Playwright and poet Federico García Lorca was arrested and killed on the orders of rightwing military authorities in Granada, according to newly released documents that shed light on the death of one of the highest-profile victims of the Spanish civil war.
The documents, written in 1965 at the Granada police headquarters and obtained by the Guardian, are the first ever admission by Franco-era officials of their involvement in the death in 1936 of the author of Blood Wedding and the House of Bernarda Alba.
The circumstances surrounding García Lorca’s death and the whereabouts of his remains continue to be one of the great mysteries of Spain’s recent history. Until now, it was thought that the Granada-born poet was executed by a rightwing firing squad along with three others.
The documents published on Thursday relate to an inquiry into García Lorca’s death by French author Marcelle Auclair in the 1960s. Her request for information bounced between several government ministers, as they debated whether to respond. Granada police were then asked to write the report, some 29 years after the death of García Lorca.
The resulting documents suggest García Lorca was persecuted for his beliefs, describing him as a “socialist and a freemason,” about whom rumours swirled of “homosexual and abnormal practices”. After police carried out two searches on his home in Granada, he fled to a friend’s house out of fear.
In August 1936, just one month after the civil war broke out, officers surrounded the house where García Lorca was hiding, while his friends tried to intervene on his behalf.
García Lorca was arrested and taken by car to an area close to the place known as Fuente Grande, along with one other detainee, said the documents. He was then “executed immediately after having confessed, and was buried in that location, in a very shallow grave, in a ravine”. No details were given as to the content of his confession.
Since 2009, several high-profile attempts have been made to locate the gravewhere García Lorca is thought to lie. So far archaeologists have had little success.
The documents are a marked departure from the public stance taken by authorities under Franco towards García Lorca’s death. General Franco once said the allegations of his regime’s involvement in the poet’s death were being used as propaganda. “The writer died while mixing with the rebels, these are natural accidents of war,” said Franco.
On Thursday, García Lorca biographer Ian Gibson pointed to the official nature of the documents to underline their significance. “Up until Franco’s death, Lorca’s murder remained a problem for the regime,” he told El País.
But these documents leave little speculation about the dictatorship’s level of involvement, he said. “It demonstrates that it was not a street killing, that he was taken out by the civil government to be murdered,” he said. “They themselves say it.”