The Huerta de San Vicente home
A GUIDEPOST Reprint
20 February 1987
THE HOME OF A POET (2)
By Elizabeth Disney
Photos: E. Disney unless otherwise stated
The house comes into view at the end of the path through the corn field – a simple, symmetrical building of two stories, white walls contrasting with the green-painted woodwork of the window frames, shutters and door. A trail of jasmine springs from the wrought-iron grille over the windows; the patron, St. Vincent, stands in a small niche right of the entrance, half-obscured by the flowering vine.
The door opens onto a largish reception area, furnished with a divan, cane rocking chair, and a low table. There is a photograph of Federico’s sister, Concha, and an old lithograph of Granada. On the right, a curtained archway gives onto a “conversion corner” – a 3-piece suite in Isabeline style, upholstered in a rose-patterned fabric. A bowl of full-blown roses has been placed in front of the settee; the brass ornaments gleam in the soft light filtering through the vine-clad windows. The silence is heavy with the presence of so much life in this household, by all accounts filled with voices, laughter and music. What conversations did Federico enjoy here with his sisters – for whom he delighted in inventing stories – and his musical and literary friends? The poet himself was an accomplished pianist (turning his back on a musical career owing to family disapproval), and Manuel de Falla was certainly among the most assiduous visitors here. There is the unavoidable feeling that everyone has stepped out, and will be back in a few minutes.
The dining room looks out over the corn-grown field behind the house. Over the fireplace hangs a portrait of Federico’s sister, Isabel, as a girl, seated at the piano. On a console, opposite, a tea-service is set out on a tray; a sculpted head of the poet contemplates the scene. The family table is large, hospitable, of solid wood and covered with a heavy linen cloth embroidered with traditional Granadian motifs.
To the left of the entrance hall is the music room – framed University diplomas of Federico García Lorca, and the old gramophone where he obsessively played recordings of Bach cantatas, at times sorely trying his family’s patience.
Upstairs, the family bedrooms – Federico’s, his sisters’, his parents’ – each simple and appealing in its austerity, with shuttered French windows giving onto a tiny wrought-iron balcony, so typical of Spain, looking over the trees of the garden to the Sierra Nevada sculpted against the skyline.
Federico’s room, – “my solitary room”, as he would describe it, perhaps on such a grey, damp morning, “sadness dripping off the furniture”. The white tassles of the crocheted bedspread splay out against the red and blue of the tiled-mosaic floor, the same as fifty years ago. Over the head of the simple wooden bedstead, an image of the Andalusian “Dolorosa”, the black-caped sorrowing Virgen, her heart pierced by seven swords. To Lorca she was the symbol of Andalusia, especially of its oppressed womanhood, and of all injustice and suffering born of uncompromising social and religious intolerance. This we see in the fierce matriachy of a Bernarda Alba, who martyrises her daughters, the desperation of a barren woman in a small and vicious neighbourhood which would lead her to murder, the sterile life-long wait of Doña Rosita for her faithless fiancé, emigrated to the Americas, and the tragic family feud of “Blood Wedding”.
At the foot of the bed, a painting dedicated by fellow poet and friend, Rafael Alberti. A small mirror above the chest of drawers frames the reflection of the window: “When I die, leave the balcony door open…” It is this window, this beloved view Lorca is referring to in this premonition of his tragic end which turns up again and again in his verse.
Federico’s work desk is solid and offers ample working space; over it hangs the poster for the University theatrical group “La Barraca”, which he directed. I have seen a photograph of him standing in this very spot.
At the end of the upstairs hallway is the terrace with its moss-grown terracotta tiles surrounded by a wrought-iron railing. One can imagine the tertulias here in the cool jasmine-scented evening air. Today, the ugly scar of the apartment buildings of La Ronda brutally slashes through the vista of corn fields. The rain drips off a view on the wall – another image contemplated and captured by Federico in this house he loved.
Despite the growing tension in pre-Civil War Granada, Federico returned from Madrid to spend a few days with his family before embarking on what would have been a triumphant tour of Mexico, where his plays were enjoying enormous success with the great actress Margarita Xirgu. He arrived at the Huerta on the 14th. July, 1936: the story of his last days has been unravelled thanks to the magnificent and courageous work of Ian Gibson, who tirelessly sought out documents and personal testimony in the atmosphere of fear, suspicion and confusion of post-war Spain. (Ian Gibson: “The Assassination of Federico García Lorca”).
Why was Federico García Lorca shot? He was not a political activist, but his writing and public speeches left no doubt on which side he stood – on that of the oppressed and socially discriminated – a class in which his homosexuality automatically placed him. Gypsies, downtrodden women, the victims of intransigeance, social or religious, are the heroes of his plays. Add to this his influence as an “intellectual” and public popularity, and it is clear that Lorca could not be allowed to live in the growing intransigeance of Spain in 1936.
Featured image/Alimanja, PD
Federico Garcia Lorca, source unknown, PD
The Garcia Lorcas, Fair use
Ian Gibson’s book as it appears on Amazon, Fair use
Dali portrait, PD