Public Enemy or National Hero? The Spanish Gypsy and the Rise of Flamenquismo , 1898-1922

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The views of Lorca and Falla on Gypsies and flamenco as elements that resist change and epitomise tradition are well known to scholars of flamenco, historians of Spanish literature and music, and Hispanists at large. From different disciplines and perspectives, a range of scholars have converged in the view that Lorca and Falla focused on the Gypsy in order to condemn and arrest what they saw as evidence of an unrelenting cultural modernisation. Related to this, Lorca and Falla interpreted the rise of cuplé, zarzuela and the commercialisation of flamenco in the context of the cafés cantantes as signs of
aesthetic corruption and degeneration. Yet, as this article will show, the views articulated by Lorca and Falla, to a great extent, were produced in the context of, and responded to a tradition of denigrating Gypsies and flamenco in Spanish culture. A substantial part of this earlier cultural production on Gypsies drew on a pseudo-scientific rhetoric in order to simulate solutions to but, in reality, to appease anxieties about the decadence of the Spanish ‘race’. As
Charnon-Deutsch has argued, the creation and scapegoating of a Gypsy anti-hero or public enemy in other words, a common Other—since at least the
early nineteenth century proved to be an efficient way of conjuring up a counter-model against which to define the ‘common Spaniard’ in order to foster nationalist sentiment and stimulate national cohesion. In addition, as this article will show, control of the Gypsies depended on the use of propaganda to create negative but non-specific states of opinion about them, as, since the late eighteenth century, no law had been able refer to them specifically. The restitution of the Gypsy to a positive cultural image, indeed to that of hero, by Falla and Lorca thus had specific overtones in relation to a longstanding practice of scapegoating the Gypsy as well as to the context of Spain’s internal politicalskirmishes and social struggles. The Gypsy was prominent in the discourse of flamenquismo, which as will be explained helped to articulate and negotiate a series of tensions emerging from the immigration of working-class Andalusians in Madrid during the nineteenth century. These tensions, plus the rejection by intellectuals belonging to the so-called Generation of ‘98 of Andalusia-oriented portrayals of Spain made by foreign artists and intellectuals, set the stage on which Lorca and Falla put forward a reinvigorated image of the Andalusian Gypsy.
Original languageEnglish
JournalBulletin of Spanish Studies
Early online date11 Aug 2017
Publication statusPublished - 2017


  • Roma. Gypsies, Spain, flamenco, music, identity, Lorca, Falla, ethnicity, race


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