Exhumation of Garcia Lorca Engenders Controversy





Tracy Wilkinson, Los Angeles Times, 12/08/04

Where is my grave?
In my tail, answered the Sun.
In my throat, answered the Moon.

-- Federico Garcia Lorca

Lorca, Spain's greatest 20th century poet, was dragged from a home here in the dead of an August night in 1936, and shot dead by Fascist forces loyal to Gen. Francisco Franco.

The bodies of Garcia Lorca and three other men killed with him -- two bullfighters and a teacher with a limp -- were heaved into a low ditch, in a valley near an olive grove north of Granada, and left there.

It was barely a month into the Spanish Civil War, and thousands of people would meet a similar fate.

Given his fame and the global admiration that has been accorded Garcia Lorca, he would seem the consummate symbol for a new movement to locate the hidden graves of Franco's victims and provide proper burials.

Proponents, including relatives of the men killed with Garcia Lorca, are seeking exhumation of the long-hidden grave.

But the family of the celebrated poet objects.

In a letter to the public, the family said it agreed that"no stone should go unturned" in finding out the truth about atrocities committed during the war and under the dictatorship that lasted four decades, until Franco's death in 1975.

In the case of Garcia Lorca, however, the family argued that the facts were sufficiently well known, making an exhumation unnecessary.

"We are not going to discover new facts whose importance justifies the violence of disinterring the dead," the poet's niece Laura Garcia-Lorca de los Rios said in an interview.

Part of the lore surrounding Garcia Lorca is that his burial place is a mystery. In fact, the family and most experts agree on the general location, a ravine in the shadow of the Sierra Nevada near the village of Viznar, about five miles from Granada. It was a killing field, historians say, littered with the corpses of hundreds of people.

In a sense, the family argues, the mass grave itself is a fitting monument, a place of natural beauty that bears witness to an awful chapter of repression and political murder.

But others maintain that it takes someone of Garcia Lorca's stature to finally bring attention to Franco's victims, the vast majority of whom were buried anonymously, their families left to decades of uncertainty and shame. By contrast, pro-Franco dead have been honored by memorials and statues paid for by a string of governments.

In addition, say those favoring exhumation, recovering the poet's remains would complete the historical record and answer questions such as whether he was tortured.

Garcia Lorca ran afoul of the franquistas because he was homosexual and an intellectual and he wrote with a social conscience.

Garcia Lorca's work was infused with his love for Andalucia, its landscapes, people and history. He evoked earthy, sensual images of Gypsies and of sexual repression. After his death, his books were publicly burned and his plays banned until the 1970s.

"The past is very violent, and very recent here," Garcia-Lorca de los Rios said.

"It lives and it continues living. We have found an effective way to talk about the past, but it never ceases to be a fresh sorrow."


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