Miguel Hernández: Spain’s Civil War Poet

Español: Centro Cultural Miguel Hernández, ant...

Español: Centro Cultural Miguel Hernández, antigua Caja de Ahorros de Monserrate, en Orihuela. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The turbulent times of the Spanish Civil War produced many great works, including the poems of Miguel Hernández.

Miguel Hernández is possibly one of Spain’s best known poets of modern times, especially due to his activities and tragic death during the Spanish Civil War. He came from the city of Orihuela, in the province of Alicante, an old and beautiful city. However, his family was poor and he had little education until the priest of his local church took him under his wing and taught him to read and enjoy both the classic Spanish authors such as Miguel Cervantes, who wrote the most iconic Spanish novel of all time Don Quixote, and the more modern writers working in Spain at that time.

He wanted to establish a literary career so at the tender age of 21 headed for the capital Madrid to seek his fortune. Sadly, his money ran out quickly and he was forced to return home but he was not discouraged and tried several times over the next two years to get himself and his work noticed in Madrid. He was jubilant when his first book was published when he was 23 and his first play came out the next year.

Miguel Hernández and Friends

In 1934, during already turbulent times, he returned to Madrid and became friendly with now famous writers such as Pablo Neruda, Garcia Lorca and Luis Cernuda. Miguel Hernández helped Neruda in the publishing of a journal called Caballo Verde de Poesia (Poetry’s Green Knight) which became a popular and influential source for writers and readers. Around 1936, he became more interested in the Republican cause, no doubt due to the influence of his writer friends at that time, publishing El Rayo Que No Cesa (Unceasing Lightning). He had been in love with Josefina Manresa since they were children and they decided to get married in 1937. Sadly, the son they had, Manuel Román died just a year after his birth, an event that had a deep and lasting impact on Hernández and his work.

Spanish Civil War

By now, the Spanish Civil War, which started in 1936, was reaching its worst moments and Miguel Hernández joined the Republican army, those who were fighting against the forces of General Franco. The poetry that he wrote around this time focuses on the horror of war, with poems such as “Viento del Pueblo” (1937) and “El Hombre Acecha” (1938) being particular examples.

In 1939, the Republican resistance began to collapse and Hernández tried to escape to Portugal. However, he was captured by the Guardia Civil, an elite Para-military police force, and taken to Madrid where he was thrown into prison. Being imprisoned did not stop him from writing, though. He still had friends in high places and was thus able to return briefly to his home town of Orihuela before being arrested again. Tragically, the conditions in the prisons led to him contracting the lung disease tuberculosis and being moved from prison to prison over the next three years only made his health worse.

However, it was during this time of great hardship that he produced what poetry experts consider to be his best work such as “Todo Era Azul” (Everything is Blue) and “Eterna Sombra” (Eternal Shadow) from which comes this poignant verse:

Soy una abierta ventana que escucha,
por donde ver tenebrosa la vida.
Pero hay un rayo de sol en la lucha
que siempre deja la sombra vencida.

(I am an open window that listens
From where life can be seen as frightening
But there is a ray of sunlight in the battle
That always defeats the shadow)

Death of Miguel Hernández

He was still in prison, away from his family and friends, when he died on March 28, 1942 at just 31 years of age. Just before his death, he was able to write one more short poem, said to be written on the wall beside his bed in prison, “Farewell, brothers, comrades, friends: Give my goodbyes to the sun and the wheat fields.”

The Miguel Hernández website is dedicated to the poet, and his old home in Orihuela has been transformed into a museum where items he used can be seen and the small garden he sat in can also be visited.

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Joan Miró: Spanish Surrealist and Sculptor

Fundació Joan Miró - Barcelona (Catalonia)

Fundació Joan Miró – Barcelona (Catalonia) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Starting out in business school would not appear to be the most obvious career path for an artist but that is what Joan Miró did.

Miró was born in Barcelona in 1893 and began his business studies at the tender age of fourteen. However, his love of art meant that he also attended art school, the La Lonja’s Escuela Superior de Artes Industriales y Bellas Artes. After completing his studies, he began work as a clerk but went on to suffer what is believed to have been a nervous breakdown.

Whilst this meant the end of his business career, it was just the beginning of an art career that covered Surrealism, collages, sculpture and ceramics.

Early Career

Miró made his first trip to the artist’s Mecca, Paris, in 1920 where he met Pablo Picasso. He also met poets and other artists who all influenced his work. His first solo exhibition was at the Galerie la Licorne in Paris which was held in 1923. He travelled to the Netherlands and was entranced with the works by the Dutch Masters that he saw there, encouraging him to start a series of paintings influenced by what he had seen.His early works include ‘The Farm’ on show in the National gallery of Art in Washington DC and ‘The Tilled Field’ displayed at the Guggenheim.

Becoming Famous

It took him until 1930 to develop his own style using bright colours and very simple forms, often turning to his Catalan roots for folk art influences. It was at this time that his work became recognised on the international stage. In 1934 his work was exhibited in France and in the United States.

Spanish Civil War

With the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War, Miró was forced to leave his homeland and move his wife, Pilar and daughter, Dolores, to Paris. They were still there when the Second World War forced them to flee again, this time to the Spanish island of Mallorca. His work from this time shows the effect of war on him, with increasingly violent images. An example is ‘Still Life With Old Shoe’ full of dark shadows and violent images such as the six-tined fork stabbing into a rotting apple. He also began to create sculptures in the Surrealist style.

After the War

In 1944, Miró began working in ceramics. He was commisioned to produce murals for the UNESCO building in Paris, for which he won an award and, and in Cincinnati in the USA. His work in the United States inspired new artists there to form a group known as the ‘Abstract Expressionists’.

Later Life

The 1950’s and ’60’s saw Miró working his hardest as he divided his time between Spain and France. He was working on a much larger scale, both with his paintings and his ceramic pieces. He created colouful sculptures such as ‘Personnage’ created in 1967 and on display at the Fundació Joan Miró, Barcelona. The piece is in bronze but painted in vivid primary colours. He continued to work at full tilt receiving a commision to create a tapestry for the World Trade Centre in New York and many awards and accolades. His final piece is a large public sculpture called ‘Woman and Bird’, on display in his native city of Barcelona, which he finished a year before his death on Christmas Day in 1983.

Life and Tragic Death of Federico García Lorca

Closeup cutout from Image:Garcialorca madrid l...

Closeup cutout from Image:Garcialorca madrid lou.jpgCategory: (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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