Diana Marie Cortada: España as Text 2022

Hey everyone! My name is Diana Cortada and I am currently a senior at FIU majoring in Psychology on a pre-Physician Assistant track. I am on the road to preparing and applying to PA schools this upcoming year. Since the start of my college career, I always felt as though I wanted to have a different college experience. I wanted to eventually join a program through which I could travel, study and meet new individuals who I’d eventually call friends. Although I’d made the attempt to study abroad back in 2020 and the pandemic did it’s finest work at not allowing this to happen, I made a second attempt two years later and I’m finally proud to say it’s been much more successful than the first time around. This is all thanks to Professor Bailly, whose grandiose efforts have pushed us farther into allowing for the fruition of this class and this trip. I’m so excited to see what I’ll learn from this course, from this country and from myself.

Madrid as Text

“The Bridgerton Aesthetic”

By Diana Marie Cortada of FIU in Madrid, Spain on June 9-June 18, 2022.

At first glance, the impression I had from sight seeing the city of Madrid was its immediate resemblance to the images I’d seen on the Netflix series, Bridgerton, which takes place in 1813 London. However, a lot of the architectural aspects and landscapes seemed similar to the historical establishments in Madrid. Being from Miami, I’d made that comparison since I’d never been exposed to a historical site such as a palace or a castle. After attending a guided tour throughout el Palacio Real de Madrid, I was able to adopt a better understanding of the distinctions between the romance series and factual, Spanish royal history.

Built in the 18th century during King Philip V rule, the palace’s outer architectural structure was made of stone base with the addition of an ionic column style and Tuscan pilaster designs (Just Fun Facts, 2019). This style seemed similar to that of Lady Danbury’s estate in the Bridgerton production. I was awestruck by the inside of the palace that consisted of different kinds of fabrics like silk, velvet and Mahogany wood. Walking on the Spanish marble flooring and admiring the art on the high, concave ceilings of each room, I could imagine myself elegantly promenading through each hall in a puff-sleeved pale pink dress. The palace, in contrast to the plot of Bridgerton, was influenced by the religious and artistic aspects of the Spanish royal descent. There were other instances where establishments within Madrid and the series both looked similar like Plaza Mayor and the Hampton Court Palace or the boat riding in El Retiro Park and the boats ridden in Painshill Park on the show.

A lot of the painted murals, portraits and sculptures within the palace strongly represented the role of Catholicism on royalty. Some ceiling murals showed angels from Heaven crowning the king or queen ruling at the time and others showed different peoples in other countries and how they influenced the creation of the country, as shown in the Throne Room of the palace. Each of the 3,418 rooms served its own unique purpose and all held a different pastel colored scheme, most of which ultimately gave me the same feeling: a sense of elegance.


(2019). Interesting facts about the Royal Palace of Madrid: Just fun facts. Just Fun Facts | Fun and interesting site. Retrieved June 13, 2022, from http://justfunfacts.com/interesting-facts-about-the-royal-palace-of-madrid/ 

Toledo as Text

“As We Said Yesterday”

By Diana Marie Cortada of FIU in Toledo, Castilla La Mancha, Spain on June 15, 2022.

It was early afternoon when I felt my calves beginning to give up on me as the incline of the streets felt steeper each step. My fingers moist from the sweat as I glided them across the walls made of brick and stone, a typical North African architectural method used by the Romans to build the city walls of Toledo. I caught myself having difficulty focusing on the direction I was walking since I stared upward, fascinated by all of the beautiful tapestries and flowers hanging from the balconies of buildings in preparation for the celebration of Corpus Christi. I was rightfully corrected by a fellow Toledo resident when assuming that the canopies hanging above our heads were for shade. The canopies were actually a part of the decorative process as a measure of respect. They represented God and the body and blood of Christ. I was amazed by the fact that every part of the city was intentional, and almost always had a purpose to exhibit religious symbolism.

An example of this was the architectural style of the synagogue, Sinagoga Santa Maria la Blanca. Its white minimalistic and simplistic, Moorish architecture was intentionally designed to convey the message that showing off one’s wealth was an insult to the poor, people who were just as rightful to God as rich people. I could feel my mind healing from chaotic thoughts as I walked towards the east side of the church, rightfully so as I was getting closer to the altar, the holy wall, which was perfectly oriented to point towards Jerusalem. However, I felt quite less humbled when I entered the Santa Iglesia Catedral Primada de Toledo, the 13th century gothic cathedral. The building was boisterous. It was almost as though all of the gold, large statues, stained glass windows, pipe organs, and large and tall arches were screaming wealth and desire to be superior. Although it was nothing like I’d ever seen before, it was definitely overwhelming and I could feel this guilt and pressure to have to be submissive to Catholicism when stepping foot into the establishment.

We were told the famous story of the fry cook, a tale that all residents in Toledo knew as a part of their academic curriculum. The fry cook, Luis de Leon, was a man of Jewish origin who was a professor in the University of Castilla La Mancha. He was accused of heresy by a pure Christian, someone envious of his teaching position at the university, and this cost him his entire life. His business, his position, and his family and friends were all stripped away because of the accusation and the man spent 13 years in jail waiting for his trial, which eventually ruled him as innocent. Coming back into the world and getting his life back, the man would say to his students “as we said yesterday” as a way to display his desire to forget what had happened to him, how much time he lost, and continue on with his life. The story impacted me in such a way only because I am someone who usually holds grudges against traumatic experiences. There was definitely a lesson learned from the telling of this story, and what I’d interpreted was that life is too short to stress over things that did not go our way. To let go of the past, good or bad, and to live in the present, continuing to enjoy whatever life we have left here on Earth despite the experiences that deteriorate our innocence, ignorance and happiness.

Cordoba as Text

“No Hay Mal Que Por Bien No Venga”

By Diana Marie Cortada of FIU in Cordoba and Granada, Spain on June 18, 2022 and June 21, 2022.

Walking the narrow, plain white-wall streets of Cordoba, my skin felt relieved from the sun’s radiating heat. It was the shade of the canopies and the moisture projected from the presence of so much greenery and cobblestone that made me feel so refreshed. As we made our way up past the Jewish routes, like those found in Segovia and Toledo, we made it to La Plaza de Triunfo. Here, stood a collection of triunfos, tall columns meant to protect the city, and above them situated was the angel San Rafael of Cordoba. We were told that this angel watched over this city during the COVID-19 pandemic. At this moment, I thought to myself that perhaps San Rafael hovered over my shoulder when I worked in a COVID unit floor in a hospital as a medical-surgical, patient care technician. However traumatizing this experience was for me at the time, it brought me great comfort to believe someone from above was watching over me, making sure I’d come out of that job safely.

Uneasy. That is the word I’d use to describe how I felt when I stepped foot inside the Basilica de San Vicente Martir en Cordoba. I stared silently at the intricate architectural patterns of red brick and white limestone double arches representing God’s complexity. It wasn’t until I could see the transition of these patterns to what looked like another typical cathedral of Spain where I felt like I’d been showered in overwhelming guilt. The cross above the mosque, as though Christians tried to show that their God was above all else, made me feel angry towards those before me who practiced my religion. It was embarrassing almost, like I was in the setting of where it took place but not the time and somehow still felt as though I was. This was because I learned that to this day, humans behaved as though we were still in 1236. The restrictions set on Muslims who desired to pray in the church, which was originally a mosque, are reinforced by security guards asking them to stand from their knees, forbidding Islamic prayer in what was originally their mosque to begin with.

After visiting the Cordoba synagogue and the Basilica, I reflected back on the Stoic teachings of Seneca, the philosopher. He believed that one should avoid complaining and losing time, and try to make the best out of your situation by maintaining a positive attitude. This ideology is one I am very fond of since I tend to look on the brighter side of situations. In Spanish, the people of Cordoba have a saying related to the ideology and it is “no hay mal que por bien no venga,” which is translated to “every cloud has a silver lining” meaning there can be hope in every difficult situation.

Sevilla as Text

“En El Septimo Cielo”

By Diana Marie Cortada of FIU in Sevilla, Spain on June 18- June 22, 2022.

I succumbed to the sound let out by the organs playing while mass took place during our tour of La Catedral de Sevilla. It was in this moment that I carefully observed, in detail, the majestic architectural design of the cathedral. The music gave the stained glass windows more color, it gave the wooden carvings more definition, it made the light peaking through dome roof structures much brighter. The music gave the cathedral life… then three pigeons flew into the building elegantly and soared to the beat of the music. The cathedrals, however grandiose they were, seemed like museums up until now, when I finally felt the presence of God. In absolute awe, I shut my eyes tightly and felt tears racing down my cheek. It was as if I’d integrated myself to the fantasy of being an individual existing in the Middle Ages and all that mattered, in that moment, was God. It was the circular designs of the stained glass window at the end of the church that made me see God for He was infinite. And there I felt Him, so close, me smiling at His comforting presence.

I stared upward at the Giralda, the tower that hovered over the cathedral and immediately, I thought about my family’s journey to the Americas, escaping the tragedy of the communist regime in Cuba. It was the tower’s resemblance to the Freedom Tower in Downtown Miami that reminded me of the appreciation I felt for my family’s sacrifices, which have ultimately led me to my attendance in this program, seeing the city that inspired Coral Gables from the top of the tower. Even further back than this, I could picture my ancestors crossing Torre de Oro, making their way through the perilous Mediterranean sea to Cuba searching for business opportunities. Making a connection to Islam from what I’d learned while touring the Alhambra, my experience in Sevilla made me feel like I was “en el septimo cielo”, in the seventh Heaven. This is in reference to the Islamic belief that Heaven is a pyramid that corresponds to the goodness of the people. In the seventh Heaven, it is said that it is the gate below the throne of God, which is exactly how I felt. Smelling the freshness of its gardens, swimming in its rivers of honey and tasting the sweetness of its fruits.

Barcelona as Text

“Moving Forward”

By Diana Marie Cortada of FIU in Sevilla, Spain on June 23- June 29, 2022.

The taxi ride to Barceloneta beach cured my homesickness. The reason was because the structural and demographic design of all of Barcelona, what was once known as the Roman city Barcino, reminded me so much of home. We were on our way to the Sant Joan Fire Festival when I caught a glimpse at a section of the city that looked exactly like Downtown Miami by the Bayside area. In Miami, this area is where the Freedom Tower is located, and so passing by here reminded me of my Cuban immigrant family and all the stories of Cubans who made it across the border and started their lives in Miami from scratch. I realized soon after that Barcelona’s history related much to that of my Cuban roots. The Catalan flag was actually inspired by the Cuban flag because of Cuba’s independence. Its stripes were only yellow and red in color because of its legendary attribution to the Normans defeat by Wilfred the Hairy who was rewarded with a gold shield by the king. The yellow stripes represent the gold shield while the red stripes represent Wilfred’s blood which the king traced onto the shield to show Wilfred’s courage and bravery during battle. 

Something unique about Barcelona that I thoroughly enjoyed was the amount of representation in the Modernismo style. Modernismo architecture was the way they made historical buildings in today’s day and age. It consists of using industrial items to make it look organic. It could be seen on the streets where 4Cats resided, the restaurant and bar where Picasso had his first exhibition. They were more noticeable around the city as we explored it, however, I was left in awe when entering the Palau de La Musica Catalana, which was built by modernist Lluís Domènech I Montaner in the early 1900s. It was the use of inexpensive modern materials to make the design look like nature, architectural alchemy. The moment the organs played, I closed my eyes and felt like I was once again in the Manuel Artime in Little Havana performing my pointe solo wearing the heaviest, yet most glamorous tutu. In this moment I could see the elegance of the Palau by its intricate mosaics of flowers and peacock designs, and I could feel the presence of the 18 women on stage with me. 

I’d already been exposed to so many cathedrals, that seeing the outside of La Sagrada Familia felt as any other. It wasn’t until I entered the establishment where I was in awe, as I’d entered what looked like a forest. There was much movement in the building, as there was in the Palau, as a result of the modernist style of the building and Gaudi’s touch. This was when I realized that the Basilica was a celebration of Earth as God’s creation. It was heavily ornate with organic and natural elements such as animals, plants and divine entities to show the diversity and stability of God’s creation. It was truly surreal, especially seeing the yellows, oranges, reds, blues and greens allowed in by the stained glass design, of which I consciously made the connection of the color scheme to the nativity facade. It was the constant representation of diversity and modern outlook of the city on culture that I realized Barcelona was moving forward as a society and gaining the cultural independence they longed for. 

Sitges as Text

“Mar i Cel”

By Diana Marie Cortada of FIU in Sitges, Spain on June 26, 2022.

Walking into Maricel, I fell curious to the presence of an egg that laid still above the fountain to the left of the entrance. My eyes pulled me towards the egg due to its odd location. Why was it there? On that particular fountain? Did wild birds reside there? Professor Bailly had informed me that the egg was actually used for the religious celebration of Corpus Christi in Sitges. Astonished by how insignificant the egg seemed and how significant it actually was, I began to think of the architectural components of Maricel, Charles Deering’s home in Sitges. The simplicity of an egg’s pearl matte white shell could be compared to the ceramic brick used to design the architectural style of the outside of the house in respect to the rest of the town’s minimalistic aesthetic. An egg yolk inside an egg shell gives an egg life… it gives an egg significance. Well, the inside architectural design of Maricel and its history gave the establishment life.

Miquel Utrillo, the engineer and artist who built Maricel, left me in awe at the bright reds, blues and greens, amongst other colors, used to illuminate the walls in each room in the building. The Noucentista architectural style was still apparent, even after its debut in 1918. Modern but orderly, and yet still completely different from la Sagrada Familia in Barcelona that adopted the Modernismo architectural style thanks to Gaudi. One of the first founders of the modernist architectural style, Santiago Rusiñol, contributed the the creation of Els Quatre Gats. This was a bar and cafe where many modernist artists, including Gaudi, would meet and also where Pablo Picasso had his first exhibition. In the Museum of Cau Ferrat, just five steps away from Maricel, Deering had five of Picasso’s paintings hanging on the wall of one of the rooms in the museum. I was astonished at the fact that such a small room held such prestigious paintings.

Author: dcort028

Dog lover and travel enthusiast pursuing a career in medicine as a physician associate.

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