Alyssa Mathura: The Cost of Spain Vuelta Project

Introduction

When visiting Spain, I did not know what to expect from the trip and I could not think of one think that Spain could have inhabited from the Americas. Little did I know that a lot of how Spain makes their money, mainly coming from tourism is how a lot of cities in America such as Miami and New York City. Spain has more than flashy shopping centers and crazy restaurant gimmicks, but they have a history that runs deep for centuries and building that was built in the 15th century still stand tall. Instead of destroying the building and starting over, Spain decides to revive the building which attracts a lot of Americans to see.

Barcelona: Making Money from Tourist

Walking into Barcelona, I had to have the mindset that Barcelona does not associate themselves with Spain and to call a Catalunya a Spaniard is an insult to they. The idea of being a Spaniard is such an insult to the people of Barcelona that they created their own language that is a combination of Spanish and French, showing the rest of the world that they do not even speak the same language as the rest of the country. The people of Barcelona believe that they are better than the rest of the people in Spain and therefore Barcelona should be its own country. There are Catalonia politicians in jail for standing up to the Spanish government for what they believe in. Barcelona wanting to become its own country is more than some political policies but it would create an identity that the people have been seeking. The question is not why they want independence but are they capable to stand on their own financially. 

“Government Building” by Alyssa Mathura in Barcelona

Just looking at the economics of Spain, I wonder how much of Spain’s money comes from the Barcelona region and how big of an impact would it be in Barcelona did become independent. After doing some research I found that Spain is tenth wealthiest country in the world with having a revenue of 1.311 trillion dollars in US currency. There are many ways that Spain makes their money but tourist has a significant contribution to the wealth of the country. Having El Greco, Goya, Picasso and other influencing artist originals in the museums in Spain brings people from around the world to see the masterpieces. As I go into more depth of my research, an interesting fact caught my eye that approximately 20% of Spain’s GDP comes from Barcelona and that Barcelona is Spain’s largest region in terms of profit. Now this makes me question whether or not Spain would be able to recover economically if Barcelona is able to achieve their goal in independence. 

Barcelona is known to be a place for tourists to visit and it is the 20th most visited area in the world and 5th most visited in Europe. In the Region of Barcelona alone, there is a wealth of 177 billion dollars in US currency. People from around the world come to Barcelona to see the beautiful places that Gaudi designed and the people stay in Barcelona for its vibrant nightlife and breathtaking beaches. Gaudi designed the Guell Park, La Sagrada Familia which is still under construction and the mansion of Guell, all of these sights now have a fee to enter which contributes to the revenue of Barcelona. More tourist attractions include La Rambla and Mercado de La Boqueria, that are located on the coast of the Mediterrean Sea.

La Rambla is one of the busiest streets in Barcelona with crowds of people no matter what time of the day. La Rambla is a 1.2 km boulevard that stretches from the Mediterrean Sea to the Placa Catalunya which is the center square where the modern neighborhoods meet the Gothic style neighborhood. La Rambla also divides two major neighborhoods, with el Ravel on the west side and Gothic Quarter on the east. La Rambla was first a street to simply cover up the sewer but shortly after that the boulevard became a tourist must visit for its open market stalls. Nowadays, La Rambla is filled with much more than small market stalls, it has restaurants with unique cuisines and endless stores. As I strolled down La Rambla off of the metro, I felt like I was walking down an avenue in New York City with the streets lined up with high end fashion stores and big name stores such as Nike, Mango and H&M. New York is known to be the center of tourism in the United States that contributes a lot to the wealth of many companies as well as the wealth of America. New York City has a GDP of 1.6 trillion dollars in 2017, almost as much as Spain’s GDP and is able to financially support themselves if they ever become independent from the United States.  Barcelona and New York City has those similarities when it comes to their contributions to their countries wealth, without Barcelona the economy in Spain would take a huge hit the same way without New York City economy, the United States would crumble. When I thought the pushing and rushing feeling of New York was absent in Barcelona , I entered the Mercado de La Boqueria, a local market selling the best food. Every turn I make, I see something new to eat, food ranging from fresh fruits to the catch of the day to pig legs hanging from the ceiling.

When I continued down La Rambla, the feeling turned from New York City to Miami Beach as I got hit with the sea breeze and having people entice me with liter size drinks. These businesses rely on tourists to make a profit therefore they have to have flashy items on their menu to get the people to sit down at their restaurants. Passing the restaurants, it reminded me of walking on Ocean Drive and having the people shove their menu in my face. Now living in Miami, I know to avoid Ocean Drive since it is a tourist place where everything is overpriced and people are willing to pay for it since it is Miami. That is how I was at that moment, paying 25 euros for a drink that would be 10 euros anywhere else in Barcelona. It is being on La Rambla that people buy the same way people pay to eat on Miami Beach.

Sevilla: Making Money, Making History

Looking at the history of Sevilla, there was only one period in time where the city was seen as wealth and that was after America was discovered by Christopher Colombus in 1492. At the beginning of Sevilla’s history, Sevilla was built on top of Roman’s foundation and was originally an Iberian town. In 461, the Visigothic took over the power until they got overthrown in 711 by the Abbadid Dynasty. The Muslims were in control of Sevilla for about 500 years and developed the town to have religion structures such as a minaret until the Spanish Chrsitians took over in 1248 under Ferdinand III power. Once Ferdinand III took over, he decided to exile to Moors and Jews from the area which resulted in the economy plummeting to the ground.

The Christian stayed in power in Sevilla during 1492 which was the economical turning point for Sevilla. After 1492, Sevilla became the center of all trades between Europe and the New World since everything going to and coming from the New World had to be documented in Sevilla. During the early 16th century, Sevilla was in a dominant position in Spain’s wealth and had a huge impact on the New World. It was the place that held gold and silver which arose the wealth significantly causing Sevilla to become the most populated and wealthiest city in Spain in 1588. During this time of wealth, Sevilla was able to build the cathedral of Sevilla that was originally part of the Muslim structure. Thinking that the wealth from the New World would not run out, Sevilla’s economy was solely based on the exploitation of the Americas instead of building industries locally. The economy started to downward spiral in the 17th century. Even though they were able to recover in the 18th century, Sevilla was then hit by French invasion , civil war and revolution in the 19th century therefore the economy was in bad shape. 

“View from Cathedral of Sevilla” by Alyssa Mathura in Sevilla

The economic success for Sevilla came from when they were in control of the port between the Americas and the rest of the world. It was not until then was Sevilla seen as a significant contribute to Spain economically and socially. It was not until I stepped foot into Sevilla did I realize that the Americas had a big impact on the development of Spain the same time Spain made a great impact on the Americas. Even though there has been attempts to help the economy, the economy was never as good as it was when Sevilla was dominating the trades with the newly discovered Americas. The economical mistakes they made when they first encountered the money from America was that they relied too much on the money coming in and was investing the money that would make the town more money. This mistake still affect Sevilla today and if they made better, Sevilla could have become highly populated and a bigger tourist attraction which would cause them to make more money. The money from the Americas was beneficial in the development of Sevilla

Madrid: The Cost of Having Priceless Art

“Lavapies” by Alyssa Mathura in Madrid

Getting lost in the streets of the capital of Spain, Madrid. As a walk through Lavapies, I notice all of the culture blend as one, this neighborhood is greatly influenced by Northern Africa since a lot of people immigrated from Africa. Walking up and down the streets, I recognize all of the unique street art on the buildings, the only thing I can think of comparing it to is the art district in Miami, Wynwood. Wynwood is a place to embrace the beauty of art and inspire young generation to express themselves so it attracts people to visit the area. Lavapies is a hidden gem that not a lot of people know about, there are a lot of tourist attractions around that neighborhood but in the authentic part of the neighborhood, there is no major attractions. The main reason I was in that part of Madrid was to do this research but it was one of the highlights of my time in Madrid. The street art in Lavapies is a reflection of the rest of Madrid as Madrid has multiple art museums, one of the museums that made an impression on me was Reina Sofia that is located in Lavapies. The Reina Sofia is a modern art museum that has art from Latin American artists as well as having a collection of Picasso’s original art. Reina Sofia is famous for having Picasso’s piece depicting the bombing of Guernica during the Spanish Civil war, the Nazis were the one to bomb Guernica. The pain of the people is vividly seen through this painting and brought attention to the rest of the World of what the Nazis were capable of. Guernica is one of many masterpieces in Madrid and having art that is recognized around the world brings cultural and economic value to the city of Madrid and ultimately the country of Spain.

Guernica by Pablo Picasso. 1937. Oil on canvas. 349 cm × 776cm

Even though the Guernica does not have listing price and does not have any intentions to be sold, experts have valued the painting to be around 200 million dollars. That is just one of the art pieces in Madrid, there is also the rest of the Reina Sofia as well as Prado a few blocks down from Reina Sofia. The value of art in Madrid is priceless since a lot of the art there is one of a type and has art before the Renaissance, during the Renaissance and after the Renaissance up to art today. Since the value of art is so high, Madrid is able to profit from the art by having an entrance fee at all the museums. Madrid makes around 40 million euros each year from the Prado alone and since Madrid makes a big profit the city is able to have free entrance at some museums which is another way the city embraces art and encourages more people to get into the art world.

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