Wednesday, 23 December 2009

Lorca dig ends without finding his remains

(Agencies) The earthly remains of the greatest Spanish writer of the 20th century have not been unearthed in Alfacar, against all expectation.  The evidence not only fails to reveal anything about Lorca’s whereabouts – it strongly suggests that no human being was ever interred in the lonely olive grove, utterly contradicting all the traditional lore surrounding the poet’s mysterious death.
Between 1923 and his tragic shooting in 1936, Lorca produced several collections of poetry and wrote half a dozen dramas which, between them, set the Spanish speaking world alight.  He became immensely famous and, in his native Granada, bitterly hated by the town’s Fascist elements, who regarded him as a “leftist” and a practising homosexual.>

On or about 18 August 1936, a month into the Spanish Civil War, Lorca was “arrested” – some would say abducted – by Franco’s followers in Granada.  For 73 years, it has been universally believed that the poet was taken to a disused schoolhouse in the hills above Granada, near a village named Viznar, and shot at dawn by a Fascist firing squad.

Two months of excavation conducted by the University of Granada and pressure groups who want all victims of the Civil War killings to receive proper burials have resulted in the first-ever proper dig at the supposed burial site, with qualified archaeologists in charge.  The dig began on 29 October and has been shut down this week.

To the dismay of Lorca lovers everywhere, Doña Begoña Alvarez, the Andalucian Justice Minister, announced at a press conference on Friday 18 December, “there has never  been a burial at the site”. The question now arises, where are the poet’s remains?  His family, who still live in Granada, have steadfastly refused to join in the speculation, or to give any assistance whatsoever to those investigating Lorca’s death.   For them, the discovery of his bones would unleash a “media circus”, an outcome which they vehemently oppose.  As for the Fascists, the handful of witnesses to Lorca’s abduction and final hours of life have all passed away now.

The key informant, Manuel Castilla, was the man who buried Lorca, along with two bullfighters and a school teacher, all shot by the same firing-squad.  Castilla (who died some years ago) told the Irish writer Ian Gibson back in the 1970’s that the common grave lay in the olive grove at Alfacar, just outside Viznar.  Recently a friend of Castilla said that “Manolo the Communist” was pulling the guiri writer’s leg, and in fact could not remember where the grave was situated.

Another Lorca investigator, Gabriel Pozo, has brought out a book, published only a few days ago, entitled “Lorca`s Final Walk”.  In it, he argues that the Fascists began to realise in the 1970’s  that international interest in the poet would one day lead to some kind of inquiry, so they secretly exhumed his remains and transferred them to some now unknown place.  Pozo alleges that he, too, spoke to Manuel Castilla, who told him that he had nothing to do with Lorca’s burial.

Pozo’s book is combining with the Alfacar dig’s lack of success to cast doubt on the long-accepted version of Lorca’s final hours.  For at least 30 years it has been understood that the poet, realising his life was in danger, sought refuge in the house of his friend Luis Rosales, a young Fascist officer who lived in the calle Angulo in central Granada.  According to this account, a local Fascist fanatic, Ramon Ruiz Alonso, led a squad of gunmen to the Rosales home and took Lorca into “custody”.

Less than 48 hours later, the poet was dead.  Now Pozo has interviewed Enma Penella, daughter of Ruiz Alonso, who claims for the first time that it was Rosales who murdered Lorca, not her father.  Against this, Ian Gibson (who did the original investigative journalism and has devoted 45 years of his life to finding out what happened to Lorca) insisted this week that the poet was shot and was buried outside Viznar.

He maintains that the dead man’s bones are still there – we simply haven’t yet looked in the right place.
Whoever is correct, this is a story which will keep us all, journalists and readers, occupied for some time to come.

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