Federico García Lorca left Madrid just days before the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War in July 1939, and headed for Granada. A month later, his brother was arrested and shot, and he himself was taken, as part of the mass arrests and assassinations of republicans by the fascist forces trying to eliminate support for the Popular Front government.
The intention of the military rising was to exterminate all support for republicans and terror was the weapon. Lorca, at the time of his death, was a famous and established popular poet, dramatist, and songwriter, but he was also closely associated with the avant-garde, and gay. An associate of Dalí and the surrealists, he was a cultural threat to fascism and his works were banned right up to the early '50s.
Although it was believed he was shot outside Alfacar, a small town 5 km north of Granada, his body has never been found. It had been believed that he was buried in a communal grave along with a teacher, Dióscoro Galindo, two bullfighters called Joaquín Arcollas and Francisco Galadi, an inspector, Fermín Roldan, and a restaurateur, Miguel Cobo.
Earlier this year, permission was granted to search the area around Alfacar, to locate the grave and exhume the bodies. Despite initial opposition from Lorca's family, the search and exhumation were agreed to. The possible sites were located using geophysics to identify where the underlying structures could contain human remains.
An area of 1000 square metres was mapped out, and six locations were identified. A total of 276 square metres were searched in detail with the removal of around 75 cubic metres of earth. But nothing was found. No graves, no bones, nothing.
Of course, the search was based on reports from the time, military maps, some personal testimonies, and the collective recorded memories of the people in the area, all of which could be inaccurate, but the correlation of accounts left little doubt that the site was in Alfacar. It had given sufficient confidence for the erection of a memorial to Lorca, but now his actual burial place is uncertain.
There is now new speculation amongst historians as to where Lorca's body might be found. Some suggest he might be in an olive grove some 400 metres away, another suggests that Franco himself robbed the graves to populate his monstrous monument to the fallen fascists, the Valle de los Caídos, and others claim that Lorca even escaped the shooting altogether.
Although some continue to claim that the search for the graves is pointless, the Association for the Recovery of Historical Memory in Granada will continue looking for the mass graves. After all, Lorca is one amongst many and even his family do not want his name to attract publicity away from the search for all the others.
But for the moment at least, Lorca has become more of an enigma than ever.