Gabriel Benaim: España as Text 2019

Gabriel Benaim is a senior in Florida International University and is part of the Honors College. He currently pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Psychology with a minor in Religious Studies. He attended the Honors Spain Study Abroad program in the summer of 2019.

Madrid as Text:

Glass-domed lounge in the Hotel Palace in Madrid, Spain.

Walking through the streets of Madrid, enveloped by the deep history that surrounded us, we happened upon the Hotel Palace. At a glance, it appears to be an upscale expensive hotel filled with aristocrats who don’t bother looking down as they step on others. However, a contrasting story exists where this very hotel acted as a military hospital of sorts during the Spanish Civil war (1936-1939). Through the same beautiful stained-glass art piece, which has allowed light to shine through and illuminate the hall where guests currently sit to eat and talk, once used its light to save lives. Interestingly, this room had to be used as makeshift operating room to aid the injured as other hospitals were either closed or overrun.

Interestingly in the bleakest of situations, there always seems to be a helping hand or ray of hope in the picture. Like the flower in the Guernica painting by Picasso, Simon Bolivar and the countries throughout the Andes in South America, Harriet Tubman during the underground railroad in the United States, the Hotel Palace served as a healing light during the dark times that Madrid found itself in.

Toledo as Text:

View of the city of Toledo, Spain from the outskirts of the city.

One short train ride away from Madrid, we happened upon the small city of Toledo. A city that has been ruled by many groups over its history, the Romans, then the Visigoths, then the Arabs, and finally the Christians. All of these ruling groups have left their footprint in the city, where many buildings can be seen right next to each other with different styles of architecture and culture.  Another group that resided in this city and left their mark were the Sephardic Jews, who were driven out of Toledo and Spain following the Alhambra decree erected by Fernando II of Aragón and Isabel I of Castilla.

Coming from the United States, it is incredible to see so much history and different ethnic groups in such a small city comparatively. It wouldn’t be a stretch to say that this small city has more history than the United States as a whole. Entering the city, it starts to feel much larger than it looked from the outside, it is very easy to feel slight claustrophobia due to the small winding roads and tall buildings (for a centuries-old city). Escaping from the city and walking around its perimeter from the vast lands surrounding it, one can see this great city that seems to grow out of the ground perfectly surrounded by a river, leaving you with a wonder and longing for other cities with this much culture and history.

Cordoba / Granada as Text:

Sevilla as Text:

Sitges as Text:

Barcelona as Text: