Giles Tremlett in Madrid 

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
  
  

The identity of the lover to whom Federico García Lorca wrote passionate verse in his final year 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 year-long 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.

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 targeted by death squads operating in the city.

In August 1936, aged 38, he was taken to a nearby hillside and shot along with two anarchist bullfighters and a one-legged schoolteacher.

His body has never been found.

His love for Ramírez de Lucas explains why he had waited to travel to Mexico despite warnings that, even before the civil war, right-wing gunmen might try to kill him.

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. "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 Ramírez de Lucas held on to, along with a Lorca poem 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 poem is dated in May 1935, at the same time as Lorca was writing his famous sonnets of dark love.

Author Manuel Francisco Reina, who has seen some of the contents of the box, said this proved the sonnets were addressed to Ramírez de Lucas rather than to a previous Lorca lover, the football player Rafael Rodríguez.

"Federico didn't want to go to Mexico without his love ... Some people knew this story all along, including the poets Luis Rosales and Antonio Hernandez, who confirmed this to me," said Reina who has based a forthcoming novel around the affair.

Reina said that even before the war shots had been fired when García Lorca was at a famous Madrid bar, los gabrieles, as well as at his Madrid house.

"This is very important," said Miguel Caballero, author of a recent study of García Lorca's last days.

Lorca spent his final days carefully revising and correcting the sonnets. "It seems likely that the sonnets were addressed to him," Caballero said.

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 biographers..