Poetry News

Historian Uncovers Details of Federico García Lorca's Last Hours

By Harriet Staff


The final hours of the executed poet Federico García Lorca's life have become known, reports The Guardian. A local historian from the southern city of Granada, Miguel Caballero Pérez, claims to have found Lorca's real grave--and after three years of sifting through police and military archives, he has "identified the half-dozen career policemen and volunteers who formed the firing squad that shot Lorca and three other prisoners, as well as the burial site." Furthermore:

"I decided to research archive material rather than gather more oral testimony because that is where the existing confusion comes from--with so many supposed witnesses inventing things," explained Caballero, who has published his results in a Spanish book called The Last 13 Hours of García Lorca.

Caballero said his original intention had been to verify information gathered in the 1960s by a Spanish journalist, Eduardo Molina Fajardo, who was also a member of the far-right Falange organisation that supported the dictator General Francisco Franco.

"Because of his own political stance, Molina Fajardo had access to people who were happy to tell him the truth," said Caballero. "The archives bear out most of what he said, so it is reasonable to suppose he was also right about the place Lorca was buried."

That spot was said to be a trench dug by someone seeking water in an area of open countryside near a farm called Cortijo de Gazpacho, between the villages of Viznar and Alfacar. The zone is only half a kilometre from the spot identified by historian Ian Gibson in 1971--which was controversially dug up in 2009, but where no bones were found.

"The new place makes sense because it is far enough from the villages to be out of eyesight and earshot, but you can also get there by car--as they would have needed headlights to shoot people at night," said Caballero. Caballero took a water diviner to the area, who employed the same divining technique using a twig that was common in Lorca's time. He detected a possible underwater stream. "It is reasonable, then, to suppose that someone might have dug a trench here looking for streams just below the surface," said Caballero.

An archaeologist, Javier Navarro, has identified a dip in the ground that could indicate a grave. "It is by no means unreasonable to think there is a grave there," said Navarro, who has found half a dozen civil war mass graves in other parts of Spain. "It would be very easy to find out. You only have to scrape away about 40cm of topsoil for an experienced archaeologist to say if the earth has been dug up before."

The half dozen men who formed the firing squad shot hundreds of suspected leftwingers in the summer of 1936, with Lorca just one of them. They were given a bonus of 500 pesetas and promoted as a reward for carrying out the dirty work of the nationalist forces of the future dictator, Franco. "I call them the 'executioners' rather than the 'murderers' because, while some were volunteers, others were career policemen who risked being shot themselves if they refused," said Caballero. One was said to have complained that the job "was driving him mad". Some of the squad probably did not even know who Lorca was. "These were not the sort of people who read poetry. . .".

The full article can be read here.

Originally Published: June 27th, 2011