The White Terror


The White Terror was the murder, killing & assassination of left wing forces during and after the Spanish Civil War by the Nationalists of the right under their Caudillo General Francisco Franco Bahamonde.  It is estimated that between 100,000 and 200,000 republican supporters were killed by assassination and in concentration camps during the Civil War and in the decade after the war.

A “Red Terror” of assassinations of Nationalist supporters was instigated on the Republican side.  The reds managed about 50,000 which is below half of the most conservative White Terror number.  In addition the “Red Terror” involved insider assassinations as the Communists eliminated competiton from Anarchists, Democrats and Union Leaders who did not fancy the creation of a Stalinist Spain.

Commonly remembered simply as Franco, the Dictator of Spain was born on this day, Dec 4th, 1892.  A career military man he came from a Naval family in El Ferrol but elected to join the army.  Serving in the Rif wars in Morocco he rose rapidly in the ranks and at age 33 was the youngest General in Europe.

He led the Spanish troops who brutally suppressed the Anarchist mine workers strike in Asturias, an event which polarised left and right and may have led to the civil war.

When the Civil War commenced with a military coup by a group of generals Franco was the junior of the junta.  He famously negotiated with Hitler to have the Luftwaffe airlift his Army of Africa to the Spanish Mainland.  All his rivals met with “unfortunate accidents” leaving Franco as Caudillo – the Spanish version of Il Duce or Der Führer.  From October 1936 to November 1975 he was dictator of a repressive conservative Catholic Spain.  He was buried on his death with full honors in the mausoleum at the Valley of the Fallen (Valle de los Caídos) the only person interred there who did not die in the civil war.

After a long and drawn out legal process to prevent the veneration of his dictatorship his remains were removed from the mausoleum in October of this year.

Aprende un llanto que limpie el tierra, aprende un llanto que me limpie de tierra.


Gacela De La Muerte Oscura; Federico García Lorca

Quiero dormir el sueño de las manzanas,
alejarme del tumulto de los cementerios.
Quiero dormir el sueño de aquel niño
que quería cortarse el corazón en alta mar.

No quiero que me repitan
que los muertos no pierden la sangre;
que la boca podrida sigue pidiendo agua.

No quiero enterarme
de los martirios que da la hierba,
ni de la luna con boca de serpiente
que trabaja antes del amanecer.

Quiero dormir un rato,
un rato, un minuto, un siglo;
pero que todos sepan que no he muerto;
que hay un establo de oro en mis labios;
que soy el pequeño amigo del viento Oeste;
que soy la sombra inmensa de mis lágrimas.

Cúbreme por la aurora con un velo,
porque me arrojará puñados de hormigas,
y moja con agua dura mis zapatos
para que resbale la pinza de su alacrán.

Porque quiero dormir el sueño de las manzanas
para aprender un llanto que me limpie de tierra;
porque quiero vivir con aquel niño oscuro
que quería cortarse el corazón en alta mar.

Warrior Poets


Muhsin Al-Ramli is an Iraqi expatriate who now lives and teaches and writes in Madrid.  He was born on the same day and in the same year as my wife.  He translated Don Quixote into Arabic.  He is the brother of Hassan Mutlak, also a writer, who was known as the Iraqi Lorca.  Hassan was hanged in 1990 for his part in a coup d’état.  That was the year of the Kuwait invasion and the beginning of the first Gulf War.

Maybe it is simple romanticism on my part but the brothers call to my mind the Islamic warrior poet kings of Andalusia in the middle ages such as  Ibn ‘Ammar and al-Mu‘tamid.

From one Lorca to another ; by Mushin Al-Ramli

Once again to Hassan Mutlak*, and it is not the last.

What was has transformed into what is left…
and I said goodbye to Iraq

I abandoned the police stations, the cemeteries.
I crossed the walls of weapons
and the empty pharmacies.
I had been hard with the garden of hands in farewell
and with the tears of the girls that were left behind
because my weeping, in front of me, is long
and my map is a blind man’s cane.
My heart is a cemetery full of loved ones
and my medicine is there…there,
with the gypsies of Andalucia.
I crossed countries, many cities
and lived briefly in little towns
because Granada was waiting for me,
and I for her;
Because Lorca laid down his gaze
over the hand of the watch and the olive groves.
My friend, my brother, is waiting for me
since our very first notebooks.
I will cry inside his arms.
I will wet his shirt embroidered with songs.

I will tell him all that the tyrant has done
between the two rivers, between the palm trees
and between friends.
I will describe the rope they used to hang Hassan Mutlak,
and the machinery that minces souls and makes Iraqi meat.
But I have found his house empty
with the exception of his rocker, trembling,
between the window and the poem.

I called out: Lorca. Lorca.
Oh, the secret of my mother’s insistence on smoking,
despite her asthma.
Where are you?
My friend and my partner in innocence.
Where are you?
Nothing, but his rocker, trembling,
between the window
and the piano.
I kept calling
until his neighbor appeared, a gypsy girl,
and said:
Your friend left us what remained.
He had said farewell to his rocker…now
I will describe the handkerchief with which he covered his eyes
after his final gaze at his watch, waiting for you.
I will sing you his last poem;
his last breath.
The shots agitated him and
we became entangled
The twisting…
The weeping everywhere…
Everywhere there is weeping.
Our hands have signaled
to the clouds
and to the height of confusion.

“I have come to Granada
in search of Lorca.
so that I might write about the assassinated ones of my family.
But…I found him assassinated.”

Feliz cumpleaños Rafael Alberti

One of the Spanish poets of the “Generation of ’27” the flowering of Spanish poetry in the inter-war period which has been called the Silver age of Spanish Poetry.  Cernuda, Lorca and Guillén were all members.

Alberti left Spain at the end of the Civil War (1936-39) and refused to return until Franco died.  He moved to Paris and shared an apartment with Pablo Neruda until the Germans occupied Paris.  He died aged 96 and his ashes were scattered in his favourite place in the world, the bay of Cádiz.

Here is an ode to that city.

Cuba Dentro de un Piano

Cuando mi madre llevaba un sorbete de fresa por sombrero
y el humo de los barcos aun era humo de habanero.
Mulata vuelta bajera.
Cádiz se adormecía entre fandangos y habaneras
y un lorito al piano quería hacer de tenor.
Dime dónde está la flor que el hombre tanto venera.
Mi tío Antonio volvía con su aire de insurrecto.
La Cabaña y el Príncipe sonaban por los patios del Puerto.
(Ya no brilla la Perla azul del mar de las Antillas.
Ya se apagó, se nos ha muerto).
Me encontré con la bella Trinidad.
Cuba se había perdido y ahora era verdad.
Era verdad, no era mentira.
Un cañonero huido llegó cantándolo en guajiras.
La Habana ya se perdió. Tuvo la culpa el
Calló, cayó el cañonero.
Pero después, pero ¡ah! después…
fue cuando al SÍ lo hicieron YES.

Remembering Leonard Cohen


Born on this day in 1934, passed away in 2016, the legend that was Leonard Cohen.  Singer, songwriter, poet, philosopher.  Happy Birthday Len.

My favourite memory is when I was in school or college and living at home in my parents house.  I was up late with a couple of friends and we were listening to music.  Leonard Cohen’s “Famous blue raincoat” which opens with the lyrics

It’s four in the morning, the end of December
I’m writing you now just to see if you’re better

When my dad came thundering into the room and said “this is ridiculous, you are up too late keeping the house awake.  For God’s sake it’s four in the morning!” and he was then stunned when we cracked up and fell around laughing.


The Future: by Leonard Cohen

(After Lorca)

Now in Vienna there are ten pretty women.
There’s a shoulder where death comes to cry.
There’s a lobby with nine hundred windows.
There’s a tree where the doves go to die.
There’s a piece that was torn from the morning,
and it hangs in the Gallery of Frost—
Ay, ay ay ay
Take this waltz, take this waltz,
take this waltz with the clamp on its jaws.

I want you, I want you, I want you
on a chair with a dead magazine.
In the cave at the tip of the lily,
in some hallway where love’s never been.
On a bed where the moon has been sweating,
in a cry filled with footsteps and sand—
Ay, ay ay ay
Take this waltz, take this waltz,
take its broken waist in your hand.

This waltz, this waltz, this waltz, this waltz
with its very own breath
of brandy and death,
dragging its tail in the sea.

There’s a concert hall in Vienna
where your mouth had a thousand reviews.
There’s a bar where the boys have stopped talking,
they’ve been sentenced to death by the blues.
Ah, but who is it climbs to your picture
with a garland of freshly cut tears?
Ay, ay ay ay
Take this waltz, take this waltz,
take this waltz, it’s been dying for years.

There’s an attic where children are playing,
where I’ve got to lie down with you soon,
in a dream of Hungarian lanterns,
in the mist of some sweet afternoon.
And I’ll see what you’ve chained to your sorrow,
all your sheep and your lilies of snow—
Ay, ay ay ay
Take this waltz, take this waltz
with its “I’ll never forget you, you know!”

And I’ll dance with you in Vienna,
I’ll be wearing a river’s disguise.
The hyacinth wild on my shoulder
my mouth on the dew of your thighs.
And I’ll bury my soul in a scrapbook,
with the photographs there and the moss.
And I’ll yield to the flood of your beauty,
my cheap violin and my cross.
And you’ll carry me down on your dancing
to the pools that you lift on your wrist—
O my love, O my love
Take this waltz, take this waltz,
it’s yours now. It’s all that there is.

Federico Garcia Lorca


June 5th 1898 to 1936 when he was executed by the Nationalists in the Spanish Civil War because his pen was worth a regiment.  Happy Birthday Federico Garcia Lorca, feliz cumpleaños.

El Balcón; by Federico Garcia Lorca

Si muero
Dejad el balcón abierto

El niño come naranjas
(Desde mi balcón lo veo)

El segador siega el trigo
(Desde mi balcón lo siento)

Si muero
Dejad el balcón abierto


Fidel Castro R.I.P.


Castro has passed away.  In the days to come you will hear widely polarised opinions of his legacy.

On the one hand you will hear that he was a brutal dictator.  A manipulative political adventurer who assassinated his ally and friend Che Guevara.  You will hear that he was a low-budget Stalin, a revolutionary in public and a playboy in private living a high life of prostitutes, rum and cigars.  You will hear that he brought the world the brink of destruction in nuclear conflagration, and that it was only the “sensible” voices of Kennedy and Kruschev who averted disaster.  You will be told how he brought his people nothing but poverty, despair, hunger and want.

On the other hand you will hear that he was a great, brave visionary.  A man who took on the might of the American Capitalist and Military Systems and triumphed.  To his exploited people he gave hope, education, opportunity, equality and a quality of life denied to them under US influence.

As always the truth lies somewhere in-between.  As you listen to the opinions make sure you evaluate the speaker.  In Miami there live many Cubans who were expelled by Castro.  They lost (oft times ill gotten) money, property and wealth.  They will celebrate his passing.  The US Media will be spending a lot of time on the streets of Miami speaking to these people and the children and grandchildren of these people.

Before you make up your mind about what kind of man he was I would suggest you listen to some of the people who cannot speak English.  Listen to the Cubans who still live in Cuba.

Good or Ill Castro is a man who leaves an indelible mark on the history of the 20th Century.


Gacela of the Dark Death: by Federico García Lorca

I want to sleep the dream of the apples,
to withdraw from the tumult of cemetries.
I want to sleep the dream of that child
who wanted to cut his heart on the high seas.

I don’t want to hear again that the dead do not lose their blood,
that the putrid mouth goes on asking for water.
I don’t want to learn of the tortures of the grass,
nor of the moon with a serpent’s mouth
that labors before dawn.

I want to sleep awhile,
awhile, a minute, a century;
but all must know that I have not died;
that there is a stable of gold in my lips;
that I am the small friend of the West wing;
that I am the intense shadows of my tears.

Cover me at dawn with a veil,
because dawn will throw fistfuls of ants at me,
and wet with hard water my shoes
so that the pincers of the scorpion slide.

For I want to sleep the dream of the apples,
to learn a lament that will cleanse me to earth;
for I want to live with that dark child
who wanted to cut his heart on the high seas.

Cinco de Mayo


Cinco de Mayo is a Mexican celebration of the unlikely victory of the Mexican army over the French at the Battle of Puebla in 1862.  The whole affair was a fuss over an unpaid bill.  The French would have done better to await repayment of their debt.  Wars are expensive.  Wars against already bankrupt nations are the height of foolishness.

For the day that’s in it here is a poem from my favourite Spanish poet  (not a Mexican though).  Make music, not war!

Las Seis Cuerdas:  Federico García Lorca

La guitarra,
hace llorar a los sueños.
El sollozo de las almas
se escapa por su boca
Y como la tarántula
teje una gran estrella
para cazar suspiros,
que flotan en su negro
aljibe de madera.

My attempt at translation:

you make dreams cry out.
The sobbing of lost souls
escapes from your round mouth.
And like the tarantula
you weave a great net
to capure the sighs,
which float in your dark
wooden coffer.