Sarah Wright ’20 discovers the warmth and beauty of Spanish culture.
Prior to traveling to Spain, I had never been to Europe. In fact, my journeys outside of the borders of the United States had never taken me across an ocean. As we prepared for the trip and I learned about my host family and the activities we would be participating in, I began to form an image of what Cádiz would be like. Information given to us by our teachers combined with my knowledge of Europe and Spain (mostly gathered from artsy travel blogs though let’s say from history classes) formed my idea of Cádiz. And let me tell you, I was so wrong.
Driving into Cádiz from our orientation in Jerez, I whipped out my phone prepared to take photos of matadors walking their bulls down cobblestone paths, as flamenco dancers stomped and swayed on every corner. But the image on my phone had apartment buildings, where castles should have been and people were walking small dogs down sidewalks instead of chasing bulls on horseback. I was shocked.
As we became acquainted with the city, and our new homes, we were introduced to “Cádiz Antigua.” This area, also known as “El Centro,” featured the stunningly aged buildings and cobblestone walkways that I had imagined finding in Europe. And, as we walked down the streets gazing up at the rooftop gardens and peering into small cafes, I realized that Spanish culture was not something that would present itself to me the second I entered the country’s borders.
I have found the most important pieces necessary to form a full picture of the culture of Spain in the most unexpected places. I have found it in the layers and layers of history that we discuss as we stand atop the physical building of culture upon culture, Phoenician upon Roman, upon Muslim upon Spanish. I have found it in the warmth of my host mom, as she repeats her question to Taylor and I for the fourth time, each time slower, and each time with a wider smile. I have found it in the aromas rising from pans of paella and croquetas. I have found it in the kindness of the students at Salesianos, where we take classes, as they laugh at Harry’s statement that he wants to be an “avocado” instead of an “abogado,” or lawyer. I have found it in the yells of “ole” and “agua” that ring out as a flamenco dancer finishes her performance with a stomp and a twirl of her skirts. I have found it in the laughs that ring through the streets late at night as people sit on patios with their friends and family. And, I have learned that Spanish culture is deeper than flamenco dresses and bull fights. It is an ever-present connection that somehow links buildings older than the United States and smartphones playing Reggaeton.
There are no words that can properly describe this connection and there is no way to see it. But, as we take the bus from our apartment building to the cobblestone patios of small cafes, I feel the warmth of Spanish culture all around me.