Lorca would have cheered Obama’s decision

by Cesar Chelala

You will never know how much I love you

Because you sleep and have slept in me.

I hide you weeping, pursued

By a voice of penetrating steel.

Thus wrote Federico Garcia Lorca, the noted Spanish poet, in a poem titled “The Beloved Sleeps on the Breast of the Poet,” one of many poems in his series “Sonetos del amor oscuro (Sonnets of Dark Love).”

Lorca, a poet and theater director, was murdered in 1936 by nationalist soldiers during the Spanish Civil War because of his outspoken liberal views.

In the above poem, Lorca was probably referring to Juan Ramírez de Lucas, a journalist and art critic who died in Madrid in 2010, and with whom he had had a passionate relationship. Hidden in a wooden box was Ramírez de Lucas’ drawings, letters, a poem and a diary — memories of a tragic love affair with the poet. He refused to take his secret with him to his grave, so he gave one of his sisters documents related to his affair with Lorca so that his legacy could be made public.

New details are emerging about their relationship. Ramírez de Lucas’ relatives are conducting initial talks with some editorial houses for the publication of his legacy.

At a time of increasing interest in Lorca’s life, U.S. Barack President Obama declared his support for same-sex marriage, the first U.S. president to do so. Acknowledging that his views on this issue had evolved over time, he said on ABC’s “Good Morning America”: “I have to tell you that over the course of several years, as I have talked to friends and family and neighbors, when I think about members of my own staff who are in incredibly committed monogamous relationships, same-sex relationships, who are raising kids together, when I think about those soldiers or airmen or marines or sailors who are out there fighting on my behalf and yet feel constrained, even now that ‘Don’t Ask Don’t Tell’ is gone, because they are not able to commit themselves in a marriage … I’ve just concluded that, for me personally, it is important to go ahead and affirm that I think same-sex couples should be able to get married.”

Lorca and Ramírez de Lucas met in Madrid, hiding their affair from their families, who probably would have been opposed to it. Ramírez de Lucas wanted to become an actor, and Lorca wanted to take him to many theaters around the world, a promise he was unable to fulfill.

At the time they met, Lorca’s situation had become very dangerous, since he was one of the most hated figures in the eyes of extreme rightwing groups in Spain. Lorca’s friends advised him to leave the country. Lorca wanted to leave for Mexico with his lover, who was then only 19 years old and who needed the permission of his parents to leave. While Ramírez de Lucas traveled to Albacete to meet his parents, Lorca took the train to Granada to say goodbye to his family before the trip.

Ramírez de Lucas’ father violently opposed his son’s decision and threatened to denounce his son to the Guardia Civil if he tried to leave the country without his permission. One of his brothers, Otoniel, a member of the Socialist Youth, tried to mediate on his brother’s behalf, but to no avail. Lorca phoned Juan from Granada and asked him to be patient with his family, thinking that perhaps, with time, they would accept their relationship.

On Aug. 19, 1936, Lorca was shot and killed by the Nationalist militia. According to Leslie Stainton, Lorca’s biographer, his killers made disparaging remarks about his sexual orientation, suggesting that it was another motive for his murder.

Another biographer, Ian Gibson, suggests that Lorca’s assassination was part of a campaign of mass killings aimed at supporters of the Marxist Popular Front.

“Dark Loves,” a novel by Manuel Francisco Reina to be released this month, deals with Lorca’s and Ramírez de Lucas’ affair. According to Reina, Ramírez de Lucas was the true recipient of Lorca’s sonnets of dark love. The last stanza in Lorca’s “The Beloved Sleeps on the Breast of the Poet”:

But, my beloved, keep on sleeping.

Hear my shattered blood in the violins!

Beware lest they still lie in wait for us!

Although he may not know this poem, perhaps President Obama is trying to spare others the immense pain conveyed therein.

Cesar Chelala, M.D. and Ph.D,. is a winner of the Overseas Press Club of America award. He writes on human rights and foreign policy issues.