Dublin-born historian profiles man he believes murdered Spain's literary icon


SPAIN:Details of the death of Federico García Lorca are available for the first time, writes Javier Espinozain Madrid.

HE IS one of Spain's most emblematic literary figures, a poet of enchanting images and a compelling reference to modern drama worldwide.

Seven decades after his murder in a lonely spot in the hills above Granada at the age of 38, a detailed profile of Federico García Lorca's executioner and rich details of his dreadful death are available for the first time.

An ultra right-wing fascist whose hatred of socialists or "reds" grew during the bloody Spanish Civil War was responsible for Lorca's execution, according to a new book, The Man who Caged Lorcaby the Dublin-born historian Ian Gibson, which is currently only available in Spanish.

"He was a violent, aggressive individual who only considered to be true Spaniards those aligned to the right," says Gibson (68), who based his life-time study on a vast number of documents and a first-hand interview with Ramon Ruiz Alonso, Lorca's nemesis.

Ruiz Alonso, a right-wing politician and propagandist, "was responsible for Lorca's death and I believe he denounced the poet to the Civil Guard. If you had a 'Red' as a prisoner and you turn him over to the police, it was like taking him to hell. You didn't need to pull the trigger," Gibson says.

"His name is listed with some of the murderers who carried out a fierce repression against democratic Spain," Gibson adds.

However, the evasive Ruiz Alonso told Gibson in 1967 that he was "only obeying orders" when asked of his involvement in the death of Lorca.

He recalled having ordered that Lorca be given "coffee, lots of coffee" while he held him prisoner.

"He appeared to be a huge Catholic devotee in front of the crucifix but in reality I have documents that prove he was an assassin. He was pathetic," Gibson says.

Ruiz Alonso and his gang in Granada accused Lorca of blasphemy and immorality. The poet, once described as "a man whose words damage the right-wing elite more than bullets", was a troubling figure in conservative Spain due to his open homosexuality and leftist views.

Ruiz Alonso's friends were also involved in the murder of the poet, and they bragged about it a couple of hours after the killing, the new book claims.

One of the killers said in a tapas bar that "we fired two bullets up his ass for being a queer".

Gibson's book seeks to clear up the mystery surrounding the poet's arrest and the events leading up to his murder.

During Franco's nearly four decades of dictatorship, little was known about Lorca's death as it was the regime's policy to block any public or private discussion of what had happened to those who went missing.

Even Gibson's first serious study of Lorca, published in the 1970s, was banned and could only be read in Spain by smuggling copies from France.

"Because he was so famous, Lorca's death was so symbolic," says Soledad Fox, a professor of Spanish and comparative literature at Williams College, Massachusetts. "His fame is keeping the tragic history of the Spanish Civil War alive."

Gibson details how Lorca was arrested and held for two days. At dawn on August 19th, 1936, he is said to have been tied with wire to another prisoner and they were both shot in the neck before being buried in a mass grave in the northeast of the city, alongside hundreds of others.

"Still now the Spanish right says we should not remove the past, we should not turn the page. How are we going to turn the page if there are still 40,000 'Reds' buried like dogs?" Gibson asks.