Follow the Flags

January 29, 2012:

My very first day in Spain (10 months ago, seriously?), I witnessed a protest from my hotel balcony in Madrid (click here to see video).  I was taken by surprise by the sudden appearance of protesters, and I had no idea what was going on at the time (I sound like a complete idiot in the video; please pardon my ignorance).  But now I can tell you it was to demonstrate solidarity with Judge Baltasar Garzón, and to protest against the crimes of Francosim and the Spanish judicial system.

The red, yellow and purple flag you see being held aloft by a demonstrator is the pre-Franco Spanish flag.  This flag represented the 2nd Republic of Spain.  The 2nd Spanish Republic was the government of Spain between April 14, 1931 until its destruction by a military rebellion, led by General Francisco Franco, in 1939.  Franco became a dictator, and established a Fascist regime.  The dictatorship ended with his death in 1975.  There are some Spaniards who are now calling for there to be a 3rd Republic, and are against having a monarchy (which is what they have now, headed by King Juan Carlos I).

This got me interested in the Spanish flag and history, and I discovered it has changed many times throughout the years.  I want to share what I learned (thank you, Wikipedia)! I’m going to try to make it informative and amusing.

Key word: TRY.

Well, here goes nothin’!  I present to you a highly abridged history of Spain and its flag, for your edification and delight:

The country of Spain as we now know it used to be made up of a bunch of different kingdoms before they were united.  The four most important kingdoms were: Castilla, León, Aragón, and Navarra.  The kingdoms of Castilla (castle) and León (lion) united in 1230 AD, and become known simply as “Castilla”.  And that’s where the story picks up:

The Standard of the Crown of Castilla:  The banner of Castilla was the first European symbol to arrive in the New World, brought over by good ol’ Chris Columbus.

File:Bandera de la Corona de Castilla.svg

The Standard of the Crown of Aragón (the Senyera):  The Senyera pattern is on the flags of four Spanish autonomous communities (Aragón, Catalunya, Valencia, and the Balearic Islands).

File:Estandarte de la Corona de Aragon.svg

The Marriage that Started It All

Before Castilla and Aragón united, this is what the kingdoms of the Iberian Peninsula looked like:

File:CastillaLeon 1360.png

But then Ferdinand II of Aragón and Isabel of Castilla tied the knot in 1475 AD, thus uniting the two most powerful kingdoms of Spain under one Royal House.  They are known as the Catholic Monarchs, but I prefer “Ferdisabel.”

File:Estandarte real de 1475-1492.svg

Royal Flag (1475 – 1492)

After they kicked the last Moors out of Spain when they conquered Granada in 1492, Ferdisabel added the symbol of a pomegranate to the bottom of their coat of arms.  Their motto was Tanto Monta, Monta Tanto (translates to “one and the same”).  The yoke on the bottom left represents Isabel, and the arrows on the bottom right represent Ferdinand.  The Catholic Monarchs are most famous for 1) Driving the Moors out of the Iberian Peninsula, 2) funding Columbus’ voyages, and 3) launching a lovely period of human history known as the Spanish Inquisition.  Their joint rule ended when Queen Isabel kicked the bucket in 1504.

File:Estandarte real de 1492-1508.svg

Royal Flag (1492 – 1508)

After Isabel’s death, the royal court of Castilla named Ferdisabel’s daughter, Joanna the Mad, the new Queen of Castilla.  Joanna was the wife of Philip the Handsome (way to go, Jo-Jo), who was a Habsburg (see: “powerful Austrian family”).  Shortly after her coronation, Joanna started turning a bit loony (hence her nickname).  In 1506, her hubby Philip the Handsome was declared jure uxoris king.  Philip is important because he instated the use of the Cross of Burgundy Flag.  This flag was used as Spain’s naval ensign from 1506 until 1701, and was flown as a secondary flag until 1785.  The background could be either white or red, and if they wanted to represent the king it would have his coat of arms over the Cross of Burgundy on a yellow background (yellow was the imperial color).  Fun Fact: The Cross of Burgundy is also on Florida’s state flag, paying homage to its Spanish origins.

File:Flag of Cross of Burgundy.svg

Cross of Burgundy Flag (1506 – 1785)

Philip died the same year he was declared jure uxoris king under suspicious circumstances (possibly poisoned by his daddy-in-law, good ol’ Ferdinand).  Since Joanna and Philip’s oldest son, Charles, was only six, the royal court of Castilla reluctantly allowed Ferdinand to rule the country as the regent of Joanna and Charles.

As sole ruler of Spain and without Isabel there to keep his testosterone in check, Ferdinand adopted a more aggressive foreign policy.  He engaged in a number of conflicts in Italy to try to expand Spain’s influence.  He also married Germaine of Foix, which allowed him to claim the 4th ancient Spanish kingdom of Navarra.  Ferdinand died in 1516.

Emperor + King = Ballin’

Ferdinand’s death led to the ascension of his 16-year-old grandson to the throne as Charles I of Castile and Aragon, effectively founding the monarchy of Spain.  This kid inherited EVERYTHING.  His Spanish inheritance included all of the Spanish possessions in the New World and the Mediterranean.  Upon the death of his handsome Habsburg father in 1506, Charles had inherited the Netherlands and Franche-Comté.  In 1519, with the death of his paternal grandfather, Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian I, Charles inherited the Habsburg territories in Germany, and was duly elected Emperor that year.  So in 1519, at the age of 19, Charles became both a king and an emperor.  Due to his mother’s mental perblerms and worried that Joanna might retake the crown, Charles kept her imprisoned until her death in 1555.  Nice.

Here’s a sure-fire way to impress anybody — Charlie boy’s list of titles:

Charles, by the grace of God, Holy Roman Emperor, forever August, King of Germany, King of Italy, King of all Spains, of Castile, Aragon, León, Navarra, Grenada, Toledo, Valencia, Galicia, Majorca, Sevilla, Cordova, Murcia, Jaén, Algarves, Algeciras, Gibraltar, the Canary Islands, King of Two Sicilies, of Sardinia, Corsica, King of Jerusalem, King of the Western and Eastern Indies, Lord of the Islands and Main Ocean Sea, Archduke of Austria, Duke of Burgundy, Brabant, Lorraine, Styria, Carinthia, Carniola, Limburg, Luxembourg, Gelderland, Neopatria, Württemberg, Landgrave of Alsace, Prince of Swabia, Asturia and Catalonia, Count of Flanders, Habsburg, Tyrol, Gorizia, Barcelona, Artois, Burgundy Palatine, Hainaut, Holland, Seeland, Ferrette, Kyburg, Namur, Roussillon, Cerdagne, Drenthe, Zutphen, Margrave of the Holy Roman Empire, Burgau, Oristano and Gociano, Lord of Frisia, the Wendish March, Pordenone, Biscay, Molin, Salins, Tripoli and Mechelen.

Charles inherited the blue and orange territory from his mom’s side of the family, and the purple and green from his dad’s side.

At this point, Charles was the most powerful man in Christendom.  In 1533, Pope Clement VII’s refusal to annul King Henry VIII of England’s marriage to Catherine of Aragón (Joanna’s sister and Charles’ aunt) was a direct consequence of the Pope’s unwillingness to offend Charles.  And we’re all familiar with what that led to in England. #anglicanchurch #divorce #boleyn #troubleinparadise #offwithherhead #4morewives

Charles’ personal motto became and remains Spain’s national motto: Plus Ultra (Latin for “further beyond”). This inspired conquistadores such as Hernán Cortés and Francisco Pizarro (doing it for God, Gold, and Glory!) and voyagers like Ferdinand Magellan to sail beyond Gibraltar during his reign.  The concept of a flag the way we use it today to represent a nation did not exist back in the day.  In order to represent a country, they usually just used the coat of arms of their monarch.

File:Greater Coat of Arms of Charles V Holy Roman Emperor, Charles I as King of Spain.svg

Emperor and King Charles’ Coat of Arms

In 1526, Charles married his first cousin (standard royal inbreeding), Isabella of Portugal.  In 1556 he abdicated from his positions, giving his Spanish empire to his only surviving son, Philip II (a.k.a. Philip the Prudent), and the Holy Roman Empire to his younger brother, Ferdinand.  Charles retired to a monastery in Extremadura and died in 1558.

The Habsburg Bunch

Spain experienced its Golden Age while the Habsburgs ruled.  Altogether, Habsburg Spain was, for well over a century, the world’s greatest power.  This period of Spanish history is also known as the “Age of Expansion.”  Spain dominated Europe politically and militarily for much of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.  Culturally, Spain flourished as well.  Some of the most outstanding figures of this period were Diego Velázquez, El Greco, Miguel de Cervantes (author of Don Quixote), Lope de Vega, and Teresa of Ávila.

File:Estandarte real de 1556-1580 y 1668-1700.svg

Royal Flag (1556 – 1580)

In 1578, Portugal’s king died in a battle.  He’d been young and had no children.  This led to a succession crisis in 1580 that ultimately led to King Philip II of Spain gaining control and annexing Portugal.  The merge of the Portuguese and Spanish crowns became known as the Iberian Union.  Spain added Portugal’s Coat of Arms to its flag.

File:Estandarte real de 1580-1668.svg

We’ve got Portugal now!!!! (1580 – 1668)

But the Iberian Union was short lived.  60 years later, while Spain was distracted with the 30 Years’ War and a revolt in Catalunya, the Portuguese rebelled (Portuguese Restoration War) and won back their sovereignty.

File:Estandarte real de 1556-1580 y 1668-1700.svg

Just kidding about Portugal!!!!! (1668 – 1700)

THE FRENCH TAKE OVER

In 1700 AD the Habsburg dynasty was replaced with the Bourbons, so the flag changed to reflect the Bourbon coat of arms.  The first of these Bourbons was Philip V.

File:Estandarte real de 1700-1761.svg

Royal Flag (1700 – 1760)

Then, in 1760, the Bourbons added two new quarters that represented the House of Farnese (six blue lilies on gold) and Medici (blue disc with three lilies of gold and five red discs, all on gold).

File:Estandarte real de 1761-1833.svg

Royal Flag (1760 – 1785)

CHARLES III (a.k.a. BAMF)

Then, in 1785, King Charles III had a great idea.  He noticed that most of the countries in Europe used flags which were predominantly white and, since they were frequently at each others’ throats (pick a war, any war, it’s buy one get one free!), lamentable confusions occurred at sea. It was hard to tell if a ship was friend or foe until practically the last moment. For this reason, Charles ordered his Minister of the Navy to present several models of flags to him, having to be visible from great distances. Twelve sketches were shown to the king, and the one he chose as the war ensign is the direct ancestor of the current flag. It was a triband red-yellow-red, of which the yellow band was twice the width of the red bands, a unique feature that distinguished the Spanish tribanded flag from other tribanded European flags.  What a wascally wabbit Charles was.

File:Flag of Spain (1785-1873 and 1875-1931).svg

Flag of Spain (1785 – 1873)

1st SPANISH REPUBLIC (a.k.a. Hmmmm… nice try, but no cigar)

Soooooo Charles III’s son, Charles IV (I’ll call him C4) was a major screw-up.  C4 ended up ruining a lot of the good things his daddy had done for Spain.  People even said that C4 had mental problems (which I guess wouldn’t be too much of a stretch, given the rampant inbreeding).  Because of C4’s ineptitude, Napoleon got annoyed with the Spanish.  So, France invaded Spain in 1808 and deposed the Spanish king, Ferdinand VII (C4 had abdicated the throne to his son Ferdinand only 48 days prior).  On July 20, 1808, Joseph Bonaparte, Napoleon’s eldest brother, entered Madrid and established a government by which he became King of Spain, serving as a surrogate for Napoleon.  Thus began the War of Spanish Independence.  It was a long and bloody struggle (one of the earliest guerrilla wars in history), but the Spaniards finally emerged victorious in 1814 and Ferdinand VII returned to the throne.

In 1812, the Spaniards had created a Constitution (known as La Pepa), but when Ferdinand returned he opposed it.  Bad move.  This upset the Spanish colonies of “New Spain” in the Americas and revolution broke out.  Spain, nearly bankrupt from the war with France and the reconstruction of the country, was unable to pay her soldiers, and in 1819 was forced to sell Florida to the United States for 5 million dollars.  Ferdinand finally accepted La Pepa in 1820, but in the American colonies of New Spain, the revolutions led to independence.  In 1824, the last Spanish army on the American mainland was defeated. Only Cuba and Puerto Rico remained a part of Spain.

Tumult continued for decades, with revolution and anarchy erupting all over Spain.  In 1873, Spain’s king, Amadeus (random German, OK), declared the people of Spain to be ungovernable, abdicated the throne, and left the country.  In Amadeus’ absence, a government of radicals and Republicans was formed that declared Spain a republic.  The First Spanish Republic (1873–1874) was immediately under siege from all quarters.  There were calls for socialist revolution from the International Workingmen’s Association, revolts and unrest in the autonomous regions of Navarra and Catalunya, and pressure from the Catholic Church against the fledgling republic.  So it failed.  BUT the point of all this back story IS: Spain’s flag was different for a year!  Look at it without a crown.  Awwww!

File:Flag of the First Spanish Republic.svg

Flag of the 1st Spanish Republic (1873 – 1875)

Alfonso XII (Alfie 12) was crowned king in December of 1874 after returning from exile.  After the tumult of the First Spanish Republic, Spaniards were willing to accept a return to stability under Bourbon rule.  So the flag got its crown back!

File:Flag of Spain (1785-1873 and 1875-1931).svg

Flag of Spain (1875 – 1931)

Let’s Try Again, Shall We? (The 2nd Spanish Republic)

Constitutional monarchy continued under King Alfonso XIII (Fonz 13).  Fonz 13 was born after Alfie 12’s death and was proclaimed king upon his birth.  However, the government had become destabilized by Alfie 12’s unexpected death in 1885.  The reign of Fonz 13 (1886–1931) saw the Spanish-American War of 1898 (which culminated in the loss of the Philippines, Guam, Cuba and Puerto Rico); WWI (Spain stayed neutral); the Spanish Flu pandemic; and the Rif War in Morocco (1920–1926).  Fonz 13’s reign also saw the rise to dictatorship of General Miguel Primo de Rivera, who seized control of the government by military coup in 1923 and ruled as a dictator – with the monarch’s support – for seven years (1923–1930). The world-wide recession, marked first by the Wall Street Crash of 1929, caused deepening economic hardships in Spain and the resignation of Primo de Rivera’s government in 1930.  General elections were held in 1931 to replace the government, with Republican and anticlerical candidates winning the majority of votes.  Fonz 13 left the country in response to the proclamation of the Second Spanish Republic, though he never abdicated.

File:Flag of Spain 1931 1939.svg

Flag of 2nd Spanish Republic (1931 – 1939)

Under the 2nd Spanish Republic, women were allowed to vote in general elections for the first time.  The Republic also gave much more autonomy to the Basque Country and to Catalunya.  However, economic turmoil, substantial debt inherited from the Primo de Rivera regime, and rapidly changing governing coalitions led to serious political unrest.  In the 1930s, Spanish politics were polarized at the left and right of the political spectrum.  In 1933, the right-wing Spanish Confederation of the Autonomous Right (CEDA) won power.  An armed rising of workers in October 1934 was forcefully put down by the CEDA government.  This in turn energized political movements across the spectrum in Spain, including a revived anarchist movement and new reactionary and fascist groups.  In 1936, the left united in the Popular Front and was elected to power.  However, this coalition was undermined both by the anarchist groups and by anti-democratic far-right groups.  The political violence of previous years began to start again.

The Republican democracy never generated the consensus or mutual trust between the various political groups that it needed in order to function peacefully.  As a result, the country slid into civil war.  The right wing of the country and high-ranking figures in the army began to plan a coup, and when a Falangist politician was shot by Republican police, they used it as a signal to act.

CIVIL WAR

In July of 1936, General Francisco Franco led the colonial army from Morocco to attack the mainland, while another force from the north moved south from Navarra.  Military units were also mobilized elsewhere to take over government institutions.  Franco’s move was intended to seize power immediately, but successful resistance by Republicans in places such as Madrid, Barcelona, Valencia, the Basque country and elsewhere meant that Spain faced a prolonged civil war.

File:Bandera del bando nacional 1936-1938.svg

Spanish Nationalist Flag during Civil War (1936 – 1938)

When Barcelona fell to the Nationalists in early 1939, it was clear the war was over.  The remaining Republican fronts collapsed and Madrid fell in March 1939.  The war, which cost between 300,000 to 1,000,000 lives, ended with the destruction of the Republic and Franco becoming the dictator of Spain. He amalgamated all the right wing parties into a reconstituted fascist party and banned the left-wing and Republican parties and trade unions.  The conduct of the war was brutal on both sides, with widespread massacres of civilians and prisoners.  After the war, many thousands of Republicans were imprisoned and up to 151,000 were executed between 1939 and 1943.  Many other Republicans remained in exile for the entire Franco period.

FRANCO

During Franco’s rule, Spain was officially neutral in World War II and remained largely economically and culturally isolated from the outside world.  Under a military dictatorship, Spain saw its political parties banned, except for the official party (Falange).  Franco also made it illegal to speak or teach any language other than Spanish (Castilian), which means that languages like Euskera and Catalan were banned.  Labor unions were banned and all political activity using violence or intimidation to achieve its goals was forbidden.  Spain also gave up or lost its remaining colonies in Africa.

File:Flag of Spain under Franco 1938 1945.svg

Flag of Spain under Franco (1938 – 1945)

The latter years of Franco’s rule saw some economic and political liberalization, an economic boom known as the “Spanish Miracle,” and the birth of a tourism industry.  Spain began to catch up economically with its European neighbors.  Franco ruled until his death on November 20, 1975, when control was given to King Juan Carlos I (the current king of Spain).

File:Flag of Spain 1945 1977.svg

Flag of Spain under Franco (1945 – 1977)

TRANSITION (a.k.a. Catching Up With the Rest of the First World)

The Spanish Transition was the era when Spain moved from Franco’s dictatorship to a liberal democratic state.  The transition began with Franco’s death and, while the date of completion remains a topic of debate, it’s usually considered to be the electoral victory of the socialist PSOE on October 28, 1982.  Between 1978 and 1982, Spain was led by the Unión del Centro Democrático governments.  There was a coup d’état attempt that took place on February 23, 1981, but the coup d’état failed due to the intervention of King Juan Carlos.  (Thanks, Juan.  Now, if only you’d stop shooting elephants for fun!)

Along with political change came radical change in Spanish society.  Spanish society had been extremely conservative under Franco, but the transition to democracy also began a liberalization of values and societal mores (see: La Movida Madrileña).  Spain even became one of the first countries to legalize same-sex marriage!

File:Flag of Spain 1977 1981.svg

Flag of Spain during Transition Era (1977 – 1981)

TODAY’S FLAG!!!

So! After aaaaaaaaall that history and info, we have finally arrived at our destination: the current Spanish flag! HUZZAH!!!  The future of this flag is not certain (as I mentioned at the beginning, many Spaniards are calling for a 3rd Spanish Republic, but also, Catalunya is trying to have a referendum to see if the majority of its population wants to secede from Spain and form its own country).  So maybe in the near future I’ll have to write about a new flag? Who knows??  What I do know is that I learned a whole heck of a lot about Spanish history, and I hope you did, too!  I got all of the info from various Wikipedia pages, but just added my own twist to it in the hopes of making it more interesting.

File:Flag of Spain.svg

Flag of Spain (1981 – present day); YAAAYYY!!!
…But why does the lion have to be that Pepto Bismol pink??

BONUS FLAG!!

At some point during the 1990s an unofficial version of the Spanish flag sporting an Osborne bull superimposed as some sort of “coat of arms” began appearing in football arenas.  This usage has become increasingly popular and this flag is easily seen nowadays during sports events, football or others, which include a Spanish team, player or the Spanish national team itself.

VIVA ESPAÑA

Splang Saturday: 12

Borde (BOR-deh) = too vulgar; too much (e.g. Qué borde.) — literally means “edge/border/rim”

Mosqueado (mos-keh-AH-do) = ticked off; angry

Pringado (preen-GAH-do) – someone with bad luck; useless; unsuccessful

Meadera (meh-ah-DEH-ra) – a place used for peeing — it’s a crude way to say it, though

Guarro (GWA-rro) – dirty; filthy; disgusting; pig

Cachondear (ka-chon-deh-AR) – make fun of; laugh at someone

Splang Saturday: 11

Tostonazo (tos-to-NA-tho) = something that is super boring — Used in a sentence: La conferencia fue un tostonazo. = “The conference was a huge bore.”

Farola (fa-RO-la) = third wheel; literally means “lamp post” — picture a romantic movie where the two lovers are happily dancing around in the rain on a street at night, and they are next to a lamp post shining light on them and their joy. For the Spaniards, being a third wheel is like being that awkward lamp post; close to them, but not a part of it.

Sujetavelas (soo-heh-ta-VEH-las) – third wheel; literally means “candle-lighter” — once again, utilizing the image of the awkward light shining on the happy couple. Imagine being the dude who lights the candles at the table where a romantic dinner is taking place.

Ligar (lee-GAR) = to flirt; pick up; to make out — literally means “to bind”

Soso (SO-so) = missing salt; needs more salt on it — I love how they have a word for this!

Telebasura (teh-leh-ba-SU-ra) = trashy television shows

Enteradillo (ehn-teh-ra-DEE-yo) = smarty-pants; wiseguy

Left Behind

As I mentioned in my last post, my friends and I decided to have a fun yet relaxed Saturday night in Lisboa, so we bought some wine and played charades in our hotel room.  We ended up staying awake so late that a bunch of us decided we ought to just stay up until breakfast opened at 7 AM.  As expected, the breakfast was GLORIOUS.

Afterwards, I went to go shower and start packing my things, but after my shower I was feeling really sleepy. It was 8:30, and I figured if I napped for an hour it wouldn’t hurt. I set my alarm for 9:30 (we would be departing from Lisboa at 10:00 AM), snuggled into my sheets, and napped.

Well. I forgot one teensy weensy but ever-so-crucial detail.

Daylight Savings Time. The change occurred that very night.

The blaring of the alarm startled me awake, and I jolted upright in bed.  I was still a bit too groggy to be thinking clearly, but it’s as if some part of me knew what was going on and wanted me to start moving ASAP.  As my vision started to come into focus, I realized the room was completely devoid of any of my roommates’ belongings. Suspicion dawned, and I glanced at the time. Then it hit me:

It wasn’t 9:30 in the morning. It was 10:30, and the bus was supposed to have left to go back to Sevilla at 10:00.

HO.

LY.

$H!T.

I launched myself out of bed, threw my clothes on (cleaning lady walked in on me half-nude, awkwaaaaard), grabbed my backpack and jammed it full of whatever I could grab hold of **organization be damned! I’ll fix it later!**, did one quick glance around the room to see if I had forgotten anything important, and ran to the elevators.  Once in the elevator I prayed to every god I could think of that a large group of obnoxious American students would be in the main lobby, but when the elevator doors opened….

Silence. Just some hotel employees chatting in Portuguese behind the front desk.

I glanced outside, hoping to see two large buses, but there was only a line of taxi cabs.

At this point, Dread curled its clammy fingers around my stomach and gripped it tightly.  I approached the front desk and asked in a shaky voice, “Americanos?”

Receptionist: “Oh, they left 10 minutes ago.”

**Oooooohhhhhh myyyyyyyyy gaaawwwwwwwddddd-**

Receptionist: “Were you a part of that group?”

*nods head*

Receptionist: “We’re calling the lady in charge….. Hello, Lola? Yes, we have a student here…. Okay.” (turns to me) “Here you go, she wants to speak with you.”

*grabs phone* “¿Hola?

Lola: “Biqui, where were you?”

“In my room.”

“The room keys were turned in, so there was no way of knowing yours was missing.”

“OK.”

“Well, I’m sorry, Biqui, but we just left the city limits of Lisboa, and we’re not turning around to get you. You’ll have to find your own way back to Sevilla. Vale?”

“…. OK.” *feels tears welling up*

Vale, good luck, and I’ll call you in a few hours to get an update from you.”

“OK.” *Hands phone back to Portuguese receptionist.*

By now the three receptionists were looking at me to see what Lola had said, and I’m pretty sure the look of devastation on my face was a clear indicator, but I told them that the bus wasn’t coming back for me.  They looked at me shocked, and kept repeating how they couldn’t believe it, it was only ten minutes, etc.

So at that point I did the only thing I could think of doing.

I cried. Like a Fado singer.

Not really. It was nowhere near as pretty as Fado.

So, crying, I went and sat down on a couch by the reception area and started reorganizing the things I had hurriedly shoved into my backpack. A litany of thoughts that kept repeating in my head. **How could nobody have noticed that I wasn’t there? Am I so easily forgotten? Not even my roommates? Not even my friends? How?** As I finished repacking, I told myself that enough was enough, to stop with the pity party, and figure out how to get back to Sevilla. I rubbed the tears away and one of the receptionists approached me. He handed me a bus schedule for that day, with buses leaving from Lisboa to Sevilla.  The soonest was leaving at 1:30 PM. By now it was a little past 11:00 AM.  The receptionists told me to catch a cab from the hotel to the bus station, then to buy my ticket there.

I thanked them for their help, smiled, grabbed my backpack and walked out the front door.  I went to the first taxi in line and asked the driver to take me to the bus station. Once there, I purchased my one-way ticket to Sevilla (37 Euro; much cheaper than I had expected!), called my host-mother from a pay phone to let her know what had happened, then found a bench where I could hang out for the next couple of hours.  As different buses arrived and departed from the station, I would steal their free Wi-Fi for a few minutes at a time so that I could communicate from my iPhone apps.  I sent my mom a message via Whatsapp to let her know I was safe, and then I posted a Facebook status to let my friends know what was going on: “Got left behind in Portugal, I’m alone but safe & have found a way back to Sevilla. Good thing I speak Portuguese.”

Once that had been taken care of, all that I had left to do was wait.  In my idleness, the thoughts crept back in. **How come nobody noticed? Why didn’t my roommates wake me up? Why haven’t my friends tried calling me? One of the room keys wasn’t turned in; how could they not know? Why didn’t anyone knock on the door? Why did I have to nap? Why didn’t I update the time? The bus was only 10 minutes away…** On and on it went, until I couldn’t stand to think of it anymore. I figured I would get my answers once I got back to Sevilla, but until then there was no use agonizing over it.

Eventually my salvation rumbled into the station. I found a seat behind a happy Asian couple, plopped myself down onto the cracked plastic, curled up into the fetal position, and endured the longest bus ride of my life.

By the end of the trip, I’d had plenty of time to reflect on everything that had transpired, and, believe it or not, I was kinda feeling proud of myself!  I had accidentally been left behind in another country and was able to get back home on my own (with the help and guidance of the wonderful Portuguese receptionists)!  That’s certainly one way to gain confidence in yourself. Not that I recommend my particular way!

After talking about it with my friends and roommates over the next few days, it became clear why I had gotten left behind. Everything that had occurred that Sunday had created the perfect storm.  There were two buses. My roommates thought I was on the bus with my friends. My friends thought I was on the bus with my roommates. The directors of the trip had already been angry because a couple of party boys had slept in really late and made everyone wait 30-45 minutes. Lola kept counting and knew one person was missing, but then someone commented to her that a girl had stayed behind to meet with her parents in Lisboa. It was really all too perfect.

The next time I walked into the API office, I could tell that Lola felt a little apprehensive around me.  I think that she thought I would be mad about the incident, but I wasn’t.  It was an accident; these things happen.  If anything, it was my fault for not updating the time on my phone.  When the API staff asked me about that morning, I just laughed it off (Of COURSE this would happen to me!).

If someone had to have been left behind, I’m glad it was me. I can only imagine how much more scary it would’ve been for someone who didn’t even understand the language. At one point on the bus ride, I wondered to myself if I had learned Portuguese in college just to prepare me for this moment.  I guess I’ll never know, but this experience affirmed my belief that everything happens for a reason.  If anything, my misadventure in Lisboa was a learning experience, and I gained invaluable confidence in my abilities as a traveler.

You can call me Carmen Sandiego. 😉

I am definitely a 90’s kid.

Splang Saturday: 10

Enfadado (ehn-fa-DA-do) = angry — in Latin America, enojado is more commonly used

Pavos (PA-vos) = Euros; bucks — Literally: “turkeys”

Tengo mono (TEHN-go MO-no) = when you’re addicted to something and you feel the craving — Literally: “I have a monkey”

Hacer la croqueta (ah-THER la kro-KEH-tah) = roll around on the ground — Literally: “Do the croquette”

Qué morado tengo (ke mo-RAH-do TEHN-go) = I’m so high (from smoking weed) — Literally: “What purple I have.” (I don’t get it.)

Crack (krak) = someone who is exceptionally good at what they do (this has been adopted from English slang that isn’t really used nowadays, but it’s understood: “He’s a crackerjack mechanic” means he is very skilled at his trade). — Example: people go to a comedy show and the comedian keeps them in stitches.  When talking about how funny the comedian is, they can say: ¡Él es un crack!

El puto amo (ehl POO-to AH-mo) = “the f*cking master”; used the same way it would be used in English.

You deserve a daily affirmation of how awesome you are.

Olá Portugal!

Welcome to Portugal!

My observations about Portugal in general: If the two Iberian countries are sisters, Portugal is the younger sister that always got the hand-me-downs and grew up in Spain’s shadow.  They’re both beautiful, and smart, but in their own way.  Portugal definitely got more beat up and teased than Spain did.  However, Portugal is more self-aware, self-confident and proud of who she is, whereas Spain has been plagued by insecurity and stuck in an identity crisis for a long, long time.

Having said that, Portugal needs a better marketing team.  It’s a country with a fascinating culture, great architecture and natural beauty, but I would feel confident in saying that most U.S. Americans know hardly anything about it.  For example: Did you know there’s an instrument called the Portuguese guitar? If you have heard about it, kudos.  It’s an amazing instrument that produces a great sound, and yet, it’s completely been overshadowed by the Spanish guitar. I suppose I might have to attribute this, in part, to the country’s size — Portugal has a population of about 10.7 million people.  Spain’s population is over 47 million.  I guess it’s only natural that the one with a larger population will receive more attention (other examples: Canada/USA; New Zealand/Australia).

As for Lisboa (or Lisbon, in English): it’s a lovely city, situated right on a bay, but it looks a bit worn down.  It’s like your favorite pair of jeans that are frayed and have patches on the knees and need to be restitched in places.  I would love to see this city with some new life breathed into it, but it’s beautiful either way.  I have to say that Lisboa has some of the best street art I have seen in the Iberian peninsula.  I highly recommend a visit;  Lisboa is worth seeing and I’m glad I did!

After Greece comes Portugal. ANARCHY!!!!Probably my favorite street art ever.Plouf!Fadista & Portuguese guitar

I also got to practice my Portuguese, which was one of the things I was most looking forward to. However, Brazilian Portuguese, as it turns out, sounds really different. I was able to read and communicate effectively, but understanding the fast-speaking Portuguese was a bit of a challenge! But that whole challenge of communicating with someone who speaks a different language is one of my favorite experiences in this world. I love everything about it: the patience and creativity you need to have, the frustration when you can’t seem to figure out how to communicate a relatively simple idea, the exaggerated body language and hand gestures (it’s like a real-world version of charades!), the excitement when you finally understand each other, the sense of camaraderie that’s formed when they realize you are making an effort to speak their language and understand their culture… I love all of it! Of course, there’s some people who will just treat you like crap no matter what, but I suspect they treat just about everybody that way.

Thursday we spent traveling by bus from Sevilla to Lisboa. It was about a 6- or 7-hour-long trip. As we crossed the border, my friend Ian whipped out his guitar and the whole bus sang a rendition of “Ai Se Eu Te Pego” by Michel Teló (Watch the video here!). Sooo it’s Brazilian, but since we didn’t know any songs from Portugal we figured it was close enough.

Jammin' at the rest stop in PortugalAlways with the harmonica

That night we arrived in Lisboa, wandered around, and enjoyed pizza for dinner.  We found a place that was about to close (the Portuguese eat dinner earlier than the Spaniards), but they were really accommodating, and served up some great pizza! Afterwards we just hung out in the hotel.  We wanted to save our energy for Friday night!

It's a blurry Lisboa!Mmmmm Portuguese pizza!

Friday, after a GLORIOUS hotel breakfast buffet, all day was spent on a bus touring the city. We saw the most famous spots, which included a beautiful Cathedral and an impressive monument dedicated to those who discovered the New World and funded their voyages.

Did you know that Lisboa has a Golden Gate Bridge look-alike? It’s called the Ponte 25 de Abril (25th of April Bridge) and was constructed by the same company that built the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge, but its rusty red coloring is reminiscent of the Golden Gate Bridge.
Lisboa's "Golden Gate" Bridge

We then visited two other nearby towns: coastal Cascais (we went to the beach and then the Boca do Inferno or “Mouth of Hell”) and charming Sintra in the mountains.

Mouth of Hell, right sideMore from the Mouth of Hell
Yep that's a castle along the top ridge.

Friday night we went out to a traditional Portuguese restaurant to try the local cuisine (I enjoyed Caldo Verde (green soup) and Bacalhãu à Brás (a mix of cod, eggs, and thinly-sliced crispy french fries)).

Sopa VerdeBacalhao a Bras

Then, after taking an hour to figure out the Lisboa metro system and deciding what we wanted to do, we partied it up in the Bairro Alto — a giant grid in the city completely dedicated to getting people intoxicated.  It’s street after street after street of bars and clubs.  Have I mentioned that everything is legal in Portugal?  Well, it is.  All drugs are legal there, and the country is doing fine. So if you wanna party, the Bairro Alto is for you (and the name is definitely not a misnomer— we had to make our way up a steep hill to reach it)!  Another observation: they guys in Portugal are taller and broader than the Spaniards.  And much more flirtatious than the guys in Sevilla.  Sevillanos, y’all have gotta step up your game! You don’t wanna be shown up by the Portuguese do you?

MetrooooooNot THAT many people...Ok it was packed.

Saturday was a free day, and in the morning after yet another GLORIOUS breakfast, we went somewhere really, really cool: The Thieves Market.  It’s a giant flea market, where people come and lay out their blankets and their wares and set up their little shops and display the most random, eclectic collection of stuff I have ever seen.  You can find anything in the Thieves Market. I had a field day running around and looking at everything, but I didn’t end up buying anything.  I regret it though!  They had such cool things! For so CHEAP!! (The market lives up to its name: some items were definitely stolen… like beautiful tiles pried from the walls of the city… O_o)

Afterwards, we went in search of the restaurant Chapitô (that was a mission) for lunch, and Kevin and I accidentally ate our friends’ tapas because we had all ordered the same thing and they had brought it out combined on one plate.  It was only nine small pieces, so we thought it was one serving.  The moment when we realized what we’d done was horrifying and shameful. We paid for all of it, of course, but it was still so embarrassing!  After the fiasco at Chapitô, we headed back down into town and ate at a famous pastry shop while we waited for everyone else to show up.  We were all being taken by API to go watch a Fado performance.  Fado is Portugal’s national music.  It usually involves a woman who is singing in the saddest way imaginable— it sounds like she’s crying as she sings.  She’s accompanied by a Portuguese guitar, which, as I’ve said before, is a really cool instrument and deserves to get more attention.  After the performance we went to a market to get snacks and alcohol (what else do you need?), then had dinner at a really classy establishment: McDonald’s.  I’m proud to say I only ordered a McFlurry.  I had a bocadillo in my backpack that I had made that morning at the hotel breakfast, so that’s what I ate for dinner.  We went back to the hotel and ended up playing charades and drinking the whole entire night.
Trolleys!!LisboaaaaaI had to be sneaky to get a pic of FadoKeeping it classy. Mickey D's.

Saúde!

Sunday: That’s the one anecdote I have from Lisboa that deserves its very own individual post. Here’s a preview: tears of despair and abandonment were involved.

Not Completely “All Play and No Work”

Journal Entry: March 20, 2012

So, I know I’ve been talking about the trips I’ve been on and the friends I’ve made, but I can’t forget that I’m doing something else while I’m here, too— school.  Yeah, sadly, I’m still a student and can’t just go off gallivanting through Spain whenever I feel like it.  Sometimes I forget that school exists, though, because we never have any homework.  But then I get an assignment like THIS one, and it’s a rude awakening.

In one of my classes (Social Psychology Applied to Advertising — it’s not as interesting as I originally thought, mainly because the profesora isn’t very good), we had a group project where we had to create some advertising and promo items for a conference. No sweat, right? If I could survive ADV4800, I can handle anything.

But what happened was that we decided to do the whole thing in one sitting. Everything done, all at once, Sunday night. Even though it was due on Wednesday.

So, to make a very long, miserable story short: I left my house at 6 PM, thinking I’d be back in time for dinner at 10 PM.  I came back at 8 AM the next day.

That was my first school-related all-nighter in Spain! (remember Barcelona? Those were like 2 or 3 all-nighters in a row)

Good news: We finished!

Bad news: After getting back home I had the most massive, unhealthy (death by carbohydrates) breakfast imaginable, then slept through my first class that day.

Hopefully that won’t be happening ever again.

Oh, and fun little anecdote: We went to do the project at my friend Ana’s house, where she lives with her parents.  Her mom is a little firecracker, and she got a kick out of the fact that I’m an American. While we took a brief dinner break, she ended up grilling me about all sorts of fun topics like American politics, Obama, and abortion. SO. MUCH. FUN.

(NOT!)