Themes and Meanings

(Critical Guide to Poetry for Students)

The gypsy population of Spain is concentrated in Andalusia. García Lorca grew up in Granada and knew well flamenco, the flamboyant music and dance of the gypsies. Living on the margin of Spanish society and often outside the law, the gypsies were looked upon with suspicion by the middle class and were persecuted by the infamous Civil Guards. In his earliest poetry (much of it still unpublished), García Lorca displayed a ready sympathy for the underdog. He found it easy to champion the gypsies in Spain and later the blacks in New York, and the enduring theme of his work is the evil of oppression in both its private and public forms.

From this web of social facts and personal interests grew the Gypsy Ballads (Romancero gitano). García Lorca proposed mythologizing the gypsies, turning them into subjects of poetry. In the ballads, he puts the gypsies on an equal footing with the forces of nature. They interact with the moon, wind, sun, stars, and ocean in one enlarged magical community. As in any community, friends and enemies vary. The sea can frown and olive trees grow pale as the gypsy girl Preciosa is pursued by the satyr wind in one of the famous ballads. Nearly all the gypsy ballads tell of an encounter between the idealized “natural” gypsies and the fierce forces of law and order. Such is clearly the case in “Somnambule Ballad,” for in García Lorca’s time, gypsies were often smugglers and it was the Civil Guard’s...

(The entire section is 436 words.)