Ashley Smallwood: Miami as Text 2023

Photography taken by Ashley Smallwood / CC by 4.0

Ashley Smallwood is an FIU Honors College student. She is currently pursuing a Master of Architecture degree and is interested in the restoration of historical structures. Due to her early exposure to the ocean and greenery of Fort Myers, Florida, she strives to learn about the merging between human structures and the earth’s natural elements.

Encounter as Text

by Ashley Smallwood

January 27, 2023

Photograph taken by Ashley Smallwood / CC by 4.0

Even though we were born seven years apart, my sister and I have always been best friends. I don’t remember a time before I went to college when we never not spoke for more than a couple days – even if it was just a short phone call. Now, however, my sister is deployed in Japan for the second time and communication gets hard when you have a fourteen-hour time difference. Although, I miss her all the time, I’m grateful that my sister has experienced many once-in-a- lifetime opportunities while she has been abroad. Now it gets to be my turn to experience the world for myself.

I have no doubt that my parents have gotten over listening to me lamenting about not experiencing anything outside of the US. Junior year of high school was when I was going to experience many different countries within Europe, but Covid popped up as an obstacle for me then. I think that disappointment was when I really looked outside of Florida and saw the experiences I was missing, even inside of the country.

The picture above was taken by me when my family visited Tennessee during the summer. I think this picture helped me realize that being in nature was something I appreciated tremendously. Since joining my roommate Liz in signing up for the España trip, I have looked back and become grateful that I didn’t go on the trip to Europe during high school because I don’t think I would have appreciated it as it should be appreciated. I have grown as person with much more meaningful interest than I had back then – even if it was only two years ago.

I developed a hobby that I never thought I could develop in Florida: rock climbing. During the summer before I started college, a rock-climbing gym opened up in my city. I had very little experience from when I went with my cousins in Virginia. I decided to sign up to work there anyway. This decision turned out to be a pivotal moment for me and my interests in traveling. I ended up meeting really amazing people and joining an awesome community of nature-loving adventurers. I met someone through rock climbing who lived in Switzerland during high school, and he shares with me his experiences of his time in Europe which really pushed me to follow through with this España trip. So far, my excitement has only grown and I am looking forward to seeing the architecture of the religious sanctuaries and ultimately learning more about the history of Spain itself.

Since I have never been out of the country – at least old enough that I could remember anything – I am a tad bit nervous about being away from my family, especially because I won’t be near them. In honesty, I know it’ll pass and be out of my mind once I am actually there. My mother is definitely a worrier, which I definitely understand. However, I believe this trip will help me become more confident in my own decisions while I am abroad and help me form bonds with people I did not even know before.


“A NEW CURRENCY” by Ashley Smallwood

February 12, 2023

Public Domain

The Transatlantic Exchange undoubtedly shaped the world into what is today. It is known as the greatest transaction between “worlds” – specifically the Old World and the New World. As I learned about this phenomenon for the first time, in depth, in high school, there was an underlining on three main subjects, one being how and which food was traded and what the affect was. Another stressed on was the spreading of diseases into the Americas, such as smallpox, measles and malaria, as well as the introduction of syphilis into the Old World. The final part being the development and of the transatlantic slave trade and how the slaves were taken and treated.

Now as I relearn this part of history, I go with the intention of digging deeper into the cause and effect of various aspects within the initial globalization of the Transatlantic Voyage. To do this, I look farther than Europe, into East and West Asia. Until now, I believe that I focused too much on the effect in Europe and never really considered how far the grand exchange spread into the world.

After learning that a few spices we think as Asian Indian, actually came from the New World, my interest piqued. It is surreal that in modern society we may think that some thing or idea originated in a country where it has been popular for many years, even though that may not be the case.

After looking more into how the Asian continent was influenced by the New World, I found that the most significant good that was being traded was silver. ” In 1581, the Sycee, a silver ingot currency used throughout China’s late imperial period, became especially prominent in Ming Dynasty (1368–1644) tax reforms emphasizing payment in silver instead of in-kind taxes such as grain, rice, or labor.” (“Late Imperial China, Silver, and Global Trade Routes”) As a result of the introduction of silver currency to China, the ties between Europe, Asian, and the Americas strengthened when it had been weak.

While Europe was trading silver to the Chinese, they were receiving goods such as porcelain, silk, and most importantly, however later on: tea. (Another example to the statement about modern society mentioned two paragraphs above.) This import of silver was not small by any means, and therefore the Chinese ports were boosting during this period.

While China was receiving gold from the European side, they were also in trade with Japan. “The silver production from the Iwami Ginzan silver mine, the biggest silver mine in Japan during the early Edo Period (1603-1868), accounted for 30 percent of global silver production.” (” Late Imperial China, Silver, and Global Trade Routes”)

China does not have natural supply of metals, such as gold and silver, to mine, so their relied heavily on the importation of silver from Europe and Japan for their production of silver currency. However, the European countries become weary of sending anymore silver, so they look to another good to export to China. They decide on opium, which we can deduce was the origination of the opium era of China which led to what we know as the Opium Wars.


Sun, L. (2021, May 27). Late imperial china, silver, and Global Trade Routes. Association for Asian Studies. Retrieved February 12, 2023, from


“Two Hours” by Ashley Smallwood

February 24, 2023

Image taken by Ashley Smallwood/CC by 4.0

Even after living in Miami for a little over a year, I consistently learn new things (as in pretty much daily). In hindsight, this shouldn’t be hard to understand or at all very surprising because, although I grew up two hours away, I am submersed in an entirely new culture. During class, when we explored downtown Miami, this became more prevalent to me.

Fort Myers, Florida embodies every aspect of the stereotypical Florida town. Ten minutes away from the beach, Publix, and of course mostly populated by the white “Florida Man.” And though my family was very interested in our ancestral history, we had very limited information from my great grandma (originally born in Japan). Therefore, I grew up in the average white household with 1/8th percentage of my Asian DNA to call myself different (which was insanely cool to my other average white friends.)

After moving to Miami, I realized how out of touch I was with other cultures and didn’t really know much of the world’s history other than what I was taught in history class. Something that piqued my interest during our lecture about Historic Miami was how culturally rich it was before it became the Miami we have today. Specifically speaking of William Wagner and Eveline Aimar (Wagner being a German immigrant and Aimar being a French-Creole immigrant) and how they were the first to settle in the area, established a relationship with the Seminoles, and also were an interracial relationship which was definitely not common at the time. Their story is very awe-inducing and stuck to me for reasons I do not yet understand.

Another instance of cultural richness that I still dwell on, comes from the time just before the introduction of the railroad by Henry Flagler. While I appreciate his capability and how his significance in Miami’s conception, the negative impact of this situation steers me into wondering how life would be in now if he hadn’t built the railroad in the first place. These negatives stem from the obliteration of diversity within communities. Before Flagler and the railroad, Bahamians, the Seminoles, and groups from Northern Territories had gathered in their own groups but also mingled and had this interconnection between themselves. Then, however, Flagler brings the railroad, but also the segregation and pollution tot the environment. Again, while we do have the Miami we have today, it’s hard to not winder what it would’ve been like if Flagler would not have brought the railroad.

Image taken by Ashley Smallwood/CC by 4.0

The environment is something that I feel is such a heavily talked about subject but to me I don’t really see an argument that is against how much pollution there is in the world. It’s how we aren’t doing enough to combat the pollution that was started in the past and has snowballed into what is today. Something that I find astounding is how many people just don’t care. We see trash in the streets and in the water every day and people just aren’t bothered by it being there? The more complicated side of the matter has to do with concepts such as corporation emissions, plastic in landfills, and architectural sustainability. As societal technology improves and changes, the prioritization of the environment is something that should always be present because we have the technology to control these issues unlike in the past.


” Magic Realism”

by Ashley Smallwood

March 4, 2023

My first encounter with magic realisms in high school because of my Spanish teacher. One of our lessons focused on literature in Latin America so Magic Realism was a prevalent subject.

One specific piece of literature was titled 100 Years of Solitude written by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. He is considered the best Latin America authors of all time. He even won a Nobel Prize for Literature in 1982 to show for his contribution. Specifically, for me, Marquez opened the gateway into this writing style and, eventually, I discovered the author Isabel Allende, another revolutionary in the literature world.

Allende wrote across a broad spectrum of topics, including the fleeing from Venezuela after the assassination of Chilean President Salvador Allende, her father’s cousin, to the roles of women in Latin America. I feel that Allende really shows the different ways that Magic Realism could apply.

From what I gather, magic realism is the “magic” you can find in real life. For me, I believe that the magic I experience is the smell of something nostalgic, the northern lights (or the Aurora Borealis), bio-luminescent rivers, sunsets over the mountains in Colorado, and the months of darkness in Alaska, to name a few. Natural phenomenon in general speak to me as forces of awe.

As I go through the routine, I find that it can be monotonous, and to combat this “boredom” of a repetitive life, seeing the beauty and “magic” in real life can put into perspective how we can live life in a way that makes us feel that it is worthwhile. I am very much an outdoors person, so to me, magic is the pure air of the snowy mountains, the greenery of the meadows of Oregon, and the salty breeze flowing in from the Gulf of Mexico. The magic of life can speak to any person in their own way, and even if real “magic” or sorcery isn’t necessarily real, we can make it real with our outlooks on life.

If I were to look for other examples of Magic Realism, it would be in the film world. Which, I guess, is sort of similar to writing, and I am not referring to the fantasy genre of film but the act and editing of film itself. I have recently followed a film account, on social media, run by two brothers who create film content. They base their content on basically being “free” in the world. I really enjoy their content because it makes me feel nostalgic for a time in which I haven’t even experienced. That feeling is a form of magic realism to me.


by Ashley Smallwood

March 19, 2023

This recent trip to Vizcaya was actually my second time visiting, however, it was my first time during day hours. Both of these visits hold different meanings to me. The principal idea that I identified through both of these excursions was how beautiful things have blankets of meaning and the superficial shell distracts from the interior meaning.

When I first encountered Vizcaya, I admit that I only had an eye for the detailed facades, the maximal interiors, and the expansive gardens. Even though I read the displayed plaques and looked up facts related to what I saw, I can confidently say that the second trip to Vizcaya was far more educational. Of course, the difference between trips is a personal trip versus an educational trip with a class lecture setting, however, I believe that that exactly encases my point. My point being that the only reason I visited before was because I knew it to be a popular destination because it is a beautiful place, not because it had any historical significance.

After looking past all of the glamour, it makes sense as to why it is so important to history, specifically Miami’s history. I found it very intriguing (and humorous) that John Deering embedded hidden aspects inside this house to flaunt that he was a “Renaissance Man,” so to speak. A couple of examples of this being the fake books in his study and the “triumphant” and “conquering” arches which act as the entrances to his gardens.

An issue which repeatedly is mentioned when we take excursions to historical locations in Miami, is the lack of representation to those who set the grounds for these places to exist today. Bahamians and the many indigenous groups of people who were born here, lived here, and died here, don’t receive the recognition or even the acknowledgement they have a claim to.

I was not born or raised here in Miami; however, I can see irony in the culture. Although, it is not necessarily the peoples’ fault, rather the education system, I can assume that the average Miami citizen is not aware of Miami’s foundation or how it came to be. The same citizen who is proud of their city’s history and diversity. Again, a source of this problem may stem from the educational system currently in place today and the lack of representation at these local, historical sites.

Miami España Ida as Text

Revival of the Old World”

By Ashley Smallwood

April 16, 2023

Photograph taken by Ashley Smallwood/CC by 4.0

It isn’t uncommon to hear someone say that Miami is its own identity separate from the rest of Florida. While it’s culture and diversity are solid grounds for this claim, Miami’s architecture differentiates it from other Florida cities—other than St. Augustine. Classic art deco, streamline modern, Miami modern, Bahamian, and Bungalow are some styles which can be found. However, there are two more popular styles that originated from Spain: Mediterranean Revival and Mission.

Both the Mediterranean Revival and Mission styles gained popularity in the Americas around 1910 to the 1930s. However, they both originated in America during the 19th century. They share many similarities that are found their physical characteristics such as red tile roofs, arches, curved parapets, and stucco walls. Though they share these similarities, the Mediterranean Revival and Mission styles have contrasting histories as well as their own twist on the Spanish architectural style.

Starting with the Mediterranean Revival, as mentioned before it originated in the 19th century but gained popularity in the early 1900s­­­­, specifically peaking in the 20s in Miami and California. This peak caused the style to hit Miami Beach early and became one of its first major architectural influences. The first city hospital, the Alamo, constructed between 1916 and 1918, is a prime example. By studying just this one structure, the influence of this revival is clear by the red tile roof and arches at the entrance. This coastal themed movement drew inspiration from Italy, southern Spain, and France. When identifying the structural components of the Mediterranean Revival, one will look for stucco walls, low pitched roofs (covered in terracotta barrel tile or red tile), wrought-iron railings, arched windows, and curved parapets, just to name a few. Program-wise this movement is commonly known for patios, courtyards, and balconies. Other than the Alamo, Beverly Terrace Historic District and the Freedom Tower are a couple other examples of the Mediterranean Revival seen in Miami.

As mentioned before, the Mission architectural style similarly gained popularity in the early 1900s as the Mediterranean Revival did. However, while the other movement took inspiration from European countries, including Spain, the Mission style drew inspiration from the Spanish mission churches that were built in California. Additionally, to the structural similarities in which the Mediterranean and Mission styles share (red tile roof, curved parapets, and arches) the Mission movement is known for having very minimal façade decoration and a front porch which extends over a carport or garage entrance against the side of the main building mass. The main instances in which we see the Mission style well in Miami are the Plymouth Congregational Church and Sunshine Fruits Company Inn. As mentioned earlier the architectural diversity of the city of Miami sets it apart from the rest of Florida, except for St. Augustine. St. Augustine is also another city in which you can physically see the influences from Spain, and the Cathedral Basilica of St. Augustine is a must see for Mission Style in public architecture.

In order to know the historical beginnings of the architectural world in Miami, delving into the history of the Deering Estate (example of Mediterranean Revival) is crucial to experiencing and exploring the individuality and innovative qualities of the city. Fortunately, by volunteering at the film premiere of ‘John William Bailly: In Situ’ I was able to meet a gentleman by the name of Pedro Chaviano who was in attendance. I mentioned that I am majoring in architecture, and I found that Mr. Chaviano studied architecture at and graduated from Syracuse University while also having practiced the discipline in Boston for years after. He informed me that he loves reading about history and gave me valuable information about the architectural history of the Deering Estate which really expanded by appreciation for the structure and its design. If I remember correctly, I was told that Vitruvius, a famous roman architect was the basis of which the Italian Renaissance architectural design was influenced. Phineus Paist, the architect who led the architectural movement of Coral Gables and also designed the Deering Estate as well as Vizcaya Museum, took inspiration from this period and Spanish style architecture. After researching more about Paist, I can assume that he generated the revival of the Old World throughout the city of Miami and influenced how it stands in modern day society.

Through the Mediterranean Revival and Mission architectural styles although there are major influences from Spain, there are also other European (Italy and Spain) and even other American (California) influences which translate into Miami’s diverse cityscape. I believe that this supports the idea that Miami reaches higher than the rest of Florida, but I think that it also reaches broader than even other major cities in the United States as well.


“A Tip of the Scale”

By Ashley Smallwood

April 24, 2023

Image by nperron22 from Pixabay

              As we finish the semester, it feels as if it has only just begun in some sense. I have found that as I reread my encounter as text writing submission, maybe the reason as to why I am taking this course and going on this trip is something I didn’t know or didn’t understand initially. Before, I was in this class to get out. Explore. See the world. To not be in Florida, if I am to be honest. Currently, I think that I signed up for this program to learn more. About what? The world in general, I suppose. When you’re in high school, you think that you know exactly what you need to know to go out and make a living. To know just enough as your parents is enough to make yourself as successful as them. However, that doesn’t satisfy the curiosities you develop when you encounter a new culture, or a new environment. When I came to Miami, I encountered a lifestyle completely different than my old life. Now, I want to immerse myself in another completely different life, to live in way a new way.  

               My emotions regarding this trip consist of a scale, with anxiety on one side and excitement on the other. Before this class, the anxiety was weighing me down. Becoming friends with my soon-to-be travel companions has lifted a greater weight off me immensely. Whenever I see my España friends, I think to myself, “I am so glad these are the people I will be experiencing a new country with.” You don’t realize it before the course starts, but you begin to realize that you will be relying on your friends greatly when you’re in a new place. You are traveling by yourself, but more for yourself. However, studying abroad is to travel as a collective. You are there for your own experiences and for the experiences you will share with others. My excitement grows whenever I think about that.

               Academically, I understood little about Spain. After having been through this class, I realize I was sorely mistaken. I knew next to nothing about Spain. My sister recently visited me in Miami, and she said something that I keep thinking about, “Well you’re a scholarly box of random facts now.” In all earnestness, I am proud that I have this knowledge that others don’t know. I can tell people facts and concepts about things that I was never aware of before and it’s invigorating. Once we get to Spain, I know for a fact that I’ll want to know everything of anything that I see or hear about. Similarly, the knowledge I now have of worldly current conflicts and the history that led up to them has removed the film of ignorance I previously had. I see the world through a clean lens and that is something I am grateful to my classmates and professor for.

              As we look forward to June 7th, I can say that I know I will have a great experience. I am surrounded by intellectual and kind individuals, being led by a great professor, and experiencing a historically rich and interesting country with insane architecture. No one will find me without my sketchbook, for sure.

Allison Vargas: Vuelta España 2016

Allison Vargas: Vuelta España 2016

Allison Vargas of FIU Honors College in the Alhambra in 2016


Studying abroad in Spain with Professor John William Bailly

“I began to examine the different aspects of freedom in the United States and Spain when I saw La Giralda in Sevilla. La Giralda has an immediate connection to Miami because both the Freedom Tower as well as the Biltmore Hotel were inspired by it.”

La Giralda,  a bell tower of the Sevilla Cathedral, includes parts from many cultures. Stones with Roman inscriptions were used to build the original Moorish minaret before the mosque was turned into a church during the Reconquista.

The Freedom Tower, on the other hand, was used in the 1960s to process, document, and help Cuban refugees fleeing Castro’s regime. The tower is now a symbol of hope and freedom.

I found it interesting and ironic that a tower that is the product of cultural and religious conflict is the inspiration for a tower representing freedom across an ocean. However, in the case of both towers, conflict brought about cultural blending. La Giralda itself is the product of cultural blending, while Cuban and American culture began blending at the Freedom Tower. Although the towers have very different histories, they have had parallel functions in the merging of cultures.

Sevilla’s Giralda served as inspiration for Miami’s Freedom Tower and Biltmore hotel. (Photos by JW Bailly CC BY 4.0)


Religion plays a huge role in Spanish history and identity—so much so that it would be illogical, even impossible, to visit Spain and not visit the amazing cathedrals and churches, regardless of your own religion.

The difference in the history of religion in the United States and Spain is starkly obvious: the U.S. has always supported religious diversity and tolerance, while Spain is the product of religious control.

Here is a brief history lesson to explain.

Both the Reconquista and the Inquisition established Christian dominance in Spain. During the Reconquista in the Middle Ages, Christian armies conquered the Moors, and the Moors were driven out of Spain. Spain became united under Catholicism by King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella, which led to the Inquisition. During the Inquisition (1478-1834), anyone non-Christian, especially Jews, was punished. Later, during the Franco era, Catholicism was the only religion allowed legal status. The government passed laws supporting Catholic teachings, and Catholic religious education was mandatory in schools.

Today, most Spaniards identify as Catholic, but religion has become more of a tradition than anything else. There are still remnants of Spain’s authoritarian religious history, however. Cities like Toledo and Sevilla have a “Juderia” or Jewish neighborhood, although no Jews reside in it. To me, the signs of the Juderia are more like gravestones than neighborhood labels. I personally did not see a single synagogue or mosque that had not been converted into a Catholic church. During my entire time in Spain, I saw only one other church among the countless Catholic churches—a Scientology church.

The lack of religious diversity in Spain stands in stark contrast to the United States, where you may  stumble upon a multitude of different places of worship in any town. However, the U.S. is not impervious to religious discrimination, and it is not unique to Spain. Also, although both countries now claim separation of church and state, religious ideologies constantly permeate politics. In Spain, this separation is difficult, given its history;  but in the U.S. it is notable that religion plays such a large part in a country that has always had a separation of church and state, and that it is even referred to as “one nation under God”.



As I have studied in Spain, I have become aware that the level of conservatism is different than in the United States. The U.S. is actually more sexually restrictive, a reality that was blatantly obvious, especially on the beaches.

At Barceloneta and the beach at Sitges, women of all sizes and ages are commonly topless. In the U.S., topless women at a beach would most likely receive stares and even sexual harassment. In Spain, breasts seem to almost be completely desexualized, and toplessness at the beach is regarded as the norm.

Another less in-your-face, but still apparent, way in which Spain is less conservative than the U.S. is the view on homosexuality. I first began to consider this distinction on the day of the Orlando shootings. On that day, the Real Casa de Correos, a building located in Madrid, hung gay pride flags with a black ribbon on them in solidarity. After seeing these flags, I felt proud to be in a country that was standing with American citizens and the gay community. I further noted the difference in views on homosexuality after seeing several gay couples together. Although this is just as frequent in Miami, I did not notice any glares or harsh looks in Spain. These observations led me to do a little research. I found that, according to Pew Research Center, 91% of Spaniards are accepting of homosexuality, while only 60% of Americans are. Furthermore, Spain legalized gay marriage in 2005, while in the U.S., it has only been legal since 2015.

In light of the historical role of religion in these countries, the different attitudes on sexuality are ironic. It is almost paradoxical that a country so dominated by Catholic and conservative ideals legalized such a liberal statute a decade before the U.S. However, it is also relevant to note that the  Pew Research Center also found that half of Americans deem religion to be very important in their lives, while less than a quarter of Spaniards do. Needless to say, Spain’s societal attitudes have evolved rapidly, and in my opinion, for the better. I only hope that American attitudes undergo a similar evolution in the near future.
A Demon dances in fire at the Nit de Sant Joan Festival in Barcelona. (Photo by JW Bailly CC BY 4.0)


By a stroke of luck, we were fortunate enough to be in Barcelona for the celebration of the Nit de San Joan on June 23rd. I had never heard of this holiday, or what it commemorated, before. My curiosity led me to a swift Google search. I quickly learned that the holiday has pagan origins, and long predates the introduction of Christianity. It is a celebration of the summer solstice, and the Catholic Church later combined it with the birth of St. John the Baptist. Bonfires and fireworks are at the heart of the festivities; the flames are believed to frighten and dispel evil spirits abroad on this night.

Before actually witnessing the celebration, I expected it to be similar to the American Fourth of July, which I associate with fireworks and bonfires on the beach; so when I learned that the Nit de San Joan was celebrated similarly, I imagined them to be alike. Well, it was nothing like the Fourth of July.

There was no part of Barcelona that did not have people out celebrating. Throughout the city, music was playing and fireworks were shooting. These fireworks displays, though, were like nothing I had ever seen. You did not watch them up in the sky while sitting in awe. Instead, they were detonating right beside you in the hands of people dressed up as devils—odd, I thought, for a holiday that celebrates a saint. Although being in such close proximity to fireworks is dangerous, the excitement and thrill in the atmosphere gave me an adrenaline rush that made me completely forget the potential risk.

Participating in this unique celebration really focused my attention on the differences between the U.S. and Spain; a celebration like the Nit de San Joan could never exist in the U.S.; the U.S. imposes too many restrictions! A celebration consisting of fireworks and bonfires would never be allowed to extend throughout a U.S. city. There would be regulations on the beach in the name of environmentalism, regulations on the streets in the name of safety and noise control, and regulations throughout the city in the name of keeping the festivities small enough for the police to control.

What the two countries do have in common, though, is that they have lost sight of the meaning behind their celebrations. The Nit de San Joan felt like an excuse to drink and party, not really to celebrate St. John the Baptist. Similarly, St. Patrick’s Day in the U.S. has little religious meaning and now centers on drinking and partying.

Audri Rodriguez and Yina Cabrera of FIU in Espana (Photo by Vicky Atencio CC BY 4.0)


In no way is either Spain or the United States more technologically advanced than the other, but the use of, and importance placed on technology, is slightly different. Two applications of technology that I found to be unalike when comparing the countries were transportation and cellphones. These two technologies can either be used in society to augment freedom or to restrict it.

Throughout my time in Spain, there were perhaps only two occasions where I used a taxi to commute. On all other occasions, we either walked or used public transportation to get around, which seem to be the more popular transportation methods. This is a pronounced difference when compared to the most common method of transportation back home in Miami: driving.

Transportation in Miami, in fact, restricts our freedom. I can probably count on my two hands the number of times I have used public transportation in Miami, and I am willing to bet that most other Miami locals can say the same. This heavy reliance on cars leads to our infamous traffic problems. People waste countless hours of their lives in traffic, an issue that the average Spanish citizen would never encounter. Spain’s substantial use of public transportation allows for virtually no time spent wasted commuting, as well as an overall more positive commuting experience.

Cellphones are another technology that appears to restrict people in Miami more than in Spain. My reasoning for this claim lies in the observations I made while eating out at restaurants. In Spain, people at restaurants were always fully engaged in conversations with each other, and never on their cellphones. In Miami, the opposite holds true. Back home, it is rare to see people not check their phones at least once during a meal. But cellphones are not the only culprit. Some restaurants in Miami, like Chili’s for example, have tablets on every table that offer games, which further socially withdraw people from what should in reality be a social event.

So when considering transportation and hand-held devices, Spain seems to be doing a better job at using these technologies to improve lifestyles, rather than hinder them.

Guernica by Pablo Picasso is the Museo Reina Sofia in Madrid


There is a complicated relationship between conflict and freedom. Conflict threatens freedom,  but it is also sometimes needed to gain or keep freedom.

Pablo Picasso’s Guernica depicts the bombing of that city during the Spanish Civil War. Seeing this massive work of art at the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía in Madrid was extraordinary; the painting caused me not only to  appreciate Picasso’s one-of-a-kind genius, but also to reflect on what it depicts. The combination of Picasso’s artistry and the compelling meaning of the piece makes it my favorite painting of the trip.

The artwork is a universal symbol warning against the suffering and devastation of war. For this reason, a copy is displayed in the United Nations Building in New York. This fact led me to directly link the U.S. and Spain once again as I researched the willingness of both countries to use military force. I found that three-quarters of Americans agree that it is sometimes necessary to use military force to maintain order in the world, while narrower majorities of Spaniards share the same view. Furthermore, when asked whether their country should have UN approval before using military force to deal with international threats, only 45% Americans agree, compared to the 74% of Spaniards who do.

This difference in opinion may be due to Spain’s more direct connection to the pain and horror of war on its home soil. Perhaps the U.S. is more focused on the use of conflict to foster freedom, while Spain is more aware of the suffering conflict causes.

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