Leah Daire: Espana as Text, 2022

Leah Daire is a Biology undergraduate student at Florida International University (FIU). Once she graduates, she plans to attend medical school. She is involved in the Peer Led Team Learning (PLTL) program at FIU and the organization Panthers Uniting in Support of Health (P.U.S.H.). She has a large family who come from Cuba and Lebanon, however, she was raised primarily under the Cuban culture. She loves reading, jogging, bike riding, and pets.


Madrid as Text

Images taken by Leah Daire (CC by 4.0)

“EL retiro de hoy”


By Leah Daire of FIU in Madrid in June 2022.

El Retiro park is a central point of life in Madrid. Walking through, many people are enjoying their time with their family or friends. Some of my classmates and I had a picnic at the park one afternoon, where we sat on a blanket and talked about our time so far in Madrid. Another morning, we walked through the garden in matching dresses and had a mini photoshoot. This park is a place for many in this urban city to come enjoy nature and relax. Without it, in my opinion, the city would lose an integral part that makes it a great city to live in.

However, El Retiro did not begin as a sanctuary open to everyone. In the 17th century (officially opened in 1633), the park was made by Philip IV for royalty. It held a large palace and surrounding gardens. These were severely cut down in the 19th century during the Spanish war of Independence. The resulting structures was a war ground with stand-alone walls, small rooms, and ruins. In the 18th century, Carlos III renovated it as part of his many alterations to the city of Madrid. He loved the park and could often be found escaping the city in there. Finally, in 1868, the Spanish government gave the lands to the city of Madrid. El Retiro was established as a public park to promote good behaviors in an urban city. In order to generate funds, buildings within the park were sold. Some of the buildings are used to hold cafes and bar which are used by the people while they spend their time in the park.

One of the entrances to the park holds a “Book Fair” called Cuesta de Moyano. It is a permanent fixture in the park with booksellers displaying old Spanish texts. Paintings and other items can also be found there. This tradition officially started in 1925 with wooden stands. However, before this, vendors would sell books in the restroom near the current location of the book fair. This is just one of the many important locals found in El Retiro, but as it is my favorite, it is the one I will mention.

In 2021, the park became part of a larger project named the Landscape of Light, which includes El Retiro and el Paseo del Prado. This Landscape of Light was named a UNESO World Heritage Site. An honor which designates the importance of the park not only in the culture of Madrid, but around the world. El Retiro is a model example of how to complement an urban center with nature. It is important to have a place for people to stroll through gardens and lay beneath the trees. 


Alberto Romero. (2019). A Walk Through the Mysteries and History of El Retiro. Periergeia. 

Ayuntamiento de Madrid. (2018). Historia de El Retiro. Madrid. https://www.madrid.es/portales/munimadrid/es/Inicio/Buscador-Simple/Historia-de-El-Retiro?vgnextoid=7c001d15ba89d210VgnVCM2000000c205a0aRCRD&vgnextchannel=8db7566813946010VgnVCM100000dc0ca8c0RCRD#

The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica. (2020). Retiro Park. Encyclopaedia Britannica. 


Madrid Destino Cultura Turisomo y Negocio. (2022). Librerías de la Cuesta de Moyano. Pagina Oficial de Turismo de la ciudad de Madrid. https://www.esmadrid.com/informacion-turistica/librerias-cuesta-moyano


Segovia as Text

Images taken by Leah Daire (CC by 4.0)

“Construction of the aqueduct”


By Leah Daire of FIU in Segovia in June 2022.

When stepping of the bus in Sevilla, we were greeted to the site of a massive stone structure, almost 95 feet tall – it is the aqueduct of Segovia. Although the section we were seeing is the tallest part, the structure stretches miles in both directions; it leads from the mountains to the palace in the center of the city. 

Segovia has two rivers nearby, however, the water from these rivers is somewhat dirty. As such, the aqueduct was built, to bring clean water from the mountains. Although the exact date of construction is unknown, it is estimated that the Romans built the aqueduct in the year 117. It must have taken about 20 years to construct. The exact date is unknown as the sign letters that provided that information were deemed dangerous and as such were removed in the 1520’s.

The stones were made by stone masons right at the moment of construction with given dimensions. In order to stack the stones on to of each other, they were picked up with giant forceps. They had a large mark to help with proper orientation (as well as to support the wooden scaffolding used for building). The columns each had horizontal lines as a sort of decoration. These lines had another purpose, however, and that was to make the pillars seem more uniform in height. Finally, to add the arches, simbras, or large wooden structure used to support arches during construction, were used. Once the keystone was placed in, the umbras were removed, making the arch complete.

There have been more recent additions, one in which was to increase the amount of water flow in the 1500’s. It is note-able that the structure itself was built with several basins to slow the water flow and make sure water did not flow over the edge.

The aqueduct itself was used until 1973. At that time, the water was only used for a few things, such as agriculture. As it was used until recently, the aqueduct has been well preserved (unlike most aqueducts world wide). This is a very beautiful structure, one that is difficult to have imagined was built when it was. 


Now. (2020, December 18). Why Segovia Stands Out Among Roman Aqueducts as an Engineering Marvel. Northrop Grumman. https://now.northropgrumman.com/the-aqueduct-of-segovia-ancient-engineerings-high-water-mark/

Stamper, P. (2021, May 20). Segovia Aqueduct. History Hit.


Sevilla as Text

Images taken by Leah Daire (CC by 4.0)

“Green Zones”


By Leah Daire of FIU in Sevilla in June 2022.

One day in high school, I was looking out the window and I saw an orange haze over the horizon. My class crowded around the window to see what it was covering the buildings in the Brickell skyline; it was photochemical smog (which results when chemicals in the air combine with sunlight). One of the major pollutants that contribute to this smog is car exhaust. 

In Sevilla (as well as other areas of Spain) there is environmental zones to help with this issue. The one is Sevilla specifically is a temporary Low Emission Zone. It was established in 2018.

During times of high pollutant density in the air, cars that are un-environmentally friendly are not allowed to drive through the zone. If they pass through, they have to pay a 90€ fine. This is a measure to keep the level of pollutants at a moderate level. In addition, certain vehicles are not permitted to drive through the zone at all.

Green zone stickers are used to designate if the car is a low-emitting vehicle or not. The green zone app is used to track whether or not a vehicle can drive through the area at a certain time.

Photochemical smog can cause a number of health concerns (as well as wear away at certain materials). One such problem is an increase of heart conditions. I have a family member who recently passed from a heart attack and to hear that Spain is doing something to help combat the various health issues that photochemical smog can cause is very beautiful news. Reports from the World Health Organization state that about 7 million people die each year from air pollution around the world. As a (hopefully!) future doctor, this is concerning to hear. The US does not have any mandatory low emission zones, unlike many countries in Europe. However, there are some voluntary ones that are showing promise.


Anderson, M. (2021). Photochemical smog: what is it, causes and consequences. AgroCorn. https://agrocorrn.com/photochemical-smog-what-is-causes-and-consequences/

Distintivo-ambiental.es. (2020). The LEZ Seville environmental zone. Distintivo-Ambiental.es. https://www.distintivo-ambiental.es/en/spanish-environmental-zones/sevilla-lez.html

Green-zones.eu. (2022). Green-zones.eu. Green-zones.eu. https://www.green-zones.eu/en/

Tomorrow’s World Today. (2022). Everything You Should Know About Low Emission Zones.Tomorrow’s World Today. https://www.tomorrowsworldtoday.com/2022/06/13/everything-you-should-know-about-low-emission-zones/

World Health Organization. (2022). Air Pollution in the Western Pacific. World Health Organization. https://www.who.int/westernpacific/health-topics/air-pollution


Granada as Text

Images taken by Leah Daire (CC by 4.0)

“Infinite Art”


By Leah Daire of FIU in Granada in June 2022.

In order to symbolize the uniqueness and complexity of god, Muslims incorporate seemingly infinite geometric patterns and shapes into their artwork. Such can be seen in the Alhambra. The art traditionally starts at a point, extending to a line, and then building a circle (endless). The trigonometry used for this originates in use from nomadic people calculating distances between travel. Once settled, they were able to use this to create continuous and symmetrical art to show their dedication to god. Although the Alhambra is no longer in use as a palace, once you enter, you can’t help but be in awe at the beauty that is this masterpiece.

M.C. Escher is an artist who visited the Alhambra and was inspired by the work there. He is now a renounced in the world of mathematics for his art with complex tessellations. Tessellations are a series of repeated polygons, which are drawn next to each other to fill up a space. His work also includes pieces with symmetrical plains and infinite loops. 

Escher visited the Alhambra in 1922 and 1936. In his former visit, he does not stay long, but draws some simple mandala-style pieces of art. However, during the later, he takes much more time to observe the building as a whole. He uses similar symbols and shapes as those on the walls of the Alhambra. 

His brother, upon viewing the drafts of his more geometric style drawings, remarked that they reminded him of crystallography (the arrangement of atoms in a crystal/solid). His brother sent him some articles (with sketches) on the subject, which further inspired Escher. He decided he would use math as a way to expand his art. 

My mom has a copy of a painting by Escher. She is a math teacher, so I have heard a bit about him over the years. However, I had no idea that he was inspired by The Alhambra. It was very interesting to see where his work took inspiration from. Although the focus of this text is on Escher, many others have gotten inspiration from the Alhambra and that in itself is a beautiful thought. 


Barnett, C. (2010, February 16). Discovering Math at The Alhambra in Al-Andalusia [Video]. Hampshire College. https://sites.hampshire.edu/scienceandislamvideoportal/video/discovering-math-at-the-alhambra-in-al-andalusia/

History.com Editors. (2018, August 21). Alhambra. History. https://www.history.com/topics/landmarks/alhambra

Powers, J. (2017, April 25). The Open Gate of Mathematics: From the Alhambra to Escher [Video]. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q6yBnUKGcbM


Barcelona as Text

Images taken by Leah Daire (CC by 4.0)

“different artistic styles”


By Leah Daire of FIU in Barcelona in June 2022.

Last year, before I even signed up to study abroad in Spain, my uncle and I sat down and watched a video of the Sagrada Familia and its history. When I joined the class, after having seen videos of this massive construction, I still was in a bit of disbelief that I was actually going to see it in real life. Looking at beautiful and unique works of architecture and engineering is something that I enjoy immensely. In addition, being Catholic and seeing the massive works of construction throughout the whole trip, has made me feel a bit in awe at the church and the power it held (and still holds to a certain extent in Spain). I can also begin to understand a bit how people were compelled to follow the church so faithfully and without question. 

The Sagrada Familia itself is a vision, with all its different facets. Although I didn’t love every single part of it, I could admire the work put into the building as a whole. The inside is beautiful with the various stained-glass colors and mimicry to look like a forest. So many aspects were thought out to the last detail, such as the passion side, with its columns made to look like bones and tendons. This church is a compilation of so many different artistic styles and visions of various people (following after Gaudi). It is amazing to see the masterpiece as it is still being built. In the future, I hope to come back and see the additions to the Sagrada Familia and how it has further impacted the surrounding community. 


Sitges as Text

Images taken by Leah Daire (CC by 4.0)

“The Room with Five Picassos”


By Leah Daire of FIU in Sitges in June 2022.

There’s a room in Sitges that holds five Picasso paintings in one room. Now, take a second to read that sentence again. The statement itself seems incredulous but stands as a fact. Said room is in the Cau Ferrat Museum. It holds salon style facades with paintings covering the walls, floor to ceiling. It is a beautiful museum with colorful walls and precious artifacts; they were mostly collected by its’ previous owner, Santiago Rusinol. The aforementioned Picasso paintings are examples of his earlier works, which Santiago Rusinol bought from a young Picasso. Santiago Rusinol was one of the four founders of Els 4 Gats in Barcelona. This café is one that we saw in Barcelona and served as a stepping-stone for art and culture in Spain. Picasso first showcased his art there when he was 17. Although the paintings in the Museum Cau Ferrat are not in the Cubism style that Picasso is known for, they are very well drawn. The paintings of the women caught my eye when I first walked into the room, as with one of my other classmates. It was interesting to see some of Picasso’s earlier works and how talented he has been since his beginnings as an artist, even in a sketch, especially after seeing his masterpiece, Guernica. 

This museum holds many other art works besides those of Picasso. It is a mix of a variety of different forms of art. To some extent, it holds the roots of Miami. It in part inspired Deering to live in Sitges and collect the multitudes of artwork he himself enjoyed. That legacy was later carried on to Miami. 


Crowley, T. (2020, November 25). 4 Gats, One of Picasso’s Favorite Restaurants. Sh Barcelona. https://www.shbarcelona.com/blog/en/4-gats/

Government of Cataluna. (2022). Cau Ferrat Museum. Visit Museum.  


Museus de Sitges. (2022). Cau Ferrat Museum. Museus de Sitges. https://museusdesitges.cat/en/museum/cau-ferrat/cau-ferrat-museum


Leah Daire: Vuelta Espana, 2022

Leah Daire is a Biology undergraduate student at Florida International University (FIU). Once she graduates, she plans to attend medical school. She is involved in the Peer Led Team Learning (PLTL) program at FIU and the organization Panthers Uniting in Support of Health (P.U.S.H.). She has a large family who come from Cuba and Lebanon, however, she was raised primarily under the Cuban culture. She loves reading, jogging, bike riding, and pets.


This last Thursday, a group of us from the study abroad met up to scrapbook. Going through the pictures, although we were at times tired, we simply laughed about it and remarked on the great experience we had. I’ve made some great friends that I will continue to be friends with, and besides that, I met great people who, although I may not keep in contact with, I had the pleasure of meeting and traveling with.


Arriving in Madrid, the first thing I remember is the bathroom in the train station; it cost 1 euro to enter. However, once I entered, I was alright with paying. There were bird noises playing in the background, a wall with fake grass, and modern wood paneling accessorizing the room. This bathroom was such a juxtaposition in contrast to the Atocha train station. Sufficient to say, it was an interesting introduction to Spain. However, I feel as if it fit Madrid in a way. Sandwiched in-between graffiti filled walls and run-down stores were some very nice, modern-styled restaurants. It was surprising to see, as in Miami, this would not happen, where neighborhoods tend to be more uniform in their decor.

There were many little cafes to sit down and get food. In comparison to the US, the service took longer, which I believe is in part to the large number of small businesses and more relaxed atmosphere in general. The food in Madrid (as well as Sevilla) was primarily sandwiches and tortilla espanola. There were many middle eastern and Indian food places. There were also many affordable and delicious vegan options. All in all, the food in general was very inexpensive. 

As a Native Spanish speaker, the hardest part in terms of language was ordering food. In Miami, I typically order most food in English (aside from basic Hispanic foods). As such, I did not know the names of many foods in Spanish. Spain also has some different items, such as the gazpacho. The photo feature in the Google Translate app helped a lot in this regard. By the time we left Spain, I became proficient in ordering food and what all the items were. My Spanish also improved a lot. I also picked up a few new phrases that my family has commented on. It is nice to have learned so much about both Madrid and Spain as a whole.

One of the nicest aspects of Madrid was El Retiro. There were many classes, such as yoga, taking place. It is a pleasant place to go to relax with friends or alone after a long day. A few of us in the class had a picnic there one afternoon. If I were to choose on city in Spain to live, it would be Madrid; the park is not the only reason, but it majorly affects this decision.

However, after speaking to a few local taxi drivers, I have heard that it is very difficult to find work in Spain. Spain’s unemployment rate was 13.65% in March of 2022, which was higher than the previous year (Trading Economics). Since 2005, their employment rate has been rising. It is speculated this is due to a high number of temporary contracts and the ease in firing staff. The lack of regulations in both areas is leading to Spain having an unemployment rate about double that of the average in the European Union (Bentolila, Samuel, et al). In my opinion, when comparing to the United States, Spain has automated a lot of jobs, which in the United States, are performed by a person. For example, many check-out lines are self-check-out and have a box where you simply place all the items you are purchasing inside, and it automatically accounts for them. In the United States, self-check-out lines are increasing in their popularity but are being phased in slowly. There are many other jobs which could be automated, but it would result in a large unemployment spike. This, however, could be an opportunity to allow more people to go to college or a trade school, but this would have to be a large social reform that would take time. 


During the Golden Age of Spanish literature, many influential authors lived in Letras; most famous is Cervantes (Madrid Tourisme). It is a very classy looking neighborhood. As it is near the center of Madrid (Sol), it is a major tourist area. My group and I spoke to a local store-owner there who told us that the population of Letras is split between locals, who where born and raised here and turists who stay in the many hotels populating the area.

Coincidentally, the day we walked around our neighborhood, there was a protest taking place. The government had previously required a difficult exam to get their business in the plaza. However, new legislation was passed, removing the previous requirement. Thus, the people were protesting that they were now “gifting the square”. 


Sevilla reminded me of Madrid in terms of many aspects, such as food, fashion, and lifestyle. However, Sevilla had a more small-town charm that was lacking in the city of Madrid. Horse drawn carriages could be seen parallel to cars on the street. One thing could be seen standing tall, the Catedral de Sevilla. The tour of the Catedral de Sevilla was my favorite cathedral tour. It was very interesting to see the outlines on the roofs that helped make the stained-glass windows as well as the other features that helped in the construction. 

A recent addition to the city is the Torre Sevilla. With 40 floors and standing at 592 feet, it rises above the cathedral. Finished in 2016, the tower was a point of controversy, as historically, the church was supposed to be the highest structure. This notion is already notwithstanding in many other cities, but Sevilla was viewed as different due to its’ old-fashioned allure. The tower is used as an office building and hotel and thus raises money for the city, but many citizens were not happy with the decision (Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat). It sets a precedent that will quite possibly mean the end of Sevilla as it is now (and the start of it turning into a larger city like Madrid or Barcelona). However, this is not necessarily a wholly bad thing, as Sevilla is moving towards establishing its place as a more global city.


Before leaving, my grandpa told me this quote: “Sona o no sona, Barcelona siempre es Bona”. My grandpa told me that in Cuba, this was a well-known quote that was often thrown around when discussing Barcelona. It roughly translates to: “Sound or no sound, Barcelona is always beautiful”. I didn’t think much of this quote before leaving, but in all honesty, Barcelona is very pretty. Its’ architecture is what made it my favorite of the places we traveled to. The Modernist architecture is like no other. 

I will say I cried twice during this trip. The first, while seeing the Guernica and listening for all it stood for. The second was listening to the organ play in the Palau de Musica. This may have to do with being an amateur musician myself who used to perform in musicals in high school, but I felt completely surrounded by beauty and in awe sitting in the front row of that auditorium. It’s a completely indescribable experience. I thought that if I were to be affected by something on the trip, it would be related to Spain’s history, but being in Barcelona was something completely different. 

As we discussed in class, Barcelona has managed to create a style unique to themselves. This also has helped them gain more attraction and become the tourist beacon that it is. 

This fact helped Barcelona feel a bit more like home. I could see a few similarities between Miami and Barcelona. In Barcelona, I was very surprised at first hearing how the citizens were so adamant that they were separate from the rest of Spain, but then I realized the parallel between Miami, in which many people consider themselves separate from the US as a whole due to the large Hispanic presence. This proud sense of culture and identity is something that stands out. 

Sagrada Familia and Sant Marti

There are a few key landmarks in this very large area. The first is, of course, the Sagrada Familia. I wrote about this in the Barcelona as Text, so I will not comment much on it, however it is truly Gaudi’s masterpiece.  

Below is part of my Barcelona as Text: 

The Sagrada Familia itself is a vision, with all its different facets. Although I didn’t love every single part of it, I could admire the work put into the building as a whole. The inside was beautiful with the stained-glass colors and mimicry to look like a forest. So many things were thought out, to the detail, such as the passion side, with its columns made to look like bones and tendons. This church is a compilation of so many different artistic styles and visions of various people (following after Gaudi). It is amazing to see the masterpiece as it is still being built. In the future, I hope to come back and see the additions to the Sagrada Familia and how it has impacted the community.

The next few locations are in Sant Marti. Sant Marti is more of a residential area. El Clot and El Camp are two of the major neighborhoods in which people lived. They held more of an industrial feel with its’ brick walls. In the past, this was an area centered around manufacturing, but now it has transitioned to the tech field. Moving more towards the coast, this becomes more apparent as the area is more modern, filled with upscale office buildings and a large shopping center. This area is called Pobleaneu or new town. The Glories Tower stands tall and colorful, a major tourist attraction in Barcelona with its observation deck; however, the majority of the building is filed with office buildings (Museos). Then, walking towards the beach is a large strip with small restaurants lining the walkway. This walkway, as well as the beach, is filled with locals, enjoying their day with their family and friends. 


As high school seniors, my classmates and I played a game called assassin in which we had to spray someone with water guns to “get them out” of the game. One of my targets lived in Coral Gables. His house was white, tan, and blue – one I’ve always remembered it because I thought it was beautiful. This house looked like Sitges. 

It’s undeniable that the city is stunning, regardless of if the style of the building suits a person or not. It’s the charm of having everything have a similar, unique style. It is amazing how one of the Deering brothers we were learning about and established Miami, drew his inspiration from Sitges. 


In a way, I am Spanish. My mom is Cuban and my dad’s family is Lebanese. It is a part of my culture, one that has evolved and picked up different customs along the way. In the same way, many Miamians and Latinxs are Spanish. There’s no clear-cut answer, as with many things in life. 

There are many similarities I have drawn out so far, but there is also some differences in the culture. In the US, people do not stand for what they perceive are injustices; people push their rights to do what they believe is right personally. For example, the people who are pushing abortion restrictions (or vice versa) truly believe they are doing the right thing. This is the major reason why we are so politically divided. On the other hand, in Europe, people go along with what is happening, they don’t fight it collectively (for the most part); it is a more relaxed and united lifestyle. Not to say that there is not protests nor reforms (as the one I saw during my neighborhood exploration of Letras), but in general the United States is more radical in their division and strive towards “liberty” and “freedom”.

In the Cathedral de Cordoba, I didn’t think it was right that Muslims were not allowed to pray when the mihrab is still there (even though it is facing a different direction than that of prayer); however, this is the right of the conqueror (Cathedral Chapter of Cordoba). By turning it into a cathedral, it was saved. As Spain is very Catholic, there are not really enough Muslims to use the mosque if it were to be converted back to one. In my opinion, both religions could co-exist in one location, but that is mine as a Catholic who picks and choses what she wants to follow in the religion (which to some is categorized as agnostic). 

Throughout this trip we also saw many large and grandiose churches. I felt in awe of the power of the catholic church. I have begun to understand the unquestioning faith people have had for generations; what has led people to go to war in the name of Catholicism and God; this was especially true during the Middle Ages when people could not read. This was all they knew and saw as the truth (I, who tend to not pray often, found myself compelled to pray in these beautiful churches and think on religion more concretely as it was constantly surrounding us). 

We learned in the previous semester about all the injustices towards the indigenous and African American peoples who helped build Miami; yet, this information is not well-known by many. I believe the same is true (to a certain extent) in Spain in terms of the Reconquista, the Inquisition, and the Conquista. It is the sad truth about the way things are conducted, no matter where you are. I would like to thank Bailly, for above all things, he taught us that many things are hidden, and to question what is behind the wide-spread truth. 


Works Cited

Bentolila, Samuel, et al. “Why Is Spain’s Unemployment so High?” VOX, CEPR Policy Portal, VOX, 22 Jan. 2011, https://voxeu.org/article/why-spain-s-unemployment-so-high. 

Cathedral Chapter of Cordoba. “Mihrab: Web Oficial – Mezquita-Catedral De Córdoba.” Mezquita – Catedral De Cordoba, Cathedral Chapter of Cordoba, https://mezquita-catedraldecordoba.es/en/descubre-el-monumento/el-edificio/mihrab/. 

Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat . “Torre Sevilla.” Torre Sevilla – the Skyscraper Center, Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat, 2016, https://www.skyscrapercenter.com/building/torre-sevilla/8887. 

Madrid Tourisme. “Barrio De Las Letras.” Madrid Tourisme, MADRID DESTINO CULTURA TURISMO Y NEGOCIO S. A., https://www.esmadrid.com/en/madrid-neighbourhoods/barrio-letras. 

Museos. “The Torre Glories in Barcelona: Information & Tickets 2022.” Museos, Disqus, 14 July 2022, https://www.museos.com/en/barcelona/torre-glories/. 

Trading Economics. “Spain Unemployment RATE2022 Data – 2023 Forecast – 1976-2021 Historical – Calendar.” Spain Unemployment Rate – 2022 Data – 2023 Forecast – 1976-2021 Historical – Calendar, Trading Economics, Mar. 2022, https://tradingeconomics.com/spain/unemployment-rate. 


For more pictures of my study abroad, check out my instagram: @leahdairee

Leah Daire: Ida Espana, 2022

“Photograph of Carlota Santana” taken by Victor Deliso / CC by 4.0.

Flamenco is an art form which is centered around spontaneity and individuality; a pure expression of passion and emotion. It has been dubbed a UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity since 2010. This is a title given to a location, collection, tradition, practice, etc., that has been passed down through generations and at the same time, evolving as time passes. It is also a symbol representative of both culture and community. This designation shows the impact that Flamenco has had on Spain, Andalucia (the heartland of Flamenco), and the artistic community. Spain nominated Flamenco to be given this honor (UNESCO, “What is Intangible Cultural Heritage”). 

There are three parts to the art of flamenco: Cante (song), Baile (dance), and Toque (instruments/guitar) (UNESCO, “Flamenco”). These three elements communicate with each other in a sort of language. There are many indicators that help the performers understand when to follow one another. A subida (rise) is a series of steps a dancer will follow to indicate to the musician to speed up the rhythm of the music (Blumenfeld). Another such category of foot work are llamadas (calls), which are used by dancers for a variety of reasons, not limited to: calling in a phrase in the music, influencing when the melody comes in, starting various rhythms, etc (Hill and Chacon).

“Flamenco Dancer and Musician” photo taken from http://nspa.in/blog/exploring-the-fiery-passion-in-flamenco-dancing/ / CC by 4.0

When performing together, the dancer will choose what type of movements to make based on the type of music. The dancer will do mostly floreo (hand movements) and braceo (arm movements) when the main melody of the song or instrument is being heard, as to not distract from the music. They can also do vueltas (turns) or marcaje (marking) to outline the rhythms and mark the beats, as well as palteado (footwork) (Hill and Chacon).

There are three major types of cante (also known as palos): jondo, intermedio, and chico. The former, cante jondo, is connected to deep emotions and anguish. Cante intermedio interlaces both. The later, cante chico, is a happy and love-filled type of song. The first style is the most complex, and the complexity lowers down the list. The setting of each type of song is important, as they each represent different emotions and contexts (Bennahum). Overall, there are over 50 different song forms with varying rhythms, structure, accents, etc (Hill and Chacon). Many of these have been recently added as influences from other cultures are mixed in (Lorenz).

For the toque part of flamenco, the traditional guitar is typically used, however, other instruments, such as castanets, tambourines, and bells can be incorporated as well (Bennahum).

The unspoken communication used between the types of performers is what leads to the spontaneity of the art. Performers will often not practice with each other, but perform together by using cues from each other to work in sync. It is important for each of the performers to understand one another in order to keep on track with the rhythm. Across the globe, various Flamenco festivals, shows, conventions, etc. take place in which artists meet and perform with one another. Such is the beauty of the art; it lets artists from all over, who may not even speak the same language: dance, sing, or play together (New York Latin Culture Magazine). One such event is the yearly Flamenco Festival in New York City; it is an opportunity to meet others as well as to see the most admired flamenco artists of today. This year, 2022, marks the 20th anniversary of the festival (New York City Center).

As long as the structure is kept, in order for performers to understand each other, certain liberties can be taken in translation and execution. This is where individuality and expression come to play. 

There are two general types of settings in which Flamenco takes place. One is more informal than the other professional concert-style. The former, also known as the juerga, is a more lax setting in which traditional rules and styles are more influenced by the local culture and audience. The image below shows how Flamenco dancers bring Tables (wood planks) when performing to make the proper sound with their shoes and limit injury. Traditionalist Flamenco artists relish at the juerga, as it, in a way, simulates the roots in which the art originated (Lorenz).

“Flamenco the Dance of Spain” Photo taken from https://www.spanish-living.com/flamenco-the-dance-of-spain// CC by 4.0.

The origins of Flamenco hail from the Gitanos (gypsies) in the 19th century. Living as nomads, they journeyed from Northern India to the middle east, across Europe, until settling in the Southern region of Spain named Andalucia. Across their journey, flamenco began to form into the art that it is today. The map below shows their journey. In Andalucia, it was further influenced by Moorish, Jewish, and Christian culture (Hill and Chacon). As it was an art form created by those on the lower rungs of traditional Spanish society, not much is documented on the history of the art. In addition, the Gitanos tended to pass information and customs along orally rather than in writing (Lorenz). In fact, Flamenco began as a song form with clapping hands and stomping feet as an accompaniment before the dance and instrumental aspects were incorporated (Hill and Chacon).

“Roma Gypsy Traveller’s migration pattern from the point of origin”. Graphic taken from: http://old.restlessbeings.org/projects/roma-gypsies / CC by 4.0.

Flamenco began to thrive in Spain from 1869-1910, during what is known as the Golden Age of Flamenco. Artists would play at various Cafes Cantantes (music cafes), which became popular locales in Spain at the time. These cafes are where the guitar became permanently ingrained as part of the Flamenco art. In the 1950’s, Flamenco underwent a Renaissance in which its stage migrated to theatres and concert halls. This, however, did not stop the more casual juergas, which are still a large part of the Spanish culture. Throughout this time, there were many in Spain who viewed Flamenco as an overly primitive dance. There was a movement led by majorly scholars, authors, and musicians of other genres to put a halt to the growth of Flamenco. This however, as officially marked by the integration of Flamenco as a UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity, was pointedly not a successful movement (Spanish Living).

It was not until a century after its creation (in the 20th century) that flamenco became popularized in the Americas. In the Americas, they tend to center in on the dancing and guitar rather than the singing. In the United States, Flamenco has three major hubs in the United States: New York, San Francisco, and New Mexico. (Dumas). 

New York City is the pinnacle from which Flamenco began to spread in the United States. The Zonophone Company was the first in the United States to show Flamenco in the early 1900’s. Then, Flamenco artists, such as dancer Antonia Merce, came to the United States and produced shows that people enjoyed. This led to a wave of talented artists moving here as well in order to become the first great Flamenco artists in the United States. In the 1930’s, during the Spanish Civil War, some of the most well-known Flamenco artists, such as Carmen Amaya, came to New York to flee the war (One a side note, many artists also migrated to varying other countries in Latin and South America to escape the Spanish Civil War, such as Sabicas who moved to Mexico). This ultimately was a turning point in which Flamenco culture was fully established in New York City (Dumas).

Flamenco outfits for women traditionally include a long red dress with ruffles in the skirt. Another commonplace is a flower in the hair, fans, and shawls. However, modern dancers have started to wear long, flowing gowns instead of one with ruffles in it. The image below shows an example of a modern Flamenco dress. For men, the traditional garb is a tighter, sometimes black, white, or red, outfit. Carmen Amaya, born in Barcelona in 1913, was a female flamenco dancer who broke the long-standing, traditional gender rules in terms of dress, dance style, and aggressiveness (Pennsylvania State University). As she progressed in her career, she turned towards a more feminine style of dancing. She was an honored and revered Flamenco dancer who has changed the traditional styles of Flamenco (Andalucia).

“A scene from the film “Flamenco, Flamenco”. Photo taken from: https://www.cleveland.com/musicdance/2014/03/flamenco_festival_at_cleveland.html / CC by 4.0.

One of the leading figures in popularizing Flamenco in the Americas was Jose Greco. An image of him can be seen below. Jose Greco was a charismatic dancer and choreographer. Born in Italy in 1923, he migrated to Spain for a few years, before moving to the United States. He established his own ballet company in 1945, which through he recruited prominent Flamenco figures to migrate to the United States and perform in his company. He appeared in movies as well. His son, Jose Greco III has taken over his company. His daughter, Carmela Greco, is a prominent Flamenco artist in her own right (La Prensa Texas). 

“Jose Greco” Photo taken from the Centro de Documentacion De Musica / CC by 4.0.

Two renowned modern dancers are Sara Baras and Joaquin Cortes. They both currently own their own dance company and tour with them (as many other prominent Flamenco dancers have done). They both have a more flowing, graceful style: a modern approach to Flamenco. Joaquin specifically incorporates some elements of ballet, in which his original training was in. Sara Baras learned to dance Flamenco from her mother and then incorporated in her own style of expression (Andalucia). Flamenco was originally passed through generations, and it is a tradition that still stands. At the same time, anyone can now learn Flamenco through classes and videos, regardless of their nationality, language, etc. 

“Amazing Flamenco Dance – Sara Baras” video posted by shahin0ne87 on YouTube / CC by 4.0.

Flamenco is seen as a generally Hispanic/white tradition. There is currently a social movement dubed “Decolonizing Flamenco”, in which black artists are gaining more recognition. They are using Flamenco as a medium of expression and acceptance. Some major pioneers in this movement are Phyllis Akinyi, Aliesha Bryan and Yinka Esi Graves. An image of Yinka Esi Graves can be seen below. They all began taking Flamenco classes in their twenties as a pastime and are all known distinguished Flamenco dancers. These three artists are dancers and although that is where this movement is beginning, there is hope that it will spread to all modalities of the art (Dixon-Gottschild). 

“Yinka Esi Graves”. Photo taken by Miguel Angel Rosales / CC by 4.0

Flamenco might have originated from Andalucia, but its modern evolution has come to place due to varying influences from around the world. Cuban customs have been passed back to Spain in the form of songs, known as Ida y Vuelta palos (song forms). Another such example is the cajon, or box drum, which is a traditional Cuban instrument that has been incorporated into the art of Flamenco (New York Latin Culture Magazine). This type of cultural exchange took place across Latin and South America. Traditional songs from Argentina, Columbia, Peru, etc., have all mixed in with Flamenco to create new music or dance styles that are performed today (Bryant). Dance styles, such as jazz and hip hop have also mixed in with Flamenco to create different styles. This mix of other cultures, music styles, etc. has brought forth a new wave of Flamenco named “Nuevo Flamenco” (New Flamenco). With one quick search online, tutorials for many of these styles can be found, further mixing them together.

Flamenco is a continually evolving art. Rosalia, a Spanish mainstream singer from Barcelona, incorporates aspects of Flamenco into her music and music videos. She is revolutionizing the art and incorporating modern and urban aspects (New York Latin Culture Magazine). Modern media has been an asset to spreading the art. Beginning with movies and now social media, these modalities have been pivotal to the international acclaim and recognition of Flamenco. 

What drew me to Flamenco was my love for dance in general. I grew up dancing Spanish and Middle Eastern dances. As such, having the opportunity to dive deeper into a dance that was built upon the union of multiple cultures, inspired me. Flamenco artists seek to seep their emotions into their art and communicate an un-spoken message to their audience. Looking into the future, Flamenco is a dynamic art form that is ever constantly evolving and becoming more inclusive. 

Works Cited:

Arts Flamenco. “Flamenco.” Flamenco History, http://artsflamenco.org/flamenco.html. 

Andalucia. “Carmen Amaya.” Andalucia.com, 26 Feb. 2021, https://www.andalucia.com/flamenco/dancers/carmenamaya.htm. 

Baras, Sarah. “Amazing Flamenco Dance | Sara Baras.” YouTube, uploaded by shahin0ne87, 31 October 2013, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QLnEjHuMFsA

Bennahum, Ninotchka Devorah. “Flamenco.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., https://www.britannica.com/art/flamenco. 

Blumenfeld, Alice. “Flamenco is a Language.” YouTube, uploaded by TEDx Talks, 5 December 2015, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8nQYQQcxHFo.

Bryant, Tony. “Flamenco – Styles Influenced by Flamenco.” Andalucia.com, 20 June 2014, https://www.andalucia.com/flamenco/styles-influenced.htm. 

Centro de Documentacion de Musica. “Pin Su the Ballet Annual (1947-1964).” Pinterest, 7 Jan. 2017, https://www.pinterest.com/pin/367747125808422481/. 

Dixon-Gottschild, Brenda. “Decolonizing Flamenco through Exploring Black Influences.” Dance Magazine, 21 Apr. 2022, https://www.dancemagazine.com/decolonizing-flamenco/. 

Dumas, Anthony C.. “Flamenco (USA).” New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, Oxford University Press, 2013, https://doi.org/10.1093/gmo/9781561592630.article.A2241107.

Harss, Marina, et al. “Flamenco Family Portrait.” The National Endowment for the Humanities, https://www.neh.gov/humanities/2013/julyaugust/statement/flamenco-family-portrait. 

Heller. (2015). Flamenco in America: A New Film [Review of Flamenco in America: A New Film]. Dance Chronicle – Studies in Dance and the Related Arts38(2), 255–259. Routledge. https://doi.org/10.1080/01472526.2015.1042952

Hill, Kristopher, and Julia Chacon. “Flamenco 101.” YouTube, uploaded by TEDx Talks, 15 March 2017, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sCpjPWWQB3s.

La Prensa Texas. “Jose Greco – Outstanding Hispanics by Leonard Rodriguez.” La Prensa Texas, 17 Feb. 2020, https://laprensatexas.com/jose-greco/. 

Lewis, Zachary. “Flamenco Festival at Cleveland Museum of Art Aims to Provide Fresh, Contemporary Experiences.” Cleveland, 4 Mar. 2014, https://www.cleveland.com/musicdance/2014/03/flamenco_festival_at_cleveland.html. 

Lorenz, Roberto. “Flamenco – Its Origin and Evolution.” Timenet.org, http://timenet.org/detail.html. 

New York City Center. “Flamenco Festival: New York City Center.” Flamenco Festival | New York City Center, https://www.nycitycenter.org/pdps/2021-2022/flamenco-festival/. 

New York Latin Culture Magazine. “Fall in Love with Flamenco NYC. ¡Olé!” New York Latin Culture Magazine, 8 Apr. 2022, https://www.newyorklatinculture.com/culture/music/traditional/flamenco/. 

NSPA.“Songs from the Streets.” NSPA, http://nspa.in/blog/exploring-the-fiery-passion-in-flamenco-dancing/. 

Pennsylvania State University. “Flamenco.” The Vast World of Dance, 23 Mar. 2017, https://sites.psu.edu/mnshermanpassion/2017/03/23/flamenco/. 

Rahman, Reaz, et al. “Roma Engage.” Restless Beings: Voice the Voiceless, 25 Aug. 2014, http://old.restlessbeings.org/projects/roma-gypsies. 

Spanish Living. “Flamenco – the Dance of Spain.” Spanish Living, 14 Nov. 2018, https://www.spanish-living.com/flamenco-the-dance-of-spain/. 

UNESCO. “Flamenco.” UNESCO, https://ich.unesco.org/en/RL/flamenco-00363. 

UNESCO. “What Is Intangible Cultural Heritage?” UNESCOhttps://ich.unesco.org/en/what-is-intangible-heritage-00003.

“Flamenco” graphic made by Leah Daire / CC by 4.0.

Leah Daire: Miami as Text, 2022

Images taken by Hannah Strong (CC by 4.0)

Leah Daire is a Biology undergraduate student at Florida International University (FIU). Once she graduates, she plans to attend medical school. She is involved in the Peer Led Team Learning (PLTL) program at FIU and the organization Panthers Uniting in Support of Health (P.U.S.H.). She has a large family who come from Cuba and Lebanon, however, she was raised primarily under the Cuban culture. She loves reading, jogging, bike riding, and pets.


Deering as Text

Images taken by Leah Daire (CC by 4.0)

“Geographical Ancestors”

By Leah Daire of FIU at the Deering Estate on January 28th, 2022.

Miami is known as a mixing pot of cultures. People living here hail from a variety of countries all around the world. And while a diverse community, the majority of the population is of Hispanic/Latin decent. In 2021, demographics showed that 71.51% of the Miami-Dade County population was Hispanic/Latino1. The people who belong to this category, myself included, are very proud of their culture and where their family comes from. However, this is only one side of the coin.

Every single person living in Miami has another set of unspoken ancestors. This culture less discussed is that of our geographical ancestors. The first people to inhabit Miami were not the Spaniards who stumbled upon this land from Europe, but the Natives who lived here for generations before. The Tequesta lived in the land which now holds the Deering Estate. They lived alongside the Biscayne Bay, which was a source of life for them. They used shell tools to hunt fish, etc. They can be seen next to the Tequesta Midden on the lands of the Deering Estate today. The Tequesta Cutler Burial Mound can also be found here. It is one of the two unearthed Tequesta Burial sites. The bones are laid to rest in a circular pattern around a grand oak tree. The Tequesta are now an extinct people with very little known of them, such as their image and language.

Much of what is known of the Tequesta is in the form of accounts from Spaniard colonialists who lived in Florida. The Tequesta were related to the Caloosa people, who inhabited a major part of Florida. They had a very positive relationship with the Spaniards; such so that when the British took control of Florida, various Tequesta families migrated to Cuba. The Tequesta were known to hunt a variety of marine organism and eat roots. They did not practice much agriculture. Their religion focused on nature, especially revering the sun and the moon. The Tequesta took part in a variety of rituals, many of which included dancing in them. They had a few sacrificial ceremonies as well, however, they were not very violent people in general. The Tequesta held a special regard for the dead and their bones2. This makes having visited the burial ground in Deering Estate that much more sacred.


1Miami Matters. (2021, January). 2021 Demographics. Miami Matters. https://www.miamidadematters.org/demographicdata

2McNicoll, R. E. (1941). The Caloosa Village Tequesta. University of Miami


Vizcaya as Text

Images taken by Leah Daire (CC by 4.0)

“The Combination of Two Cultures”

By Leah Daire of FIU at Vizcaya Museum & Gardens on February 18th, 2022.

In 1492, after the Reconquista in Spain, most Muslims were removed from the country except for skilled artisans, astrologists, writers etc. These artisans were allowed by Spanish nobles to continue creating their invaluable works. Thus, the style of Mudejar was created. Mudejar art is a mix between Christianity and Islam. Some key elements of Mudejar art is geometric aspects, calligraphy, and intricate tile patterns. In Aragon, many building have been dubbed UNESCO World Heritage sites. Many of these buildings were originally Moorish buildings which had Christian elements added upon after the Reconquista. 

One such artist created the Admiral Carpet found at Vizcaya. It can be seen in the living room, which is one of the most prominent spaces in the locale; it is where Pope John Paul II and President Ronald Reagan sat down. The Admiral Carpet was created in the 1450’s for King Ferdinand’s grandfather. The major decorative elements are two coat of arms and the words There is No God but Allah in Arabic. The coat of arms can be seen in the center of the carpet to highlight the Spanish nobility. The carpet, however, is designed in a largely Islamic style. 


Miami as Text

Images taken by Leah Daire (CC by 4.0)

“An inclusive Miami”

By Leah Daire of FIU at Downtown Miami on March 11th, 2022.

Julia Tuttle helped make Miami into the city is today. In the winter of 1894-95, she convinced Henry Flagler to expand railways down South and further gave him about half of her land to farm citrus. She sent him a box of freshly grown oranges, a rarity, as most oranges had frozen in that winter. Seeing the profit in the land down South, Henry Flagler expanded his railways to Miami.  

Julia Tuttle lived in Cleveland, Ohio. She came to purchase her property after paying a visit to her parents. Just as many tourists who come down to Miami, Julia Tuttle fell in love. She bought the land upon the death of her husband and her father, and set out to develop it. It was her dream to see it grow into a larger settlement; however, she died two years after Henry Flagler brought the railroad down. 

It is great to see how a woman set about creating one of America’s biggest cities. However, this step is also foreshadowed by the future segregation that would be put in place by Henry Flagler. Those who built Miami, the black Bahamians, were unable to there, but instead were made to live in Colortown (now Overtown). The establishment of Miami takes both a step forward and back in terms of inclusivity. It is our job to recognize these two parallels and to educate others.


SoBe as Text

Images taken by Leah Daire (CC by 4.0)

“new construction”

By Leah Daire of FIU at South Beach on April 1st, 2022.

As I write this, I am sitting outside in CocoWalk. Across the street there is a newly constructed building that has Miami written all over it. Included in the design are porthole windows, curved edges, and bright colors. With just one look, it is unmistakable that the building is built to resemble a ship sailing through the ocean. This building was created in the Miami Modern (MiMo) architecture style. MiMo began in the 1950’s and has since spread throughout Miami. There can, at times, be a thin line between MiMo and Art Deco, as the former arose from the later, but there are a few key elements that distinguish them, primarily the more modern aesthetic and asymmetry.  

Many new buildings are built in the MiMo style in order to attract occupants. Their unique look is appealing to many, especially those who move to Miami and are not accustomed to the regional style. In Biscayne Boulevard, there is a new area dubbed the Miami Modern District, in which restaurants and hotels are built in the MiMo style. This area is popular on the social media platform, Instagram, as tourists and residents alike visit to take pictures to gain popularity online. 


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