The quote is the following:

Besides black art, there is only automation and mechanization.

I ran into this quote in a book named Site Reliability Engineering: How Google Runs Production Systems at the beginning of chapter 7: The Evolution of Automation at Google.

The book claims it is a Federico García Lorca quote, but it does not provide any information regarding which García Lorca work it comes from.

Some quotes sites mention the quote with García Lorca as the author but, again, no further information.

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    FWIW, the spanish quote (sourced from Gilles's answer) doesn't translate to that. It translates to "Aside from Black art, there is nothing in the United States but mechanics and automatism." (basically same thing, but the last two words are definitely different.) – Riker Feb 27 '17 at 2:47
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    Strictly speaking, if one wanted to quote this should they then reference Frederico García Lorca or the three authors of the book ? Or possibly the editor since, it is likely, they might sprinkle a text with quotes ? – Carel Feb 28 '17 at 9:39
  • Why would you expect a book 'on site reliability engineering' to provide this kind of information on a poet and the perception of his times? I've come across that quote, it's surprising that a software book has such a quote. I can't say I've ever come across one - they're usually being too tech gee-bang-whizz to do so. – Mozibur Ullah Nov 14 '18 at 13:22

This is a quote from an interview he gave in 1931.

Traigo preparados cuatro libros. De teatro. De poesía. Y de impresiones neoyorkinas, el que puede titularse : la ciudad, interpretación personal, abstracción impersonal, sin lugar ni tiempo dentro de aquella ciudad mundo. Un símbolo patético : Sufrimiento. Pero del revés, sin dramatismo. Es una puesta en contacto de mi mundo poético con el mundo poético de Nueva York. En medio de ambos están los pueblos tristes de África y sus alrededores, perdidos en Norteamérica. Los judíos. Los sirios. Y los negros. ¡Sobre todo los negros! Con su tristeza se han hecho el eje espiritual de aquella América. El negro que está tan cerca de la naturaleza y de la otra naturaleza. ¡Ese negro que se saca música hasta de los bolsillos! Fuera del arte negro no queda en los Estados Unidos más que mecánica y automatismo.

English translation:

I have prepared four books. About theater. About poetry. And about my impressions of New York, which I could call The City, a personal interpretation, an impersonal abstraction, without a specific place or time within that city-world. A pathetic symbol: Suffering. But reversed, without dramatics. It's a coming into contact of my own poetic universe with the poetic universe of New York. The centerpieces of both are the sad peoples of Africa and their surroundings, lost in North America. The Jews. The Syrians. And the Blacks. Especially the Blacks! With their sadness they have become the spiritual axis of that America. The black who is so close to nature and to the other nature. That black who draws music even out of his pockets! Aside from Black art, there is nothing left in the United States but mechanics and automatism.

(note: the Spanish word literally translates to 'blacks', but that's not intended to be offensive/derogatory in any way)

This interview was given to Gaceta Literaria, published in Madrid on 15-01-1931, under the title “Estampa de García Lorca”, after Lorca had spent about one year in New York. Passages from this interview were later included in the collection A Poet in New York.


  • Pedro Guerrero Ruiz and Veronica Dean-Thacker. Federico García Lorca: el color de la poesía. Universidad de Transylvania, 1998. p. 112. [Google Books]
  • “Federico García Lorca. Nouveaux textes en prose.” In Bulletin Hispanique, 1954, vol. 56, n° 3. p. 263. [Persée]
  • Salvatore Poeta. “Federico García Lorca: Poeta en Nueva York y/o Nueva York en el poeta”. In Naufragios, vol. 2, no. 1, Primavera, 2010 : Ensayo. [web]
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    Well, nice finding! Doesn't it sound like the authors simply googled 'quote for automation', picked whatever they liked (even if not relevant) and put that into their book without considering whether it matches the context or not? I mean, the meaning of "black art" is not even explained in the book. And the 'automation' by Lorca is not the same as the SRE one. – Grzegorz Oledzki Feb 26 '17 at 20:58
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    @GrzegorzOledzki I haven't checked the many uses of this quote in computer-related books, but it does indeed look like many of them took that sentence out of context and gave it a rather strange interpretation. – Gilles Feb 26 '17 at 20:59
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    FWIW the word at the end is "automatism", not "automation". Automation is "automatización" in spanish. "automatismo" means automatism. In context, this means "... in the United States but mechanics and conscious avoidance of creativity." – Riker Feb 27 '17 at 2:22
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    @GrzegorzOledzki However, taking a quote out-of-context for use at chapter beginnings/ends is a hallowed and amusing game, played best of all by the scholarly Knuth in his encyclopedic books. (For example, when at the start of Section 7.1 “Zeros and Ones” (about boolean algebra and binary arithmetic), he quotes “bit (bit), n ... [A] boring tool ... — Random House Dictionary of the English Language (1987)”, or when he quotes Mick Jagger and Keith Richards “I can't get no…”, the words “bit”, “boring”, and “satisfaction” were obviously intended in their original contexts in other senses.) – ShreevatsaR Feb 28 '17 at 5:58
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    @GrzegorzOledzki Found something related to my earlier comment :-) The lovely book A Handbook for Scholars by Mary-Claire Van Leunen (OUP 1978/1992), section Epigraphs says: The epigraph is among the most delightful of scholarly habits. Donald Knuth's work on fundamental algorithms would be just as important if he hadn't begun with a quotation from Betty Crocker, but not so enjoyable. Part of the fun of an epigraph is turning a source to an unexpected use. – ShreevatsaR Oct 19 '17 at 16:57

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