By Sebastian Cajamarca
Spain summer 2019 study abroad with professor John William Bailly.
Studying abroad in Spain was one of the most fulfilling experiences I have ever had in college. I had the opportunity to learn and reflect on the different and similar social, religions, and cultural aspects between the United States and Spain. More specifically, in this reflection, I get the opportunity to describe a few of my experiences in Madrid, Sevilla, and Barcelona while refining my own perspective of what it means to live in America.
Reflection on Liberty
I began to examine these discrepancies and similarities at a neighborhood in Madrid called Barrio de las Letras, which translates to “The Neighborhood of Letters.” A very appropriate name because of the noteworthy role the neighborhood played during the Siglo de Oro (Golden age of Spanish theater and literature). At this neighborhood, easy to locate on Plaza De Santa Ana, one can find the statue of great Spanish poet, musician, and playwright: Federico García Lorca.
The life-size bronze statue of Federico García Lorca is dedicated to the great poet who was murdered by Nationalist forces during the Spanish Civil War. The statue depicts Lorca wearing a suit and tie as he is looking down – hands by his chest while letting go of a dove, he was holding.
Federico García Lorca was persecuted for his beliefs, which associated him with socialists and freemasons – among other claims about homosexual and abnormal behavior. Police officers then raided his home in Granada and arrested him. He was executed moments after giving a confession. The information was ever released as to the content of his confession.
While processing all this new information, I started to think about the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. More specifically, the MLK Memorial located in Washington, DC. These two men were assassinated for their beliefs and later celebrated for their accomplishments. However, could Federico García Lorca be compared to Martin Luther King Jr.?
Maybe not to me, at first glance, because I am not from a culture where Lorca meant something significant. However, to the people of Spain, Lorca had a massive impact on Spanish literature and cultural history. They both symbolized liberty and freedom for their people –– especially after their deaths. Their statues serve as a representation of the battles and struggle people went through during the Civil Rights Movement and the Spanish Civil War; a representation for their freedom and liberty for which they both lived and died.
Reflection on Historic Landmarks
Studying abroad in Spain, I witness amazing and historic landmark – especially in Sevilla. During our first day in Sevilla, we came across the Plaza de España. This astonishing massive landmark was built for the Ibero-American Exhibition in 1929. It is located at the María Luisa Park – measuring at 50,000 square metes. This semi-circular brick building with Renaissance/neo-Moorish and Art Déco within Neo-Mudéjar was created by Anibal Gonzalez between the years 1914 and 1926.
The architect Anibal Gonzalez designed the Plaza to impress the many other exhibitors, as well as visitors, from around Spain and Latin America. The Plaza also showcased Seville’s talents in industry and crafts. Furthermore, in the works of opening and modernizing the city, I found it incredibly useful that in order to achieve this goal the city created a lot of civil work for its people; thus improving employment, promoting the tourism, and enriching the image of Sevilla while strengthening its affairs with American countries.
The materials used to create this landmark involved typical Spanish resources such as red bricks, ceramics, titles, marble works, and forged iron decorations. However, Anibal Gonzalez’s intention was to mix the Art Déco style with the classical Mudéjar style, inherited from the Arabs (as seen in many other works in Sevilla such as the Royal Alcázar and the Casa de Pilatos).
After hearing the words “Art Déco” so much, I began wondering if I had ever seen any other forms of this art style in the United States. More specifically, here, in Miami. After a quick google search, I came across a great representation of the Art Déco style in Miami: The Art Déco Historic District.
The Art Deco Historic District is made up of 800+ buildings – built between the years 1923 and 1943. The structures of this landmark are known for their Mediterranean Revival, Art Déco and MiMo (Miami Modern) styles of architecture. This work of art is located on Miami Beach between 5th Street and 23rd Street, along Ocean Drive, Collins Avenue and Washington Avenue.
While reflecting on this new information, I couldn’t help but to be amazed that such amazing landmarks – that I thought had nothing in common – were influenced by the same architectural style of Art Déco. The Plaza de España and Art Deco Historic District were both important parts of Sevilla and Miami’s culture, respectively. However, Art Déco originated in France during the mid-to-late 1910s; the Mediterranean style originated from a variety of European countries; the Moorish architecture was created by the Moors, from North Africa; and Mudejar art was influenced by an amalgam of Christian and Islam religions. Therefore, Sevilla and Miami have always shared a common factor with many other cultures but no one talks about it. The Plaza de España and the Art Déco Historic District are both the byproduct of the same architectural idea which was later influenced by the history and people of their particular country; without recognizing most of these backgrounds that influenced one or the other. When these buildings were created, Miami and Sevilla claimed full credit and forgot about all these other influential factors. The fact that these two pieces of landmarks had a similar architectural style was overwhelmingly surprising to me. However, after doing a little research, I’m now more curious to learn about the other influential architectural styles than lead to the constructions of these two outstanding historic landmarks. Nevertheless, till this day, these architectural forms of art serve as a significant part of America and Spain’s history.
Reflection on Culture and Religion
During our final days in Barcelona, we visited the beautiful neighborhood known as the Gothic Quarter – located at the heart of Barcelona. This small but glorious neighborhood – which used to be a Roman village – displays remains of its origins with unique buildings, folktales and traditions. It was built in between the 14th – 15th centuries on the site of former settlements of the Roman Empire.
As our class walked down the narrow, winding streets of Gothic Quarter, I was stunned by the remarkable floating eggs that were located in every beautifully decorated water fountain that we passed by. I didn’t understand it at all. However, my ignorance gave me bliss. I was happy to witness such simple occurrence. Before being informed what the egg symbolized, or the reason why it was floating, I found pure joy in just watching that egg dance in the water.
The dancing egg was one of the many traditions that represented the Feast of Corpus Christi; a religious Christian feast that is celebrated every Thursday, on late May or early June. The city’s big annual festival dates back over 600 years in Barcelona. Corpus Christi, which means ‘The Body of Christ’ in Latin, celebrates the transformation of bread and wine into the actual body of Christ during Mass. The festival consists of a procession that involves two separate parts. One part entails just the festival with many giant figures parading around the streets, accompanied by music and performing dances. The other part is the Corpus Christi march to the Cathedral. Among the dancing egg, the festival also displays a traditional circle dance called Sardana.
While reflecting on this cultural and religious aspect of Barcelona, I started to wonder if Miami had anything like this. After rigorous research, I couldn’t find any religious festival that could resemble Corpus Christi. However, I did find an interesting cultural discrepancy and similarity between Miami and Barcelona. Both cultures are well known for their party life; however, in Miami, we don’t have many religious festivals but more cultural festivals such as Calle Ocho.
When I first came to America from Peru, at the age of 10, the first festival I ever attended in Miami was Calle Ocho. It is a Latino community festival, which takes place to celebrate cultures and cuisines with an array of entertainments from concerts to beauty pageants and sports. Since then, all I have known about Miami culture was food, music, and its people. Every year, my mother and I would attend Calle Ocho. Even though I didn’t understand much about, it became part of who I was as I got older.
So could Calle Ocho be my Corpus Christi? Meaning – even though they are both different festivals that celebrate diverse ideas and values in different styles – could they have the same effect in their community?
The answer is yes. These festivals bring a community together to celebrate their traditions. More importantly, in Calle Ocho, there isn’t much emphasize on a religious tradition. Nevertheless, people share a tradition together – making a community stronger and closer. Even though I am not very religious or into festivals, I still find a bigger purpose in these traditions. Festivals like Calle Ocho help someone like myself, who struggles to in finding a social identity in Miami, identify more with his culture and people of Miami. Especially, a tradition that I can remember attending since I was a younger child.
Furthermore, after traveling to Barcelona, I built another social identity with the people and culture of Catalan. Their history and fight for independence enlightened me; it encouraged and inspired me to find some sort of social identity I never thought of looking for in the first place. Thus, attending their festivities, socializing, and trying out different cuisines.
After my time in Barcelona, I can confidently say I am a more cultured person. I used to think that living in Miami, a melting pot of various cultures, made me very cultured just because I was a Peruvian man living in America but surrounded by many other Hispanics from different parts of the world. However, going to Europe changed my view as to what it meant to be Hispanic/Spanish. I have a historical connection with the people of Barcelona, just like many other people, due to generations cross-breeding throughout time.
Therefore, I found another social identity to connect with in Barcelona; festivals such as Corpus Chriti are one of the many examples of how I can share a tradition among the welcoming community of Barcelona. As stated previously, Barcelona has celebrated this festival for over 600 years; Miami has celebrated Calle Ocho for 40+ years. Nevertheless, after going study abroad, you can expect to see me for the next following years at either of these two festivals.
Studying abroad in Spain for the summer was one of the most rewarding experiences I have had at Florida International University. I had the opportunity to educate myself about another culture and in return learn more about myself too. I reflected on the different and similar social, religions, and cultural aspects between the United States (Miami) and Spain. More specifically, in this reflection, I got the opportunity to describe a few of my experiences in Madrid, Sevilla, and Barcelona while refining my own ideas of what it means to be a Hispanic man living in Miami.
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