The Independent Feeling of Spain
by Jeanine Prado of FIU July 17, 2022
Ernest Hemingway once said Spain was “the country that I loved more than any other except my own.” How could such an influential and experienced man decide that a country that is objectively behind is the best one he has ever had aside from the one he was born in? It’s a question I asked myself when preparing for this trip; am I going to fall in love with Spain?
I have never been away from home too long, at least not without my family. So going on this trip I had to prepare myself as an independent person. From the moment I stepped into the security check of Miami International Airport I knew I was starting the adventure I always dreamed of having.
In a way too short three weeks I experienced every emotion I could feel, I met new people, I cried, I learned and most importantly I lived. Spain did not teach me to be independent, I already was before getting there, it taught me that I can live. I learned that even if life threw me to the side of a mountain or left me without communication or even dropped me in the middle of an unfamiliar place, I can make it. Without this experience I would be rushing around Miami trying to please everyone I could while going to class and working; I love my life that way but I learned that sometimes I need to slow down, take a walk, learn something new and be satisfied with where I am at.
Madrid (Letras) – Comfortable Rituality
Recuerdo ese viaje en busca del amor / Vagar por las calles, olé mi viejo Madrid – Madrid ThaliaMadrid by Thalia
As a whole, Madrid feels older; more stuck in custom. Every corner you turned there was a restaurant bar with locals drinking a coffee and having tapas or an apartment building that looks just like it did when it was built. There is some modernness but to me it feels almost unfitting. Madrid is a place of routine and it does not waver from it.
El Barrio de las Letras is the best example of Madrid since it almost seems untouched by time. Sure here and there they have things that have changed and new businesses taking over old ones but it does not change the feeling of the barrio. This area is a breath of fresh air since its ritual is so deeply rooted. Letras combines the beauty of literature, simple entertainment, shopping and traditional eating and drinking. The area, mostly at night, fills with book lovers who want to relish in the almost bohemian feel of the neighborhood and spend the night enjoying a tapa with a pint in the Plaza de Santa Ana. There you can find a statue of the poet Garcia Lorca that is often praised with flowers and poetry fans surrounding it. Nearby, houses and hangouts of important figures like Lope de Vega and Cervantes are immortalized by their status. Even restaurants that have stood there for ages have been graced by non Spaniards like the strong Ernest Hemingway.
Letras stands out from the rest of the neighborhoods of Madrid. Bordering Sol and El Paseo del Prado, El Barrio de Letras is recognizable by the inscriptions of famous Spanish writers lining the streets and extending all throughout the neighborhood. This is the place even Spaniards from different parts of Spain want to go because of how special it is; nothing else in the whole country is like it.
Sevilla – Pleasurable and Unmeasurable
“Thanks be to God,” says the Admiral; “the air is soft as in April in Seville, and it is a pleasure to be in it, so fragrant it is.”Christopher Columbus
Sevilla rocked me. I did not expect to love it as much as I did but I fell for it. Something about the subtle modernity and calmness of Sevilla made me love it. Maybe it was the weather or the taxi driver who talked about how much he loved his little city or maybe it was the view from the top of a hotel roof bar but something about Sevilla struck me.
The capital of Andalucia (the part of Spain that I kept getting asked if I was from) is nothing short of beautiful. This now contemporary city was first an Iberian town which was taken over by Romans and then in 711 fell back into muslim rule until being given up to Ferdinand the III in the 1200’s. This change in cultures allowed for Sevilla to become an amazing and historic place.
Now under Catholic rule, Sevilla became the center of exploration and manipulation of the Americas. Its status as a city rose and became the center of trade with the New World. As it happens often in history, they focused on only exploiting the New World so its economy began to fail. Nonetheless, Sevilla saw greatness as its culture grew stronger and people began to become known.
Don Quixote, a popular story amongst hispanics, was written in Sevilla by Miguel de Cervantes. Even if many do not remember it or have never read it, the book still remains notable to many; just by the shadows of a slim man on a horse and a chubbier one on a donkey we know that it is Don Quixote y Sancho Panza. This book is so rooted with history that it came from the inside of a jail cell in Sevilla, Spain. Even now when people often forget the importance of Sevilla and how it was a big part of building Spain into a great country during its prime but with things like Don Quijote y “Las Meninas” (Diego Velazquez is from Sevilla) we realize how important it is; how a good part of Spain’s history and fame is rooted there.
Barcelona (La Sagrada Familia and Sant Marti) – Home Away From Home
“Gaudí’s primordial soup, Langdon thought, again startled by how perfectly the city of Barcelona dovetailed with Edmond’s curiosity about the beginnings of life.”Dan Brown
The place I wanted to go to the most was Barcelona. I never understood why it caught my attention so much or why I wanted to go there so badly. After being there a while I realized that it is probably the closest thing to what Miami is; to what feels like home to me. Barceloneta is just like Miami Beach and Las Ramblas is Lincoln Road and the downtown area is full of nightlife that rivals Miami’s. There are so many similarities but also a lot of differences.
La Sagrada Familia has nothing to compare to in Miami except that it is always in construction like the highways and streets in Miami but I digress. Time magazine called La Sagrada Familia “Barcelona’s unfinished masterpiece” which it is. It is Antoni Gaudi’s best work even though it is still years from being finished. Over 100 years old and surpassing its architect in life, the building is still being built and is said to be finished in 2026. Even being unfinished, it is one of the most excellent displays of catholicism. Since Gaudi was a devout catholic his building had to represent that in height and construction. Outside baroque displays of the birth of Jesus and the Passion are shown. Each figure forms an entryway preparing you for the beauty that will be the inside. Figures are perfectly sculpted and placed in their place and each thing has a reason for being there. The inside is nothing short of amazing, though simple. The ‘forest’ inside is made of columns ascending height probably only angels can reach, the islamic influence is evident through the little architectural details and stained glass windows, each side with a color scheme matching life or death, shine in a light that makes every other stained glass church jealous of it. In my 19 years of being shown what catholicism should be this is the best representation of it. There is the big and intimidating side of it but once inside there is a simplicity, a peace and a beauty to it that I only wish could be replicated in every catholic building around the world.
Sant Marti is probably the most like Miami in all of Barcelona. It is one of the most populated districts of Barcelona and has a very strong catalonian presence. Neighborhoods flow as some are more family oriented and have more of a suburban type feel while the others are more business oriented and have more seriousness to it; yet they flow perfectly having merely a tram or street dividing them. There are ten neighborhoods in total that build up Sant Marti, the biggests being Poblenou and El Clot.
Poblenou is east of the center of Barcelona and is located near the beach. It has a lot of Modernista architecture and is deep in Catalan traditionality; catalan influence is very prominent and they do not shy away from their pride. It’s own mini rambla is near the end of the neighborhood, lined with many trendy and modern restaurants and ending at a beach full of locals (differing from the Barceloneta beach which is full of tourists and vendors trying to sell you a ‘mojito’ every two minutes). Poblenou (pueblo nuevo) is full of new age things like design schools, hipster craft beer breweries, art galleries and modern looking companies.
El Clot is much more quaint and seems almost suburb like. It is littered with familiarity as families are seen walking around and people are meeting others to catch up. It sits north of the center of Barcelona and borders the Sagrada Family area. It is drastically different from Poblenou since the most it has is a shopping center and quaint businesses recognizable only to locals. Its catalan and Barcelona pride is probably more prominent and is shown more as apartment buildings are lined with FC Barcelona and Catalan flags. This is one of the least touristy sides of Barcelona as it barely has merchandise being sold or is full of barely legible tourists.
“El que lee mucho y anda mucho, ve mucho y sabe mucho.”Don Quixote
Like the Hemingway quote in the very beginning says, I love Spain more than any other country I have been in aside from my own. I barely do the country justice by writing about it and I could talk about it for hours but Spain is something that needs to be experienced. There is so much beauty and experience that can only be gained by stepping foot in the building and walking the rocky roads. Spain is a country that is independently special and could not be experienced anywhere else.
On this trip I made new friends and left with a new view of the world outside of Miami. I will thank every star in the sky and God for letting me have this experience. I never would have expected to love a place (aside from Miami) as much as I loved Spain but here I am biting my own words and proving myself wrong.
My favorite poet Pablo Neruda once wrote about Spain. He called it “España en el corazón” which translates to “Spain within the heart”; a beautiful title for a touching and tribute poem.
“Bandidos con aviones y con moros,
bandidos con sortijas y duquesas,
bandidos con frailes negros bendiciendo
venían por el cielo a matar niños,
y por las calles la sangre de los niños
corría simplemente, como sangre de niños.
Chacales que el chacal rechazaría,
piedras que el cardo seco mordería escupiendo,
víboras que las víboras odiaran!
Frente a vosotros he visto la sangre
de España levantarse
para ahogaros en una sola ola
de orgullo y de cuchillos!
mirad mi casa muerta,
mirad España rota:
pero de cada casa muerta sale metal ardiendo
en vez de flores,
pero de cada hueco de España
pero de cada niño muerto sale un fusil con ojos,
pero de cada crimen nacen balas
que os hallarán un día el sitio
del corazón.”Parte de la poema “Espana en el Corazón” de Pablo Neruda