Life and Tragic Death of Federico García Lorca

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One of Spain’s most famous poets, Federico García Lorca’s life and illustrious career was cut short by the Spanish Civil War

Young Lorca

Lorca was born in the city of Granada in 1898 and went on to read law at the university. He was also a great musician, becoming expert in both guitar and piano. He moved to Madrid and became part of the “Generation 1927” movement which included such famous names as Pablo Neruda and Salvador Dali. He was homosexual and his advances to Dali were rejected, causing him much pain but he found love with others.

His first collection of poems was published in 1921, but he also became famous for his music, using the inspiration of the traditional folk and gypsy music of his native Andalucía. He also wrote plays.

He travelled to New York for a year in 1929-1930 but found the cultural difference and his inability to speak English so hard that he contemplated suicide. He travelled on to Havana, Cuba arriving back in Spain in 1931.

Back to Spain

His arrival back in Spain coincided with the start of what was to eventually become the Spanish Civil War. However, he continued to write poetry and produce plays much to the delight of his audiences.

Lorca travelled back to his home city of Granada just three days before the war broke out in July 1936. He knew that the extreme right wing movement headed by General Franco would see him as a left wing liberal. His brother in law, at the time Mayor of Granada, was shot on 18 August 1936 and Lorca was arrested soon afterwards.

Shot to Death

Exactly what happened next is unclear. He was never seen again and it is generally thought that he was taken out into the countryside near Granada and shot. Various historians have written theses on where, how and why his death took place. One such book is “Las trece últimas horas en la vida de García Lorca,” ( The last 13 hours in the life of García Lorca) written by the Spanish investigator, Miguel Caballero, who interviewed many people who were involved with the arrest of the poet, the family of the poet and others. He believes that he has identified those who were in the party who shot the poet. He also believes that three other people were shot at the same time and are buried in the same grave. The grave has, to date, not been found.

Search for the Grave

In recent years, Spain has tried to come to terms with the Civil War that tore families and the country apart. A new law has been put in place to allow suspected burial sites to be opened by trained archaeologists and for any bodies found to be identified and returned to their families. In a recent interview on Spanish television Miguel Caballero took the reporter to the spot where he believes the poet lies but excavations in that area have not found any human remains.

Foundation Set Up By Family

One of Spain’s greatest poets continues to lie in an unmarked grave, seventy seven years after his death. Despite the many monuments and memorials that have been placed in various parts of Spain, his family will not rest until his body is found and he can be buried with decency. His sister, Isabel Garcia Lorca and other members of the family have set up a Foundation to ensure that the work of the great poet, playwright and musician can be read and enjoyed by everyone. The family has donated all their documents etc related to the poet to the Foundation.

“I know there is no straight road
No straight road in this world
Only a giant labyrinth
Of intersecting crossroads”
― Federico García Lorca


Mop Men by Alan Emmins: A Review

Mop Men is unlikely to be your first choice if you are standing in a bookshop looking for something light to read on your summer vacation. Its subject matter is death; in particular a company who cleans up after someone has committed suicide, murder or has had a fatal accident. The book should perhaps come with one of those old-fashioned warnings “not for those of a nervous disposition” as author Alan Emmins’ evocative descriptions of the sights and smells of the crime scenes he attends may lead the reader to feel rather queasy.

Crime Scene Cleaners Inc.

The main protagonist of the book is a man called Neal Smither, who runs a company called Crime Scene Cleaners Inc, based in the San Francisco Bay area. He drives a big black truck, with an advert for the company in large letters plastered all over it, and speaks with a Texan accent because he feels it sounds more “honest” than his native Californian accent.


Pulp Fiction

Neal Smither got his idea for his company from watching the movie Pulp Fiction, in particular a scene where the John Travolta character blows the head off Marvin in the back of a car. The character called ‘The Wolf’, played by Harvey Keitel, is called in to clean up the mess. Neal Smither had been recently made redundant from a regular job in a bank but, watching that scene, he thought “Hey, I could do that!” He applied for all the licences, learnt all he could about the right way to clean up blood and gore and pestered the heck out of police chiefs and anyone else he thought could help him get the business off the ground. In time, business started picking up and now he has a company turning over a million dollars a year.

Alan Emmins is at first horrified by Neal, finds the crime scenes half horrific and half fascinating and is able to engage his reader in such a way that before long, you are engrossed in the story. How do you clean a load of blood and brain off a carpet? How can someone live in a house for nearly a month with his murder victim lying decomposing in a truly disgusting way in the bathroom (a story that is followed right from the discovery of the body through to the trial)? How do Neal and his team cope with the smells and sights that are a daily part of their job?

Perhaps the most poignant moment in the whole book is when an elderly woman is hit by a concrete truck after stepping out from between parked cars. The truck has no chance of stopping and all that is left of the woman is “the continual dashed line of the old lady’s remains, like the white line in the middle of the road only red and matted with hair and fabric.” And her heart, in the middle of the road. “The heart is intact. It is not squashed or torn. It doesn’t lie in or with other remains…It is the saddest thing I have ever seen.”

Not Just Blood and Gore

Fortunately for the reader, Emmins doesn’t just concentrate on death and gore but provides entertaining vignettes of his days and the times in which he is writing whilst waiting for Neal to call him to a death scene. Towards the end of the book, Alan Emmins writes “A few weeks ago, I’d have laughed at the suggestion that Neal might have something heroic about him, but know I am not so sure. With Neal you know that he will do what he says and say what he means.”

About the Author

Alan Emmins was born in 1974 in England but now lives in Copenhagen, Denmark. He is a freelance journalist who has written for The New York Post, The New York Daily News, Playboy and Time Out amongst others. He has written a book called “31 Days” about living rough on the streets of New York. Serialisation rights for “Mop Men” have been sold, so look out for the series on a TV near you soon.


Mop Men: California’s Crime Scene Cleaners” by Alan Emmins, published by Corvo Books: ISBN 0-9543255-4-0