Gisell Rodriguez: España as Texts 2019

Gisell Rodriguez is a Junior at FIU Honors College aiming to complete her Bachelors in Psychology and specialize to work with children. She will complete her Honors Spain abroad trip in the end of June 2019. Her reflections are listed and described below through her As Texts posts.

Madrid as Text

“Perspectivas” by Gisell Rodriguez of FIU @ Madrid, Spain

As I walked inside the crystal palace found in Madrid Spain, I was distracted by the artwork displayed by Charles Ray. Aside from the other beautiful aspects of the Parque del Retiro, this one by far was my most memorable. I felt a connection to home when I noticed the Shoe Tie sculpture, a spin on the Roman legend to represent the boy who ran with a thorn stuck in his foot without stopping to give a message to the Roman Senate. This very same boy called Fedelino can also be found in Vizcaya back in Miami, USA due to James Deering seeking to bring European culture to his home. I walked in with my classmates viewing and learning with them the meaning of each sculpture presented yet near the end, I found myself isolated and in a state of solitude. As I stood at a certain angle, I was able to not only see me, but many versions of me. Not physically like Cubism portrays, most famously recognized by Pablo Picasso and his rival Georges Braque in the early 1900’s, but symbolically. Time began to feel nonexistent as I stood there looking at myself in these different perspectives and contemplating as to how I felt in the moment. The joy of being a first time traveler to such a beautiful country like Spain which allowed me to use public transportation for the first time and see how efficient it can be when invested properly as it is. The sadness of not having a country care more about nature as Spain and its residents do where the government has many free municipal museums open and many rose gardens throughout. The anger of knowing the beauty displayed in the country whilst recognizing the horrors done in the past.

Toledo as Text

“Riches” by Gisell Rodriguez of FIU @ Toledo, Spain

My visit to Toledo in Spain changed some of my ideas regarding the church. Whilst visiting the Catedral Primada Santa Maria de Toledo, our tour guide spoke about the most beautiful monstrance I had ever seen. While I had imagined that the Spanish were after gold to enrich the country, it turns out that the statement is somewhat false. The monstrance was made by melted gold and silver from the jewelry collection of Queen Isabella around the 1520’s. The jewels include rubies, emeralds, and other precious stones. I had an image that Spain would be this luxurious country from top to bottom after obtaining gold and other materials from the Americas but the tour guide informed us that over 90% of gold obtained was used for the military and mercenaries. Spain at the time was spending most of its money on the military due to many wars and invasions as the United States is currently doing (over 600 billion). While I do recognize the horrors done in the name of the Catholic Church and the abuses done such as the Inquisition in which they murdered those who were accused of not being Catholic, I also recognize the beauty created in the name of it as well. Like the Burial of the Count of Orgaz done by El Greco which is insitu today at the Iglesia de Santo Tome in Toledo. Coming from a country with under 300 years of history, I will always remember the small city of Toledo as the city of riches due to its history and multiculturalism.

Granada as Text

Taking a Second Look” by Gisell Rodriguez of FIU @ Granada, Spain

Even though I am not a Muslim, I can still view the Alhambra Palace in Granada, Spain as a beautiful reflection of heaven on Earth. Parts of the palace that best show this include: el Patio de los Arrayanes, Hall of Two Sisters, Patio de los Leones, and the Generalife gardens. I was not expecting my visit to Granada to be as memorable to me as it turned out to be. Our taxi driver Luis told us that it was his favorite city in all of Spain and I can see why he believes so. The Nasrids’ came around the 1200’s with knowledge of Christian churches, perfecting the different parts of the palace for arouns 250 years. However, just viewing the worlds most elaborate dome was not enough. I imagined being Abu- Abdallah Muhammad, the last Arab ruler at the time, viewing the hues of blue, green, and red on every inch of the domes. The red symbolizes the gift that the Creator gave which is our life source, blue represents God’s desire to sustain us and bless us with his creations, and green is used to symbolize the abundance of life promised in Heaven. After, came Carlos I who like many others had an obsession with power, resulting in frequent displays of signs to demonstrate it. To Muslims, pride and arrogance is a greater-sin that will be severely punished, Christians believe it is also a greater sin (Proverbs 8:13), and for Jews it is amongst the most serious of the vices. Yet you see Carlos I, Ferdinand, and Isabella plastering the walls with PLVS VLTRA or the initials of the Spanish Royals to exemplify their power which shows how arrogant they were. For the “Catholic King and Queen” to be committing sin shows the true intention of the church at the time as they were supporting these radical and inhumane actions against not just Islamic and Judaic culture, but also to the people such as the 1492 Alhambra Decree and the Inquisition. Today in the United States, Muslims are portrayed negatively by the media as the Catholic Church viewed non-Christians. It begins to make you wonder, will this cycle of harassment due to religion ever end?

Sevilla as Text

Don’t Judge a Book by the Cover” by Gisell Rodriguez of FIU @ Sevilla, Spain

As I first roamed the streets of Sevilla, Spain after arriving at the bus station, I was unimpressed by the buildings full of graffiti and the dull looking streets. After, taking a lecture with Bailly and touring the city myself I began to see below the surface and actually see the beauty and the horrors it hides. While I understand that Catholicism to me does not mean the same as it did centuries ago, I know it doesn’t define me. Slaves being sold on church steps, genocide occurring within and outside the country, and women being raped in the Americas were all things that happened masked by the church. While these atrocities were dusted under the rug, I could not help but notice the constant reminders and symbolism of the Americas throughout the city. Columbus was placed on a pedestal, which could lead to someone concluding that Spain supports his actions regardless of the damages caused. Even with the church knowing those damages, he was still idolized due to the riches returned to the nation that passed through the Torre de Oro. Columbus is buried in the gorgeous Catedral de Sevilla with men holding his casket representing Spain and its regions. While I understand that Catholics believe in the forgiveness of sins, Columbus was not viewed as a sinner as even the “Catholic King and Queen” view him as the man who discovered half of the world or “ Colon dio medio mundo” displayed in the Real Alcazar, a place of residence for the king. Sevilla in my opinion is a complicated city who tries to hide its history and rise to wealth when it should discuss it.

Barcelona as Text

Where is the Difference?” by Gisell Rodriguez of FIU @ Barcelona, Spain

Barcelona’s most visited sites display works from talented architect Antoni Gaudi from the 20th century who is known for his styles including Catalan Modernisme and trencadís. La Sagrada Familia, Park Güell, and more form part of his works that together attract nearly 10 million visitors a year. With the Catalan identity symbols such as the four red stripes on a gold background or the St. Jordi flag found throughout Barcelona as opposed to the lions viewed around Madrid, it is clear to see the different cultural identities between the two cities.

Over 30 regions, including Florida, were under control of the Spanish wanting to gain independence, and similarly, now Catalonia intends to fight for it as well. What makes people from Catalonia think it is acceptable for them and unacceptable for other regions to do so? Cuba was one of the last territories which gained independence in the year 1898. Around the 19th century, the movement for Catalonia independence gained momentum after industrialization while benefiting from territories such as Cuba and the Philippines. What differentiates them from all the other regions? A different language, culture, identity, and ideas. The blatant hypocrisy is displayed with the celebration of Christopher Columbus at the end of the street in Las Ramblas, Barcelona. Seeing people in the streets with yellow ribbons both led to feelings of understanding and anger in me as they symbolize the political activists from Catalan parties of government including the former vice president Oriol Junqueras who are facing trial or are in exile. Coming from a family of Cuban refugees who were tortured, starved, imprisoned, and stripped from their human rights, I am angered at how people of Catalonia complain over a trial, and possible imprisonment as the prison conditions of Spain are different from those of poorer countries like Cuba. On the other hand, I understand the feeling of opposition towards a government you may not feel you are a part of. Barcelona, Spain will be one of my most memorable city visits as I was an outsider in a situation that made me feel close to home.

Sitges as Text

Changes”  by Gisell Rodriguez of FIU @ Sitges, Spain

Walking in the streets of Sitges, Spain, I could not help but focus on the impact that Charles Deering had on this small town and Miami. After his presence, being a benefactor, and his Palau Maricel, it is very easy to see why the town would love this foreigner who currently remains as part of a window border in Sitges. In fact, archivists for Catalonia sent him a letter in 1910 calling him “El Enamorado de Catalunya” and thanking him for his love of art.

Right beside the Palau Maricel is the Cau Ferrat which Deering desperately wanted to purchase from artist Santiago Rusiñol. After several declines to the offers, the hospital right beside the Cau Ferrat would soon become what is known today as part of the Complex of Maricel. Unlike Rusiñol who had more control over what pieces went in his home, Deering only had a vision and left Miquel Utrillo in charge of accomplishing his vision of a residence with an immense art collection. Several reasons including World War I prevented Deering from being able to visit more often leading to the Stone House being built in Miami, Florida. From the columns, to the wine cellar, to the sun and ocean logo, to the location, it is obvious that Deering wanted to bring his home in Sitges closer to him in the United States. However, this home did not come close to containing what the Cau Ferrat did as the Catalan identity in this home was defined, not explored as Deering could only do. With two El Grecos, five Picassos, and fully decorated walls, it is no wonder why Deering so badly wanted to purchase this residence. These men within a matter of a decade completely changed this fisherman’s town into a place for art to forever flourish.

Extra Credit España as Text: Montserrat

Unforgetable” by Gisell Rodriguez of FIU @ Montserrat, Spain

My day trip to Montserrat, Spain was by far one of my most feared days on the trip as I was told this was the most intense hike. However, it was possibly the highlight of my visit in the country. Hearing the different theories surrounding the presence of the Black Madonna (Virgin Mary) allowed me to understand why so many Catholics view her statue as a gift from above. Some say that she was carved in Jerusalem, others think she was hidden in a grotto so that the Moors would not find her. With all these different theories that all sound miraculous, it is no wonder why there are approximately 1 million visitors per year. After going inside the monastery we took off on our hike to Mount Sant Jeroni. While it was a difficult hike, Bailly and several others helped me reach the top of the 1236 meter mountain. Since it was around a 5 hour hike, I used my time wisely to reflect on my time studying abroad as the trip was approaching its end. Was I still the same me? What did this trip mean to me? What can I take from what I’ve learned in class? Aside from reflecting on myself, I also used the time to just be quiet and at peace. A bird chirp, heart pounding, and fast breathing was all I focused on in the middle of the hike on the way down the mountain. It felt so peaceful as the fear just went away and I walked feeling connected to nature. To me, this was the best way to clear my mind of all my troubles.

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