Granada (FIU Honors España 2018)

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FIU Honors España 2018 at the Alhambra in Granada, Spain (Photo by Victoria Atencio CC by 4.0)

On June 19th of 2018, FIU Honors students of Spain: Miami España, Ida y Vuelta were led on an educational tour of Granada, Spain. Following their experience in Granada, students shared their voices and opinions through photographs and personal reflections.

Taken to Another Land
by Kristina Aguirre of FIU in Granada, Spain

Arriving in Granada, you notice an ambiance that is not quite completely Spanish anymore. It’s mystical intrigue invites you in closer to discover what remains from when the Moors were still ruling the majority of what is now Spain.

800 years after the Moors were expelled by Queen Isabella, their influence is still incredibly evident, especially when visiting the Alhambra palace. With the intricate winding patterns inscribed in stone and colorful tiles lining the walls, you are taken to another land. One which can only heighten your understanding of your very human existence and how minuscule our presence is in the universe.

I feel as if these works of art can be considered as culturally groundbreaking as those that came later during the Italian Renaissance in the 16th century. The delicacy of the repeating Arabic inscriptions signify an incredible devotion to Allah and create an almost hypnotic sense of peace that can only be achieved by such a remarkable level of craftsmanship. Everything about the palace emphasizes the magnificence of the divine and the continual drive to obtain a sense of that on earth.

by Jules Molina of FIU in Granada, Spain

The Alhambra is one of Granada’s most unique buildings. Granada’s history, specifically during the transition from the Moors to the Christians, is what makes the Alhambra so important. Granada was the last city that the Moors ruled over until they were completely expelled from Spain by the Christians. The Alhambra is where this transition of power occurs, and the last Sultan of Spain, Boabdil, is forced to leave. It is a Moorish palace that contains religious themes throughout. What impressed me the most is the patterns and designs found in the Alhambra. In Catholic architecture, the glory of God is typically represented through paintings. However, in Islamic architecture, the glory of Allah is represented through designs. Specifically, the more complex the shapes and patterns, the more the glory of Allah is shown. Out of all the Moorish buildings with Islamic architecture that I have seen, the architecture in the Alhambra has the most complex patterns. Beginning at the floor, the shapes and patterns are the simplest and as they continue up the wall they increase in complexity until the roof, representing the heavens. Although I appreciated the designs, compared to the non-denominational Christian church that I attend, the Moorish style seems unrealistic in function. One point that is expressed in many Christian churches is that the features within it should not distract the attention from the focus on God. For me, I would find it difficult to focus on God in such a distracting place like Alhambra, and I find it surprising that the Muslims are able to focus on Allah in that palace.

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Lauren Zululeta of FIU Honors España 2018 in Granada, Spain (Photo by Lauren Zululeta CC by 4.0)

by Shreeja Patel of FIU in Granada, Spain

Granada has to be one of my favorite, if not my favorite, cities in Spain that we have visited. Especially walking into the Alhambra, every detail every pattern was so intricate, all hand-carved. It reminded me so much of my mandirs and the hand-carved stones we have in there. The detail still amazes me and how the Islamic religion is so beautiful. Everything in their art has a meaning behind it; the circle and divinity of God and how the 8- pointed star is God’s divinity present on Earth. Not using earthly objects in their works makes it that much more beautiful.

This building has so much significance especially because this was the last place the Muslims had before they were kicked out of Spain. This building is where Boabdil gave over the keys to the Alhambra, accepting defeat. For his mother, it was a walk of shame because she believed that he could have saved it, but all the people of Granada were let down because of this incident. For Queen Isabella, this building was a prize. It was a trophy. And to the Muslims, it was a reminder that the Spaniards have conquered their land and territory.

winning is never enough!
by Juan Perez of FIU in Granada, Spain

When is winning not enough? We never feel satisfied and constantly feel the need to overkill our enemies. It’s never enough to know that we won, we have to implant it in our enemies. The Alhambra was the last Moorish city in Spain, during the Spanish reconquest.  Yet it was ultimately conquered by Ferdinand and Isabella. They felt the need to keep this palace as is, they didn’t feel a need to destroy it. It was the trophy of their ultimate victory in expulsion of the Moorish influence over their country. Of course beating and expelling people from their homes is not enough, you have to keep their palace as is to show your dominion over this land and other influences. Yet they respected this conquered people; we don’t see Boabdil and his people depicted as utter savages. The Moors were a respected enemy of the Spanish, yet I guess my Native American ancestors weren’t worthy enough of the same dignity. The Moorish influence in Spain is still evident today, yet Native American influences in their own land has utterly been wiped off. It felt disturbing and utterly amazing to stand in a room where Columbus gave the first account of the New World. The thought that the eventual massacre and destruction of a people was discussed in a trophy palace of a conquered people. Conquering is never enough, even on the bones of one civilization we discuss the conquering of the next, we are never truly satisfied.

A City Second to None
by Lauren Zulueta of FIU in Granada, Spain

As I peek through my taxi’s window, I take in the overwhelming—yet, sustaining—views of luscious hilltops, Islamic architecture, and grandeur monuments that embody Granada. The imposing stance of the Sierra Nevada are the first to capture my mind’s attention. With an altitude of over 2,000 meters, the summit extends 11,000 feet, thereby, making it the highest summit in Europe—after the Alps. The mountain serves as an exemplary model of how human occupation and use of an area can modify a landscape. When adjoined with the white-washed houses and cobble-stoned streets, the mountainside retains a manifest of Arabic roots of El Albaicín and impressive glimpses of El Alhambra at almost every turn. The story of the Spanish fortress is an attempt to instill a site that reiterates the idea of “Heaven on Earth.” Rather than add sacred imagery, the Muslims believed that God’s greatness can be experienced through the complex patterns and inscriptions that adorned each entrance. Prior to discovering this oasis, I had believed that Alcázar of Sevilla would be the only palace to obtain this notion of perfection. However, I could not have been happier to be wrong. The vibrant history, intricate tile work, and exquisite gardens are still elements that I reflect upon today. As one can see, a stroll through Granada turns you into a protagonist of history—where the undimmed vitality of human enterprise enhances a rich activity of that we all share.

FIU Honors España 2018 Student Gallery from Granada, Spain


Isabella Marie Garcia

Stephanie Sepúlveda & John William Bailly 23 January 2019

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