Destiny Perez: España as Text 2022

Photographed in the Ricardo M. Silva Stadium by Hilary Melbourne/CC by 4.0.

Destiny Perez is a sophomore at Florida International University studying International Business to receive a Bachelor’s in Business Administration. Her passions are dancing and singing. When she’s not in practice or studying, you can find her spending time with her family or somewhere near the ocean.

Madrid as Text

“Looking at Life Through a New Lens”

by Destiny J. Perez of FIU at Madrid on June 2022.

Photographs taken by Destiny Perez and Lauren Velasquez. Edited by Destiny J. Perez/CC by 4.0.
Photograph from Wikipedia. Art work found in Museo de Prado.

Madrid has been an experience that feels unreal. During my time here so far, I have seen and experienced things that I never thought I would. I have been to sites that I dreamt up visiting for years. Not only have so many of my dreams come true here but I also have gotten to experience connections to many of the places and art works.

One thing I have learned about Spain during my time here is how much they care about preserving their history. All of their main landmarks and touristic sites are a huge part of their history and what has made the country what it is today. By visiting one of their sites, I learned about a huge part of history that I had never even heard of before. Shortly after the 9/11 attack on the United States of America, when the U.S. government decided to invade Iraq, Spain helped during the invasion. Iraq had nothing to do with the attack on the United States but somehow the response they had after the terrorist attack was to go after Alqueda in Afghanistan and then go after Iraq. In response to the invasion, Iraqis decided to strike an attack against Spain. They formulated an attack on the trains in the country which resulted in 191 deaths and then the death of a police officer. The way Spain chose to honor their people was by creating the first site I visited. They created a memorial in the Atocha train station with all the victims’ names. It is a large empty room with just a dome at the top that has words about the victims of the tragedy. Although this was a beautiful sight to see and you can feel the emotions just by walking past it, my favorite part of the memorial is actually not in the room at all. It is a small hill of 192 trees in El Parque de Retiro that was planted in memory of all the victims. Trees are a special sign of life. They are eternal unless cut by outside forces or not getting the necessary resources for them to live. Energy cannot be created or destroyed, only converted. Therefore, when a person passes away their energy still lives on but it must be transferred. I think it was beautiful of the people to decide to create this garden like structure for their fallen citizens, as they and their memory will live on with the city forever.

Besides the beautiful landmarks, the other thing Spain is rich in is the art history of the country. One of our lectures was in the Museo de Prado where we were able to look at historical paintings that changed the world in one way or another. In the year 1515, Jheronimus Bosch (known as El Bosco), released “El Jardin de Las Delicias.” This painting is extremely meaningful and has an interesting way of portraying the world. The left side of the piece is how simple life could be, it is peaceful and shows harmony between people and animals. The people depicted seem to be Jesus and the Virgin Mary. In the center, the society is shown as chaos. The people are indulging in activity that in the Catholic religion are not seen as okay. On the right, we see the result of what happens when you conduct yourself against the ways of Catholic beliefs. It resembles hell. The colors are dark, the characters shown are scary and abnormal, and you can see fire and smoke all around. What I loved most about this painting was that it was a Surrealist piece but the style of Surrealism was not a thing until 1920. El Bosco was extremely ahead of his time and his way of portraying religion in the 1500s was extremely uncommon at the time.

Segovia as Text

“Standing in the Presence of History”

by Destiny J. Perez of FIU at Segovia on June 13, 2022.

Photographs taken by Destiny Perez and Lauren Velasquez. Edited by Destiny J. Perez/CC by 4.0.

If you are given the background information of most of the tourist sites in Spain, almost all of them will send a rush of goosebumps through your body. In Segovia, their main attraction is one of the best preserved aqueducts (built by Romans over 2,000 years ago) still standing in the world. The aqueduct was built to be a channel of water helping the fresh water from the mountain travel more efficiently through the walls of the city. The Romans were extremely ahead of their time when they built this structure. It is so impactful to stand in its presence as it has withstood so many natural events, man made events, and especially time. This is the oldest man made structure I have ever had the chance to see in person. Picturing how the Romans worked together to mount every single one of those granite blocks to create 165 perfectly aligned arches is incredible, more so since it was estimated to be built in the year 50 BC. 

What is most impressive of Segovia, is the aqueduct is not their only long standing piece of history. The Alcazar is just as impactful as it was where Queen Isabella reigned after she took the throne preceding the death of her brother, King Henry IV. Queen Isabella created a lot of history for Spain, both good and bad. She felt it was her divine purpose to bestow Christianity all across the country. Some of her accomplishments as queen were the funding of Christopher Columbus’ expedition and bringing Spain together through her marriage to King Ferdinand. However, she is known more infamously for empowering the Spanish Inquisition which resulted in the expulsion of Jews and Muslims from the great country. Standing in the Alcazar was an indescribable feeling. In the throne room, where guests were received, is the exact room in which Columbus announced to the queen his discovery of the lands in which I was born and raised. History was made in this castle. Events that took place here directly affect me and the course of history as a whole.

Cordoba as Text

“The Everlasting Narrative”

by Destiny J. Perez of FIU at Cordoba on June 18, 2022.

Photographs taken and edited by Destiny J. Perez/CC by 4.0.

“What is the one thing we learn about history? Nothing, that is why it repeats itself.”

My dad told this “joke” a few months ago, but I did not fully wrap my head around it until my visit to the cathedral in Cordoba. 

The great MOSQUE of Cordoba sent chills through my body from the moment we walked in. The structure is so simple from the outside yet so intricate and grand on the inside. There is Islamic influence everywhere. Not only do I see it, but I could feel it too; even if I am not associated with the religion. There are beautiful red and white arches, built from different stone materials like limestone and brick. They are structured much like an aqueduct all throughout the inside of the building. There are many walls with Arabic writing, what my classmates explained to me are scriptures from the Quran. There are symmetrical patterns, colors, and beautiful art work on almost every wall. There are all these incredible things, but I could not help but notice how they are dark. It seems dull in this section of the building. It almost feels like the work was meant to be hidden. Even though I was told the history of the building before I walked in, I could not comprehend the magnitude of the story until I reached the middle of the building. 

After seeing all the Islamic presence throughout the building, we reach the middle. We reach the exact place where Christianity made a mockery of not just the beautiful mosque, but also the whole religion. In 1236, King Ferdinand seized the mosque and turned it into a cathedral. However, the prayer niche was left facing toward Mecca. The Islamic work was preserved beautifully inside. The parts of the building that represented Islam were left standing. All these things started to weigh on me until the moment I get to the middle of the “cathedral.” There is so much light. There is a spectacular altar. You can see a crucifixion on the wall, a beautiful organ pipe, Virgin Mary depicted on many walls and paintings. In a normal circumstance it would send a rush of beautiful emotions and pride, but instead it brought me a great deal of guilt and sadness. The place that Muslims had worked so hard to build and spent years worshipping in, was stripped from them by another group of believers in God. The only minor difference between them was their choice religion. 

My visit to this building created one question. All for what? All to say that one religion is better than the other, even though they both believe in the same God? All to make Christians feel superior to Muslims? All to show how “admirable” Christians were for taking the great building from other believers of God and attempting to recreate its purpose for their own benefit? None of it worked. None of it is admirable. Instead, it brings shame. It is shameful that under one “God” these people found it acceptable to strip others of their worshipping grounds, work, culture, and pride. All this just to put their stories, traditions, and different beliefs right next to some of the greatest Islamic work on the planet. There was not even the decency to destroy the mosque and build a cathedral on top of just the land. Instead, they knew how incredible the work around them was, so they kept it.

So now I ask myself, “What is the one thing we learn about history?” And I understand why the answer is “Nothing, that is why it repeats itself.”

This same series of events is seen time and time again throughout history. Instead of growing mutual respect, what grows is hatred and ignorance. It is stories like the one of this building that later result in war, death, and the destruction of peace. This is a prime example of what creating division amongst people can do. The narrative still has not changed. People who live peacefully are divided by fanatics and someone unworthy gets the opportunity to take over because the people seek guidance and leadership. It is a vicious cycle. 

We must learn that no matter what deity, God, saints, or prophets we choose to believe in we are all HUMAN BEINGS who search for the same things. Respect is all that is necessary for people of different color, culture, or religion to live harmoniously. We are easier to conquer when we are divided because we are stronger when we stand together. 

Sevilla as Text


by Destiny J. Perez of FIU at Sevilla on June 22, 2022.

Photographs taken and edited by Destiny J. Perez/CC by 4.0.

Learning about the history of Sevilla brought me a mix of emotions about the city. It was one of the most divisive cities in Spain’s history due to its devout loyalty for the king. When you ask Spaniards about the Inquisition, they will tell you that “not too many people died.” If you look up the official numbers of the Spanish Inquisition, you might find that they are correct. However, there were many unofficial executions that are not often talked about. Sevilla is one of the best examples of that as in this city there were 4,000 Jews executed in their quarter. There was a synagogue in the middle of the quarter that was (as per usual) torn down and created into a Catholic Church. Later when Napoleon took over, he had the church torn down and created a memorial for all the Jews who lost their lives in this quarter. When we made our way to the memorial, we came across a Jewish man singing to the centerpiece. It was very impactful to see him paying tribute to those that died over their shared faith before him. 

No city is perfect. Sometimes the stories are beautiful and sometimes they are gruesome, but there is always something special about it. Sevilla’s symbol is the word “NO8DO” with a knot in between. The significance of this is something quite special. Seville was loyal to King Alfonso during the war his son started against him. The word is believed to mean “no-madeja-do” which translates to “it has not left me.” Sevilla is a special city to the crown as it has maintained its loyalty. The concept of loyalty is extremely important to me as I have stood by people in moments where things did not seem they would go in a great direction. What pushes people through difficult times is the support system they have behind them. I absolutely love that the city of Sevilla played this role for King Alfonso (whether or not his reign was an ideal one). 

Sitges as Text

”Uno en un Million

by Destiny J. Perez of FIU at Sitges on June 26, 2022.

Photographs taken and edited by Destiny J. Perez/CC by 4.0.

Every city has its special touches that are what makes it unique and different from others. One thing I found fascinating about Sitges was that I was able to see what was the inspiration for one of the landmarks of my own city. In the city of Sitges is where Charles Deering’s original house is, which is what he used as inspiration for the stone house in the Deering Estate. The house was built between 1910 and 1918, after he bought all the land he needed to commence his construction. Previously, the buildings were a hospital and a residency. His home in Sitges throughout the years became a personal museum of all the art works he had collected. After constructing the stone house in Miami, he transferred many of his paintings. When I went to the Deering Estate in January, I did not appreciate the art as much as I should have. The things I have learned and seen during my time in this course made me understand that art is history and it being preserved is extremely important. Now that I have an understanding of such things, it was baffling to be in one room with 5 original works done by Picasso, and even some by El Greco. 

What impressed me the most about Sitges was how much they represent Catalonia. Everywhere I looked in the city I found flags, symbols, quotes, and so many examples of them demonstrating love for their “beloved country.” It is absolutely fascinating how Sitges is one of the popular tourist sites of “Spain” and yet it is not Spanish at all. The people of Catalonia are very admirable, as they have been wanting independence from Spain for hundreds of years, and even though there has been no result, they still have kept their culture strong. 

Barcelona as Text

“Home Away From Home”

by Destiny J. Perez of FIU at Barcelona on June 28, 2022.

Photographs taken and edited by Destiny J. Perez/CC by 4.0.

Barcelona is one of the most unique cities I have ever visited. Since it is the capital of the Catalonia region, this city has a lot of qualities that make it different from everywhere else in Spain. One of the most distinct things in Barcelona is the Catalan Modernism, which was begun in the late 19th century as a cultural movement. Modernism is very much influenced by nature, and for that reason it called my attention so much. In modernist architecture you can find beautiful structures made of non-expensive materials, stained glass windows, and a lot of color. The most famous example of a modernist structure is the Sagrada Familia cathedral. The church was created by Antoni Gaudi, and has been under construction for over 100 years. Most cathedrals are very detailed in the exterior stonework and of course very beautiful, but this one is special. You could study it for hours and still find new detail with every glance. Some of the things depicted in the front of the building are the storyline of Christ and many elements of nature. However, the most impressive part of the cathedral is the inside. When you look around it almost feels as if you are in a garden. So many elements inside this cathedral are different of those of the “traditional” style and it is absolutely incredible. Adding on to the beauty of modernist architecture, there is also El Palau de la Musica in Barcelona. This building is an absolute dream. It is another example of how inexpensive materials can be used to create luxurious looking results. The stained glass roof was designed to embody the sun and surrounding the glass a “garden of roses” covers the rest of the ceiling with over 2,000 roses. These buildings have a way of transforming the environment and transporting anyone who steps inside to a new world. 

Barcelona is very special to me because it reminds me of my home. The two cities are alike for many reasons: the beaches, the energy of the people, the variety in cultures. However, seeing how Modernism has had such an effect on their city and their culture, it made me wish that Miami had something similar. As special as Miami is, there isn’t much to show for it and that is because the cultural development has not been paid attention to. It is such a melting pot city, with more people from all over the world every day, that we have not stopped to consider what unifies us. I believe Miami can have a similar progress to that of Barcelona once we give our city an element that can’t be found anywhere else in the world.

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