Emblematic writer of the Generation of ’98 who cultivated poetry, theater and narrative. He was born in Seville on July 25, 1875 and died in Colliure (France) on February 22, 1939 while trying to cross the Pyrenees on his way to exile with his mother and brother José. His personal training, from his youth, was linked to the Institución Libre de Enseñanza (Free Teaching Institution). During the Civil War he showed his commitment to the Republic. As a French teacher he occupied four posts that had a decisive influence on his work and his life: Soria, in 1907; Baeza (Jaén), in 1911; Segovia, in 1919 and finally Madrid. During his stay in Baeza he met Federico García Lorca on two of the study trips organized by Martín Domínguez Berrueta, a personal friend of Machado and also linked to the Institución Libre de Enseñanza precepts. According to the professor Luis García Montero, the meeting was the first step “of Lorca’s slide into poetry” because in those years he still doubted whether or not to devote himself to music.
He was born in a rented house in the Palacio de las Dueñas. He was the second boy in a family of eight siblings. His parents were Antonio Machado Álvarez, a lawyer and folklorist who signed with the pseudonym Demófilo, and Ana Ruiz. In 1883, the Machado’s moves began and never ceased. That year the family traveled to Madrid. Antonio, at the age of eight, entered the Free Teaching Institution where his teachers were, among others, Giner de los Ríos and Joaquín Costa.
In Baeza, in 1916, he met a very young Federico García Lorca on a study trip organized by Domínguez Berrueta. The visit was repeated in 1917. Machado and Lorca participated together in a concert held at the Casino.
The fin-de-siècle Madrid puts Antonio in contact with the bohemian life and gives him his first theatrical experience: he joins the company of Maria Guerrero. In 1899, he was in Paris with his brother Manuel. Back in Madrid in 1902 he publishes his first book Solitude and collaborates in magazines such as Blanco y negro, Helios and Alma Española.
His first destination as a French teacher was Soria. There, in 1907 he met his first great love, Leonor Izquierdo, a teenager only thirteen years old whom he called the “youngest fairy”; the couple had to wait two years for marriage. In 1910, thanks to a scholarship from the Committee for the Extension of Studies, they both visited France where they met the father of Modernism, Rubén Darío. In 1912, coinciding with the publication of Fields of Castilla, Leonor died of a lung disease. She was 18 years old.
Machado, devastated, makes a change and exchanges Soria for Baeza, where he lived for the next seven years. A depressed Machado arrives in a city with few resources for consolation. In Baeza, desolate, he writes to Unamuno: “There is only a bookstore where postcards, devotionals and clerical and pornographic newspapers are sold. It is the richest region of Jaén, and the city is populated by beggars and gentlemen ruined at the roulette table”.
In Baeza, however, in 1916, he met a very young Federico García Lorca on a study trip organized by Domínguez Berrueta. The visit was repeated in 1917. Machado and Lorca participated together in a concert held at the Casino. The French professor read an excerpt from The Land of Alvargonzález, which was staged by La Barraca years later, and Federico performed on the piano an excerpt from The Short Life by Falla and popular songs. Lorca evoked the visit in a chapter of his first book, Impressions and Landscapes (1918) in which, although he does not name Machado, he does recreate the spirit of the city where he lived. The relationship of admiration between the two was long-lasting. In 1933, on the occasion of the premiere of Blood Wedding at the Teatro Infanta Beatriz in Madrid, Machado, who did not attend the actual premiere but a later performance, wrote to him: “Dear and admired poet: Until last night I could not see your magnificent tragedy Blood Wedding. I had the satisfaction of joining my applause to that of an audience as numerous as enthusiastic, Bravo and let’s have another!”.
In November, 1919, Machado left Baeza for Segovia. There, as soon as he settled, he founded the Popular University in Segovia. In 1927, he was elected member of the Royal Spanish Language Academy, although he never took office, partly because of his disinterest. “God gives handkerchiefs to those who have no noses”, he commented to Unamuno. A year later he met his second great love, the mysterious Pilar de Valderrama, a married woman and mother of three children, who burst into Segovia with a letter of introduction and a pretext to start a relationship with the poet. From then on she was Guiomar, the muse that inspired his verses.
The relationship of admiration between Machado and Lorca was long lasting. In 1933, he wrote to Lorca: “Dear and admired poet: Until last night I could not see your magnificent tragedy Blood Wedding. I had the satisfaction of joining my applause to that of an audience as numerous as enthusiastic, Bravo and let’s have another!”
On April 14, 1931 the Republic was proclaimed and Machado was one of those chosen to fly the tricolor flag on the balcony of the Segovia City Hall. “With the first leaves of the poplars and the last flowers of the almond trees, spring brought our republic by the hand,” he notes. In October of that year, the Republic granted Machado the longed-for chair of French in Madrid at an institute, where he moved with his family. These were the years in which Machado launched his two apocryphal thinkers, Juan de Mairena and Abel Martín, into the world.
The beginning of the civil war opens the box of sorrows and accelerates the end. On September 8, 1936, the Madrid press confirms the rumor about the assassination of García Lorca in Granada. A huge commotion spreads. In handwritten notes he writes: “A group of men -of men! – a squad of wild beasts riddled him with bullets, we do not know in what corner of the old city of the Genil and the Dauro, the rivers he had sung about. Poor you, Granada! Poorer still if you were somewhat to blame for his death. Because the blood of Federico, your Federico, is not dried by time. Yes, Granada, Federico García Lorca was your poet. He was so much yours that he had become the poet of all Spains, pulsating your own heart”.
He transmitted all the rage and pain for Federico’s death in his poem ‘The crime was in Granada’ which appeared on October 17 in the magazine ‘Ayuda, Semanario de la solidaridad’, which ends like this:
“Labrad, amigos [Make friends],
de piedra y sueño [of stone and dream], en la Alhambra [in the Alhambra],
un túmulo al poeta [a tumulus to the poet],
sobre una fuente donde llore el agua,[over a fountain where the water weeps]
y eternamente diga: [and eternally say:]
el crimen fue en Granada, ¡en su Granada! [the crime was in Granada, in his Granada!”]
A month later Machado is evacuated almost by force from Madrid by the Alliance of Writers and transferred to the headquarters of the Republican government, in Valencia, where he multiplies his appearances and writings in favor of the regime and participates in the Congress of Writers for the Defense of Culture.
Faced with the danger that Valencia was to be isolated, the Machados family (Antonio, his mother Ana Ruiz, his brother José and his daughters) took refuge in Barcelona and from there, on January 22, 1939, they joined a caravan of forty Spaniards fleeing to France. Barely half a kilometer from crossing the border they had to abandon the car and continue on foot in terrible conditions to the Cerbère station where they spent the night in an abandoned wagon on a siding. On January 28, with the help of the writers Corpus Bargas and Tomás Navarro Tomás, they arrived in Colliure and stayed in what was to be their last resting place, the Hotel Bougnol-Quintana.
Antonio Machado died at half past three in the afternoon of February 22, 1939. Although the news was kept from his mother, Ana Ruiz, who was 85 years old, she burst into tears. She survived her son by only a few days.
In 1941, the Franco’s regime expelled Machado from the corps of high school professors.