Queers and gypsies

April 1939, and the Valencian communist and later Mexican entrepreneur Arturo García Igual (Entre aquella España nuestra … y la peregrina, available in part on GBS) has, as a Stalinist commissar, been sent to the elite camp at Agde, France, where

night after night unsuspected talents [took to] an improvised stage: actors, comics, illusionists and cantaores like Chorro Jumo, a homosexual gypsy, who, apart from hanging out the washing with his lover boy, imitated Miguel de Molina with the verse: My mare gallops and catches its breath as it passes through the gate bound for Jerez. [“Mi jaca galopa y corta el viento cuando pasa por el puerto caminito de Jerez“]

Boom boom, although I may have translated cortar el viento incorrectly.

I’ve often wondered what gypsies made of Lorca, since my experience of listening to male bar talk suggests a visceral distrust and loathing of gays equal only to that felt towards payos. Gerald Howson’s must-buy 1950s look at The flamencos of Cadiz Bay mentions the hatred felt by artists towards flamencólogos, the historians, musicologists, sociologists and anthropologists who conjure complexity from nothing and manipulate the market for personal and professional ends. Another Valencian leftie, Vicente Blasco Ibáñez (La bodega, 1906, which deals with the 1892 peasant rising), specifically describes the humiliation of de-professionalised gypsy labourers and their sisters by well-off young gents in search of musical and sexual diversion in Jerez at the end of the nineteenth century. BI is fairly convincing in this and other gypsy episodes–La horda, La barraca, more?–and I wonder whether the relationship between Lorca & Co and those they chose to patronise (or not) in the interests of Art and Nation and whatever was as comfortable as we tend to think.


  • jaca, for those not in the know, is said to come from Hackney, legendary home of horses (and, of course, horse, but that’s distinct and later).
  • I don’t think Jerez is being used here in any specifically euphemistic sense, but feel free to invent one.

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  1. “Cortar el viento” is to glide, to move effortlessly. There was a time when every schoolchildren could recite:
    Con diez cañones por banda,
    Viento en popa a toda vela,
    No corta el mar sino vuela
    Un velero bergantín.

    It was the Canción del Pirata, by José de Espronceda

    I cannot resist noting ( my pedantry really knows no bounds) that “el puerto” should be “El Puerto”, El Puerto de Santa María, Cádiz, which is quite close to Jerez de la Frontera.

    A good read here:

  2. Aah! Ooh! Thankyou!

    Javier, can we do a deal: next weekend I’ll get someone to break into the DRAE database and I’ll buy you dinner if you update the bloody thing before the functionaries get in on Monday.

  3. I think that Lorca’s gypsies play the same role as Garcilaso’s shepherds; mere literary devices. But Lorca’s creation have influenced popular culture, and probably even perception of the gypsies in Spanish society.

    Some curiosity: While Miguel de Molina could have sung “Mi jaca”, being composed in 193x, the Molina readily associated with this song is Antonio Molina, much younger, acceded to fame in the 50s, and I think not related to Miguel. Miguel de Molina was openly gay and his trademark song was “La bien pagá”. And none of them were gypsies.

  4. @Javier: It’s extraordinary how Lorca is still considered an authority on such things. A friend told me recently that if you do oposiciones in the Ancient Nation of Andalucía you’re expected to be able to quote with a straight face his absurd theories on the origins of flamenco, which I don’t think have ever been taken seriously by anthropologists.

    @everyone: Someone accused me last night of presenting an un-nuanced view of gypsies. If I get time I’ll translate a bit of La horda, which is BI’s most thoroughly realist novel and, for all its many faults, contains the best turn-of-the-century account of Madrid gypsies I’ve read.

  5. Gate/Puerto and Jerez are probably sexual here. See eg Sombra del viento: “I caught myself remembering with maplike precision every contour of her body, blah blah blah, that line of fine hair blah blah blah that ran down her belly and that my friend Fermín blah blah blah liked to call ‘the little road to Jerez’.” Zafón’s research is ostentatiously thorough; it’s rather like being stuck in a tourbus with a hyperactively smartarse guide. God alone knows why the Catalans are paying Woodie Allen millions to make a film in Barcelona when Zafón will to it far better and for free.

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