By Alyssa Mathura
Alyssa Mathura is a junior at Florida International University that it pursuing a degree in civil engineering. She is an active memeber in the Honors College and American Society of Civil Engineer. She enjoys trying new foods and experiencing different culture which would be discovered in her As Text.
Madrid As Text
The Buen Retiro Park in the heart of Madrid is a place where communities come together and admire the beauty of the country. There is no profitable purpose for anyone in the park which is an unimaginable idea for me since everything in the United States cost something. The park is a historical landmark that has the monument of Alfonso XII, Fuente del Ángel Caldo, and Palacio de Velazquez embodies Madrid as a city. The park included a rose garden for lover to walk, playground for children to play in, paths for joggers to run on, but most importantly the park has Palacio de Cristal for artists from the past and present to display their creations.
The Palacio de Cristal, built in the 19th century, is an art piece by itself as it sits on the water, having the sunshine through each panel of glass differently. The Palacio de Cristal introduces art to children at a young age and encourage them to explore their creative side instead of suppressing it the way the United States does. In the United States, the most important subjects are math, science, history, and english but what people fail to realize is that art is a part of each of those subjects and to reject art, they are rejecting part of those main subjects. Instead they have to embrace art as a main subject along with the other core subjects. Having the entry to be free allows creative to be spread around Madrid. With Madrid as a museum heavy area, the younger generations see that there are career opportunities beyond math, science and business. The persona of a struggling artist to merely destroyed which allows great artist to arise in the future.
Segovia as Text
Time has stopped in the city of Segovia. Entering the city, you are welcomed by the aqueduct that was built over 2000 years ago by the Romans after the native people helped the Romans to stay warm throughout the brutal winter. The aqueduct stretches about 15km from the Rio Frio river to the center of the town and has 167 arcs with its deepest point being 28 meters. The construction is a phenomenon, having the stones stacked on top of each other and not using cement but instead using the key stone method. One has to have precise calculations depending on the weight of the stones on each arc and way the weight would shift once the stone was placed there. But doing that in the first century with very limited technology and equipment is mindblowing to me. With the mind I have and my major being civil engineering, I could only hope that I would be able to design and build something that would stand for 2000 years and be used without it crumbling. Nowadays, nothing is made to last for 2000 years, I would be considered lucky if one of my future structures stood longer than 200 years.
Step beyond the aqueducts, time has remained still as the town is a melting pot with influences from the Moors, Romans, Catholics and visigoths. As I walked through the town, I could see the town change from a Moors territories to a Catholic one. But the Catholics had Moors designs on their doorways and windows. Trying to be independent from the previous culture but unknowing impossible to be independent. The city looks like it has been taken out of a history book, as everything in the town is the original. Segovia does not destroy and replace the way the United States has unfortunately relied on but instead they restore what is already there. As Victoria and I struck up a conversation with a local, I got the sense that the people have pride from being from Segovia since it has influences from different backgrounds. I felt that they are more accepting of others because of their history and they could not forget the history since it is in their faces on their way to work or market. Time has stopped in the city of Segovia.
Sevilla As Text
“Cathedral of Sevilla” and “Torre del Oro” by Alyssa Mathura at Sevilla, Spain
The land that is built off of America. Sevilla. In the past, I personally have learned that Spain built America and America did not contribute to the development of “Old World”, therefore Americas sole purpose was to provide wealth to Spain. Now walking the streets of Sevilla, I have discovered that Sevilla would have been nothing without the Americas. Everything that is built there was built off of the wealth from the New World. The city of Sevilla gained its importance to Spain after the discovery of the Americas based on location, being right next to the Guadalquivir river, Spain was able to monitor what was coming from the Americas and what was going out to the Americas by writing everything down. This led to the development of the Torre de Oro in 1220, which became the tax collecting building that all the countries had to go through. With each ship, Sevilla would gain commission thus gain wealth and have more money to develop its city. Interestingly enough, Sevilla raised enough money from the Americas to build a cathedral. The rich people purchased chapels inside the cathedral that contributed to the funding of the church.
The Cathedral of Sevilla was built in only 72 years and was the third largest cathedral in the world at one point, but still it is known for having the world’s largest alter. But to me, it seemed the city of Sevilla was money hungry. They tried to profit anyway they could and they even went as far as selling slaves on the steps of the cathedral. The building devoted to God has been corrupted to making a small profit that put thousands of human lives at risk. All of these sinful actions started in Sevilla were the result of the discovery of the Americas. My perspective has changed about the impact the Americas had on Spain. Before this trip, I believed that America was the only country that was negatively affected, but now I see that the Americas corrupted Spain but more specifically Sevilla beyond repair.
Granada As Text
Riding in the front seat of the taxi, I was unexpectedly welcomed by a elder driver who lived in Granada his whole life and gave Gisell, Sebas, Sofi and me a personal tour of the town. When driving up to the Alhambra, my eyes wided by the fortress, a symbol of power that the Muslim had over this land only to be conquered by the ultimate Catholics. The Alhambra which means red in Aribic, from afar show many Islamic structures. It peaked my interest to know that the Muslims were the first religion to settle on the land in 711, and when they were building this palace and fortress, the Muslims had influenced from the Roman and Spainish architect. The Muslims traveled across the country seeing beautiful buildings and different styles, that when they were given the opportunity to design something purely Islamic, they decide to incorporate other beauty. Not only did the Muslims accept the arts of the Catholic people but they also accepted the Catholics themselves. This proves that no religion can be completely pure from one another and there are always influences that ties them all together. With the Muslims being generous to the Catholic people by not kicking them out of the land, the Catholics soon turn from the minority to the majority and takes the Alhambra under the power of King Carlos I. This is a life lesson to me that no matter how much you give to someone they could always turn on you and destroy without a second thought. The Muslims gave and gave until they became the minority of their own land and towards the end they had nothing, making the Catholic church stronger and allowing them to manifest their idea that the church is superior to all other religions.
Barcelona As Text
Walking up to a church once again, this time I am walking up to the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona. La Sagrada Familia was suppose to be Antoni Gaudi masterpiece but unfortunately he died in 1926 in the middle of construction. Over a hundred years later in construction and people are still trying to piece together what they think Gaudi would want in the church he created. Antoni Gaudi was a one of a kind architect, he managed to develop new styles when it seemed like all the styles were created and did not spare any detail no matter the cost. Gaudi only wanted the stone and marble, he would spit on the idea today of the church being made out of concrete.
La Sagrada Familia is truly a one of a kind building that is still being built into something so complex there is no church that compares to it gothic outside and modern inside. Walking up to the church, I was greeted by Joseph, Mary and standing in the middle Jesus. Standing there motionless simply mesmerized , my eyes wandering and finding a new detail as every second passed by. Gaudi being the devoted Catholic he is, displayed this commitment to God at this entrance. But the inside was stunning, Gaudi was able to being outside in as he designed all of the columns to look like trees and have the life of Jesus be represented through stained glass windows instead of pictures.
Not being a Catholic, I have felt that when walking into a church Catholicism is shoved in your face with a figure of Jesus being the center of attention and having the cross in every corner. But here, I felt that Gaudi encouraged one to practice Catholicism instead of forcing them. The symbolism of Jesus’s life through the different stained glass windows was a movement of reinvention since devoted Catholics would only know that. I stood in the middle of the church, letting all the colors hit me, feeling the stendhal syndrome coming over me. This place can only be described in one word. Beautifuk. Every aspect of this church was designed with a purpose.
Sitges As Text
Sitges, located on the coast of Spain, is home to the international rum Bacardi that came from Cuba. Sitges is not only known for Bacardi but also was the home of Charles Deering. Charles Deering first visited Sitges in 1909 when his friend, Ramon Casas and after that Sitges would never be the same again. Before Deering made Sitges a community, Sitges was a damaged place with no working hospital and no church where people could come together to interact with one another. Once Deering bought the old hospital after getting denied to buy Santiago Rusinol’s estate, Sitges started to become a community when a community was needed. Deering bought all the estate in Sitges during World War I and interestingly did not return to Sitges until the war was over, so he built the city of Sitges without knowing it. Charles Deering started to collect art from only Spanish artist, unfortunately when he left Sitges he took all of the art he collected. Luckily he could not take back the community he built there and to this day that community has stayed there.
As I walked through the city, there were people constantly walking through and from the tour, I saw the passion the tour guide had just talking about her wonderful city. As she talked about her visit to the Deering Estate in Miami, her face lit up and for me it was mesmerizing to know that Charles Deering symbol was the same in Miami as it is in Sitges. Even though he left Sitges in 1921, he left his mark and instead of designing a new symbol in Miami, he decides to use the same symbol in his house in Miami. Even though Deering took so much Spanish art away from Sitges one thing he could not take away was the community he built there during World War I and that is there now.
XC As Text
People gathered around the town square like they have come there to discuss important matters but instead 20 men and women come out swinging sparklers around. The people in Barcelona is celebrating Dancing with the Devil. From the outside, I wonder why they celebrate such a sinful holiday, just the name alone, dancing with the Devil. Dancing indicates one is happy to be with the Devil and his presence is welcomed here but the history behind it is that during the wedding celebration between Ramon Berenguer IV and Petronilla the Aragon, a group of guest dressed up at the devil and angels and performed a fight against each other. From back then, the idea is still celebrated since it symbolizes the fight between the good and the evil.
As I stood in the middle of this event, I was drawn to the sparklers and wanted to be a part of the celebration. I was begging one of the performers to pull me in but unfortunately this year the police would not allow performers to bring pedestrians into the performance. So I stood on the side with my eyes widened, feeling like it was the Fourth of July and I am watching the fireworks shoot up. At that moment I understood why they celebrate, it wasn’t to celebrate the Devil but a way to come together and see something beautiful and magical.