Nov 20, 2015

Garcia Lorca: The Homophobic Gay Poet and his Boyfriend

When I was studying Spanish literature at Augustana College, I never, in a million years, would have guessed that Federico Garcia Lorca (1898-1936) was gay (or for that matter his boyfriend, surrealist painter Salvador Dali).

How could I guess when his three most famous plays are:

1. Yerma (1934), a tragedy about a woman who can't have children.

2. Bodas de Sangre (Blood Wedding, 1933), about two men who kill each other over the love of a woman.

3. La Casa de Bernarda Alba (The House of Bernarda Alba, 1945), about a woman who can't stand her daughter's lack of chastity.  This one has no male characters at all.





And when his poetry is all about heterosexual longing:

"The Lizard is Crying": boy and girl lizards are crying because they lost their wedding rings.

"Two Mariners on the Beach": one dreams of "the golden breasts of Cuban girls."

"Thamar and Amon": he "was gazing at the round and low moon, and he saw in the moon his sister's very firm breasts."

(Painting of Lorca as St. Sebastian is by Alice Wellinger)





"Ode to Walt Whitman" is even homophobic.

 Lorca decries the "pansies" (maricas) of New York, horrible perversions of the spiritual love described by Walt Whitman.  They don't just gaze longingly at each other, they actually touch each other!  Disgusting!

Pansies of the cities, of tumescent flesh and unclean mind,
Mud of dreams, harpies, unsleeping enemies of Love
Pansies of the world, murderers of doves!
Let there be no quarter!
Death flows from your eyes!

Wow.

But he was definitely gay.

For a long time his family and scholars alike tried to closet him, but after his overtly homoerotic Sonnets of Dark Love was finally published in 1983, many studies have appeared analyzing the gay subtexts in his poems and plays, and revealing a tortured gay life in conservative Spanish society.  Even his murder by Nationalists during the Spanish Civil War has been interpreted as less a political assassination than a homophobic hate crime.

Javier Beltran played a non-heterosexualized version of the poet (with Robert Pattinson as Dali) in Little Ashes (2008).

Ode to Walt Whitman?  Maybe a case of "protesting too much."

See also: Rimbaud: A Season in Hell