lunes, 6 de diciembre de 2010

federico garcia lorca and the poem of the four mule drivers

Spain is a country of contradictions which can wear out the mind that chooses to dilucidate upon its history and identity. It is, to begin with, the one Spanish- speaking country in the world where that language is least spoken. It actually has five official tongues different enough from each other to be considered separate languages. These are Castilian (European Spanish), Galician, Basque, Catalonian and Andalousian. Also, the different regions where these five languages are spoken, alongside with some two hundred dialects, are geographically and culturally extremely distinct from each other. In broad strokes, the North is primarily Celtic, and even weather wise it resembles other places in the so called Atlantic Arch, especially Ireland and Wales. The folklore of these lands is almost indistinguishable from that of any other Celtic realm. It must be said that it is a rather simple folklore which never developed into a great art form, lovely as it may be. The center (Castile) is the notorious, nowadays nefarious, land of the conquistadors who invaded most of America from Argentina to California, and wiped out numerous indigenous cultures along the way, . The Castilians, whose famous king and queen, Ferdinand and Isabel, known as the Catholic Queen, are the direct descendants of Teutonic tribes, and were a part of the Holy Western Roman Empire, so called, ruled by the visigoths and the house of Hapsburg. The Catalonians are closer in culture and geography to the French and the Italians. The Basques are unfathomable, in spite of thousands of genetic and ethnological studies carried out to find out where they came from. The results vary from Finland, to Japan, to Africa. The probability is they come from all those three backgrounds put togehter. And finally, Andalousia,whose name in old arabic means the land of the vandals, because the Moorish conquerors encountered there a concentrated population of hostile Nordic people who were in fact the dregs of the demolished Roman Empire. These people, in comparison with the Islamic arrivals, whose culture was at the time the most sophisticated on earth, from science to architecture and military might, were living in perfectly savage conditions. Andalousia became an extension of mighty Islam, and it has to be said for the fierce conquerors that they were liberal enough to allow freedom of religion in that land to Jews and Christians alike. The result of their long dominion was a centuries- long period of conviviality and culture which affected the development of European knowledge in all ways in a very positive manner. When the visigothic Spaniards managed to move against the MOORS, most of which had no longer any real reason to think of themselves as anything but citizens of Iberia (Spain and Portugal), there ensued a period of fanaticism, coinciding with the conquest of the new world, which gave birth to the so called Inquisition, the expulsion from Europe of non Christians, and the dismantling of what had been one on the most wonderful and artistic periods of history the world has ever known. In the caliphate of Granada, Islam left some of its most outstanding masterpieces of architecture and art. and a wealth of prose and poetry, as well as thousands of songs of arabic background wich later came to create flamenco music and influece very intensely the arts and letters of Spain. It is in the city of Granada, close to the hills of sacromonte, in whose caves the gypsy people still gather for long haunting feasts of drinking and dancing around the fire, that Federico Garcia lorca was born and grew up. He was a delicate child from a middle class Spanish family,but he was soon fully versed in the lore of the Moors, and fascinated by their great culture. He sought to intertwine words in the same harmonious way in which they had crafted their delicate and powerful symbols on the walls of the temples of the South. And he was to be possessed by what he called the gypsy "duende", or "magical spirit", which allowed the work af an initiated artist to bewitch the public. He was to become one of the greatest poets of all times. And the most beloved poet of the gypsies themselves.
Spain, responsible for a large amount of the atrocities commited agaist humanity throught time, is also, ironically enough, the homeland of some of the most antiestablishment artists of all times, critical of all sorts of opression to the point that they were sacrificed in the name of freedom. Goya, Picasso, Bunuel, to name a few who are world renown. There are many others who never achieved such fame. Also, it was in Spain where fascism began and where it was first fought against in one of the bloodiest civil wars in history. Lorca, when he had not yet reached the age of forty, was killed for his supposed political views by the henchmen of the dictator, Franco. Yet Lorca was notoriuolsy apolitical. The charge which lead to his execution at night in some obscure cemetery was actually having published a poem about a bloody raid carried out by the Spanish Civil Guard (rural police) against a gypsy village. It is a terrifying and beautiful poem, where opression and death are treated through an almost cabalistic symbology. Yet there is no direct blame placed on anybody. Like Goya, Lorca was a universalist, and felt that evil was to be blamed on all, and even on nature, and that it changed its position in history at different times. He was, moreover, not interested in what the powerful might or might not understand, and wrote to move the soul of the people to love through imagery that usually came from their own folklore. His book, poet in New York, affords us, through symbols as dark as have ever been penned, an interpretation of the misunderstanding among the races, of the blind opression that is suffered by those without power, the hatred which discrimination and lack of compassion bring about, and a prophecy, an undecipherable warning of what price we will pay for our stupidity, an apocalypse, but without redemption, without any coming kingdom. As he said, racism is more than a crime against individuals, but it is a brutal agression against the soul of humanity. And it would ultimately be the reason for the undoing of the human breed. So he wouldn´t work on literature to enlighted the mind, but on imagery and music to move the soul. The idea is simple: intellect, devoid of passion and compassion, is as dead as a doorknob. His most wonderful book of poetry is possibly "Gypsy Romance", a collection of poems wich move us through their music and surrealistic imagery which, non the less are very simple in expression and manage to reach the remotest part of the human unconscious. Lorca seems to know how to use historical memory very naturally, in order to allow us to understand
our own hidden selves and that part of us which belong to others. He is always bittersweet, and electric, melancholy and vibrant, never violent...With the voice of the most delicate guitar, he conveys the most desperate message: that beauty and innocence are the daily sacrificial lamb of a world full of prejudice and idiocy. Lorca, as those of you who know him well know, writes like a child whose innocence occassionally turns into dreamscape, and often into a sort of whispered rage.
He is the gypsy and the moor of old, a nomad impelled by dreams, and an oriental aristocrat who sees the world with a loving sensuality, and speaks in parables so his people can love his visions. His people were the opressed gypsies, the blacks, the poor, and women. The homosexual, the broken hearted lover, and those dead by the guns of totalitarianism. Yet he never uttered a word that could be considere essentially political.
He wrote many beautiful songs.One of them, "a little Vienna waltz, has recently been translate into English, and interpreted, by Leonard Cohen, with the title Take this Waltz.
I have posted another very famous song by Lorca, sang by the beautiful Estrella Morente, on facebook. It was used by the antifascist side in the civil war. People love this song as if it were a lullaby their mothers had sung to them in childhood.
Ye all it says, rally, is:
Of the four mule drivers, mother, whom you see coming down the hills
the one I love is the dark one who drives an unruly mule.
Oh, mother of mine, my soul aches with love for him.

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