Row over airbrushing of Spain’s Federico García Lorca’s death in school book
Study book for six-year-olds omits mention of poet’s violent death at hands of Franco supporters
People look at drawings of Antonio Machado and Federico Garcia Lorca – their fate during the Spanish Civil War has been glossed over in a school book. Photograph: Anne-Christine Poujoulat/AFP/Getty
The death of Spain’s most celebrated modern poet and playwright, Federico García Lorca, has long been a symbol of the brutality of the country’s civil war and ensuing dictatorship. Eight decades later, though, his demise continues to generate controversy, most recently due to its mention in a primary school textbook.
A study book for Spanish six- year-olds published by the company Anaya contains a chapter about the writer, who is known for plays such as The House of Bernarda Alba and Blood Wedding and his Gypsy Ballads poetry collection.
However, the chapter omits any mention of the nature of his violent 1936 death by shooting, or the fact he was killed by supporters of Francisco Franco, who went on to rule for four decades as a right-wing dictator.
“A little after finishing his last play, The House of Bernarda Alba, Federico died, near his village, during the war in Spain,” concludes the chapter.
Lorca, who aligned himself with the leftist Republic during the civil war, probably became the most internationally known casualty of the 1936-39 conflict. He was executed at the age of 38 near Granada, in Andalusia, along with three other men.
“There is a big difference between adapting a complex concept for schoolchildren and distorting history,” said Luis Naranjo, head of the Andalusia government’s office for issues relating to historical memory.
Naranjo’s attention was drawn to the book after noticing angry debates about it on social networks. Children, he said, “understand very well right and wrong and what a violent death means”.
Naranjo said that the book’s failure to explain the truth about Lorca’s death was like “talking about Auschwitz and saying that the Jews just fell asleep in the gas chambers”.
He and others also object to another chapter, about the poet Antonio Machado. Machado went into exile during the war to escape Franco’s forces, but the book simply says: “After a few years he went to France with his family. He lived there until his death.”
The publishing house has withdrawn the book due to the furore and plans to release a revised version.
However, it insists it has no ideological position and that details of the civil war can be given by teachers to complement the book’s content.
Historical memory groups claim that more than 100,000 victims of Franco’s forces and dictatorship are still lying in unmarked graves across Spain. Lorca is one of them and his remains have never been identified.
Irish Hispanist Ian Gibson spent years researching Lorca’s life and execution and believed he had found the spot where the poet was buried, but when it was dug up in 2009, no bones were found.