Federico García Lorca, excerpts from NY correspondence, 1929-30

On Spaniards in New York

June 28, 1929

Dear family,

On arriving in New York, one feels over-whelmed, but not frightened.  I found it uplifting to see how man can use science and technology to make something as impressive as a spectacle of nature.  It is incredible.  The port and the lights of the skyscrpers, easily confused with the stars, the millions of other lights, and the rivers of automobiles are a sight like no other on earth.  Paris and London are two tiny villages compared with this vibrant, maddening Babel.

When the ship pulled in, I had a great surprise.  A group of Spaniards was there waiting for us:  Angel del Río, the professor Federico Onís, the poet León Felipe, a handful of journalists, the managin editor of La Prnsa and… brace yourselves!…MAROTO!  Maroto, who went crazy hugging and even kissing me.  He has just arrived from Mexico, and is earning a lot of money as a painter and commercial artist.

They have been extremely good to me, as has the entire Spanish colony.  I can see now what a good thing it is to have become a bit famous: all doors are opened and everyone treats you with distinction.

On Sephardic Jews in New York

July 14, 1929

Dear family,

[…] I have also been to a Jewish synagogue, the one for Spanish Jews.  I heard some extremely beautiful chants, and the cantor was a true prodigy of voice and emotion. But I realize that in Granada almost all of us are Jews.  It was amazing –they all looked as if they had been born in Granada.  There were more than twenty of them, who ran the gamut from Don manuel López Saez to Miguel Carmona.  The rabbi is named Sola, and has the same pallid complexion as Solá Segura, who is probably his relative.  I was doing my best not to laught.  There was a very solemn, beautiful ceremony, but I found it meaningless.  To me the figure of Christ seems too strong to deny.

What was truly extraordinary was the chanting.  The chants were extraordinary, heartrending, disconsolate.  it was a continuous, long and strikingly beautiful lament.

On eating with Spanish friends, perhaps in the Village

Late January, 1930

Dear family,

Yesterday I ate with two illustrious Spaniards, La Argentinita and Lucrecia Bori the singer, one of the public idols of New Yorkers, who love the opera above all else. They are absolutely charming.  They treated me to dinner and the three of us ate in a little restaurant near the Hudson.  We drank Anís del Mono and they raved about it, but I noticed they were giving a substitute, Anís del Topo.  When I told them at the end of our meal, they made such a huge scandal that i think they were about to come to blows with the owner of the restaurant, a wily fellow from Galicia who was very funny.

From Federico García Lorca, Poet in New York.  Edited and with an introduction by Christopher Maurer.  Translated by Greg Simon and Steven F. White.

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