Name of Federico García Lorca's lover emerges after 70 years Box of mementoes reveals that young art critic Juan Ramírez de Lucas had brief affair with Spanish poet
Spanish playwright and poet Federico García Lorca. Photograph: Popperfoto
The identity of the lover to whom Federico García Lorca wrote passionate verse in his final months has been a mystery ever since the poet's assassination during the Spanish civil war. But now, more than 70 years later, his name has finally emerged.
The art critic and journalist Juan Ramírez de Lucas kept a box of mementoes of their brief but passionate relationship, including a previously unseen poem and a diary, hidden away throughout his life. He handed the box to his sister shortly before his death in 2010, and reportedly asked her to make the contents public only after he had died.
The box revealed that García Lorca and 19-year-old Ramírez de Lucas had planned to go to Mexico together after falling for each other in Madrid, where the latter was studying both public administration and theatre. But Ramírez de Lucas was too young to travel without his parents' permission, so he went back to his native Albacete to talk to them days before the Spanish civil war broke out, when rightwing rebels launched a coup attempt against the republican government.
García Lorca, meanwhile, had gone to his native Granada where – once the war started – he sought refuge in the house of his friends, the Rosales family. With Granada in the hands of the fascist-backed forces of General Francisco Franco, the notoriously leftwing poet was in danger of being detained and shot by death squads operating in the city.
In August 1936, aged 38, he was taken to a nearby hillside and shot along with two bullfighters and a one-legged schoolteacher. His body has never been found.
Ramírez de Lucas's conservative family had been appalled by his request to go to Mexico with García Lorca and refused him permission to travel, threatening to send the Civil Guard after him if he tried to leave. He could not legally travel abroad without their permission until he was 21.
García Lorca wrote him a letter, told him to be patient and assured him that it was important not to break with his family, saying they would eventually understand his desire. "Count on me always. I am your best friend and I ask you to be political and not allow yourself to be washed along by the river (of fate)," the poet wrote, according to a version of the letter published by El País newspaper.
The letter – accompanied by orange blossom from Granada – was one of the documents that Ramírez de Lucas held on to, along with a poem by Lorca which describes his hopeless attraction to the "blond young man from Albacete".
"I can't even look at him!" he repeats in the poem, which was apparently written on a journey the two lovers made to the southern city of Córdoba. The poem is handwritten on the back of a receipt for the Orad Academy in Madrid, where Ramírez de Lucas was studying. A handwriting expert has reviewed the poem and declared it to have been written by García Lorca.
The letters have been shown to author Manuel Francisco Reina, who has based a forthcoming novel around them.
"This is very important because he is the poet's last lover," said Miguel Caballero, author of a recent study of García Lorca's last days and assassination – who has helped Reina.
"I know that Reina has had access to the letter," said Caballero, who confirmed that Reina believed García Lorca's famous Sonnets of Dark Love had also been addressed to Ramírez de Lucas.
Lorca spent his final days in the Rosales house carefully revising and correcting the sonnets. "It seems likely that the sonnets were addressed to him," Caballero said. "The investigation into this has been carried out in a serious fashion."
The Guardian was unable to speak to Reina or the Ramírez family, who have refused to talk to the Spanish press..
Ramírez later joined the volunteer Blue Division to fight for Hitler against the Russians in an attempt to give himself the necessary credentials to survive in Franco's Spain. He also kept his relationship with García Lorca secret, refusing to answer questions from his many biographers.
His relatives are reportedly now looking for a publisher to handle the documents.