Alive in Spain

A travel diary

Archive for the tag “Lorca”

Rosemary Sprigs, Music, and Home

Granada’s Gran Via, the route the #33 bus takes from the train to the center of town, is an avenue full of relatively new buildings and smooth granite sidewalks. I’m staying in a historical section and welcome the sight of the old cathedral knowing I’m almost home. I don’t know if it’s because I have strong nesting instincts, or if it’s because I’ve moved so much in my life, that I think of every place where I stay as “home.”

The Plaza Outside My Granada Home

The Plaza Outside My Granada Home

With my red BU hoodie, I have tourist written all over me. On my back is my knapsack. With my right hand, I tug at my suitcase. It bumps behind me grudgingly through the now cobblestone path adding notes to the symphony of autos and voices.

Near the cathedral’s front entrance, four ladies stand with rosemary springs in their hands. The lady to the left extends her arm out and offers me a sprig. “It’s to bless you,” she tells me. “Un regalo,” a gift.

I’ve never heard of rosemary sprigs blessing people unless they were about to cook, and growing up a chica in Queens, NY, I have a strong b.s. radar. “No. Gracias,” I tell her, barely looking her way.

“Es un regalo. Una bendición,” she tells me and puts the sprig close to my face.

“No. Gracias,” I say sternly and veer away. At my new apartment, I do a little research.  It seems rosemary sprigs are a gypsy trick to get money from tourists. I resolve to act less like a tourist in Granada.

A View of Granada

A View of Granada

I call this city Lorca Land. It’s Federico García Lorca’s former home, and I couldn’t be happier to be here. Of course, many things have changed since his death in 1936, but one thing that hasn’t is its heterogeneity and liveliness. The rosemary ladies are just part of this scene, as are the flamenco dancers in the plazas, and the musicians on the streets. Lorca was a voice for the gypsies, the moors, and the peasants. He was a danger to Fascism, and so he was killed.

My impression of the current Granada is that it resembles a silk shirt with antique lace accents. Much of the city has been modernized. Huerta de San Vicente, Lorca’s family’s former summer home, the place where the poet did most of his writing, now sits in the middle of a city park.

Huerta de San Vicente

Huerta de San Vicente

The world changes drastically in the city center off the main roads. Just a few feet away from the main streets, one steps back in time: historical buildings, cobblestone roads, narrow streets – many lined with Middle Eastern stores whose sellers set their wares out on tables and mats creating a colorful outdoor market to entice the tourist passersby.

Up a mountain road is the Alhambra with its vast gardens and Moorish architecture. With special permission, Washington Irving set up shop in one of the rooms of the main palace in 1828. There he wrote Tales of the Alhambra. He reportedly felt his writing unworthy of the place. How I understand the feeling! As I travel through Spain, I fear my musings and iPad pictures could never do it justice.

A View Through Windows at the Alhambra

A View Through Windows at the Alhambra

Archways in the Alhambra

Archways in the Alhambra

Further up the mountain, through steep cobblestone roads, some with steps for pedestrians, and at times for risk-taking or foolhardy bikers, is the white washed world of the Albacín.

A Road in the Albacín

A Road in the Albacín

At the top of the Albacín is the Mirador de San Nicolás, where gypsies, university students, and tourists gather for views of Alhambra and live music.

Mirador de San Nicolas. Alhambra on the Right. Sierra Nevada in the Background.

Mirador de San Nicolas. Alhambra on the Right. Sierra Nevada in the Background.

As I take in the beauty and energy of the city, I am fully aware that my time in Spain is coming to an end. Part of me turns to thoughts of home and responsibilities, my need for a job (I’ve been looking, but don’t have one yet), the work my car will need to pass inspection, my father’s health. Then in my head I hear a friend’s voice, communicated through email, saying “home will exert its forces soon enough. Let Lorca wrap you in his arms and give you these last two weeks of wonder!”

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Vacas, Vacas, Books, and Vacas!

In an effort to travel light, I packed only one book for this trip — a difficult feat for a writer and a decision over which I agonized. The first thing I usually pack for trips is a selection of books, but I was preparing for various climates (summer clothes, fall clothes, winter clothes) with only a knapsack and a carry-on suitcase. It became like the game where you are asked, if you were on a deserted island, what one book would you like to have? Boy! That’s a tough one. One week into the trip, I was salivating at the mere mention of books. True, I could get ebooks on my iPad, but it’s just not the same. I pined. I passed the used bookstore in Toledo with a pang knowing I couldn’t put more things in my bags.

In Galicia, I finally lightened my load a bit after giving my aunt and uncle their gifts. As a treat, I bought a novel and went “home” with a smile on my face and a book in my hand. It was a thick and enjoyable novel, which I savored like the finest dark chocolate. But, it only served as an appetizer. I needed more. One week later, in Gijón, I stopped by the central bookstore and bought two poetry books. TWO POETRY BOOKS! One is a book by Angel González, a poet from Asturias who, I was sad to find out, died in 2008. I would have loved to meet him! The other is an anthology of the Generation of 1927 (Antología del Grupo Poético de 1927), including, of course, poems by Federico García Lorca. image

Lorca has been a favorite from the first time I read him. Rereading him in Spain was as exciting as kissing a lover for the first time, and as comforting as greeting my husband each morning while half awake. I have since finished the novel and hope I can find the sequel, since it’s part of a trilogy. It’s not the type of book I would normally read — a bit of word candy — nevertheless, I enjoyed it. And now I have two poetry books, plus one has poems by García Lorca!

As those of you who are Facebook friends with me know, aside from my love of words, I am obsessed with nature, and there’s lots of it here: trees, fruit, slugs, snails, butterflies, horses, and cows. Yesterday, as I walked through my neighborhood, I came across a group of honey-colored cows in a field and immediately thought of Lorca’s “Vaca” (“Cow”).

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It’s not one of the poems in my new anthology, but it is one I analyzed in detail two or three years ago as part of an independent study I did with my former professor and good friend Will Hochman, and one I keep coming back to. I wasn’t able to find a good English translation on the internet, and my bilingual version of A Poet in New York (edited by BU’s own Christopher Maurer) is at home in the U.S.

I hope you can enjoy the poem in Spanish. If not, I would urge you to get a GOOD translation of Lorca’s work. He is wonderful.

Vaca

Se tendió la vaca herida;
árboles y arroyos trepaban por sus cuernos.
Su hocico sangraba en el cielo.

Su hocico de abejas
bajo el bigote lento de la baba.
Un alarido blanco puso en pie la mañana.

Las vacas muertas y las vivas,
rubor de luz o miel de establo,
balaban con los ojos entornados.

Que se enteren las raíces
y aquel niño que afila su navaja
de que ya se pueden comer la vaca.

Arriba palidecen
luces y yugulares.
Cuatro pezuñas tiemblan en el aire.

Que se entere la luna
y esa noche de rocas amarillas:
que ya se fue la vaca de ceniza.
Que ya se fue balando
por el derribo de los cielos yertos
donde meriendan muerte los borrachos.

— Federico García Lorca

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