important plays for the public. “La Barraca,” the traveling theater company that resulted, toured many Spanish towns, villages, and cities performing Spanish classics on public squares. Some of orca’s own plays, including his three great tragedies Bodas de sangre (1933), Yerma (1934), and La Casa de Bernarda Alba (1936), were also produced by the company.
In 1936, Lorca was staying at Callejones de Garcia, his country home, at the outbreak of the Civil War. He was arrested by Franquist soldiers, and on the 17th or 18th of August, after a few days in jail, soldiers took Lorca to “visit” his brother-in-law, Manuel Fernandez Montesinos, the Socialist ex-mayor of Granada whom the soldiers had murdered and dragged through the streets. When they arrived at the cemetery, the soldiers forced Lorca from the car. They struck him with the butts of their rifles and riddled his body with bullets. 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 Garcia Lorca rests.