Alain Cartaya: España as Text 2019

Alain Cartaya Delgado is a student at Florida International University Honors College. He is pursuing a major in Computer Science and has much interest in Arts and how it reflects the history of the world. These are his España as Text.

Madrid as Text

Tradition by Alain Cartaya Delgado of FIU in Plaza Las Ventas, Madrid on June 13th, 2019

La Corrida de Toros, a tradition of thousands of years beginning with the Roman’s Coliseum shows, is for better or worse part of the Spanish culture. The bull, who in the best corridas weights about six hundred kilograms, is prepared with specific cuts to its impressive shoulder by the picadores and stroke by the banderilleros at least another four times around the same area. It is up to both of them to leave the bull strong enough to entertain and weak enough for the matador to give the final thrust; a perfect balance only achieved by the bests. Then, a dance of blood and swords is led by the matador. A dance to the rhythm of the bull’s steps and the words “Olé” shouted by the crowd. A dance that ends with the glory or the shame of the matador which is decided in the first thrust of his sword. A dance where, either with one thrust or multiple ones, the common factor at the end is the death of the strong, heavy bull whose fate was decided since its moment of birth. Is it a fair fight? It is not meant to be fair; it is meant to be entertaining; it is meant for the amusement of us humans; it is meant for the kneeling of the strongest animals to the humans and to have the world see it.

Segovia as Text

The Inspirational Aqueduct by Alain Cartaya Delgado of FIU in Plaza Artillería, Segovia on June 13th, 2019

Humans do not live forever, and most of the times history forgets them, but sometimes, no one forgets what they built. The aqueduct in Segovia, Spain, is the perfect representation of that fact. It is an impressive construction of around two thousand years old. Extending for fifteen kilometers going through mountains and with a height of 28 meters in its visible part it provided fresh water from the mountains to city’s inhabitants and decorating the city at the same time. This majestic construction is mainly held by arches that make the structure hold itself with its weight without any cement. Looking at this construction, I cannot help but think how many times they might have failed to try to create the technology to hold the structure and how many times they did not give up. Some legends say that some higher power magically built it, or that it was built in one night and part of a miracle. However, I see the aqueduct as what it is: a fantastic achievement of humans. I see it as one more proof that we, humans, are capable of doing anything and that as long as we put our minds up to a task, we will keep evolving. That is the true meaning and value of the majestic Roman aqueduct in the center of the city of Segovia, Spain.

Sevilla as Text

Anger, Sadness, Beauty by Alain Cartaya Delgado of FIU in Santa Cruz, Sevilla on June 19th, 2019

As I watched the beautiful danced of flamenco led by the palos of the dancer and accompanied by the sound of the Spanish guitar and the harmonic cry of the singer. This amazing composition of movements, sounds and energy made me think of how the Spanish culture is the composition of so many other cultures; just like the rest of the European culture. When the man was signing the rest of the intonation of multiple jumps in the beat of the voice. I could feel the sadness and at the same time the energy of the dance which was the best representation of the moment the dance was born; amid turmoil during the medieval expel of Jews and Muslims in Spain. I could not help but relate the movement of the dancers to the same difficult situation of leaving their homes; of becoming gitanos and settling somewhere else in this world. The dancers’ faces were a combination of sadness and happiness making me wait in suspense for the next movement, and the guitarist, waiting just like me, to beautify the beats of the shoes of dancers taping on the floor. This dance was the best representation of the Spanish culture I have seen so far. It was the mix of so many different synchronized rhythms, movements just like the current Spanish culture of mixed and synchronized religions and traditions.

Granada as Text

Saved History by Alain Cartaya Delgado of FIU in Alhambra, Granada on June 18th, 2019

Seeing the original Islamic art and how beautiful it is, how they represent art in a completely different way than the Europeans do makes me happy. It makes me believe that we are all different for a reason, that we have different cultures, beliefs and desires to create a wide variety of art that impresses us like no other has. It makes me believe that we are different because that away we evolve like no other know living being has and that the fact that we are all different is what makes us unique. Hope is the main word that comes to my mind when I think of Granada and the Alhambra. Those two places give me hope that the world forgives some of the humans’ mistakes. After everything that has happened in Spain throughout history of religion massacres and destruction, seeing that at least something survived gives me hope that we can do better. The city of Granada makes me think that someday we will be able to all live together, to share art and knowledge without prejudice and fear of other people beliefs and culture. The city has been protagonist of some of the biggest terror acts in the history of the world but also of some of the greatest art the world has ever seen. The Alhambra is the best representation that humans can create the most magnificent things and can also destroy them in the most horrific manner.

Barcelona as Text

A Carved Rock in the Heart of a City by Alain Cartaya Delgado of FIU in Barcelona, Spain on June 21th, 2019

A majestically carved rock in the middle of Barcelona that is the impression I had of the Sagrada Familia by Antoni Gaudí. Although it was not started initially by him but by Francisco Paula del Villar, it is attributed to Gaudí because of the drastic changes and originality he brought to the design. It does not look like a building made by humans; it seems like nature placed it there. The astonishing nativity façade was the only one designed and built by Gaudí since he died 43 years after the construction began when only a quarter of it had been finished. This façade, with all its details, perfectly describes the birth of Jesus. It is filled with plants and animals, and everything looks exceptionally natural and intrinsically connected. Although it is still being constructed and designed, it is visible the change from Gaudí’s design and the other architects and artists. The passion façade, which was designed and built by Josep Maria Subirachs has an entirely different style to Gaudí, and it has been criticized many times. Although it indeed had to be done by someone even if it was not Gaudí itself and he would not have liked that the future artists of Barcelona would have needed to copy his work to do something majestic. Underneath the Sagrada Familia, there was a museum to Gaudí which I found almost as impressive as the building itself. It allowed me to see a small part of the mind of one of the greatest architects of all times. There were 3D models of his early designs and their evolution. It also had a weights model of the project, which was the original way that Gaudí used to figure out the geometry for the arches. It was a complete innovation that only a man like Gaudí was capable of achieving. The building is expected to be finished by 2026, and hopefully, the world can enjoy such majestic creation.

Sitges as Text

A Museum of Catalan Identity by Alain Cartaya Delgado of FIU in Sitges, Spain on June 27th, 2019

One of the most amazing things I saw during my visit to Spain was Santiago Rusiñol’s house in Sitges: The Cau Ferrat Museum. It was filled with majestic artworks. It had terrific paintings, sculptures, metal works, stained glasses, and even archeological remains of the Phoenicians. His collection was so astonishing that even James Deering, one of the most prominent collectors of European art, tried to buy it once. It was filled with the Catalonian art modernisme and had the Catalonian identity all over the house. The dragons that represented San Jordi, the protector of Barcelona, were even in the door handles as well as the Catalonian flag.

Furthermore, the collection featured two El Greco paintings one of Spain’s most influential painters although he was born in Greece. Santiago Rusiñol even had some of the first paintings of Pablo Picasso, one of the most prominent painters of all times and maybe the biggest of the 20th century, in Cau Ferrat. Rusiñol even hosted Picasso’s first exhibition although it was not in Cau Ferrat, it was held in Els Quatre Gats, a restaurant in the Gothic quarter of Barcelona. So many other artworks by other Catalonian artists exist in this house like Enrique Claraso, Ramon Casas and Santiago Rusiñol itself that made the house a symbol of Catalonian identity.

Cordoba as Text

The Sacred Place of Two Religions by Alain Cartaya Delgado of FIU in Cordoba, Spain on June 15th, 2019

Most of the things in The Americas come from European culture; only a few things remain from the natives. Hence, I am mostly used to European art and culture. When I first walked into the Mosque in Cordoba, I was astonished. It was so different. It was even entirely different from the Mudejar style, which comes from Islam art. It looked like everything had a meaning like it was in the place where it was meant to be. In the Muslim art, representation of humans was usually; hence, they’re art looked more like calligraphy and it was full of poems, of course, it was also filled with worship to their religion. They also represented humans with a square and God with a circle, since God is perfection. The arches and their mosaics were also an astonishing part of their architecture and art. Scholars believe this mosque was used as a stamen by the Emir Abd al-Rahman that he was the rightful heir to the Muslim empire. They think that because every mosque should be pointing to Mecca, but this one does not, and it is known that the Emir Abd al-Rahman was trying to separate his city Andalucía from the rest of the Muslim empire. Hence, it would make sense to create its own Mecca where believers could pilgrim. However, in the middle of it, there is a Christian church, since it was turn into one during the Spanish Reconquista. It is ironic how two religions who were at war for so long now share the same sacred place. But, the real reason why it was not destroyed during the Reconquista was that the building was used to make a statement of victory over the Muslims by the Spanish. Furthermore, another reason why it was not wholly destroyed is the fact that it fitted a Catholic church perfectly since it allowed the church to be built in a way were the altar faced East. Anyways it is much appreciated by historians, artists and art appreciators that this was the case because there is no doubt that if this structure would have been destroyed the world would have lost a lot more than a sacred place.

Sexuality and Religion: Spanish conquista

Humans have always been bound by religion. It dictates the morality of a person; what is right or wrong. Hence, religion is related to every human activity, and it has been related to sexuality since humans started praying. Some religions are less strict than others, but they always have a said in a person’s sexuality; being sexual intercourse or sexual orientation prohibition. That fact was no exception in Spain during its colonization of the Americas. A visible change in sexuality culture, as well as religious culture, can be seen in the Americas during the Spanish conquista since the Spanish imposed their religious beliefs to the American natives. Native America before Spain looked very different than after its colonization. It had different more antiquated, technologies and many different religions and tribes. Hence, here only a broad aspect of native religion will be discussed. “The Spanish missionaries defined impurity, unchastity, incontinence, lust, and fornication as vices based on Catholic teachings about human sexuality and marriage” [1]. The characterization of natives by a Spanish conqueror. Although it is somehow true, his depiction does not describe the reason for them being like that. Most of the natives’ religions believed that sexuality was closely related to fertility, hence, their need to be sexually active as soon as they could. Even their depictions of sexual acts were very explicit like the Moche pottery in the Andes.

Marriage

Many differences exist between the native’s religions and Catholicism, the main religion in Spain during the time. The native Americans just as the Spanish people did marry, several texts depict marriages among them. However, they did not believe that a man had to be married to the same woman all his life, as Catholics did, they were only compelled to keep the same wife when they have had children [2]. Although, adultery was more flexible in some tribes compared to the Spanish Catholicism and more punishable in others the same the conscious of fidelity existed in a marriage. The most punishable act of adultery was mainly to the woman and in some tribes if she had committed it with a member of another clan. The sex out of marriage was one of the most unusual sexual behaviors that the Spanish conquerors observed and made reference. However, the irony of this is unbelievable. The Spanish conquerors were committing the same sinner acts not only in the colonies but back in Spain as well. It was well known that it was common for men to have out-of-marriage relationships and mistresses. On the other hand, most of the native’s beliefs did not see anything wrong with men and woman having sex before marriage, something that the Catholic doctrine disallowed, the natives promoted it. As long as they were old enough, they would engage in sexual intercourse.

Same-Sex Relationships

The lust and the forbidden sex was not the most unusual sexual behavior observed by the Spanish, but same-sex marriage, especially between men. Several texts describe how two same-sex individuals engaged in sexual relationships as well as dressed as a person from the opposite sex [3]. “When the priests at Mission San Antonio caught two men engaging in ‘an unspeakably sinful act,’ and ‘tried to present to them the enormity of their deed,’ wrote Palou, one of the men protested that the other ‘was his wife.’” [1]. Cabeza de Vaca also expresses his disgust with the Catholic sin of same-sex intercourse in his book Chronicles of a Narvaez Expedition.

However, the natives treated homosexuality as usual in their lives and referred to them as an individual with two spirits in one body. Evidence translated by postconquest narratives shows that the Incas were a civilization that did not allow same-sex relationships. However, later evidence suggests the opposite bringing doubts in most of the theories of sexuality before the Spanish conquest especially because of the Spanish’s biased opinion catholic’s morals. For instance, Moche’s pottery depicting same-sex sexual acts.

Incest and polygamy were another behavior observed by the Spanish people. In some tribes, the natives had no problem with marrying their brothers or sisters; they “recognize in their marriages no relationship of affinity” [1]. Furthermore, it is well known that caciques and other wealthy members of the native community had multiple wives, as many as they could maintain, and many children as well.

After the Conquista

Hence, since the Spanish conquistadores main target was to convert all the natives to the Catholic religion most of these thoughts and beliefs were eradicated. For instance, during the colonization they forced the man who had many wives to choose one of them; they usually wanted the newer union because the younger woman would bear more children. However, there was also a lot of mixture between the two cultures. Sometimes women were given as gifts to Spanish conquerors or married just because they were attracted to one another [4]. One of this example is described in Cabeza de Vaca’s journal. The first target was to eliminate the nudity in their culture. Some sexuality aspects of the native Americans found their way to survive during the colonization. Another important goal was to eliminate sex before marriage, hence, the order was made from Toledo.

“Toledo ordered that evangelized natives caught cohabiting outside church-sanctioned wedlock receive 100 lashes of the whip ‘to persuade these Indians to remove themselves from this custom so detrimental and pernicious.'”

Rick Vecchio – Los Angeles Times

And the most important tradition they had to eliminate was same-sex relationships. Those who committed this catholic sin were cruelly punished especially during the Inquisition era around 1569 when homosexuals were burned at the stake in Peru. Even though some of this effort to eradicate and turn natives into Catholics and change their sexual beliefs were successful, some of these traditions still live today. For instance, the two-spirits belief, the same-sex relationship between the natives, was one that did not perish. It was even used in an appealing for same-sex rights in the United States [3]. Also, the thought that sex is only allowed in marriage and that women must remain celibate are slowly being eliminated in our society.

One can help it but to find irony in this subject. Today, in the modern world, many years after the Spanish colonized and turned most of the Americas to religions that mainly come from Catholicism, the papers have become. Today, the Americas, primarily Hispanic America, it is profoundly conservative with the sexuality doctrines. Most people living in these countries do not allow their daughters to have sex before marriage. They forbid same-sex relations as well as heavily punish the woman who commits adultery. On the other hand, Europe, mainly Spain, are impressively open-minded. Although conservative people exist, most of the youth support homosexuality and even same-sex marriage. The majority do not support that relationships have to be monogamous and allow sex before marriage.

[1] Q. D. Newell, “‘The Indians Generally Love their Wives and Children’: Native American Marriage and Sexual Practices in Missions San Francisco, Santa Clara, and San JosÉ,” vol. 91, no. 1, pp. 60–82, 2005 [Online].

[2] J. S. Jacobi, “TWO SPIRITS, TWO ERAS, SAME SEX: FOR A TRADITIONALIST PERSPECTIVE ON NATIVE AMERICAN TRIBAL SAME-SEX MARRIAGE POLICY,” vol. 39, pp. 823–851, Jul. 2006.

[3] A. N. Cabeza de Vaca, Chronicle of the Narvaez Expedition. Stilwell: Neeland Media LLC, 2013 [Online].

[4] A. Lavrin, Sexuality in Colonial Spanish America. academia.edu: academia.edu, 2010, pp. 135–152.

[5] R. Vecchio, “Erotic ceramics reveal dirty little secret; Explicit depiction of sexuality was common in Peru, as was free love until suppressed by the Spanish. Pottery is popular in museums,” Los Angeles Times, p. A11, 07-Mar-2004.