Blog Stuff Culture & History

Cervantes and Lorca in Madrid… and Me

We enjoyed Book Week in Madrid by going to the sacred publishing site of Don Quixote and a Lorca inspired street performance.

The first time I came across Lorca, I was thumbing through his book of New York poems in my teenage bedroom. We would later be reacquainted when Charles Bukowski brought that very same book (well, not the same book) to a restaurant in lieu of racing tips, a cat or bothersome date. He was impressed.

So was I. There were animalistic machinations; hybrid, snarling trains hunting up and down train tracks. There were the poor African-Americans, who shared their slum apartment blocks with Lorca. I would later see what they looked like in a Jacob Riis (thankfully not Mogg) exhibition.

As for Cervantes? Well, he is to Spain what Shakespeare is to England. As the co-parenting fathers of Modern literature, the only weird thing is that Shakespeare has had, seemingly, a deeper impact on world language and culture.

But being neither British or Spanish, I say damn it anyway, and nominate John B. Keane as the king of writers. Isn’t a field as good as a windmill?

Cervantes and Lorca in Madrid

As we said up top, these events were organized for Book Week and Noche De Los Libros. With the Feria del Libro still to come, we’re being spoiled for choice.

Stop the Presses

On Friday night, we toddled along to a place heaving with historical import – the printers where Cervantes’ Don Quixote was first printed.

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After descending into the basement, the informative tour guide gave a play-by-play account of how the printer functioned. 14-hour shifts, 6 machines on the go, and a constant process of typesetting, pressing and cleaning was the order of the day.

What stood out for me was that the technology barely changed over centuries, which reminded me of how mission control rooms for space launches have practically stayed the same as well. Sometimes, a genius concept has a lasting presence, the core technology exhibiting a staying power in the midst of cosmetic change. Also, illiterate people contributed money to buy the book and then gathered around the one person who could read chapters from the story. Another reflection, then; this time of Peig Sayers and the storytelling traditions of west Ireland.

Surreal Street Shows

Roll up, roll up! Lorca’s rolling into town on the back of a truck, armed with nothing but a desire to bring culture to the masses and some pretty surreal ideas. On Thursday, the Spanish poet and his cohorts – well, modern actors parking in La Latina – were ready to perform.

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This initiative from the Teatro Universitario Únión Federal de Estudiantes Hispanos, was a homage to the La Barraca truck, the symbolic and of this earth vehicle, transporting ideas, stories, songs, and impulses.

It was participatory theatre at its best, an experience which began and ended with the public. In a Madrid plaza, with the cold mingling with a cross-section of Spanish society going about their business, art was alive and speaking to the people.

This was principally achieved by monologues and meditations over work, time, and the nature of being. As a creative backdrop, actors would walk in slow-motion behind speaking protagonists, change costumes and perform interpretative dance.

It was a mish-mash but held together nicely. It must have blown the minds of those that originally saw it.

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Bringing Humanity Back

In our most recent article, we spoke about Amnesty International’s exhibition in Casa Arabe. This one, from the United Nations about global refugees, follows a similar vein. Giant posters and profiles of these otherwise invisible victims fill the space. There’s the tragedy of stateless, paperless children, and the sobering realisation that the people in the exhibition are but a handful of a larger, persecuted group.

As we walked around, a Spanish family cooed and whispered que guapos (how beautiful) at a family of pleasant looking people with big, open eyes.

It’s a bit different from talking about Cervantes and Lorca in Madrid, but it’s a stunning exhibition. It’s called Apártidas.

And remember…

You can listen to our podcast on any platform, or on RadioPublic – it’s called the El Arpa Media podcast. For more blog articles, you could read this one about how we translated a book on Santa Muerte.

We also do tours in Madrid. Get in touch!

Thanks for reading about Cervantes and Lorca in Madrid.

Cervantes and Lorca in Madrid
source: TedEd
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