The republican period of the thirties came to culminate a process of modernization, social democratization, and economic progress for people that had decided to see tourism as a source of income forty years ago. It is certain that Sitges had become a renowned tourist square days before the spring of 1935, visited by both ‘kamacus’ and outsiders of all kinds, from artists and writers, wives of transatlantic aviators (David Llewellyn) , aristocrats (the Viscount of Güell), tennis players (Antonio Boter), boxers (Max Schmeling), swimmers (Solita Salgado), swindlers (Daniel Strauss and Perlowitz), American actors (Buster Keaon) or attendees of the V International Advertising Congress , among other famous people.
M. de Sagarra had already praised the whole work of the HUSA in an article in Mirador from 1932 – before the famous “Sitges” of 1935 – shortly before the inauguration of the Terramar Palace hotel. He explained the hotel and tourism operation project very well and made a very accurate analysis of the people who vacationed in Sitges and spoke Spanish. Its sharp and piercing irony is delicious: «La HUSA, in Sitges, has made a casino, a swimming pool, gardens, a promenade, some beaches, and with the drive that it carries it is possible that it will make a cage for Diplodocus and that it will get many ladies who spend the summer in Sitges, and who are true survivors of the diplodocus era, stop speaking that terrible Spanish that they speak and use a language more suited to the landscape and the light of Sitges. »
Two renowned pens of the time resided in Sitges that spring, G. K. Chesterton in May and Jacinto Benavente (1866-1954) in April. The first one repeated his stay at the Subur hotel for the second and last time (The Echo of the 12th confirms this. In 1928 he did not come, he was only reminded, we will explain). The second one made his debut at the Terramar Palace hotel, and would still have to return twice more, in April 1936 and October 1942, at least, since her relationship with Santiago Rusiñol had perhaps already brought her here before. In Miquel Utrillo’s autograph album, Benavente records the year 1933, perhaps due to another visit not documented in the Sitges weeklies … Let us remember that the playwright was one of the translators into Spanish of Rusiñol’s works, for example, Libertad, who it premiered in Madrid in March 1902.
Miquel Utrillo also got involved professionally in making the poster for The Wild Beasts’ food that had been released in 1897 and that even the renovations could be seen on the steps of the Library. Utrillo Jr. explained that he bought it in Paris for 50 francs. What is clear is that despite missing the modernist, the Madrid native decided to return because he had fallen in love and was inspired by the blues of his sky and sea. In 1951, when a commemorative tombstone was inaugurated in Aranjuez, in the garden that bears Rusiñol’s name, Francés, as perpetual secretary of the Academia de San Fernando, and Benavente, on behalf of the Society of Authors, spoke before the bust of Rusiñol, inaugurated by the daughter.
During his first stay in Sitges and while at the hotel, Benavente addressed a few words to the Spanish audiance through the microphone of Radio Asociación de Cataluña (A. E. J. 15.). The weekly’s chronicler added: “We were not surprised that Playa de Oro was one of the Scenarios chosen by the distinguished writer for some of his interesting works.” And Arturo Gazul noted that Benavente remembered his stays in Terramar as the best and most stimulating for his pen in the years after the war. He also notes that he did not have much contact with local artists and intellectuals. It will be a matter of reading to find them.
The following year he not only repeated his stay during the month of April, but the military coup d’etat caught him in Barcelona. Rafael Font Farran, who at the time was a young secretary at the General Public Order Police Station based on Via Laietana, tells us that after the first incidents on Saturday, July 18, he went home and “that in the early morning of that Such a singular Sunday, the balcony of the house, in Provence-Aribau, I could already see the troops going down the sidewalks while a distant shooting reached us from the center of the city”. So things had been rushed.
“The day after the events, when I entered our offices I found an unexpected and surprising presence: the playwright Jacinto Benavente was sitting on the sofa with slippers and reading a book! He smiled kindly at me, perhaps with a touch of expensive humor the situation was unique. He told me …”
The good man was staying in the former Hotel Colón in the Plaza de Catalunya, occupied by rebel soldiers and later by the public force. What to do with Don Jacinto in those moments still fighting in the city? To protect him, he took him to the General Police Station. And there the comediographer and Secretary General of the house, Vidal Jové, installed him for the moment in his office, while some of Benavente’s friends arrived to pick him up.
“Look at you,” said the writer, “with all that I have experienced in the last few hours, what a wonderful play could be done …”
It is obvious that one of the most prolific playwrights in the country had to know how to take advantage of everything, that is why he wrote up to 172 plays, and was one of the most beloved playwrights by the public at that time. Sitges theaters have performed around fifteen of his works, like for example “El nido ajeno”, “Por las estrellas” and “Angelus”, all three in July 1910 or “La malquerida” and “More strong than love” in 1914.
The editors of the Baluard de Sitges were surprised that at the end of 1907 he participated with articles and lectures in a crusade against Catalonia organized by the newspaper El Mundo de Burell, along with other “outstanding” pens of the noble art of Catalanphobia (as now! ): Manuel Bueno, el Malo; Mariano de Cavia, the Kurd; Pío Baroja, the Trap; and Jacinto Benavente, the Esteta. They dedicated the article “Against Catalonia, donkey braying” (November 23, 1907) and “All the intellectual world” (March 8, 1908).
After his mother’s death in 1922, he went to America to improve his life style. A journey of almost two years. It was precisely during this trip, during he was in New York, that he learned that he had been awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature. Hence, the city named him Adoptive Son and Madrid, Favorite Son. He also traveled to Egypt, the Holy Land, the Middle East, and Russia, where he spent a few months. When he returned, he co-founded the Friends of the Soviet Union on February 11, 1933 and was one of the signers of the manifesto, which also surprised many people, for example JM de Ribot (Baluarte de Sitges, 2-7-1933). This republican aspect brought him a certain censorship with the victory of the ‘nationals’. But accustomed as he was to adapting to all kinds of difficult situations, publishing with the new order did not involve any rush. Before, however, he went up to the presidential rostrum to attend the parade of the victorious troops in Valencia and to be present in the Plaza de Oriente in Madrid in the great pro-Franco demonstration of 1947.
He, Wildean dandy par excellence – dedicated “Saturday night” to the admired Irishman; Manuel Machado had also honored him with “The Last Ballad of Oscar Wilde” – he always knew how to live his homosexual condition with discretion. His attitude was not to feel attacked by the injuries, to let the background noise play without affecting him, and that he was attacked by Ramón Gómez de la Serna, Carmen de Burgos, Cansinos-Assens. On the other hand, he was a good friend with the psychicals Pepito Zamora, Álvaro de Retana, Antonio de Hoyos, and an admirer of Carlos Gardel and Tórtola Valencia, with whom he liked to dance an ‘agarrao’.
A man of well-off and cosmopolitan condition, he made his debut without difficulties and was welcomed into the highest circles of society. It is known to all that the upper classes did not feel the need to justify themselves with conventional morality, at least as long as scandal was avoided. And the repressive apparatus has always gone to look for the most disadvantaged. He even took the risk of introducing “the theme”, albeit highly sifted, in some of his works. He published a series of homoerotic poems and the ephebophilic tale Ganymede (written in 1938 and published in 1942).
The Franco regime did not renounce to integrate him as a prestigious figure. What’s more, Benavente was well received despite his republican past and his status as a homosexual – it had been the gossip of all Madrid – because he willingly accepted to lock himself in the closet, to be discreet in public life, even if it was keeping silence. And if it was convenient, lying. He knew that the important thing was that his name did not come out. That as long as he did not acknowledge his homosexuality, the rumors could not affect him. It was necessary for him to juggle between the influence of foreign fashions and the essences of a pronounced “chasticism.” And he, who had run a circus, was an expert at it. It was a domesticated beast in a transparent closet.
His living biographer wrote: “Certain physiological abnormalities are talked about insistently. Rumors reach Jacinto Benavente’s ears, and he shrugs. When a dangerous allusion is allowed in the cafe, Benavente continues to savor his cigar with indifference. It is not known if he is the carefree man who wants to scare the moralists or the skeptics who consider themselves beyond Good and Evil. Perhaps because he governs his actions according to his inner and extraordinary world, with his own morals and philosophy, It seems natural and ordinary to the artist what surprises or revolts others. ”
He spent the last years of his life between Madrid and Galapagar, welcomed by the marriage formed by his beloved actress and muse Mary Carrillo and Diego Hurtado -son of his personal secretary-. From this close relationship Benavente became godfather of the four daughters of the marriage, surely remembered for all in the spanish TV show “Un, dos, tres”.