Francisco Fuertes is currently a junior in FIU majoring in chemistry. Always having a curiosity for the human body, he plans to attend medical school after obtaining his degree. He was born in Miami, Florida, and has a strong connection to the Dominican Republic where his family moved from. On his free time, Francisco likes to learn and experience new things, such as different cultures, languages, cuisines, and many more.
Madrid as Text
El Palacio Real
By: Francisco Fuertes at El Palacio Real, June 10, 2022
Coming from a country that has no monarchy or royal tradition, El Palacio Real was my first experience of royalty. I must say that this experience was life changing. To see the grandiosity and the lives these kings and queens lived shocked me. It is a very different life than what the common people like us have to go through. The rooms were painted from roof to floor by the best painters of their time, the walls and furniture shined with the brightest golds of the world. It was a breath-taking experience and one that I would not seize to forget. This palace, to me, shows the level of power that Spain has and once had. However, where did they get all of these riches? Surprisingly, most of it is not even of Spanish origin, but of the lands of the Americas and of Asia. Peru, for example, was one of the lands that lost a lot of its gold to Spain, and like professor Bailly stated, to make the plates that the servants use to serve the royal family. What does this say about Spain? It makes me wonder if this Spanish palace can even be called Spanish, as the fortunes come from the regions they stole and pillaged from. It saddens me that I give the credit of all these beautiful artworks and artistry to the Spaniards which they probably wouldn’t have been able to achieve if it wasn’t for the countries they conquered. All of this being said, I do not believe that the Spain of today should be hated because of it. These are different times with different people who do not agree with the actions their country committed in the past. Holding people in today’s Spanish society will not solve anything, as they never chose their nationality or what their country did. What is important is that we realize that the Spanish empire would not be the Spanish empire without the necessary resources and materials taken from others. I think the thing that really ties all of this together are the statues of the former kings on the outside of this magnificent building, one in particular that calls my attention. There is a statue of the former king of Peru, holding that before Spanish rule, it was he who was a leader of the country Spain would later overtake. It is a tribute and an acknowledgment for the importance of him and the countries they conquered like Peru that they were also an important aspect of the empire.
Toledo as Text
Greeting El Greco
By: Francisco Fuertes in Toledo, Spain on June 15, 2022
How hot can it possibly be? My palms feel like little lakes as I clench onto my phone to take my next picture. My face and body are sweating like I’m trapped in an oven. I give shade to my phone and pray for some good news. 104?!?! Is this thing broken? I glance around to my peers to see if they are also experiencing the ambush of heat. A soft whisper tiptoes through my ear as the tour guide leads us to our next destination. We see stone after stone after stone, beautifully placed as if Mother Nature built it herself. We begin our walk into a small courtyard, full of trees and shade. I take my position right under the tree in the corner, hiding from the army of UV rays. I stare blankly at the tour guide trying my best to pay attention and not think about a cold bottle of water. Not knowing what to expect, the class marches into a dark, quiet room with many people huddled around the right side. I twist my torso to them only to be met by his greatest masterpiece. As I stand there as breathless as the Count of Orgaz, I watch his soul escaping its hollow casket and into the arms of an angel. “As you can see on the left…” Wait, that’s his son, and that’s him? I don’t believe it. But as awestruck as I was, I did see the resemblance of the nose, and the peering eyes staring into our souls as if we were next. I follow the trail of white going up until I am on top of the dirty clouds and into the bright light of Heaven. Mary, Jesus, and the apostles all come to greet me and welcome me in. “And if you look farther up to the left of Mary, you will see a set of keys…” Each sentence crawling out of the tour guide’s mouth latches onto my ears and entices me more and more to get lost in this painting. Every little inch of this masterpiece has a meaning, whether it be the reflection on the Count’s armor, or the painting on the bottom has another piece to place in the never ending puzzle of insanity. I slither my way through the crowd until I reach the separating bar, trembling to get my phone and take the perfect picture. No, needs better lighting…; No, this angle seems a bit better…; No, it’s too blurry, I will take another. I finally got the perfect picture, one that captivated me even through the bright screen in my hands. As I walk away, taking my last look at the Count of Orgaz’s lifeless body, I step outside into the heat, and slowly drink my water sip by sip.
Córdoba as Text
Verses from the Mosque-Cathedral
By: Francisco Fuertes at the Mosque-Cathedral of Córdoba on June 18, 2022
There is no sign of wealth,
No sign of greed,
No sign of arrogance,
All I can see with my two eyes are smooth, beige walls.
Walls that reflect like mirrors.
What lies buried in this fortress of nothing?
It does not call attention upon itself, nor does it attract,
It stands there waiting calmly, allowing those who are worthy to enter.
A mystery of red and white arches swing across one’s eyes like monkeys on a vine.
They are as endless as the reflections these mirrors create.
Like all treasures, this one lies in the confines of the fortress,
Hidden from the thieves that lurk the surrounding streets.
No treasure should be left out for others to point their dirty pupils at.
When one finally explores one’s inner crevices, then the real gold can be discovered.
They refuse to not,
Resisting all urge to remember what it was really used for.
They take the time to try,
Taking what others throw away and treasure it
Byzantine, Roman, marble, limestone,
They are pleased to find purpose in the ruins.
To others, ruins would ruin the new,
But to them, ruins bring reformation,
A rebirth of the unwanted and wasted back to necessity.
Tall, skinny, short, or wide,
They bring balance to their structures.
Obscurity and variability are the least of their worries,
For consistency through this nonuniformity is found.
As many things in this world fall victim to dispensability, we have lost the vision to find use in the used.
Left to rot for eternity, it will find a new purpose in having none.
Sevilla as Text
Sevilla and All of its Beauties
By: Francisco Fuertes in Sevilla, Spain and the Cathedral of Sevilla on June 19, 2022
Sevilla, a city of uniqueness.
Found in the south of Spain,
It is a place many people call home,
And a place where many tourists envy
Warm shades of white dominate the city walls,
Allowing its friends yellow and red to find shelter.
With so many beautiful alleys and streets,
Music lurks at every corner.
The food entices you with its savory aromas like a harpoon,
Reeling you in every step you take to a table of wines and tapas
Spanish, Italian, German, English, Portuguese….
There is never a conversation that will be colorless.
And don’t forget about their residents!
For they are always proud of their city.
Whether it is for their politicians, their monuments, or football team,
There is not a local you can find without love for Sevilla.
Standing on top of the structure lies its guardian,
Towering over all of Sevilla.
Her gaze stretches all of the land,
Protecting the cathedral from heretics.
Bells lie below her feet,
Smashing in unison so everyone is reminded of her presence.
She holds herself tall as the Catholics rule victorious,
With her tantalizing tower to prove it.
But let’s not forget how she got there,
And the souls that she banished because of it.
Under the bell tower lies a Muslim minaret,
Carrying her like Atlas with Roman carvings as his footholds.
Without the Romans and Muslims forming the foundation,
The Catholics would never be able to create such a beautiful structure.
When reaching the destination, it is easy to forget the journey.
But without the journey, how would she reach the top?
Barcelona as Text
An Experience From Sagrada Familia
By: Francisco Fuertes at Sagrada Familia Barcelona, Catalonia (Spain) on June 25, 2022
It is as if it is eagerly climbing all the way to the heavens. Each year it becomes more and more mature, growing into the plan they have intended for it. Coming from the main entrance, it greets you with Jesus’ life. Scenes of his birth and his childhood flash before your eyes like a kaleidoscope. Animals pounce along the sides protecting the forest inside. Through the doors, the numerous leaves give you shade from the scorching Spanish sun. You take your first step and there it is: pillar upon pillar holding it like stilts. An endless amount of colors burst into the room. Blues, reds, yellows, greens, all entrap you in their arms and rip the breath from your lungs. Your eyes are frozen balls as you stare helplessly at pattern after pattern of this building. The roof becomes more rippled every time you look up, as if glass was smashed by a hammer. The animals, the plants, the people- it all creates the forest that Gaudi planned for. As you make your way to the future main entrance, you catch a glimpse of the crucifix. Something is different about this crucifix, and it is painfully noticeable. Jesus is not immobile or dead, but is given life by his posture. The human necessity of survival, shown in the curled position and the contraction of his diaphragm. It gives life to Jesus that other crucifixions don’t- it captures his human side, a side of anguish and despair.
Gaudi was able to capture life and movement through architecture. The stained glass windows are an amazing example of this, as it moves when light moves. The roof is another. Just like nature trends to disorder, so does the design of this roof. However, there’s a code and a pattern, just like everything does in nature. Gaudi’s vision of a Church is not only to venerate the Christian god, but to venerate the complex creatures that roam this world. For it is us, the animals and the plants that are his representatives. It is a celebration of the beauty, of the intricacy, and of the necessity of nature.
Sitges as Text
By: Francisco Fuertes at Museus de Sitges in Sitges, Spain on June 26, 2022
As the days approached our trip to visit Sitges, my friends and I began to realize that our time in Spain was coming to an end. So many places explored, so many topics learned, but none’s importance to Miami’s influence was talked about more than Sitges. When joining this class, I thought this day trip would be, in a sense, the least relevant one, as neither I nor my fellow travelers knew much about it. The day finally arrived and I was excited. Constantly throughout the train ride I was reminded of the reason why we came: Charles Deering. It was he that acted as the connection between Spain and Miami. I stepped out of the train and felt the sea salt touch my face. I could not help but feel nostalgic of my hometown’s beaches, but the city did not scream Miami to me. We walked along the paths of this quaint city until our eyes glazed over the museum we intended to visit. We did the tour and I loved the city; The buildings were in harmony with the white waves that washed the shore of the nearby beach. Although it was the town that I was enamored with, I did not see the ida y vuelta of Deering’s house to Miami. The trip was sprinting to the finish line and before I knew I was to endure 17 hours of traveling to get back to Miami. After the long flights and the delays, I fell asleep, but when I woke, I decided to take a walk around Coral Gables like I used to. The whites and the blues and the reds and the yellows, it all led back to Sitges. I began to notice the subtle styles of pillar carvings, and the choices of materials used to build the houses. There was one house in particular that was a clear match. It had the roof, the colors, even the tile work on the walls barricading it from the rest of the neighborhood. It was there where I, standing stone still in amazement, found this inspiration. The problem was not that Sitges did not resemble Miami, but that Miami resembled Sitges. This began an introspective dialogue that I have been having to this day: Who am I? Do I really know where I come from and how I act? After living in Miami for 19 years of my life, I was never introduced to the idea of a clear connection between here and Europe, but the more I look around, the more I see the influence of the Mediterranean. What I find myself questioning as I write this blog is what connections have I missed all my life in my second home, the Dominican Republic. Having been to Spain now, I can say that next time I visit Santo Domingo that I will find this lost trace. Now understanding a little more about the potential Spanish influence on both places, I ask where I am truly from. Is this a Miami thing? A Dominican thing? Or has it really been a vestigial Spanish root that has been covered by the dirt of the land. The only way to find this answer is through experience. With the knowledge I have gained from the course, I will use it to uncover what has been hidden from me all my life, and find inspiration in newfound explorations.