Famous Faces of Granada


When you visit a new city, or even one you already know, it's always interesting to find out about famous people associated with the place you're going to, from local authors and artists, to celebrities who have been there, foreigners who settled in the city and made it their home, composers inspired by it, or books and movies where it has featured as a location. Here we look at Granada's famous literary, musical and artistic associations.

Granada's  romantic yet brooding atmosphere, with the magnificent Alhambra palace watching over the city, has inspired many a writer. Its most famous literary son is, of course, Federico Garcia Lorca, who grew up in the city, worked there, and sadly died there too, at the start of the Civil War. He had an ambivalent relationship with his home city, although many of his poems speak pay homage to the Sierra Nevada and the surrounding countryside. A 1997 (fictional) movie called The Disappearance of Garcia Lorca (Spanish title: Muerte en Granada), based on historian Ian Gibson´s biography, and starring Andy Garcia as the poet, was filmed in the city.

Before Lorca, in the 19th century, Granada's most famous resident was an American diplomat named Washington Irving, who lived in the Alhambra while it was still a ruin, and wrote his famous Tales of the Alhambra>, based on romantic stories recounted to him by various local characters he met there.

Since then, Salman Rushdie's novel, The Moor's Last Sigh, was inspired by the famous story of Boabdil, the last Moorish ruler of the city, who turned for a final look at his kingdom as he left, and wept.

Best-selling author Victoria Hislop (wife of Private Eye's editor) used the city as a backdrop for her book, The Return, whose story of "love and loss" is partly based during the Civil War.

South from Granada is one of the books by Gerald Brenan, friend of Lytton Strachey and Dora Carrington of London's Bloomsbury set, who lived in an Alpujarran village in the 1920 and 30s. Laurie Lee, who wrote As I Walked Out One Midsummer Morning about walking from Gloucestershire to Granada in the 1930s, also visited the city when he returned after the war; A Rose for Winter is about Andalucia in the 1950s.

Joe Strummer (1952 - 2002) was founder and lead singer of the punk rock band The Clash. He visited Granada, first in the mid 1970s with his then-girlfriend Paloma Romero.Joe referred to the city as his corazon (heart) in the 1979 song "Spanish Bombs" and paid homage to Lorca. In September 1983 during the bands's downfall. Joe 'ran away' to Granada. In local music hangout the Silbar he met the band 091 and helped (or possibly hindered) them to record their first LP in Madrid.  Asked in an interview for Diario de Granada (18/11/1984) why he was in Granada, he stated, "I am obsessed with Andalucia". He also visited the assumed site of Lorca's grave in Viznar with Jesua Arias (guitarist of TNT) and they planned to write a song together.  In 2011 local residents launched a Facebook campaign lobbying the city authorities to name a square after him, and two years later "Placeta Joe Strummer", situated in the Realejo, a neighbourhood full of bars and clubs popular with students, became a reality, The little plaza is found at the intersection of Paseo de las Palmas and Cuesta Escoriaza  (GPS: 37.168884N, -3.587732W).  In October 2014 a must-see documentary film by Nick Hall called I need a Dodge! - Joe Strummer on the Run recalling his time in Granada premiered in New York, London and Madrid. Read a  detailed account of Joe Strummer in Andalucia.

In terms of Granada's artists, 17th-century architect and painter Alonso Cano designed the façade of the city's cathedral, which also contains paintings and sculptures by him.

Debussy, a friend of Spanish composer Manuel de Falla, never visited Granada, but was inspired by his fellow-musician's tales of the city to write two works about it, the dramatic Soiree en Granade, and La Puerta del Vino. Falla himself wrote Nights in the Gardens of Spain, which depicts the Generalife. The Gaditano composer was also a close friend of Lorca's, and spent much time in Granada.

The city's most famous recent visitor, was Michelle Obama, when she was US First Lady. Mrs Obama visited Granada in August 2010, as part of her Andalucian short break with her daughter Sasha, amid frenzied international press coverage. They visited the cathedral and watched a flamenco show about Lorca in Sacromonte, the famous gypsy cave area to the north of the city.

Bill and Hillary Clinton made a five hour presidential visit to Granada on 9th July 1997 whilst in Spain for a NATO conference. (see a Spanish TV news clip here) on the second visit he was acompanied by wife Hillary and Daughter Chelsea and then King Juan Carlos, Queen Sofía and Prince Felipe. Bill Clinton, who had been a postgraduate student in Oxford, UK in 1968 had vistied Granada. Whilst touring the Alhambra he said he wanted to return to show the city to his family. Whilst visiting Mirador de San Cristóbal in the Albaicin (in 1997) the said it had "the most beautiful sunset in the world". 


Lee: "Probably... the most beautiful and haunting of all Spanish cities; an African paradise set under the Sierras like a rose preserved in snow."

Irving: "City of enchantment and fantasy."

Brenan: "Granada was such an obviously habitable city - its waters so clear, its views so beautiful, its patisseries so good."

Lorca: "a city where the one in love writes better than anywhere the name of his love upon the ground."

Rushdie (on the Alhambra): "The glory of the Moors, their triumphant masterpiece, their last redoubt.... The palace of interlocking forms and secret wisdom...that monument to a lost possibility that nevertheless has gone on standing, long after its conquerors have fallen; like a testament to lost but sweetest love..."


Living in Andalucia