Community: Cultural Activities In and Around Casa Hispánica > Lorca and the Institute
In 1929 Federico García Lorca decided to travel to New York in search of new airs. In addition to a romantic breakup that led him to anguish over his homosexuality and depression, Lorca wanted to leave behind the criticism that his friends and avant-garde artists such as Luis Buñuel or Salvador Dalí had made of him after the successful publication of Romancero gitano (1928), a collection of poems that seemed too traditional to them.
Accompanied by his mentor Fernando de Los Ríos, Lorca arrived in New York in June of that year with the decision to shed his image as a gypsy poet and renew his work. At the urging of Federico de Onís, Lorca enrolled in English classes for foreigners at Columbia University and stayed at Furnald Hall and then at John Jay Hall. During his nine-month stay in the city, the poet not only attended Hispanic Institute events but also actively participated in them by reading poems, directing the choir, playing the piano, and giving lectures on poetry.
A few days after arriving at Columbia University, Federico García Lorca began to write the series of poems that would comprise Poeta en Nueva York, a masterpiece that would only be published posthumously in 1940. Marked by an avant-garde tone that contrasts with his previous work, the poems give an account of the poet's experience in a city that frightened him as much as it attracted him.
In 1940, the Fiesta de la Lengua was held at Columbia University's McMillin Theater, with a program presented by the Alliance of Spanish Clubs of the Colleges of New York and the Institute's theater group. This performance by Hunter College students of García Lorca's play Mariana Pineda (1927) took place four years after the author was shot by a Falangist troop at the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War in 1936. This historical drama is based on the life of Mariana Pineda Muñoz, a martyr of the resistance to the restoration of the absolute monarchy in Spain in the 19th century. Against this background, this play not only takes on the character of a posthumous tribute but can also be understood as a political statement.