Gabriel Marrero: España as Text 2022

Monsterrat. Photo by Gabriel Marrero / CC by 4.0

Gabriel Marrero is a 20-year old Junior at FIU working towards a double major in Accounting and Business Analytics. Born and raised in Miami, he is proud of his hometown and has a deep desire to explore the culture and history of one of the most diverse cities in America.

Madrid as Text

” A New Appreciation”

by Gabriel Marrero of FIU at Madrid, Spain, June 14, 2022

Cibeles Statue. Photo by the General Directorate of Tourism of the Community of Madrid

As I stepped out of the train station to get my first sight of Madrid, the most noticeable aspect of the city screamed at me: it was very hot. The power of the sun and the arid environment was something that caught me very off guard, yet this dry, hot city was named the capital of the most powerful country at the time in 1561. Founded by Muslims as a city to defend southern Spain from northern invaders, the city was far from what it is today. King Carlos III had the most significant role in turning the city from a small and arid town into a thriving and modern metropolis. Now at the center of Madrid stands a statue of Cibeles, the goddess of fertility and life, reminding all that the capital of Spain is no longer what it used to be, but instead a city overflowing with life. I loved this story and transformation of Madrid, but what surprisingly  impressed me the most was the art.

Guernica by Pablo Picasso – Photo by Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia

My interest has always been playing music, not painting, and as a result, I never had the right kind of appreciation for artworks we studied in class. But then we took a trip to “El Prado.” Seeing the massive paintings of all the artists we learned about in class felt incredible. De Goya, Velazquez, and Caravaggio were the three painters that never ceased to amaze me as we made our way through the most important art museum in Spain. Yet, what had the biggest impression on me was a Picasso painting. If I am being honest, prior to this trip, I thought Picasso and modern art was a bit silly. The paintings looked odd and meant nothing to me, but as we made our way to the Guernica, my whole view would change. The painting was a whopping eleven and a half feet, but I was still confused and didn’t see why this painting was raved about so much. However, as Bailly explained the meaning behind certain characters in the painting, I was left in awe. The detail that struck me the most was Picasso’s implementation of a Madonna and a Pieta in the same painting, truly embodying the pain and horrors of the bombing of Guernica. This painting is the work of art that changed my entire view of art, and it made me understand why it is considered the greatest painting of the 20th century.

Toledo as Text

“A Merging of Culture”

by Gabriel Marrero of FIU at Toledo, Spain, June 15, 2022

Photo by Gabriel Marrero / CC by 4.0

As we approached the city, I knew there was going to be great historical significance beyond the walls. Toledo, the former capital of Spain, has been kept largely the same for the past 400 years; the narrow streets and old wooden doors are clear indicators of the city’s old age. Nonetheless, the city looked absolutely spectacular. I felt as if I had entered a whole new world. However, despite the beauty of the town, it is the history that truly amazed me the most. Toledo is one of the few places in history that can say it was home to Jews, Christians, and Muslims living in harmony centuries ago. The three main religions have been in constant bloody battles with each other for centuries, yet you can see the influence of all three religions everywhere in Toledo. The most glaring example of this was “La Sinagoga de Santa Maria la Blanca.”

La Sinagoga de Santa Maria la Blanca. Photos by Gabriel Marrero / CC by 4.0

The synagogue, built in the 12th century, was a place of worship for the Jewish people in the area. However, the building is embellished with elegant arches all throughout, topped off with a wooden ceiling, indicating the building was designed by Moors, the group of Muslims that ruled southern Spain at the time. Lastly, there was a cross representing the crucifixion of Christ in the center of the building, a very important symbol of the Christian faith. This synagogue is one of the few buildings in the world in which there is a clear presence of each of the three Abrahamic religions – a truly remarkable thing to witness. Unfortunately, the harmony between Judaism, Christianity, and Islam would not last long, as the Spanish Inquisition would result in the persecution, expulsion, and execution of thousands of Jews and Muslims. However, this early history in Toledo should serve as an example and show us that despite differences in religion, race, or culture, we can be accepting and tolerant of others. 

Cordoba as Text

“A Philosopher’s Lesson”

by Gabriel Marrero of FIU at Cordoba, Spain, June 18, 2022

Mosque – Catedral de Cordoba. Photo by Gabriel Marrero / CC by 4.0

Out of all the cities we had visited up to this point, Cordoba was by far my favorite. The white-washed buildings, Islamic architecture, and beautiful greenery made me fall in love with the town instantly. To top it all off, we visited the Cathedral of Cordoba, but it is quite misleading to simply call it a cathedral because the structure was initially a mosque. With about 80% of the original Islamic architecture intact, this building is one of a kind. You can see the seemingly infinite red and white arches of the old mosque in one moment and see the grand gothic architecture of the cathedral the next, a somewhat strange sight if I’m being honest. However, what really intrigued me more than anything else in Cordoba was a monument we spent no longer than 5 minutes looking at. It was in the middle of narrow streets with no special architecture around it: a statue of the Sephardic Jewish philosopher Maimonides.

Statue of Maimonides. Photo by Gabriel Marrero / CC by 4.0

The reason why it’s so amazing to see the remains of a mosque in Spain is because most of them had been destroyed by the Christians centuries ago through war and conquest. The only reason these wars were possible was because power hungry individuals would distort the truth and manipulate ignorant people to push their agenda, claiming the wars weren’t for them, but for God. Maimonides was aware of this manipulation and ignorance of the crowds, advising people to live in peace rather than be fighting meaningless wars for corrupted rulers. I see a lot of this same distortion of truth and ignorance in people today in our country. So many people believe the first thing they see on social media or the internet and are misinformed about important issues much in the same manner people were ignorant back then. Maimonides knew that an ignorant society was a weak society, susceptible to being lied to and torn down, so rather than perhaps face a similar fate of people of the past, we should do our best to be free thinkers, constantly researching and learning. However, although I try to be optimistic, history unfortunately always repeats itself.

Sevilla as Text

“A New Beginning”

by Gabriel Marrero of FIU at Sevilla, Spain, June 23, 2022

View of Sevilla from La Giralda. Photo by Gabriel Marrero / CC by 4.0

The next stop on our journey through Spain was Sevilla, another historically rich city in southern Spain. Capital of the province of Andalusia, Sevilla was initially founded by the Romans and then conquered by the Moors in 711. The city remained under Muslim rule for 500 years, and as a result, the Islamic architecture is still apparent in many different buildings to this day, most notably, the Real Alcazar. In 1248, Catholic Spaniards took possession of the city and it has remained that way since. However, it is during the exploration of the Americas that Sevilla reaches its height of significance, both historically and personally to me as well. After the Americas were discovered, Sevilla became the “gateway to the Spanish Indies.” No ships left to the Americas or returned to Spain without passing through Sevilla. The ships would pass through the Guadalquivir River and stop at the Torre de Oro, an old Islamic tower near the river. 

El Torre de Oro. Photo by Gabriel Marrero / CC by 4.0

As I stood by this checkpoint on the river, Professor Bailly made a remark that gave me a whole new perspective. As a Cuban, it is safe to assume that most of my ancestors are Spanish, and if everyone had to pass through the Torre de Oro to travel to the New World, then that meant I was standing exactly where my ancestors were when they embarked on their journey to the Americas centuries ago. The thought brought a new level of appreciation to the city that I didn’t think was possible. The cherry on top to this experience was our visit to the Archive of the Indies. Stored in this building were all the journals, travel logs, and diaries pertaining to the exploration and colonization of the Americas. To think that my ancestors’ experiences were documented in this building was absolutely remarkable. Sevilla is important to me not only because of its beautiful scenery and extensive history, but because it is the city where my ancestors began their journey for a new beginning.

Barcelona as Text

“A Misplacement of Wealth”

by Gabriel Marrero of FIU at Barcelona, Spain, June 28, 2022

La Sagrada Familia. Photos by Gabriel Marrero/ CC by 4.0

I still remember one of our last days of class in the Spring in which we all named the one place we were most excited for in Spain. My answer? La Sagrada Familia, and here I was, standing in front of the most spectacular building I had ever seen with my own two eyes. The grandeur and size of the cathedral was quite overwhelming, yet, the most beautiful part was awaiting inside. Designed by the architectural genius Gaudi, the interior was filled with an immense explosion of colors, as the sunlight flooded through the stained glass windows on every side of the church. Large columns that branched into a beautiful ceiling gave the image of tall forest trees rising high into the sky. La Sagrada Familia lived up to the name it had made for itself and was, in my opinion, the most amazing cathedral in all of Spain. However, being a Christian, something always tugged on my heart every time we visited one of these massive churches. Was this not just an absolute waste of resources? I don’t mean to be insensitive to those that feel the presence of God in these buildings, but I would always wonder if God would have really wanted for these immense amounts of resources to go into large, overly-embellished buildings rather than to people who needed it. The Bible does not condone materialism and earthly possessions, rather, it advises to be generous and store treasures in heaven instead. Yet, the Catholic church decided to ignore the poor, the hungry, the orphans, and the widows, along with many others, just to create a building. The amount of wealth put into cathedrals could have impacted people in a way that has never been seen before, but as history has always shown, when a person, government, or group of people possess wealth and power, greed always arises.

Sitges as Text

“Music Speaks”

by Gabriel Marrero of FIU at Sitges, Spain, June 26, 2022

Photos by Gabriel Marrero / CC by 4.0

Sitges was a beautiful, small, beach town. As we neared the beginning of our walking tour, I couldn’t help but be mesmerized by the tranquil, blue waters. Our first stop was the Rusiñol collection. Rusiñol was an artist viewed as one of the leaders of the Catalan modernisme style, and his collection of art was, if I’m being honest, quite excessive. It was difficult to find a spot on the wall that didn’t have something on it, as everywhere you looked there was bound to be a painting there. Still, it is difficult not to appreciate the art, as Rusiñol had collections from great painters like El Greco and even 6 paintings from a young Picasso. However, what caught my attention more than anything was a small, upright piano sitting in the corner of a little room. If there was one thing I had missed throughout my month in Europe, it was definitely playing the piano. I felt an urge to leap towards the keys and begin playing, but obviously, touching is strictly prohibited. This piano was no ordinary piano though; there was history in it. I had learned of many famous Spanish artists, but up to this point, I had never learned of any Spanish musicians. Manuel de Falla was a musician and composer, considered one of the most important of Spain in the 20th century, and on this seemingly unimportant piano, he finished writing one his most famous pieces: Noches en los jardines de España. I grew an immediate appreciation for the instrument standing before me. Over the past few months I had gained a new found appreciation for the piano and classical music in general, and this experience was one that I’ll never forget. After class I listened to the song he wrote and that moment became even more impactful to me. The music was beautiful, and I’m considering even learning a portion of it on the piano. The art and history we have learned in Spain has given me so much knowledge and understanding of my ancestors that will always be important to me, but music speaks to me in a way nothing else can.

Gabriel Marrero: Vuelta España 2022

The Trip of a Lifetime

By Gabriel Marrero

Class at Segovia aqueduct. CC by 4.0

The time had finally arrived. An entire semester of learning about the culture and history of Spain had led to this moment. As I landed at the Madrid airport I did not really know what I was going to encounter. I had been to Spain with my family before, but I knew that the educational and historical journey I was about to embark on would be far different from my prior trip. I came into the country with an open mind, willing to learn new things, take home new experiences, and possibly accept unknown new truths . As a Cuban American from Miami, I came to learn and experience the rich culture of my great great grandparents.  I sought to discover the many similarities I shared with this country despite the vast cultural differences due to  immigration and the passing of time.

Lavapies

Lavapies Park. Photo by Gabriel Marrero / CC by 4.0

Lavapies was a melting pot of diversity, vibrant with influences from different ways of life. As my classmate Bella and I began our journey through the neighborhood, we had no idea what to look for. With so much to see, it can be difficult to focus on a single thing. We knew the area was famous for its bars and taverns, but we wanted to experience more than that. After strolling through the narrow streets for some time, we came across a park with a basketball court and a soccer field with a concrete floor. As sports fanatics, we couldn’t resist and ran through the gate into the park, but past these gates was an experience that I’m sure neither of us will ever forget. Waiting for us at the soccer field was a group of eight boys, probably around ten years old, along with a few older boys in their late teens. We were just taking a look around the park when the boys asked us if we wanted to play with them. We agreed to play and made teams of adults versus kids: Bella, Franco, a local named Samu, and I versus the eight boys. Once the teams were formed the trash talking began; however, I was significantly lacking in this department as I had never done it in Spanish before. I played goalie and did my best to not let the kids score, but the real hero of the game was Bella. She scored goal after goal and won us the game. Afterwards, we spoke some time with the local on our team, Samu. He was originally from Morocco and had been in Spain for many years. He talked about how big soccer is in the country he currently lives in, and the evidence was right in front of us. Many kids and older boys flocking to the park to play everyday made it very clear. The soccer, or fútbol, culture we experienced in Lavapies was a stark contrast from that of Miami. Soccer came originally from Europe and came to the Americas thereafter, perhaps a possible reason why it’s not as popular here as it is in Spain. However, there was another court in the park that belonged to a sport created in the United States that is now currently growing in popularity and finding its way back to Europe: basketball. 

Although empty when we got there, some people finally began to arrive at the basketball courts. I grew up playing and watching basketball all my life so I absolutely knew I had to make my way over there. The first thing I noticed was a massive NBA logo in the middle of the court, the American and widely accepted best basketball league in the world. We began to talk with two of the locals there and convinced them to let Bella and I play against them in a 2 v 2. I immediately felt the cultural differences as we began to play. In America, I am honestly seen as just an average player, I’ve always just played for fun, but these Spanish locals thought I was really good. Since the sport isn’t as popular in Spain as it is in the U.S., they probably don’t come across as many people who have played for many years. A few of their rules were different as well, but I wasn’t there to be a stickler. I was there to have a good time and experience how they play basketball in Spain. Although the experience was fun, it also left me with some profound thoughts. The first thing I noticed when I was playing was how different the views of each sport of each respective country are. Soccer is the most popular sport in Spain while basketball is just beginning to gain popularity while the opposite is true in the United States. Despite these differences, however, we immediately played and had a great time with the locals from Lavapies. This is because sports bring people from all kinds of different cultural backgrounds together. I have played countless games of basketball and soccer all my life, but these two I will always remember.

El Raval

Graffiti art of “El Raval.” Photo by Gabriel Marrero / CC by 4.0

El Raval, similar to Lavapies of Madrid, was also a melting pot of cultures filled with restaurants and people from all sorts of different backgrounds, and similar to Lavapies, I had no idea where to start. As I walked through the streets of El Raval , I came across a small plaza with graffiti art popping off the walls. As I examined this interesting art form, I noticed two small posters on the wall. It was an advertisement for a DJ event, but very interestingly  it was all American music! Album covers from renowned American artists like Kanye West, Travis Scott, and Kendrick Lamar dominated the music selection at this event.  I also realized  as I walked through the many restaurants and stores that they were playing American music.  It may seem somewhat irrelevant and insignificant but it was important to me because of my “Ida” project from the spring semester, which was all about music, specifically the Spanish guitar that Spain gifted to the rest of the world. Spain created the foundation for the beginning of modern music with the invention and innovation of the guitar; American culture returned the favor and gave them the most famous musical artists of our time. This small encounter at the plaza inspired me to investigate a little more into this phenomenon.

Within the hour I had found a record store filled with vinyls and album covers that belonged to once again, mostly American bands. The Ramones, Guns n’ Roses, Van Halen, and Tom Petty are just a few of the big artists displayed throughout the store, all mostly rock bands or heavily influenced by rock, which as I mentioned in my “Ida” project, is only possible through the creation of an electric guitar, a direct ancestor of the Spanish guitar. 

Guitar shop display at El Raval. Photo by Gabriel Marrero / CC by 4.0

Perhaps one of the coolest things I encountered was a simple guitar store. Primarily, the store attracted me because of my love for music.  However, most importantly,  the store’s display of guitars embodied my “Ida” project perfectly. It was almost like the family tree of guitars, as  the Spanish guitar stared back at me with all of its many descendants: the electric guitar, steel string acoustic guitars, blues guitars, and even a double neck guitar! I wrote about this in my project in the spring but it was just a whole other experience to be in Spain and see this expansion of the guitar where it originated in person. 

A Lesson on Religion and History

Although the experiences of playing sports with locals and seeing American influence on music in Spain was exciting and aligned with my personal interests, of most impact is the fact that  I learned about the history of my great great grandparents’ country.  I  specifically enjoyed learning about  the Arabic influence on Spain as well as Spain’s religious history. Undoubtedly, Spain is Catholic and is widely known as the most Catholic country in the world. However, many forget, either intentionally or accidentally, that Muslims inhabited the Iberian peninsula for over 700 years. Prior to this trip I had not been exposed much to Arabic culture , but the fact is that the Arab influence in Spain was quite significant. The architecture was absolutely stunning, unlike anything I had ever seen before. The idea behind the Islamic designs was to make very complex and abstract designs, representing the complexity and greatness of God, a concept that I found very interesting. La Alhambra, El Alcazar, and the Mosque of Cordoba were three of the most spectacular displays of architecture I have ever seen, all from Islamic design. I was also unaware of the Spanish “convivencia,” which refers to the 400 year period that Muslims, Jew, and Christians lived together in peace. In a world tainted with hatred, bitterness, and division, it’s beautiful to see that despite differences, people were capable of treating others with respect and kindness even centuries ago. Unfortunately, this time of peace was followed by many many years of violence during the Reconquista and the Spanish Inquisition, leading to another interesting connection I made. The philosopher Maimonides from Cordoba still resonates with me profoundly. He preached that power hungry people used inherently good and moral institutions, like Christianity, by corrupting and brainwashing ignorant people into following their agenda by making them believe they were fighting not for man but for “God.” But what does man know of God’s intentions? I see much of this concept in our world today. Political leaders spread false narratives and information to people who are simply ignorant, corrupting good institutions for their own personal gain. It is our duty as citizens of not only America, but of the world, to be aware of events and keep in mind the violent history that has plagued all of human existence throughout all time. 

Conclusion

The experience of going to Spain will be forever ingrained in my mind.  Experiencing the beauty, the culture, and the people of Spain opened a window into  my own life.  Understanding the culture of my past family members was a wonderful and enlightening experience.  I too am a melting pot of Spanish, Cuban, and American culture. Undoubtedly, Spain is a great country with much historical richness to offer.  Each city offered a history, a story, or a legend — is there a difference? Perhaps but the fact remains – Spain is a combination of the past mingled with a vibrant and modern today.

Gabriel Marrero: Ida España 2022

The Spanish Guitar

By Gabriel Marrero

Spanish Guitar / Creative Commons CC0 1.0

I still remember the night quite vividly. My family and I had gone out to celebrate a relative’s birthday at a Spanish restaurant. Expecting to delight in  the wonderful  and savory Spanish paella, I soon discovered there was  a pleasant surprise.  Spanish flamenco dancers performed while the food was being served, creating an absolutely unforgettable experience. The dancers displayed a technique and passion while dancing that allowed me to escape Miami and be transported to the beauty and magic of Spain. The speed and accuracy in which they tapped their feet was remarkable, while their colorful dresses seemed to fly around their bodies.  Nonetheless, although the beauty of their dance was stunning, something quite more spectacular found my attention. Although no colorful attire adorned this participant, she was quite a beauty.  With an hourglass figure and dancing in its own frenzy of sound, the Spanish guitar was the sole instrument on stage.  Played by an incredible musician, the Spanish guitar seemed to be alive as it  enchanted and ensnared the audience. Being a guitar player myself, I was mesmerized by the guitarist’s skill and the beauty of the music created by the Spanish guitar.  It is no surprise that the spellbinding sound of the Spanish guitar that entranced me that night has been captivating the world for centuries. Unknowingly to many, the Spanish guitar as it is known today, has ancestors that predate written history, and has endured modifications throughout time to attain its current form and sound. History provides an understanding of how the Spanish guitar evolved and became one of the most popular instruments in the world.  As the history of the Spanish guitar is explored an understanding  will be attained of how the musical beauty of the Spanish guitar transcended its country of origin and its influence permeated other countries, inspired countless musicians, and infused many genres of music.

The Origins of the Guitar

Oud. Photo by Tdrivas / CC BY 4.0

The word guitar actually originated from the greek word kithara, which was used to refer to a seven-string lyre (Tuzcu). The instrument, however, has no relation to what we now know as the modern guitar. The first real ancestor of the guitar is the oud . The oud, originating from Mesopotamia, has a round body and short neck. It made its way to Spain through the Islamic conquests in around 700 AD. The Spanish previously had similar instruments, and in a few centuries, the oud would become an integral part of the region’s culture. With a variety of different adaptations being made to the instrument, it wasn’t until around the 13th century that two instruments would arrive in Spain and begin to pave the way for the Spanish guitar.   The introduction of the guitarra morisca and guitarra latina (Tuzcu) were crucial to the evolution of the kithara. The guitarra latina was the first of these stringed instruments to have more curves on the body which more closely resembled the modern guitar. 

By the 15th century, arguably the most significant ancestor to the guitar was created in northeastern Spain: the vihuela. This is the moment in history that Spain can begin to claim the guitar as Spanish, as the vihuela undoubtedly resembled a modern guitar more than any other instrument up to this point. This is also the point in time in which the influence of the Spanish instrument begins its international journey. Along with conquest of the Americas in the 1500s came the transfer of culture, and in this case, music. The vihuela first appeared in the Dominican Republic in 1519 and later found its way to Cuba and Mexico as Spanish musicians began opening music schools in the Americas, making the stringed instrument a staple of the area as well (Tuzcu)

The First Spanish Guitar

In the 16th century, the first real guitar was invented in Spain: the baroque guitar. Most stringed instruments in Europe had four courses of strings (or units of strings), but the baroque guitar had an additional fifth course, which was universally recognized as a Spanish invention and led to all five course guitars being known as Spanish guitars (Wheeldon). This new instrument would disperse throughout Europe and captivate many around the world. The tuning of the strings were also adapted to what is used on guitars today: A D G B E from lowest to highest. Initially, the guitar was mainly used as an accompaniment instrument, however, musicians would soon create masterful solo pieces for the baroque guitar. Spanish composers Gaspar Sanz and Santiago de Murcia set themselves apart as some of the great early guitarists and their work is still popular to this day.

Progression to the Modern Guitar

The baroque guitar remained relatively stagnant in design until the 18th century, when once again a key addition was introduced. When the sixth course of strings was added, the modern guitar was born. The lowest E string allowed the guitarist to play the root bass note while playing the chord tones in the middle strings and the melody on the high strings (Small). This new addition added a level of depth to the music that was unprecedented, even by the previous addition of the fifth course to the baroque guitar. Spanish guitar makers also changed the body of the guitar, designing the body with a wider lower bout and “a narrow waist connecting to rounded shoulders” (Wheeldon). At this point in time, the guitar was mainly used as the instrument of choice for national dance music such as flamenco.

Despite all the alterations and accomplishments of the guitar, there was a declining interest during the late 18th century in the instrument. However, at the turn of the 19th century  the concert era arrived. The industrial revolution and creation of the railroad facilitated transportation and provided musicians with the opportunity to reach distant audiences that were previously unreachable. The great Spanish guitarist Francisco Tárrega is credited with laying the foundation for modern playing technique. Despite being blind, his musical ability was world renowned and he is often regarded as the father of classical guitar. As more virtuoso guitarists like Tárrega emerged, a demand for  concert guitars emerged. The guitar was no longer viewed as an amatuer instrument but rather as an image of musical skill and finesse. By the 20th century, Spain had become the international hub of guitar activity, even more so than ever before. Spectacular guitar makers, performers, and composers emerged from the country at an exponential rate. The Spanish guitarist Andres Segovia was often regarded as the world’s greatest guitarist throughout the 20th century, his work instrumental to the growth and popularity of the Spanish guitar around the world (Small).

The Impact of the Spanish Guitar on the Americas

As mentioned previously, one of the early ancestors of the guitar, the vihuela, made its way to the Americas in the 16th century and became a central part of music culture in countries all around the world. Many of the “traditional” instruments from South American countries today actually originated from the vihuela and the Spanish guitar, with each region making unique adaptations tailored to their music and culture. The people native to the Andes region invented the charango, a reconstruction of the vihuela from armadillo hide. Today, it is an integral part of Andean folk music. Mexican Mariachi music has roots from Spain as well. The guitarrón, a required instrument of the Mariachi, is a deviation from the Spanish bass guitar bajo de uña. In Cuba, the Spanish bandola was adapted to form the tres, a three stringed instrument now used in the style of Cuban music known as son (Tuzcu). Although only a few have been mentioned,  there are many more folkloric instruments from American and Caribbean countries that originally came from the Spanish guitar. 

Undoubtedly, although the people of the Americas created their own adaptations of the guitar, they never ceased to adore the  authentic Spanish guitar. In the 19th and 20th centuries, famous Spanish guitarists often traveled to the Western world to perform their magnificent pieces. In fact, the guitar gained such an immense amount of popularity in the Americas that the classical guitar was more widely acclaimed in Buenos Aires, Argentina than in Barcelona. On top of that, many great guitarists and composers such as Agustín Barrios of Paraguay, Leo Brouwer of Cuba, and Antonio Lauro of Venezuela emerged and contributed to the classical guitar scene, further establishing the impact of the Spanish guitar on Latin culture and vice versa (Tuzcu). The Spanish guitar’s popularity in North America, however, was never as widespread as it was in the Latin countries. Although it did gain some traction in the United States, the influence the Spanish guitar would have on North America was very different from that in its Southern neighbors.

The Influence of the Spanish Guitar on Modern Music

Collection of Different Guitars / Creative Commons CC0 1.0

As the guitar spread throughout North America, it began to slowly creep in American culture, but not in the form of classical guitar. As guitar production companies such as Martin and Gibson began to set up in the United States, the invention of the acoustic guitar and archtop guitar eventually was one of the most important additions for the development of modern music (Tuzcu). These two instruments became integral parts of jazz, blues, and folk music in the early 20th century. Nowadays, the acoustic guitar is probably the most iconic instrument in country music, which is ranked the third most popular genre of music in the United States today, and  can also be heard in certain types of pop music. As the century progressed, the invention of pickups and amplifiers paved the way for the creation of the electric guitar, one of the most influential and genre defining instruments of the 20th century. The electric guitar was also used in jazz and blue music but was most important to rock music, which is almost completely defined by the use of an electric guitar. Popular bands like the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, and Queen were all global music phenomena which heavily utilized the electric guitar. Although the Spanish guitar was not as popular in North America as it was in other parts of the world, the music that eventually became mainstream benefited from the influence of the Spanish guitar. Lead guitarist of the Beatles, George Harrison, recognizes the importance of the Spanish guitar to the music he and his band members created, famously stating that “Segovia is the daddy of us all” (Small). The Beatles were one of the biggest bands of the time and sold millions of records and inspired countless to play the guitar, yet they recognized that Segovia, the great Spanish guitarist of the time, was an immense influence and father of the music world through his magnificence use of the Spanish guitar.

Conclusion

The history of the Spanish guitar portrays an amazing trajectory through time.  Having evolved from the 700’s AD, the Spanish guitar continued its dynamic path through history impacting cultures, musicians, music, and listeners.The Spanish guitar was a major influence throughout the world. Its  descendant, the modern guitar, is one of the most popular instruments today- used worldwide in all genres of music – classical, ballads, jazz, country, rock. The guitar is played by the professional, the amatear, and the student. Most importantly the beautiful harmony and sound of the guitar is enjoyed by all.  The worldwide popularity of the guitar is probably attributed to its ability to endure throughout history as it conformed to diverse cultures who embraced the instrument and made it their own.  Although the guitar was tailored by each country, its sound transcends language and culture. The guitar is both modern and traditional, acoustic or electric, its music can be  specific to a culture and yet it is a common thread of universal music. However, just as I cannot forget the wonderful night when I discovered the magic of the Spanish guitar in a quaint restaurant in Miami, the world cannot forget that it was the Spanish guitar that contributed not only its original eloquent form and sound but subsequently evolved into the modern guitar adored around the world. Undoubtedly, the Spanish guitar… she’s a beauty.

Works Cited

“Guitar History: How the Guitar Has Evolved: Musicians Institute.” Musicians Institute Hollywood, 11 Apr. 2022, https://www.mi.edu/education/guitar-history-how-the-guitar-has-evolved/.

Small, Mark. “How the Guitar Evolved and Flourished in Spain.” Stringletter’s Musical Traveler, Acoustic Guitar Magazine, 17 Oct. 2019, https://musicaltraveler.com/destinations/how-the-guitar-evolved-and-flourished-in-spain/.

Tuzcu, Alper. “How Classical Guitar Arrived in Spain and Then the Rest of the World.” Berklee Online Take Note, 2 June 2021, https://online.berklee.edu/takenote/how-classical-guitar-arrived-in-spain-and-then-the-rest-of-the-world/.

Wheeldon, Daniel. “The Spanish Guitar.” Metmuseum.org, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, May 2017, https://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/spgu/hd_spgu.htm. 

Gabriel Marrero: Miami as Text 2022

Photo by Gabriel Marrero / CC by 4.0

Gabriel Marrero is a 20-year old Junior at FIU working towards a double major in Accounting and Business Analytics. Born and raised in Miami, he is proud of his hometown and has a deep desire to explore the culture and history of one of the most diverse cities in America.

Deering as Text

“Miami’s Forgotten Past”

by Gabriel Marrero of FIU at the Deering Estate, January 28, 2022

Photos by Gabriel Marrero / CC by 4.0

As I walked through the wide, wooden gates I didn’t know what to expect. Despite living in Miami for two decades, I had never heard of this place. A short walk later and I found myself standing before a stone building more than a century old: the Deering Estate. The architectural design inspired by the Moors of Spain was beautiful. The view of the bay as the wind blew the towering palm trees was breathtaking. The stories of Charles Deering and his almost obsessive desire for alcohol during the Prohibition Era was both interesting and wildly entertaining. I was simultaneously amused and impressed by Deering’s secret wine cellar, stored behind a large shelf like it was straight out of a detective movie. The magnificent art displayed throughout the estate further enhanced an experience that would have been sufficiently satisfying. However, the remaining portion of the tour would prove to be far more impactful than I could have ever imagined.

As we transitioned from the estate into the nature preserve, Professor Bailly showed us small, sharp tools that were used centuries ago by a people I had never even heard of. A forgotten people that existed before Miami: the Tequesta. This discovery absolutely shattered my preconceived notion of Miami’s history. I was under the impression that South Florida was previously a swampy, deserted area overrun with wildlife and nothing more, but I couldn’t have been more wrong! The Tequesta inhabited the Miami area for thousands of years, with some human remains dating as far back as 6,000 years. Recognizing that I was standing right where these natives used to live, I was in awe. This appreciation for my city’s geographic history was only heightened at the sacred Tequesta burial site, unfortunately the only preserved Tequesta site that exists to this day. 

Since then Miami has been transformed into a thriving, multicultural city, but for a moment, I experienced what Miami was originally like. I experienced the “true” Miami that a people forgotten by most called home thousands of years before I did.

Vizcaya as Text

“J’ai dit”

by Gabriel Marrero of FIU at Vizcaya Museum and Gardens, February 18, 2022

Photos by Gabriel Marrero / CC by 4.0

Flashy cars, bright lights, and luxurious, wild living – all stereotypically associated with Miami. Take a single walk down Ocean Drive and you will come to find that these stereotypes are actually very well justified. Widely regarded as the hedonistic capital of the United States for decades, Miami is mostly well known for its thriving nightlife and excessively lavish lifestyle, but perhaps there is an underlying reason as to why Miami is the city it is today. 

James Deering might as well be named the founder of Miami, as his decision to construct the Vizcaya Villa would foreshadow the city that it would eventually become. Built in 1912, the grandeur of the site is striking. From the extravagance of the architecture to the lavish art and sculptures, Vizcaya was created to embody luxury and indulgence. Deering acquired art from all over the world and placed it in his villa without regard for the significance of the work simply because he could. Most notably, he split a painting of the Virgin Mary in half as a cover for his organ, an instrument which he never even played. Deering also made sure to have the most exclusive of luxuries of the time: the telephone. His quest to display his lavish lifestyle was further enhanced by a statue of Bacchus, located at the west entrance of the villa. Bacchus, the Roman god of wine and ecstasy, appeared to be inviting guests to indulge in the hedonistic pleasures available at Vizcaya. Lastly, one of the stairwells displays the phrase “J’ai dit,” which translates to “I have spoken,” similar to when “God said, let there be light.” This engraving exhibits Deering’s God-complex, suggesting what he speaks will come to be, and embodying a self-centered and superficial world view.

I see much of modern Miami in the design of Vizcaya; people drive the flashiest cars and flaunt the latest luxuries. They spend their nights wildly drinking and partying at renown Miami clubs similar to Deering and his guests endlessly drinking at his villa. Unknowingly, James Deering set the tone for the indulgent city that Miami would become, and perhaps he was correct when he stated “J’ai dit” after all.

Miami as Text

“A Melting Pot”

by Gabriel Marrero of FIU at Downtown Miami, March 11, 2022

Miami is undoubtedly one of the most diverse and multicultural places in the world. In this melting pot of a city, it’s very common to meet people from all sorts of different backgrounds and cultures than that of your own. More than half of Miami-Dade County’s population was born outside of the United States, and as I walked through downtown, I saw a city with an endless number of people, each with different races, ethnicities, nationalities, and stories. I identified a culture that was the result of a mixture of countless other cultures. I examined buildings of staggering heights and beautiful architecture with influences from all over the world. However, it was the one building in the entire city that didn’t fit in, the single building that was frankly, quite dull, that would produce the most awe inspiring imagery for a city like Miami. The building I am referring to is the Wagner Homestead, “the oldest known house standing in Miami today.”

William Wagner was a German immigrant living in Miami in the 19th century. He was married to a French-Creole immigrant at a time in which interracial marriages were unfortunately looked down upon, and as a result, he and his family would face endless discrimination. Also at the time of his settlement, tension between the Seminoles and the white settlers was quite high. One day as he walked outside with his son, Wagner ran into a group of over 15 Seminoles, all very understandably angered and threatened by him and the rest of the settlers. In order to deescalate the situation, Wagner invited the natives to his home and had his wife make dinner for them, creating a beautiful scene that resonated with me. A white German immigrant, a black, French-Creole woman, mixed race children, and Native Americans all sharing a meal together at the Wagner Homestead – a moment filled with people from different races and stories, all brought together under a household for a meal, a Miami Thanksgiving. This reminded me of my city and the diversity it boasts, and although Miami has its dark history of racial injustice, that moment in the Wagner Homestead was a foreshadowing as to the kind of multicultural city that Miami would one day become.

SoBe As Text

“The Miami Touch”

by Gabriel Marrero of FIU at South Beach, April 1, 2022

I hear people say it all the time: “that’s so Miami.” I’ve never questioned the statement because it usually makes sense. There’s a certain look and feel to Miami that is distinguishable from almost any other city in the world. But what exactly is it that gives this beautiful city that “Miami” look? I can’t even begin to count the amount of times I have gone to South Beach, but this visit was the one that finally explained to me why there is only one Ocean Drive in the world.

It’s all in the architecture. South Beach has the highest concentration of Art Deco buildings in the world, literally making it a one-of-a-kind location. The buildings are distinguished by linear, sleek designs, often resembling machinery like a rocket ship. Highlighted by bright pastel colors, they reflect the sky, water, and tropical landscape of the beach. One of the most interesting, yet unnoticed details is the “rule of three.” Created by a city law that required buildings with more than three floors to have an elevator, most construction planners reduced costs by designing only three story buildings. In contrast with the Mediterranean revival architecture seen in other areas of Miami, the roofs of Art Deco buildings are influenced by ancient ziggurat designs, and the walls fashioned with “eyebrows” that look like unfinished balconies. Lastly, there is one Art Deco design that is most directly associated with Miami Vice: neon. The neon lights on Ocean Drive are what gives the area such life and vibrance at night, promoting the exciting nightlife Miami is most known for.

However, just because Miami was created and designed this way did not mean that it would always remain this way. Without the efforts of people like Barbara Baer Capitman, the Art Deco district would have been destroyed and replaced with high rise condominiums to produce more profits for venture capitalists. Instead, the city’s history and life was preserved, forever establishing that unique, distinctive touch of Miami.

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