Daniella Stalingovskis: España as Text 2019

Daniella Stalingovskis is a junior in FIU Honors College pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Business Analytics with a minor in Economics. Her hobbies include mathematics, statistics, and learning about the fine arts and history . She attended the Honors Spain program in the summer of 2019. Here are her as texts in Spain:

Madrid as Text:

Postcards of various Las Castas paintings for sale 06/07/19

“Wait a Minute Mr. Postman” by Daniella Stalingovskis of FIU at Museo de Americas, Madrid

When exploring and immersing myself about the history of the Americas in the Museo de Americas, I noticed how many controversial paintings in the museum were not fully explained to their visitors. It makes it seem that it is Spain’s intention to hide the oppression they caused under the rug and to still glorify their perspective of the golden age period in Spain when they conquered the Americas while ignoring the other side of the story of the indigenous people and the African slaves that were forcibly abused during Spain’s reign. The most noticeable example were the Las Castas paintings on display where no in-depth explanation as to what these paintings are and why they were created in the first place. It was not for aesthetics, but it served as a public reminder of one’s place in society based on one’s lineage. These paintings served as a reinforcement of Spain’s paranoia of a pure European and Christian bloodline and if one does not fully fit the criteria, one would not be able to live a life with economic or financial freedom. After visiting the museum, I stumbled across the souvenir shop and saw a rack of postcards with those same images. The same paintings that reinforced the oppressive caste system based on one’s bloodline that predetermines one’s entire lifestyle. It is problematic, ignorant, exploitative, and offensive to those who suffered during those times and are used for a measly half a euro for opportunistic gain for profit.

Segovia as Text:

Wooden Sculpture of Jesus Christ by Gregorio Fernandez between 1631-1636 at the Cathedral of Segovia 06/10/19

“The Beauty of Faith” by Daniella Stalingovskis of FIU at the Cathedral of Segovia

I have always considered myself as an agnostic person when it comes to the topic of religion. However, when visiting the Cathedral of Segovia, the most intricate and complex wooden sculpture simply entranced me. This version was created by Gregorio Fernández during 1631-1636 and he made only 14 versions that were created of the same design. The amount of effort and time spent to develop a realistic wooden sculpture of Jesus Christ and his crucifixion is phenomenal considering the period it was created in. Fernández used cork to create the wounds on the body, polychrome wood for the body and fabrics, and a bull’s horn and animal bones for the fingernails, toenails, and the teeth. Despite my agnostic background, I deeply appreciate the religious artworks and devotions that the sculptors and artists had as motivation to create beautiful and realistic pieces such as this. I was amazed how the fabrics were not real but wooden as well as the pillow that Jesus Christ is resting his head on. Witnessing pieces such as this makes me wonder about the creativity and dedication within people is obtainable no matter what era or technology is available. We have so many resources and technology for woodworking and creating sculptures now than we did back in the 17th century but this sculpture looks so recent and well crafted with the tools Fernández had back then. Overall, it is a beautiful and intricate sculpture that uses creative methods available at the time to have a realistic result such as this sculpture of Jesus Christ.

Sevilla as Text:

Christopher Columbus Monument at Jardin de Murillo, Sevilla 06/17/19

“Ship Wrecked” by Daniella Stalingovskis of FIU at the Christopher Columbus Monument in Jardin de Murillo, Sevilla

To admire or condemn this monument? That is the question that sparks controversy within Spain and its problematic past with the Americas. As the class walked towards the towering monument in the Jardin de Murillo garden, I noticed how it displays on one side with Queen Isabella’s name on the ship with a portrait of Christopher Columbus at the bottom and the other side pertains King Ferdinand’s name with the Spain’s royal emblem below. The monument showcases the nationalistic pride and honor the Spanish people may have for the trio since it gave Spain the upper hand in power and wealth for many years. However, it hides the atrocities and the negative factors that occurred during Spain’s reign, especially to the indigenous people and African slaves that were manipulated and forced into slavery and used religion as an excuse to control them.

Without a doubt, the discovery of the New World greatly impacted the world in general, especially to those who share a Hispanic background where their identity is based from the Spanish rulers conquering those countries. Most countries in South America share the same language and most consider themselves Catholic which is the dominating religion in Spain since 1492. Those born from a Hispanic or Latino background are a long-term result of those same conquests. However, a major downside of this discovery that led to Spain’s gain in power resulted in an unfortunate price in abusing and exploiting the indigenous people and bringing African slaves to the New World to forcefully work.

Over time, moral standards and revisionism in history have increased since then and people greatly criticize the expedition and its outcome. In the United States, there is a strong dissenting opinion about considering Columbus Day to be celebrated. In high school, most of my history teachers condemned the holiday and expedition itself and on talk shows such as John Oliver’s show called Last Week Tonight where they have a segment called How Is This Still a Thing? In other South American countries, they changed the holiday’s meaning into their own perspective and ideals. For instance, in Venezuela and Nicaragua, they changed the holiday into another name called Día de la Resistencia Indígena since they want to commemorate the indigenous people who were attacked and suffered from the Spanish rule. In Ecuador, they renamed the holiday to Día de la Interculturalidad y la Plurinacionalidad to establish and spread a positive dialogue between differing cultures and to rejoice other nationalities and the indigenous people as well.

So, the question still stands; Should the monument still be maintained, condemned, or even destroyed? Personally, I think it should stay but not for reasons of celebration, but as a reminder of Spain’s pivotal point of history and the consequences of that expedition. I also think it would be beneficial to also add another monument alongside to the Christopher Columbus monument to commemorate the indigenous people and African slaves that forcefully endured many hardships during the period of Spain’s reign. Although I am not from South America nor do I come from a Hispanic background, I have lived in Miami for my whole life and have been influenced through the community through school, relationships, and friendships. The city that makes this place so special with the diversity of Hispanics from varying South American countries would not be the same if it were not for those conquests. It is a conflicting argument but the most vital lesson is to understand the full story of the history where one’s identity stems from since ignoring the flaws and poor actions of these nations and historic figures will sprout with nothing but ignorance.

Source: Villagrana, Blanca. “What Does Columbus Day Mean for Hispanics?” Center for Hispanic Marketing Communication, 9 Oct. 2014, hmc.comm.fsu.edu/blog/what-does-columbus-day-mean-for-hispanics/.

Granada as Text:

Various places in Alhambra, Granada 06/18/19

“Transcending to Paradise” by Daniella Stalingovskis of FIU at Alhambra, Granada

As the class and I strolled into the arched entrances to the grand palace of Alhambra, I felt as if I transcended into a realm of a blissful paradise with other fellow tourists joining us on our journey. I heard the birds chirping and singing, the gardens filled with lush and colorful assortments of flowers and different species, the perfect symmetry of the bushes and hedges, and the pools of water perfectly reflecting the azure sky. Emerging into Alhambra made me realize how much I do not know about the beauty and devotion of the Islamic faith and the simplistic but intricate reasons towards their symbolisms throughout the palace.

In the Islamic faith, it is forbidden to illustrate Allah through drawings or sculptures. Therefore, they display their devotion by using shapes as symbols and poetry to write on the walls. The square means the Earth and mankind, and tilting it repeatedly creates a star which represents the heavens. If one tilts the square very meticulously, it will result with a circle, which represents the divinity of God. That is why the rooms have a square in the bottom and rises as a dome at the top. One dome after another, it became more complex and intricate with the geometric patterns and shapes since the more complicated it is, the more divine it is to God. Something that appears so simple but pertains such a passionate and complex demonstration of divinity truly displays pure dedication and devotion to Allah.

Another aspect of Alhambra that intrigued me was the assortment of the flowers and greenery surrounding the fortress and palace. The reason why there are numerous gardens throughout the palace is because gardens are supposed to represent paradise on Earth as well as enforce abundance. There were also many low fountains and ponds that reflects the sky to showcase the heavens and for contemplation of Allah and the divine. The gardens truly did showcase paradise with many forms of live flourishing within the environment and provides a much deeper meaning than the sake of aesthetics.

Ever since the attacks of 9/11 in the United States and the rise of radical Islamic groups such as ISIS or Al-Qaeda, many Muslims have been stereotyped as a terrorist themselves and their religion has been shamed as one of the most uncivil and war-mongering religion compared to others. This speaks volumes of hypocrisy since the same people who criticize Islamism also tend to shrug off the violent attacks made from radical Christians such as the Holy Wars and the Crusades. Usually, it is not the religion that is evil, but it is the people who are and try to corrupt the image of the values of that faith. From the Alhambra, I have seen many serene and peaceful landscapes that Islamic art has to offer to feel connected to Allah and to contemplate about divinity, not committing war crimes and genocide. I hope that one day society will see past a person’s race, religion, sexuality, or ethnicity and just see them as the person they are through their actions and what they have to offer.

Barcelona as Text:

Parc Güell, La Sagrada Familia, and Tibidabo 06/21/19, 06/26/19

Modernisme: A Cultural Declaration” by Daniella Stalingovskis of FIU at Barcelona, Spain

Over this week, I have seen all the main sites in Barcelona where tourists snap their pictures for their perfect Instagram shot. Parc Güell? Seen it. La Sagrada Familia? Done that. In addition to seeing these iconic sites, I noticed many similarities pertaining to the architecture and artworks displayed from the Modernisme movement during the late 19th and early 20th century in Barcelona. Rather than being an art movement for just aesthetics such as the Art Nouveau movement in Europe, the Modernisme movement paved the way to help revitalize and reestablish Catalan culture and identity. The identifying features from this movement includes many motifs from nature such as trees, flowers, and animals. The two main protagonists that are mostly well known for creating works in this style are Antoni Gaudí and Lluis Domènech i Montaner where they both serve some similarities and differences with their stylistic choices.

One of Montaner’s works that we saw was the Palau de la Música Catalana where columns were flourished with floral motifs and about 2,700 roses were scattered across the concert hall. But, the main sight to be seen was the enormous inverted dome in the ceiling of the concert hall, representing as the sun. It made me feel as if I entered into a garden of music with all the beautiful and unique floral mosaics and the sun dome blooming and illuminating the concert hall with natural light. Inspired by both Gothic and Moorish styles, Montaner merged his own art style and was the one of the forerunners of displaying these types of Modernisme architecture. He was also responsible for publishing an article for a magazine where he proclaimed theories about having Catalan architecture and it inevitably came true when he built a café for the World’s Fair in 1888.  

Antoni Gaudí was more heavily inspired by both his conservative religious values and appreciating nature as he believed that nature is God’s creation on Earth. In his ongoing architectural masterpiece called La Sagrada Familia, he is heavily inspired by nature since the columns are arched in a unique way since Gaudí was inspired by the shape and structure of trees. He also applied more Gothic-like art both inside and outside the cathedral as well as implementing Moorish techniques of his artworks such as ironworks and mosaic artworks seen more in Parc Güell and in Palau Güell.

Overall, seeing how these two famous architects applied different art styles to create their own sense of identity and message made me rethink how I see culture as a whole. Culture is never pure in its own way; it is fluid and for it to flourish, it must learn and observe other cultures and expand or use it in their own way to make themselves distinct. The Catalan culture had artists and architects that successfully observed techniques and styles from other cultures and developed their own sense of identity in the process.

Source:

“Modernisme – Barcelona Formative Period of Art.” Barcelona.de – Catalan Art Nouveau from 1878 to around 1910, Barcelona.de Tourist Info, www.barcelona.de/en/barcelona-modernisme-art-nouveau.html.

Sitges as Text:

Oil Painting at Charles Deering’s and Miquel Utrillo’s Maricel, Sitges 06/27/19

“Slow and Steady Wins the Race” by Daniella Stalingovskis of FIU at Sitges Spain

When entering Charles Deering’s house and into his garage for his vehicles at the time, the class and I were bombarded with various oil paintings throughout the room. The room was called The Triumph of the Allies and it was completed as paintings in 1916 where they symbolized World War I. Since they were paintings, Charles Deering had taken them with him when he left Sitges to the Americas. Afterwards, the paintings were bought by Dr. Jesús Pérez-Rosales and he brought the paintings back into Maricel in 1970. The name of the specific painting shown above is titled The Victory Comes Slowly which it revolves around the dark and treacherous feeling of being in war. In a way, Deering himself was in a war with Miquel Urillo when Deering wanted to leave Sitges and his art collection to the United States. Since there was no special laws or clauses on protecting cultural artifacts in any country, Deering had some ease in transporting them to the Americas and selling most of his collection to the Chicago’s Art Institute.

Almost 100 years had passed since some of the art collection Deering took has been stored away from its original home in Sitges. The painting shown above had better fortune in being returned for only 48 years after. Even with Deering leaving the city and his manor, the reputation and glamour of the house and the symbol of Maricel’s sun and ocean crest has always remained within the manor and at his own estate in Miami, giving Maricel some recognition and victory. The paintings in Deering’s old garage that returned could also mean that slowly but surely, the same paintings that were once there could finally come back to Maricel over time. The victory approaches slowly, and I hope Maricel will regain what was lost to them and be reigned as champion from Deering’s neglect.

XC: Montserrat as Text:

Lovebirds in Montserrat Mountains (Credit: John W. Bailly) 06/25/19

“Enjoy the View” by Daniella Stalingovskis of FIU at Montserrat, Spain

After hiking in other cities in Spain such as Segovia, Toledo, and El Escorial, I was excited but dreadful for the anticipated hike in Montserrat. The unique, jagged, and pointy mountain tops and the view looked intimidating but beautiful at the same time. Many flights of stairs and trails later, we looked at the scenery and the view of the serrated mountains where legend says that the mountains were sawed off or serrated by angels themselves. Unlike being in the cities, there was no crowds of people storming off and bumping elbows, just the breeze blowing on our faces and the birds chirping their songs. All the serene and peaceful aspects of Montserrat made me realize why a monastery was built in this location. An isolated city filled with greenery and flora to help contemplate and reflect about one’s journey or path in their walks of life. I pondered about how other historical figures made their journey to visit the city such as Christopher Columbus, King Fernando and Queen Isabella and how I am possibly walking along the same path as they once did. The serrated mountains made me feel puny and insignificant in a way, but then I noticed how significant it truly is that we small humans can create big changes in our world. Our history has been chaotic with wars, genocides, debates, and corruption looming around every country, city, or border. We tiny humans as a society will turn ripples into waves of either peace and acceptance or chaos and destruction. My day in Montserrat helped me silence the disorienting world full of flaws and enabled me to live in the moment and enjoy the view as I reflect upon myself and my life so far.  

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