Lauren Velazquez: España as Text 2022

Lauren in Coney Island, New York. Photo taken by Leslie Velazquez // CC 4.0

Lauren Velazquez is a sophomore at Florida International University pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Biology on a pre-med track; aspiring to become an Anesthesiologist. Lauren loves to explore, which gives her the opportunity to not only gain new knowledge but a new perspective. And she is able to do this through John Bailly’s class: Spain Study Abroad: Miami y España: Ida y Vuelta. 

Madrid as Text

New P.O.V

By Lauren Velazquez of FIU at Madrid, Spain on June 11, 2022

Photo of Carlos III and Tio Pepe sign in Puerta del Sol taken by Lauren Velazquez // CC 4.0

As John William Bailly once said: “Madrid is a city that has nothing yet, so much at the same time.”

Madrid is not a city that is known for its beaches (though there are not any), there is not a large valley nor any enormous mountains to view and explore. It is a city full of history and a story in each corner you turn. Madrid contains many monuments around the city that exhibit the history that their citizens have experienced which has shaped Madrid to where it has gotten today. There are so many things around the city that have such fascinating stories. From the statues, monuments, and even the art pieces in the museum. These events that created these stories are the events that have shaped  Madrid to be the way it is today. Madrid did not get the “fame” it has until Felipe II pointed it out to be the new capital of Spain, which caused lots of attraction and attention to Madrid, causing an increase in population and later intense development of the city under Charles III. 

Photo of el Oso y el Madroño in Puerta del Sol taken by Lauren Velazquez // CC 4.0

Some of the most powerful, influential, and meaningful figures in Madrid are created by the Spanish artist that create amazing pieces that have not only made an impression in the art industry with new artistic styles but also the importance and connections these paintings have to society.  Pablo Picasso is a Spanish artist that had great achievements in the art industry. His talent and creativity got him very far in his career due to his ability to think outside the box to explore and create new styles. Art is a form of expression that can say many different things to those that view the art. Picasso was one that preferred to make his art open to interpretation. Everyone who viewed his art was able to come up with their own explanation and description due to the different perspectives that people have. Picasso (and Baroque) then began using a new form of art that they created: cubism. This new style of art came after impressionism.

Being able to go to the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte: Reina Sofia, gave me the opportunity to experience this form of art that Picasso had started to use. Cubism is a style that allows the viewer to perceive time and movement. This is something that had never been done before in the art industry, it seemed to be revolutionary. It was very fascinating to experience such a “simple” yet such complex painting that created a new movement in person. This changed the way people were able to perceive pieces of art because it was no longer a still shot of a royal family, or of a train, or the landscape. With cubism anything could be painted and perceived to anything the viewer wanted it to be seen as. Experiencing this form of art to show movement and time, made it seem to me that this style of painting can display an object as if it were in another dimension. There are so many different angles, positions and movements that people and objects can go through in their time of existence. The style of cubism can be interpreted in a way which tells you that there are many different forms in which one may exist through space in time. This tells us that we are not just stuck in one position or just doing one thing. We have the ability to move as we please through time. Another way I viewed cubism was that there are many different perspectives to one situation (or object). Due to the difference in where you are looking from in your physical stance (from a physical perspective) or what you have come into contact with in life that has shaped you as a person; the variation in experiences will alter the perspective that the individual has. I believe this can come off as a very important lesson and I am amazed I can see that simply through a style of painting.

Toledo as Text

White Washed

By Lauren Velazquez of FIU at Toledo, Spain on June 15, 2022.

Photo taken by Lauren Velazquez // CC 4.0

Once our train arrived to the station in Toledo, and I hopped off and took a look around I felt as if I had time traveled. This wasn’t any regular train ride, this train took me back in time into the Medieval Times. The taxis weren’t taxis any more, they were horses that were pulling carts with people in them. The town was surround by large stone walls for protection with a river around it. In order for us to get into town, we had to cross a bridge. Once we entered the town, we were really transported back in time because of how the town was decorated. They were preparing for their celebration of Corpus Christi. It truly was like living in a fairy tale. Everything seemed to beautiful and perfect, nothing could have gone wrong. The town was smothered in flowers and there was a canopy that provided a nice cool shade while also paying respect to God and lead to the cathedral. Some buildings still had their original doors from approximately the 16th century; the doors were designed in a way where there were two doors in one. A large door with a smaller door in it. The large door was made for those that had horses and would enter their home with their horse. For these situations, those that had horses had a stall in the home for their horse. The smaller door was then used for those that traveled on foot, usually those that were poor. These details are the ones that take you back in time and make you feel as if you’re a princess waiting for a knight to come on a horse and sweep you off your feet. But of course those times have changed. 

Photo taken by Lauren Velazquez // CC 4.0
Photo of Synagogue white washed taken by Lauren Velazquez // CC 4.0

The town is filled with lots of history in it. Toledo was a city that was very religious and had lots of variety in the religion that was practiced. There was Christianity, Islamic, and Jewish. The influence of these parties are seen around the city with the architecture styles. As time passed and christianity began to dominate Toledo, those that didn’t practice christianity either had to convert or they were expelled from the city. What amazed me the most is how the city covered up traces of the other religions by converting the synagogues or mosques into churches and/or white washing them. Now white wash was a term I have heard before in the scenario of saying someone is white washed because they lack culture. The synagogue in the city had been painted white; this action removed all of the color off of the walls in the building. This altered the environment in the building. They say that white washing a building was to not only reflect heat off to keep it cool inside but to also disinfect the building due to the plagues that were reoccurring during the time. When these colors were removed the purpose and meaning of the synagogue inside has been stripped away. While the outside of the buildings should always be plain in order to maintain their beliefs of not showing off wealth. The inside shows off the richness. The inside of these religious buildings were colorful, displayed their wealth with gold decorations and a large beautiful alter. Put together it all represents their culture and a form of identity for them, it is their safe place, their sanctuary. But all of this is stripped away once the synagogue was white washed. They no longer have a culture or an identity. All that was left behind was a patch that wasn’t touched in order to show their history. 

Being white washed is something I can also come to recognize has possibly happened to me. Growing up with a Cuban background in American has also stripped me from my “true” culture and identity. I am in a ground between being seen as Cuban or American. If I were to visit Cuba, the culture and background I was raised with I would be considered “white washed” and “gringa” because I am from the states and not fully Cuban, I will be seen as a fraud. It will be as if my culture will shun me and I’d have to convert myself to fully American. In 1492, the jewish had to make the choice to either be expelled from Toledo or to convert to Christianity. Simply with these two choices, they were already being white washed by having to change their culture, religion and identity all because those that were rulers wanted to spread Christianity. 

Seville as Text

Is this my Origin?

By Lauren Velazquez of FIU at Seville, Spain on June 19, 2022.

Photo taken by Lauren Velazquez // CC 4.0

It is amazing to think that my ancestors had passed through Seville’s tower of gold in order to leave Spain to arrive to Cuba. Standing by that tower and I could already imagine my great great grandma getting on a boat to sail off to Cuba to start a new life. If it was the way she got to Cuba, it is unknown in my family. It also made me wonder why leave Spain? Could it have been that she was Jewish and had to leave in order to not convert ? But, yet again, all of this is unknown. Seville was the main city to be in, everything that left to the Americas went through there and everything that came back from the Americas too. This is also the start of the inquisition where they Muslims and Jews begin to either leave or convert because the Spanish have a mission to spread christianity. Seville was the “it girl” of Spain since it’s where everyone had to go through to enter and to leave, but after they Spanish Empire started to weaken so did Seville fame.

Because of the Seville lost some of its fame, they decided to build La Plaza de España. This was built in order to bring life and the spark back but this spark died down quick since the Great Depression hit. Today going to La Plaza de España is an amazing experience. Walking in there you are greeted by all the regions of spain and a beautiful river surround the front half. In this river you can row boats while looking at fish and ducks in the water. The best experience I have had at the plaza was watching the street Flamenco show. The dancers let of such a strong energy that show their passion and devotion  to the dance and their culture. It was a spectacular experience that I will never forget. Flamenco dancing comes from the Africans that have mixed with the Gypsy in Spain; which then goes to the Americas and turns into tap dancing. In my eyes Seville, is the origin that then spills out into not only the Americas but the rest of Spain. 

Photo taken by Lauren Velazquez // CC 4.0

Granada as Text

Outside of the Media

By Lauren Velazquez of FIU at Granada, Spain on June 21, 2022.

Photo taken by Lauren Velazquez // CC 4.0

When you close your eyes to imagine a Islamic influenced castle with a tint of red: The Alhambra should pop up into your head.  

Granada was founded in the 13th century by the Nasrid. Granada was a state that was heavily influenced by Muslim religion. Being and going to the Alhambra was like leaving to another world because it was so different from the rest of the town. The Alhambra had its own own water system that supplied water to the whole palace. The streets that surrounded the palace were all made to aid their daily lives with the needs of their religion; an example of this is the mosques, hammams, stores that shared interest of their cultural needs. It was paradise for the Muslim. 

The Alhambra is also know for its jaw-dropping architecture. The beauty in the Islamic culture and Muslim religion is shown through out the palace. Each of the choices made when building the Alhambra had a purpose and a connection to God. This shows their devotion to God. The Arabic writing along the walls that talk about God. The six foot pool outside that’s so flat and calm that it’s a mirror to the sky; mirroring heaven. The ceilings inside the Alhambra start as a square and spiral into a circle as an illusion. It is the perfection and infinity of God through architectural representation. Although on the outside, it still looks like a square. One of the largest domes in the palace is filled with stars and is seven stories high. These stars and the seven floors represent heaven and where you go to in the afterlife. All of these examples come to show the love that the muslims have for God and the beauty in the religion. 

Photo taken by Lauren Velazquez // CC 4.0

The experience I had at the Alhambra has been one that is life changing for me. Being there present at one do the most beautiful Islamic influenced palaces and home of the muslim religion is eye opening. You see the beauty in their religion and see what their beliefs really are. This gave me a different perspective of the religion in terms of what the media portrays. Growing up, I have always seen the Muslim religion being shamed and made out to be this evil religion. It was said that they just wanted to harm themselves and others and did not care about God. While growing up every time there was a terrorist attack the media blamed it on the religion if it came from someone that was middle eastern. The media has shaped the perspective society had on the Muslim religion and after going to their roots and seeing their mosques and palaces I get to see the truth for myself. These aren’t bad people, their religion isn’t evil either. It is a beautiful religion that I am grateful I got to learn about and experience from where it started, when we were all one before we diverged. 

Barcelona as Text

Homeland vs Motherland

By Lauren Velazquez of FIU at Barcelona, Spain on June 26, 2022.

Photo taken by Lauren Velazquez // CC 4.o

Barcelona is known for being the capital of Catalunya. Catalunya is another region in Spain that is independent and are not considered Spainard, they are Catalonia. They have their own identity and culture compared to those that are from Spain. They have their own flag to represent their region and their independence. There is a tale tied to their flag and how it came to be. According to Robert Hughes, “Louis dipped his fingers in Guifré’s blood and dragged them down the shield.” This is where their red strips are derived from. Their flag also consists of a blue triangle with a star that was inspired by Cuba and their desires for independence. This is what Catalunya and Cuba have in common, they shared a dream of achieving independence. Knowing this information made me mentally transport back home to Miami. Each city I have visited in Spain has made me make a new connected to where I believe my culture and identify comes from: Cuba. It is remarkably interesting to see that Cuba had been heavily influenced by Spain, yet this time Catalunya was influenced by Cuba. I find this concept to be captivating because for as long as I remember, Europe, specifically Spain has been one of the largest influences on other territories in the Western Hemisphere. What came to mind when I was told that Catalunya’s flag was influenced by Cuba and their desire for independence it put a heavy weight on my heart. All I could think about is all the trouble Cuba has gone through to gain independence and get out of the terrible state they are in yet there has been no progress. They seem to be going backwards in time, further away from independence each day. It is almost as if the roles should be reversed, and Cuba be influenced by Catalunya since they achieved independence. At the same time, seeing their flag and knowing their history gave me a sense of hope for Cuba and what can happen for them later in the future.  

Sitges as Text

Here and There

By Lauren Velazquez of FIU at Sitges, Spain on June 26,2020.

Photo taken by Diana Cortada of Friends // CC 4.0

Before going to Sitges, I had visited Charles Deering’s home in Miami. This was an imitation of his home back in Spain. Visiting the Deering estate in Miami transported you to Catalunya Spain. The home consisted of Islamic, and Gothic influenced arches that were used in Spain, that he brought back to the Americas. Walking outside his home, the view you have is Biscayne Bay. I remember looking at the bay and enjoying the view; as I blinked, my next view was the Mediterranean Sea.

Photo taken by Lauren Velazquez // CC 4.0

I was transported to Sitges. I was at the Charles Deering property in Spain. Charles Deering donated to his home which became el Palau de Maricel. This is one of Sitges’ biggest pride. Exploring his home in Spain I was able to make connections between both of his properties. The style of architecture stayed consistent, as well as his love for art. Both properties had amazing views of the bodies of water that surrounded the homes. Sitges is a beautiful, whitewashed town; they have lots of passion for the town, as well as their identity of being Catalonian. Being in Sitges gave me a feeling of being closer to Charles and as if I were visiting an old friend in their home country. Being in his old home in Spain felt welcoming and gave me a sense of comfort, while being sent back in time, while also feeling at home. The beauty of the town and the amusement of the home filled me with so much excitement and warmth. Sitges was exceptionally good to me, making it an unforgettable experience because right after we left his home, we hit the beach. Being at the beach really made me feel at home. I pretended I was Deering leaving my home on a beautiful Sunday morning to share a fun beach day with friends that eventually became family. I will forever hold a special place for Sitges in my heart and recommend others to experience Deering’s home in Miami to then visit his home in Sitges.  

Author: lauren velazquez

I am a student at FIU pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Biology, participating in Spain Study Abroad 2022.

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