by Annette Aryanpour
More than sixty years ago one of the greatest poets of this century died. He was also the most famous victim of the Spanish Civil War. His name was Federico Garcia Lorca. He was the son of a people that have always fascinated me. After I had read Lorca’s “Poem of the Deep Song”, I wanted to find out what moved a man who wrote so sadly, yet so passionately about love and death, about life. I traveled to Andalucia, the Southern part of Spain and homeland of the poet. I wanted to see for myself that “river Guadalquivir [that] winds through orange and olive trees…” My expectations were not disappointed. Andalucia is truly a uniquely beautiful place and the Guadalquivir still winds along the orange and olive groves as it did sixty years ago. I was touched by the warm-heartedness of the people that live in the poorest region of the country and to my surprise, they were not at all morbid as I had expected. Love and death are simply a part of life and there is always time for a good song.
I began to understand where he was coming from … the magic of the land, the wandering souls and death lovers, the desperation, the strength to always get up when beaten and the uncanning ability to not take life so seriously. One of Lorca’s main concerns was that the Deep Song would one day disappear from the face of the earth as the last descendents of the tradition were taking their legacy to the grave. Together with his composer friend Manuel de Falla, he organized the “Competition of the Deep Song” in Grenada in June 1922 to commemorate this art form. Lorca contributed his own interpretations of the Deep Song. He was a man who thoroughly rejected the widely known form of flamenco. To him it was merely a watered down version … the Rock’n’Roll of the Deep Song. What made Lorca’s poetry so special was the inherent surrealist element. His close relationship with the painter Salvador Dal may or may not have been an indication of some surrealist tendencies, but when asked, he never publicly associated with any of the artistic currents of the time. But as with many artists of the time, his work was considered ‘degenerate art’ by the fascists. Lorca realized that his country was crumbling to pieces and voiced his opinion openly. Despite his fame, he soon made enemies in higher circles. The poet was killed in 1936 after an anonymous denunciation as an enemy of the authoritarian Franco regime.
In Sevilla the Deep Song continues to live on. Away from the tourist spots on the south side of the Guadalquivir are many hidden bars that are open every night of every day of the week. Not only are they neighborhood watering holes … more importantly, they are gathering spots for the locals who will come for a song and a dance. I saw grown men cry when at a midnight, the lights were dimmed and a little Virgin figure flamed up with a string of fairy lights. Everybody went quiet. Couples cuddled up together and children sat on their parents’ laps. A man began to plug his guitar, a woman clapped quietly to the rhythm and with her deep, husky voice she revered the Virgin who protects their neighborhood … la Virgen de la Triana. Federico Garcia Lorca was right there in their midst. An outsider may never quite grasp the depth of this passion and the connection with God, love and death … but for a moment, I thought I understood.
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