Spanish Gold

Federico Garcia Lorca, an Andalusian poet and playwright of the early 1920s and 1930s, would have been 100 this month. Students of world literature know, however, that the liberal Garcia Lorca--brilliantly creative, openly homosexual and a champion of Gypsies and other downtrodden peoples--was executed by Fascists during the Spanish Civil War. A friend of European avant-gardists and commoners alike, he left behind a body of work that conscientiously reflected both worlds.

An interdisciplinary group of writers and artists will gather to honor Garcia Lorca this weekend at the Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art during a three-day celebration honoring the centennial of his birth. In the course of the weekend, participants can stamp their feet to the poet's beloved flamenco rhythms as performed by guitarist Rene Heredia, hear a staged reading from his play Blood Wedding (Bodas de Sangre), attend a panel discussion or drink in a poetry reading featuring several renowned bards.

Jose M. del Pino, a poet himself and associate professor of Spanish literature at the University of Colorado who will speak on Garcia Lorca this weekend, quotes one of the author's contemporaries, surrealist filmmaker Luis Bunuel, in assessing his impact on twentieth-century culture: "'His masterpiece was not only his work--Garcia Lorca himself was a masterpiece.' Almost everyone who knew him said his personality was overwhelming, charming and artistic," Del Pino adds. Of his poetry, he says, "He combines the discoveries of surrealism with the social setting of city. His is a living voice that does not compromise either quality or social reality."

Garcia Lorca, del Pino relates, was constantly at odds with one faction or another. The well-heeled denizens of Granada pooh-poohed his interest in Gypsy culture, which they considered too lowly for glorification. And when he published his 1929 collection Gypsy Ballads, some cultural factions thought the work was too folkloric in nature, a criticism that continues to this day. "They think he contributed to the survival of the stereotype of the Gypsy," del Pino says. "But romanticization of a racial minority, in which a marginal character becomes the center of the aesthetic form, was traditional through the ages in Spain. He put the Gypsy at the center of his work, and that was very important and controversial."

Anthony Garcia of the Chicano theater troupe Su Teatro, applauds the author's down-to-earth, human approach: "Garcia Lorca connects with the Chicano community--not just because we're Spanish-speaking, but because he was an outcast. His people were Gypsies, an oppressed minority--a subculture just like us." He adds, "In Garcia Lorca, emotion is taken over by the people. The lowest person in a play's structure is portrayed as being as eloquent as someone from a higher-class level. He challenges the idea that the poor are inarticulate and lack souls by telling audiences that passion and beauty are there, that it's part of being poor."

That's a worthy lesson, and del Pino hopes those who attend will retain their interest in Garcia Lorca beyond the weekend. "That's really the best way to celebrate the work of the writer--to go to the library, take out the books and read them," he says. "When you read it--that's when you feel the real passion of the artist. That's when he touches the core of your heart."


Federico Garcia Lorca: A Centennial Celebration, June 19-21, Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art, 1750 13th Street, Boulder, $16-$24 for weekend pass, 443-2122.


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