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  • Nida Aley

A Pedacito of Spain

Updated: Jun 19, 2022

We landed on Spanish soil and I was home. The generous splashes of color on every building façade, balcony, and alcove; the garlands of artificial flowers decorating every nook and cranny, the cobble-stoned pathways, it was like a rainbow had exploded over everything.

As soon as I landed in Spain I knew I was home
As soon as I landed in Spain I knew I was home

Unrestrained emotion was on display everywhere, the troubadours with their hearts on their sleeves and the painter selling his soul on paper. One street artist proposed to me right there and I was dumbstruck. “I would want someone as colorful as you in my life” were his words.

A little surpirsed when a Spanish street artist proposes marriage
A little surpirsed when a Spanish street artist proposes marriage

We Pakistanis, as a nation, have passive aggressiveness down to an art form, any open displays of love and individuality are frowned upon, so it’s fair to say I felt these Spaniards were my people. Open, free, happy, colorful.

There was the Flamenco dance we attended at this local restaurant. I had a vague concept of what Flamenco was; a lot of stomping of leather shoes and musical clappers, but it was so much more than I had expected. A myriad of emotions in the smallest gesture, joy, anger, resilience, grief. The feminist in me rejoiced to see this beautiful woman with her game face on, letting her man know he will rue the day he walked out on her. Though he is breaking her heart he will never break her spirit!

Flamenco dancing is as Spanish as you can get
Flamenco dancing is as Spanish as you can get

There was the Cathedral of Cordoba; formerly the mosque of Cordoba, so many eons ago, when Muslims ruled over Spain, torn down and rebuilt as a church; part of the mosque was saved for posterity, but it wasn’t functional, people weren’t allowed to pray there. This Cathedral is now a testament to the grandeur and decadence of both styles of architecture. The stark difference between the two styles is quite a thing to behold. Where one is all about gilded opulence and gorgeous sculptures, the other uses organic curves, spherical shapes, and scripture as an art form.

The same situation can affect people in such different ways; we were a group of about 40, roughly divided down the middle into two generations, the old and the new, people in their late 20’s and 30’s and our parents. Faced with the Cathedral, the oldies spent most of their time bawling over the lost glory of the Muslims while the younger generation saw the hope of coexistence, peace, and love. If we respect each other’s differences we CAN all get along. As I wiped a tear from my eye it was a proud moment for me. There is hope for this generation yet.

There was the visit to La Cartuja, a monastery on a river island near Seville, where DNA verified remains of Christopher Columbus were buried. There are parts of Columbus buried at four different locations in four different countries, each guarding its precious bit with its life. Even though most of us now know Columbus was kind of an asshole and a bumbling idiot. He set out to find India but landed on the Americas instead, raped and plundered the land he landed on. Brought back Syphilis to his country and thousands of people died of it as a result. History is indeed written by the victors, or uninformed friends of the victors.

His own crew testified against him for the atrocities he inflicted on them, but money talks, or in this case, spices do, as the justice system failed us once again, he was sentenced to 6 weeks in jail. Because 6 weeks is the prescribed time period for curing tyranny.

A visit to La Cartuja where Christopher Colombus is buried
A visit to La Cartuja where Christopher Colombus is buried

To my utter horror, people in my group wanted to take in a little bit of light animal cruelty in the form of Bullfighting. How is tormenting any poor creature ‘entertainment’?? They actually kill the bull in the end as a form of ‘mercy’ because it would probably succumb to the wounds, anyway. The bloody scene from Hemingway’s “for whom the bell tolls’ immediately sprung to mind and I put my foot down. This was some serious BS, but at this rate not for long, when they kill all the bulls!

Some final musings:

  1. It seems all the Renaissance artists thought Jesus was a really ugly baby!

  2. Once you’ve tasted European coffee you’ll become one of those obnoxious, pretentious people that everyone avoids

  3. People have a weird habit of praying in places they aren’t allowed. Hell, yeah! rebels for life!

  4. No matter how ‘open-minded’ you think you are, you will never like the cuisine of another country. Stop lying to yourself, embrace your inner desi and add a little ‘mirchi’ (spice) to everything

  5. I’m a hippie at heart and I like colorful, psychedelic buildings, bright awnings, pastry-like exteriors that you want to take a bite out of. Look at this shit! Even their graffiti is a work of art.

  6. I did say a little prayer in all the churches and cathedrals we visited, just as I do when we visit a mosque or I would if we visit a synagogue. I believe God is everywhere and we all are one. Okay, end of hippie rant

I left Spain with a heavy heart and a very light pocket. The ten-odd days spent there are some of the favorite days in my life. I hope I visit again someday


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