Lauren C. Batista: España as Text 2019

By Lauren C. Batista of FIU

Photo & Brief Biography

Lauren C. Batista is a Florida International University Honors College student with a major in Liberal Studies: Health and Human Concerns and three minors in Biology, Chemistry, and Entrepreneurship. Lauren plans to graduate in the Spring of 2020 with the goal of attending dental school to pursue a career in Pediatric Dentistry and open her own private dental clinic in the future. Lauren loves to read, travel, dance, and learn about her Catholic faith.


“Home Away From Home” by Lauren C. Batista of FIU at Parroquia del Purísimo Corazon de María in Madrid, Spain on June 9, 2019

Sunday is my favorite day of the week.  As a Catholic every Sunday, I celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ and His eternal glory.  This Sunday was special because I celebrated Mass in a different continent with a different parish.  However, not much was different because Catholicism is universal.  You can travel thousands of miles away from home, but once you step foot inside a Catholic Church and celebrate Mass it is as if nothing has changed; you are home once again.  We celebrate the same God, the same practices, and rejoice together as a Christian people.  On Sunday, June 9th, 2019, I attended La Parroquia del Purísimo Corazon de María in Madrid, Spain at noon.  Before Mass started, I took a few moments to speak to one of the deacons of the church.  I learned that the church was established in 1946 and there are approximately 1,800 families registered as parishioners.  The current Pastor of the church is Fr. Greg Hammes.  From my own observations, I saw that the church was full of its regular parishioners with a large population of elderly people and families with young children.  Two young boys helped the priest conduct mass by being altar servers.  The choir was towards the left side of the altar and consisted of people of all ages.  There were three young adult lectors.  During the homily, the pastor celebrated the children of the church where 57 of them received the Sacrament of Holy Communion for the first time.  He then celebrated 16 men who were to be ordained as deacons the same week.  This parish was lively.  They rejoiced in their accomplishment of spreading the Good News to their people and community.  I joined them in proclaiming the glory of Christ and the joy of being a Christian people whose mission is to serve others.  This parish was the definition of Catholic Spain and the legacy it left behind in the Americas, where a 20-year-old Cuban-American girl can partake in the same celebration. 

All while being content, I was overcome with emotion as I attended Mass because I was reminded of my parish back home where I serve as a lector as well.  Most importantly, on this same Sunday, my pastor Fr. Manny celebrated his last mass at my church, Immaculate Conception in Hialeah, Florida.  He was transferred by the Archbishop to serve a new community.  I was sad that I could not be in attendance for his last homily, but I know he will be glad to know that his teachings and impact have influenced my journey of faith.  He will be glad to know that despite not being home, I attended Mass during my trip.  As I listened to the homily, I contemplated the thought-provoking message being delivered and everything I had learned about Catholicism in Spain.  I felt like I was missing home, but I realized that in fact, I was returning home.  If it were not for the Spanish Reconquista, I probably would not be Catholic.  Catholic King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella sponsored the trips in 1492 that led to the European discovery of the Americas by Columbus.   There, Catholicism was established and now I am living proof of the legacy of Spanish Conquest.  Although I am thankful for the Spanish bringing Catholicism to America, I must recognize that in the process they used religion and God as a means to torture, enslave, and conquer indigenous people who had their own establishment, religion, and way of life in the Americas.  I am torn by the feelings of compassion for others who suffered at the hands of people who called themselves Christian and at the same time, I wonder if it were not for their journey to spread the Gospel in America through their missions if I would know the man who gave His life for my sins, Jesus Christ, and the beauty of Catholicism.


“Holy Toledo” by Lauren C. Batista of FIU at La Catedral Primada in Toledo, Spain on June 13, 2019

On Thursday, June 20, 2019, Catholics celebrate the feast of Corpus Christi.  It is known as the Feast of the Body and Blood of Christ and it celebrates the establishment of the Sacrament of Holy Communion (The Eucharist) during the Last Supper.  In Toledo, this is one of the most important festivals.  The city begins to be decorated for this festival at least five weeks in advance.  The route of the procession is ornated with awnings, wreaths, lanterns, and religious tapestry.  On the day before of the feast, the walls, windows, and the people’s balconies are adorned with antiques from the 16-17th century.  The most important part of the procession is when the Processional Monstrance is paraded around the city.  The Monstrance is stored in the Treasure Room of the Catedral Primada in Toledo.  It was commissioned by Cardinal Cisneros to Enrique de Arfe in 1515 who designed the Monstrance based on the architecture of the Gothic cathedral’s towers.  Queen Isabella the Catholic ordered that jewels from her personal collection be melted and placed on the monstrance.  It is worth around 9.5 million dollars.  It is suspected to contain the first gold that came from America, but that is not confirmed.  The Monstrance is divided into 3 sections and made of 5,600 pieces joined by approximately 12,500 screws.  It has 250 enamel and golden silver small statues.  The diamond Cross was made in 1600 and it is on the top and center of the Monstrance.  It is only removed once every year for the procession of Corpus Christi. This Monstrance emphasizes the grandeur of the Catholic Church in honor for the glory of God.  It also reestablished the domination of Catholicism in Spain because Toledo used to be a melting pot for the three cultures: Moorish, Jewish, and Christian.  Ultimately, Catholicism won especially after La Reconquista.  Although not everyone may be religious in Toledo, the town still celebrates this festival as part of their identity.  As a Catholic, it brings me joy that the Eucharist which is the Body of Christ is celebrated in the city of Toledo and that old, holy, and sacred traditions are kept alive by the Christian people.

Treasure.  (n.d.). Catedral Primada Toledo.  Retrieved June 13, 2019, from


“The Beauty of Islamic Architecture” by Lauren C. Batista of FIU at La Alhambra in Granada, Spain on June 18, 2019

I had dreamed of visiting La Alhambra since my high school days in AP Spanish Literature.  La Alhambra is one of a kind and distinct in its nature because it is one of the greatest Islamic architectural styled buildings in the entire world.  La Alhambra is in Granada, Spain and its name means the red fort.  It was built by the last Muslims to rule Spain known as the Nazaries from the Nasrid Dynasty (1232-1492) and it took approximately 250 years to complete.  Granada was the last place where the Moors fell during La Reconquista.  La Alhambra is unique because it serves as a royal palace and fortress.  It covers approximately 26 acres.  There is so much to discuss regarding La Alhambra, but I will focus on the four aspects that impacted me the most: the Court of the Myrtles, Patio of the Lions, Generalife, and The Hall of Two Sisters.  The Court of Myrtles is exceptional because it is the main site of the Comares Palace.  It is the waiting room which can be used for prayer and contemplation due to the long pond that uses water as a reflection of the heavens.  The water is a symbol of life and fulfillment of the soul.  Once a guest passes through this court, then they approach another prayer room and finally, the throne room.  This area also serves as a place of anticipation to meet the Sultan.  This was one of my favorite areas of La Alhambra because the water was very peaceful.  It was an excellent place to have a quiet stroll with oneself: to collect our thoughts, pray, and reflect.  This is one of my favorite aspects of Islamic architecture: the ability to contemplate/pray through art.  Although, I love Catholic Churches and their decadent structures, I also love the peace that Islamic architecture whether religious or not, makes me feel when I am in its presence.  Since Muslims do not use representation images in their art, I felt like I could pray for hours in this court without a care or distraction in the world. 

The Palace of Lions is next to the Comares Palace.  The fountain is the main star of the show.  It was built in the 14th century and it’s a complex hydraulic system.  All the lions are structurally different in appearance and one of the coolest features is that the water does not flow out of the fountain but into it.  I love this because it is sort of like the water is feeding into the fountain giving it life and in Islamic architecture water is meant to reflect the heavens and the peacefulness of paradise.  Once again, the fountains and gardens are designed to recreate Qur’anic paradise and be a method to practice reflection.  The cool temperature of the water and the gardens are designed for people to contemplate and recreate paradise on Earth.  This is seen in the Generalife gardens.  The water channels, fountains, flowers, and greenery reflect the verses found in the Quran that state paradise is like gardens that have water flowing underneath it.  When I saw the gardens of Generalife I could totally relate to the Muslims and view it as paradise on Earth.  The trees were so green, the colors of the flowers were so vibrant and full of life, and the garden itself radiated a peace that was heavenly.  Everything God designs is perfect, and I love the way Muslims embody His creations by using nature to extenuate and reflect God’s divinity and perfection. 

Last but certainly not least, The Hall of Two Sisters is one of the most elaborate domes in the world, if not the greatest one.  This was my all-time favorite structure in the entire Alhambra because in a way, it summarizes all the points I have made before and adds to the genius of Islamic architecture.  The hall was built by Mohammed V and the ceilings were carved in the 16th century.  From this hall, the Patio of the Lions is visible and the small fountain that is located inside carries water through its channel to the fountain.  The dome is evidence of the mathematical genius of the Muslims.  They used geometry and shapes to embody the divinity of God because they do not use representational images and in addition, poetry is written on the walls of the hall as well as the motto of the Nasrid, “Only God is Victor.”  The domes begin with squares which represent man-made objects and then when multiple squares are stacked upon each other in different dimensions, they begin to resemble stars which represent God’s light.  Then, as more shapes are created, the stars become circles which are the ultimate representation of God and His divinity.  The bright colors of the dome are designed to extenuate spiraling, thus creating movement.  This dome can be overwhelming to look at because of its complex mathematical and geometric structure and height, but ultimately, the goal of the Muslims was to create the most elaborate dome because the more elaborate, the more reflective of the abundance, greatness, and beauty of God.  I love the use of math and its logic to create a structure that glorifies God.  La Alhambra is magical, and I am thankful for its creation so that people like me can enjoy the genius and beauty of Islamic architecture.

Hall of the Two Sisters – Nasrid Palaces.  (n.d.).  Retrieved June 22, 2019, from

Mirmobiny, S.  (n.d.).  The Alhambra. Retrieved June 22, 2019, from


“Mezcla Realeza” by Lauren C. Batista of FIU at The Royal Alcazar of Sevilla in Sevilla, Spain on June 16, 2019

The Royal Alcazar of Sevilla has a mix of Islamic and Christian culture.  Even though it looks Islamic in appearance, the only authentic Islamic part are the gardens.  Gardens are essential to Muslims because they are meant to reflect Qur’anic paradise on Earth.  The Royal Alcazar of Sevilla is a prime example of Mudejar art.  Mudejar is an art style that is exclusive to the history of Spain because it is the focal point between Christianity and Islam.  Mudejar art is a result of Muslims who remain in Spain after La Reconquista under the dominion of Christian kings.  Therefore, the art flourishes when Christian kings commission Muslims to build their structures.  For instance, the calligraphy in the entrance of the Alcazar looks like Arabic writing, but in reality, it contains crosses.  The Royal Alcazar was built in the 14th century and ordered by Pedro I also known as Pedro The Cruel.  The Royal Alcazar has many interesting spots, but I want to touch base on the fountains and gardens, the underground baths, and the Hearing Room.  The Courtyard of the Maidens is the place where you wait before meeting with the King.  Like in the Alhambra, the courtyard has elements of Islamic architecture.  There is clear repetition of patterns to glorify God along with Renaissance arches and a pool in the center as a place of contemplation.  This pool of water is unique to Islamic architecture because Muslims view water as life-giving and meant to reflect the heavens.  The peacefulness of the water and the greenery of plant life are all aspects to reflect paradise on Earth and to provide a safe space for contemplation and prayer.  In addition, the bath pictured on the bottom right corner of the image is said to be the bath of Lady Maria de Padilla, the King’s mistress whom he described as the most beautiful woman in the world.  It is said that she used to come to these underground baths to swim naked.  The arches are in Gothic style and the tanks are of rainwater under the Patio del Crucero.  This reminds me of Bailly’s saying “Nudity is purity” as well as evidence that although kings claim to be Catholic, they do so for political power without actually adhering to the faith and its biblical principles as seen in Pedro’s murderous acts and adultery. 

Lastly, the Hearing Room is where Christopher Columbus arrived and told his first accounts from his expeditions of the Americas.  This room was used as a place where potential navigators/voyagers asked the King and Queen for permission to make their trip.   The interesting and controversial aspect of this room is the image of the virgin and the navigators in the painting.  This symbolized that their journey to the Americas was protected by the Virgin Mary and that the reason for their voyage was for religious purposes to fulfill biblical principles of spreading the Good News (Christian message) to everyone across the world.  This can be seen in the shadow of Mary’s wide-open arms where indigenous people who have converted to the faith are portrayed and are now under her protection as well.  This painting was made by a Spanish artist named Alejo Fernandez in 1531.  This painting is a romanization of what occurred in the Americas and a depiction of the way the Spanish see the conquest of the Americas.  The Spanish forcefully made indigenous people convert to Christianity, enslaved, and committed genocide to this group of people who were already settled in their land with cultural and religious traditions of their own.  It seems as if the Spanish neglect important aspects of their history and only portray it in a way that allows them to look as the humble victor.  I think from an educational and humanitarian point of view; these buildings should have some form of contextualization of the artwork in order to provide an accurate account of what happened in history.   


“Peregrinaje” by Lauren C. Batista of FIU at Montserrat, Barcelona, Spain on June 25, 2019

Oh, beautiful Montserrat!  Its religious history and holiness made me fall in love with this place and its ambiance.  The Montserrat Monastery contains the Black Madonna and it is a religious pilgrimage site for Catholics.  The Black Madonna is a religious icon for Catalonia, and it is part of the Catalan identity.  It was pronounced the Virgin of Montserrat, patroness of Catalonia.  When you enter the Basilica, you pass chapels that ultimately lead to where the Virgin is located.  The room where the Black Madonna is seated is marvelous.  It sits on a decadent and heavily ornated throne of Venetian mosaics.  The Black Madonna is holding a sphere which represents the world and Christ who is the world’s Savior.  Tradition follows that when you visit the Black Madonna, you hold the sphere with your left hand, lift your right hand up, and pray.  As a Catholic, I did just that; it was magical.  As you exit the area where the Black Madonna is located, you come across the Ave Maria path.  This is where all the candles are located and as a Catholic, you pay homage.  Traditions follows that you purchase a candle as a donation to the Basilica and you make a prayer and light your candle.  All candles that are lit are prayers made to the Virgin Mary.  My blue candle was my prayer in Montserrat during my pilgrimage.

There are many urban legends regarding Montserrat.  The most accepted legend is that when Wilfred the Hairy was fighting the Moors, he brought the sculpture to Montserrat so that the Moors would not possess it when they took Barcelona.  The Moors then brought a dragon from Africa after their defeat by Catalonia and they put it in a cave, and it began to grow.  As it grew, it started to eat sheep, then peasants, and lastly, soldiers. Wilfred the Hairy takes a branch from an oak tree and fights the dragon in the cave.  The dragon breaks the branch and forms the sign of the cross and Wilfred stabs it in the chest and kills it.  This story represents Catalan identity and strength.  In addition, Montserrat means serrated mountains and the legend behind the mountains is that angels carved them with saws which gives them the serrated appearance.  Some legends state that the Black Madonna was carved in the Holy Land.  The sculpture was then brought to Spain and hidden in the mountains.  It was later found by shepherds who saw a bright light and heard celestial music that guided them to the grotto where the Black Madonna was located.  Because it was so heavy, they could not take it back to the village, therefore, they built a shrine and now four chapels are located on the mountain.  

The Montserrat Monastery has experienced difficult times.  In the 19th century, Napoleon destroyed Montserrat and then once again, during the Spanish Civil War, the Monks of the Monastery were forced to leave.  This was because the Monastery was resistant to the dictatorship of Franco.  There was a ban on speaking Catalan, but the Monastery continued to speak and hold fairs in Catalan.  In addition, those who were persecuted by Franco’s regime found refuge in the Monastery which is why over 20 monks were killed during this time of war.  For this reason, the resistance held by the Monastery upholds the place as a significant symbol of Catalan identity and their continuous fight against its oppressors.  Eventually, the government of Catalonia saved Montserrat and after the war, the monks began the reconstruction of the Monastery.

Lastly, the hike in Montserrat completed my pilgrimage.  Sant Jeroni is the peak or the highest point of Montserrat.  It was not easy to get there, and it required all my physical strength, but it was definitely worth it.  The scenery on the way up and the silence as I climbed through the mountains allowed me to reflect on who I am, why I am here, what I have learned throughout these 3-4 weeks in Spain and what I plan to do with this newfound knowledge and experience.  I rediscovered my purpose, I talked to God, I contemplated, self-reflected, and found renewed spiritual strength.  When I felt like giving up as I climbed, I quoted scripture to myself or listened to worship music as I marveled at God’s creation.  All in all, Montserrat was a magical experience for me; one of my favorites and one I will hold in my heart forever. 

Black Madonna at Montserrat: The Image of the Virgin Mary. (n.d.). Retrieved July 5, 2019, from

Guide to the Montserrat Monastery in Catalonia Spain. (n.d.). Retrieved July 5, 2019, from

Montserrat Monastery. (n.d.). Retrieved July 5, 2019, from


“Miami en Sitges” by Lauren C. Batista of FIU at Maricel, Sitges, Spain on June 28, 2019

Sitges was the perfect place to end our Study Abroad trip.  It was the culmination of an Ida and Vuelta experience because of the impact of Charles Deering in Sitges and later in Vizcaya and the Deering Estate.  The pictures shown above are the places/objects I want to focus on because I believe they are a perfect example to what the Miami Espana Ida y Vuelta experience has meant to me.  However, we must first understand the history of the Maricel and Cau Ferrat.  Cau Ferrat which also stands for house of iron was Santiago Rusinol’s home where he stored his valued art collection.  When Deering visited Cau Ferrat, he was mesmerized by the structure and the magnificent pieces of Rusinol’s collection.  Deering offered to purchase the house with everything inside, but Rusinol denied his offer because it was his life’s work; every piece of artwork was a representation of a moment of his life lived, thus he called it “a heart’s collection.”   Cau Ferrat and its highly valued collection was also known as the Temple of Modernisme.  The first picture reminds me of what I called the Miamian Mosaic in the Deering Estate.  Back in Miami, in the Stone House of the Deering Estate, there is a mosaic made of seashells, coral rock, and feathers as seen in the bottom right picture.  Charles Deering’s Afro-Bahamian workers created this Miamian mosaic based on his loose descriptions of mosaics he saw throughout Europe, specifically Spain.  As soon as I saw the structure of the plates, I was immediately reminded of the Miamian Mosaic.  These Afro-Bahamian workers had never been to Europe; therefore, they created a picture with the materials available to them based on their tropical location and their commissioner’s description.  Seeing this inside of the Cau Ferrat solidified the Ida y Vuelta experience for me.  I was able to see the manifestation of Spain in America and how Deering attempted to replicate the art, architecture, and style of Spain during Modernisme.  

In that same room at the center, there is a small fountain which has a compass pointing: Norte, Sur, Este, Oeste.  Charles Deering wanted to protect education and health, which was inspired by principles of the French Revolution: freedom, fraternity, and equality.  This also aligns with beliefs of the Free Masons which Deering identifies with.  Compasses and triangles are signs of masonry.  The compass is used to create circles which as we have seen through Islamic architecture throughout the trip in Granada and Sevilla, represents divinity, perfection, and spiritual eternity.   The compass and the boat reminded me of our visit to Vizcaya in the Spring.  Vizcaya is Spain’s ground zero for its manifestation in America.  The boat in Sitges is once again a representation of the Spanish’s colonization efforts.  Having visited Vizcaya and Deering before the trip and then arriving at Sitges to see similar representations of the compass and ships I saw in Vizcaya are all forms of establishing the dominance of Spain during 1492.  It made me realize I am a product of their legacy and I have returned back home.  When I saw this imagery in Spain, I once again arrived to the conclusion that no matter how much I attempt to distance myself from what occurred in 1492, many important aspects of my life and my identity have root here such as my religion, my name, and my traditions.  In this moment, I embraced the journey that was 1492 in my life as well as the one that was my parent’s when they sailed from Cuba to America.  I continue to learn, challenge, and contextualize all these aspects that make me who I am because I do not fully identify as Cuban, American, or Spanish.  I am a culmination of the mixing and the manifestation of these three cultures in each other.

Panyella, V. (2018).  Comprehensive Maricel Itinerary: a journey through Charles Deering’s and Miquel Utrillo’s Maricel (1909-1921).  Sitges, Spain: Consorci Del Patrimoni de Sitges.


“Musulmano, Catolico, Judio… Todos Humanos” by Lauren C. Batista of FIU at La Mezquita, Cordoba, Spain on June 15, 2019

Visiting La Mezquita de Cordoba felt like I was in a dream.  I had never been into a mosque and even though, it is a church now, most people still call it La Mezquita because its architectural style is the definition of Islamic.  I have already expressed my love for Islamic architecture in my Granada as Text (check it out if you haven’t already), but my favorite aspects of La Mezquita are featured in the 4 images above.  La Mezquita was built in 786.  Muslims were using the Visigoths churches to pray because they did not have a mosque.  During the Visigoth period it was called the San Vincente Basilic and then on top was when the primitive mosque was built.  This basilic was shared between Muslims and Christians for a period of time.  It was refreshing to know that there was a time in history where religious ideologies did not cause divisions between people, but rather they could both share a space to contemplate, pray, and self-reflect.  In the end, we are all one people, and we can learn to love each other despite our differences because throughout this trip, I have come to realize that we are all more alike than we think. 

Later, there was the Muslim expansion and the mosque was owned by Abderraman I.  He destroyed it and rebuilt the first main mosque of the city.  The array of columns and the visual effects caused by the red and white arches give La Mezquita a dominant chromatic effect. The horseshoe arches are commonly seen in Visigoth art, but then are later adapted to Islamic architecture where they become a unique symbol of their style.  The arches help support the weight of the high ceilings and allow for better light of the inside spaces.  La Mezquita contains Arabic calligraphy which are verses from the Quran.  The mosque, however, is facing south, not towards Mecca.  This is a sign of Abderraman I declaring to the people that he is establishing the new Islam.  Other explanations are that because of the sandy riverbed, the Mosque could not be built the traditional way.  In 1236, the mosque becomes a cathedral and Spain is declared the center of the counterreformation.  There are three styles represented: gothic, renaissance, and baroque.  109 seats in the organ tell different stories of the Old and New Testament as well as the city of Cordoba.  The Orange Tree Courtyard is a good example of Islamic architecture and structure.  It was used as a place for public activities such as teaching, and it has fountains where Muslims used to wash their hands and feet before entering the Mosque.

The Catholic Church has been a key player in protecting and maintaining this building.  In fact, the most important site for prayer for Muslims in a mosque is called the mihrab, the semicircular niche where Muslims should be facing during prayer and the mihrab of the mosque remains. As we have seen in other cities, usually these buildings would be destroyed to build that of their religious belief, but most of the mosque remains.  La Mezquita is a religious site that serves as an example of religious tolerance and the notion that different cultures and religions can coexist peacefully.  At the time of its creation, it was considered the culmination of divinities and I think we can all learn from the history of this building and appreciate both the architecture and function as a mosque and a cathedral for its people.

History of the Mosque of Cordoba. (n.d.). Retrieved July 5, 2019, from

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