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 entitled “The Beloved Sleeps on the Breast of the Poet” one of many poems in a series entitled Sonetos del amor oscuro (Sonnets of dark love). Lorca was a poet and theater director, murdered in 1936 by nationalist soldiers during the Spanish Civil War because of his outspoken liberal views. In that 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 a passionate relationship.
Ramírez de Lucas hid in a wooden box the drawings, letters, a poem, his diary: they were his memories of a tragic love affair with the poet. Because he refused to take his secret with him to his grave, Juan Ramírez de Lucas, one of Lorca’s great loves, gave one of his sisters all documents related to his affair with Lorca so that his legacy could be made public. And slowly 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 the time of increasing interest in Lorca’s life, president Obama declared his support for same-sex marriage, the first US president to do so. Acknowledging that his views on this issue had evolved over time, he said on ABC’s program ‘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, at a certain point I’ve just concluded that for me personally it is important for me to go ahead and affirm that I think same sex couples should be able to get married."
Lorca and Ramírez de Lucas had 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 by extreme right-wing 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. As 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 should he try 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. At the time, Lorca phoned him from Granada and asked Juan to be patient with his family, thinking that perhaps with time they would accept their relationship.
On 19 August 1936 Garcia Lorca was shot and killed by the Nationalist militia. According to Leslie Stainton, Garcia 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 at the end of May, deals with Lorca 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,” says,
But, my beloved, keep on sleeping.
Hear my shattered blood in the violins!
Beware lest they still lie in wait for us!
Perhaps without knowing this poem, President Obama is trying to avoid the immense pain conveyed in these verses.
Dr. Cesar Chelala, a winner of an Overseas Press Club of America award, is a writer on human rights and foreign policy issues.