Alyssa Mathura: The Cost of Spain Vuelta Project


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.

Alyssa Mathura: España As Text 2019

By Alyssa Mathura

Alyssa Mathura is a junior at Florida International University that it pursuing a degree in civil engineering. She is an active memeber in the Honors College and American Society of Civil Engineer. She enjoys trying new foods and experiencing different culture which would be discovered in her As Text.

Madrid As Text

The Buen Retiro Park in the heart of Madrid is a place where communities come together and admire the beauty of the country. There is no profitable purpose for anyone in the park which is an unimaginable idea for me since everything in the United States cost something. The park is a historical landmark that has the monument of Alfonso XII, Fuente del Ángel Caldo, and Palacio de Velazquez embodies Madrid as a city. The park included a rose garden for lover to walk, playground for children to play in, paths for joggers to run on, but most importantly the park has Palacio de Cristal for artists from the past and present to display their creations.

The Palacio de Cristal, built in the 19th century, is an art piece by itself as it sits on the water, having the sunshine through each panel of glass differently. The Palacio de Cristal introduces art to children at a young age and encourage them to explore their creative side instead of suppressing it the way the United States does. In the United States, the most important subjects are math, science, history, and english but what people fail to realize is that art is a part of each of those subjects and to reject art, they are rejecting part of those main subjects. Instead they have to embrace art as a main subject along with the other core subjects. Having the entry to be free allows creative to be spread around Madrid. With Madrid as a museum heavy area, the younger generations see that there are career opportunities beyond math, science and business. The persona of a struggling artist to merely destroyed which allows great artist to arise in the future.

Segovia as Text

Time has stopped in the city of Segovia. Entering the city, you are welcomed by the aqueduct that was built over 2000 years ago by the Romans after the native people helped the Romans to stay warm throughout the brutal winter. The aqueduct stretches about 15km from the Rio Frio river to the center of the town and has 167 arcs with its deepest point being 28 meters. The construction is a phenomenon, having the stones stacked on top of each other and not using cement but instead using the key stone method. One has to have precise calculations depending on the weight of the stones on each arc and way the weight would shift once the stone was placed there. But doing that in the first century with very limited technology and equipment is mindblowing to me. With the mind I have and my major being civil engineering, I could only hope that I would be able to design and build something that would stand for 2000 years and be used without it crumbling. Nowadays, nothing is made to last for 2000 years, I would be considered lucky if one of my future structures stood longer than 200 years.

Step beyond the aqueducts, time has remained still as the town is a melting pot with influences from the Moors, Romans, Catholics and visigoths. As I walked through the town, I could see the town change from a Moors territories to a Catholic one. But the Catholics had Moors designs on their doorways and windows. Trying to be independent from the previous culture but unknowing impossible to be independent. The city looks like it has been taken out of a history book, as everything in the town is the original. Segovia does not destroy and replace the way the United States has unfortunately relied on but instead they restore what is already there. As Victoria and I struck up a conversation with a local, I got the sense that the people have pride from being from Segovia since it has influences from different backgrounds. I felt that they are more accepting of others because of their history and they could not forget the history since it is in their faces on their way to work or market.  Time has stopped in the city of Segovia.

Sevilla As Text

“Cathedral of Sevilla” and “Torre del Oro” by Alyssa Mathura at Sevilla, Spain

The land that is built off of America. Sevilla. In the past, I personally have learned that Spain built America and America did not contribute to the development of  “Old World”, therefore Americas sole purpose was to provide wealth to Spain. Now walking the streets of Sevilla, I have discovered that Sevilla would have been nothing without the Americas. Everything that is built there was built off of the wealth from the New World. The city of Sevilla gained its importance to Spain after the discovery of the Americas based on location, being right next to the Guadalquivir river, Spain was able to monitor what was coming from the Americas and what was going out to the Americas by writing everything down. This led to the development of the Torre de Oro in 1220, which became the tax collecting building that all the countries had to go through. With each ship, Sevilla would gain commission thus gain wealth and have more money to develop its city. Interestingly enough, Sevilla raised enough money from the Americas to build a cathedral. The rich people purchased chapels inside the cathedral that contributed to the funding of the church.

The Cathedral of Sevilla was built in only 72 years and was the third largest cathedral in the world at one point, but still it is known for having the world’s largest alter. But to me, it seemed the city of Sevilla was money hungry. They tried to profit anyway they could and they even went as far as selling slaves on the steps of the cathedral. The building devoted to God has been corrupted to making a small profit that put thousands of human lives at risk. All of these sinful actions started in Sevilla were the result of the discovery of the Americas. My perspective has changed about the impact the Americas had on Spain. Before this trip, I believed that America was the only country that was negatively affected, but now I see that the Americas corrupted Spain but more specifically Sevilla beyond repair.

Granada As Text

“Alhambra” by Alyssa Mathura at Granada, Spain

Riding in the front seat of the taxi, I was unexpectedly welcomed by a elder driver who lived in Granada his whole life and gave Gisell, Sebas, Sofi and me a personal tour of the town. When driving up to the Alhambra, my eyes wided by the fortress, a symbol of power that the Muslim had over this land only to be conquered by the ultimate Catholics. The Alhambra which means red in Aribic, from afar show many Islamic structures. It peaked my interest to know that the Muslims were the first religion to settle on the land in 711, and when they were building this palace and fortress, the Muslims had influenced from the Roman and Spainish architect. The Muslims traveled across the country seeing beautiful buildings and different styles, that when they were given the opportunity to design something purely Islamic, they decide to incorporate other beauty. Not only did the Muslims accept the arts of the Catholic people but they also accepted the Catholics themselves. This proves that no religion can be completely pure from one another and there are always influences that ties them all together. With the Muslims being generous to the Catholic people by not kicking them out of the land, the Catholics soon turn from the minority to the majority and takes the Alhambra under the power of King Carlos I. This is a life lesson to me that no matter how much you give to someone they could always turn on you and destroy without a second thought. The Muslims gave and gave until they became the minority of their own land and towards the end they had nothing, making the Catholic church stronger and allowing them to manifest their idea that the church is superior to all other religions.

Barcelona As Text

“La Sagrada Familia” by Alyssa Mathura in Barcelona, Spain

Walking up to a church once again, this time I am walking up to the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona. La Sagrada Familia was suppose to be Antoni Gaudi masterpiece but unfortunately he died in 1926 in the middle of construction. Over a hundred years later in construction and people are still trying to piece together what they think Gaudi would want in the church he created. Antoni Gaudi was a one of a kind architect, he managed to develop new styles when it seemed like all the styles were created and did not spare any detail no matter the cost. Gaudi only wanted the stone and marble, he would spit on the idea today of the church being made out of concrete. 

La Sagrada Familia is truly a one of a kind building that is still being built into something so complex there is no church that compares to it gothic outside and modern inside. Walking up to the church, I was greeted by Joseph, Mary and standing in the middle Jesus. Standing there motionless simply mesmerized , my eyes wandering and finding a new detail as every second passed by. Gaudi being the devoted Catholic he is, displayed this commitment to God at this entrance. But the inside was stunning, Gaudi was able to being outside in as he designed all of the columns to look like trees and have the life of Jesus be represented through stained glass windows instead of pictures. 

Not being a Catholic, I have felt that when walking into a church Catholicism is shoved in your face with a figure of Jesus being the center of attention and having the cross in every corner. But here, I felt that Gaudi encouraged one to practice Catholicism instead of forcing them. The symbolism of Jesus’s life through the different stained glass windows was a movement of reinvention since  devoted Catholics would only know that. I stood in the middle of the church, letting all the colors hit me, feeling the stendhal syndrome coming over me. This place can only be described in one word. Beautifuk. Every aspect of this church was designed with a purpose.

Sitges As Text

“Deering Symbol” by Alyssa Mathura in Sitges, Spain

Sitges, located on the coast of Spain, is home to the international rum Bacardi that came from Cuba. Sitges is not only known for Bacardi but also was the home of Charles Deering. Charles Deering first visited Sitges in 1909 when his friend, Ramon Casas and after that Sitges would never be the same again. Before Deering made Sitges a community, Sitges was a damaged place with no working hospital and no church where people could come together to interact with one another. Once Deering bought the old hospital after getting denied to buy Santiago Rusinol’s estate, Sitges started to become a community when a community was needed. Deering bought all the estate in Sitges during World War I and interestingly did not return to Sitges until the war was over, so he built the city of Sitges without knowing it. Charles Deering started to collect art from only Spanish artist, unfortunately when he left Sitges he took all of the art he collected. Luckily he could not take back the community he built there and to this day that community has stayed there.

As I walked through the city, there were people constantly walking through and from the tour, I saw the passion the tour guide had just talking about her wonderful city. As she talked about her visit to the Deering Estate in Miami, her face lit up and for me it was mesmerizing to know that Charles Deering symbol was the same in Miami as it is in Sitges.  Even though he left Sitges in 1921, he left his mark and instead of designing a new symbol in Miami, he decides to use the same symbol in his house in Miami. Even though Deering took so much Spanish art away from Sitges one thing he could not take away was the community he built there during World War I and that is there now. 

XC As Text

People gathered around the town square like they have come there to discuss important matters but instead 20 men and women come out swinging sparklers around. The people in Barcelona is celebrating Dancing with the Devil. From the outside, I wonder why they celebrate such a sinful holiday, just the name alone, dancing with the Devil. Dancing indicates one is happy to be with the Devil and his presence is welcomed here but the history behind it is that during the wedding celebration between Ramon Berenguer IV and Petronilla the Aragon, a group of guest dressed up at the devil and angels and performed a fight against each other. From back then, the idea is still celebrated since it symbolizes the fight between the good and the evil. 

As I stood in the middle of this event, I was drawn to the sparklers and wanted to be a part of the celebration. I was begging one of the performers to pull me in but unfortunately this year the police would not allow performers to bring pedestrians into the performance. So I stood on the side with my eyes widened, feeling like it was the Fourth of July and I am watching the fireworks shoot up. At that moment I understood why they celebrate, it wasn’t to celebrate the Devil but a way to come together and see something beautiful and magical.