On June 5, the birthday of the great Spanish poet and playwright Federico García Lorca, I joined LA RUTA DE LORCA EN NUEVA YORK, a walking tour of some of the poet’s haunts in the vicinity of Columbia University. We gathered at the university gate, bearing as our standard a rendering of Lorca’s face, composed, if you looked closely, of words he had written. On campus, we looked at photos of him standing at a spot in the main quad, where we gathered for a short recitation. His words rose, on a perfect blue-skied day, up and over the facade of Columbia’s iconic library.

We were greeted by the poet’s niece, Laura García Lorca, near Barnard College, then made our way to Casa Hispánica, where a plaque commemorates his stay there, during which he wrote Poet in New York. He was a talented musician and singer who explored the musical byways of New York, and Harlem in particular. The piano at Casa Hispánica, on which we were treated to a musical interlude, is said to be the very one he played.

After Lorca’s murder by Spanish fascists in 1936, members of his family came to New York and resided in a building on Riverside Drive. Suddenly, as we walked down the drive, a figure appeared, in a masterstroke of urban stagecraft, on the steps of a local cathedral. It was the wonderful Spanish singer Lara Bello, herself from Granada, who would sing some of the Andalusian folk songs that Lorca collected. She was accompanied by the guitarist Eric Kurimski, and sang, without amplification, over the soft hum of traffic on the drive. Later, after stopping at Grant’s Tomb to take in a poem allusive to the site, we came across her again in a local park, a songstress in white, sharing the tunes of the poet, of whom she has always seemed to me to be the ideal interpreter.

We heard still more from her at the restaurant El Floridita, where our ticket stubs entitled us to a refreshing libation, singing heroically over Latin muzak that took a while to disconnect. A pre-release copy of her CD of Lorca’s songs was made available as a souvenir of our poetical trek.

For more on Lara Bello, click here.

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