Juan Ortega: España As Texts 2019

by Juan Ortega of FIU

Juan Ortega is a double major in Political Science and History. He is currently playing to law school. His dream job is to be President of the United States. He would also like to travel to Australia—just has to get rich first.

”Culture Clash”

By Juan Ortega of FIU in Madrid, España

Madrid: the heart of Spain. What was once an irrelevant, poor, forgotten city now stands as the capital of the country. The soul of Spain is a fusion of Italian, French, and ancient Roman influences. The culture of Spain is largely a generic European culture. The aspects unique to Spain are typically adopted and adapted from the cultures that came before. The Jews and the Muslims that thrived in the Iberian Peninsula and then were expelled left their marks on. Madrid became the melting pot of the nation. Except these cultures have not necessarily melted together, as they have actually become pieces in a larger cubist painting. The architecture, art, and literature of Spain is almost forcibly Spanish. El Greco, which translates to “The Greek”, was not a Spanish native but the country adopted his style and claimed it to be their own. Federico Garcia Lorca changed poetry in the country by looking back into Spain instead of outside of its borders, like most other poets. The multiculturalism of the country creates a Spanish culture that is an amalgamation of those that came before and those that coexisted with Spain.

However, there is a stark similarity to the culture of Spain today and that of centuries ago: race. When walking down the intersecting roads of Madrid, one cannot avoid seeing the homeless faces. These faces, while ranging in age and story, rarely range in race. Black and Middle Eastern Spaniards try to make a living selling toys, clothes, or simply begging for food and money, yet the population walks on by. Gypsies and street vendors always look over their shoulders for the sight of a police office approaching.

The culture of Spain is one that struggles to address and deal with race relations. From the imperialist conquests of los conquistadors to the everyday avoidance of contact between fellow citizens, there is a seemingly understood hierarchy. Just as the Spaniards made painstakingly clear what each mixture of race was called, there still seems to be a belief in those old fashioned thoughts.

“A City on a Hill”

By Juan Ortega of FIU in Toledo, España

Photograph by Professor John William Bailly

Toledo is a land lost in time trapped in the middle of nowhere. A small labyrinth surrounded by the walls meant to protect it from invaders, no one can deny the layers of history built into the city. Islam, Judaism, and Christianity neighbor one another, coexisting and taking influences from one another. From the keyhole archways to the towering gothic cathedral that looms over the city, it is a city that by all historical accounts should not exist in the fashion it does. As one climbs the mountains around the city, it becomes clear that while each part of the city is gorgeous, it’s entirety is a work of art. 

The rocks themselves become a kind of metaphor for the city. The rocks and thorns that outline the trails are risk for injury and discomfort, much like the risk for conflict and eradication between that the three religions that have existed for centuries. However, Toledo is different. Toledo is a literal and metaphorical city on a hill. Gorgeous from the outside and exciting from within. The city take the conflict of culture clashes Spain has dealt with and transforms it into a beautiful example of what could be. There is no denying that the history of Toledo is far from fault, but taking the city at face value one can imagine a world where all coexist regardless of religion or creed.

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