CouchSurfing to the Rescue!

My last post left off with Lis and me finally–FINALLY–arriving at Dante’s place in Porto Cristo, despite Murphy’s best attempts to thwart us with his stupid Law.  This is the point in the story where our bad luck finally decided to cut us some slack for a few days, and it turned into an AMAZING weekend.

As Lis and I approached Dante’s address, we saw two men standing in a doorway conversing with each other.  Sure enough, it turned out to be Dante, and he introduced the man next to him as his brother, Matias, who lived on the floor directly above Dante’s.  Matias bid us adiós and Dante gave us a tour of his digs.  As it turned out, we wouldn’t be sleeping on a couch at all, but a bunk bed that Dante had in a room specifically designated for CouchSurfers! SCORE!  He even had a spare laptop that he said was ours to use whenever we felt like.  Within a few minutes, our host was already exceeding our expectations.

I call bottom!

He gave us a tour and was very gracious, making it clear that we were allowed to use anything in his home and to come and go as we pleased.  Lis and I found out that he’s a pretty creative guy: he’s in a band and also works as a freelance graphic and Web site designer.  He took us to a local grocery store so we could buy our food and supplies for the next few days (bread, ham, cheese, cereal, milk, yogurt, and apples), then we hopped in his car and got a quick tour of Porto Cristo and neighboring areas of the island.  He drove us to some cliffs and we were treated to spectacular views of the coastline and beaches.  I could not believe how beautiful this place is.

Feast yer eyes!

We headed back to his place for lunch (a refreshing and delicious salad), and after that Lis and I couldn’t wait any longer – after having taken in just a little bit of Mallorca’s natural beauty, we HAD to get down to the beach!  Dante said he had some work he wanted to knock out, so despite our best efforts to convince him to come down to the beach with us, Dante did the responsible thing and stayed in.  Lis changed into her bathing suit (I had been wearing mine underneath my clothes the entire time, if it’s any indication of how excited I was to go to the beach), and Operation Get-A-Tan officially commenced!  We made our way down to Porto Cristo’s beach (ah, yes, I forgot to mention that Dante lives just a 2-minute walking distance from a lovely little beach), where we spent the next few hours basking in the rays of the life-giving sun and engaging in a session of Girl Talk.

Dante’s backyard trumps mine.

After we were sufficiently satisfied with our sun soaking (alliteration for the win), we took a leisurely stroll around the town, peered in different stores, tried to understand the signs written in Catalan, made fun of the stereotypical touristy gifts (Flamenco figurines for sale in a part of the country where Flamenco is not a part of the culture in any way, shape or form are very conspicuous), and enjoyed some overpriced and delicious ice cream.  We eventually meandered back to Dante’s place, where he was conveniently finishing up his work.  The three of us made our way to his courtyard, where he revealed his hammock!  Lis and I took turns swaying on it while we engaged in a conversation with Dante, getting to know our host.  After a while, we were joined by Dante’s friend, Jeremy, who had dropped by for a quick visit.  Jeremy is a professional photographer with a very unique perspective on almost every aspect of life, so a conversation with him proved to be a fascinating one.  At some point Dante revealed that we’d be going to one of his favorite restaurants for a Mallorcan dinner, and I made my way to the shower so we’d all have enough time to get ready before dinner.  By the time I emerged to let Lis have her turn, Jeremy had left.

She’s just hanging out. 😛

But much time didn’t pass before we were joined by another one of Dante’s friends, Sath.  Sath is a professional artist (are you starting to see a trend here? Dante is a graphic designer, Jeremy is a photographer, Sath is an artist… Lis and I had stumbled upon a pretty creative group of people!), and his medium of choice is spray paint.  But Lis and I couldn’t believe it when we saw some of his art– it didn’t look like any graffiti we’d ever seen!

Much of his art carries a political or social message.

How can he make spray paint look like brush strokes??

It’s all made with spray paint!  The above images were taken from Sath’s Web site, where you can see more of his work! www.sath.es

While we waited for one more of Dante’s friends to arrive, Dante and Sath showed us a video that Dante had put together of the trip to Thailand and Cambodia that they had taken a few months prior.  It’s an AMAZING video!  Dante has some serious video-editing skills, and it was a lot of fun to see their trip.  Click HERE to watch the video!  At one point in the vid, they suddenly show a MASSIVE spider in their teeny-weeny hotel room, and, being an extremely jumpy person with a bad case of arachnophobia, I flinched and started screaming when I saw the spider, partially because it caught me by surprise, and partially because the guys in the video were screaming, so it was contagious.  My screaming made Lis scream (told ya it’s contagious), and it was right at this exact moment when Dante’s friend, Nico, steps in.  The poor guy was so confused, walking into a room with two screaming strangers.  We calmed down and paused the video in order to be introduced to Nico, and then the five of us finished watching the video together.  No more spiders, thankfully!

Now that we were all gathered, we made our way to the restaurant, where Dante is friends with the chef.  Lis and I had no idea, but we were in for a treat!  Dante picked out a few things, then a plate arrived.  Then another.  And another.  Plate after plate after plate kept coming to the table, and some of the things hadn’t even been asked for!  And it was all delicious!  Dante also had us order a traditional Mallorcan drink called hierbas.  Hierbas is an herbal liqueur that is said to be good for digestion, so that’s why we had it after our feast.  It’s made from distilled molasses and wine, with herbs like aniseed, mint, chamomile, rosemary, thyme and fennel.  It was sweet, though a bit strong, but Lis and I both liked it.

After dinner (we each only ended up paying 13 Euros for ALL of it! Including the drink!), we headed to a bar, where we met up with Matias and his fiancée.  We ordered another local specialty, the mojito mallorquín.  It’s made using the Mallorcan liquor called licor de palo, then they add white sugar, fresh mint, 2 pieces of lime, a little bit of soda, and crushed ice.

A delicious Mojito Mallorquin

A delicious Mojito Mallorquin

As you can imagine, after eating all of that food and enjoying those two drinks, I was starting to feel a bit sleepy.  We all were, I believe!  We headed back to Dante’s home, where Dante, Sath, Nico, Lis and I chatted some more and the guys shared funny Spanish YouTube videos with the American girls.  The Spanish comedians spoke really quickly, and even though Lis and I are both Spanish-speaking Hispanics, it occasionally got difficult to understand the Spaniard comedians.  But the guys were great; they were patient and would pause the videos and explain the jokes whenever they would see our eyes glaze over or give them confused glances.  After a while we decided to call it a night, made plans to see each other again, and as I lay in the bunk bed that night staring up at the wooden planks supporting Lis’s bed, I couldn’t help but be grateful for how much better this day had been than the day before.  I was excited to see how the next day would go, and quickly fell asleep thanks to the energy-draining properties of the sun and a belly full of delicious food and a couple of drinks.

Coming up in the next post: Saturday– a day that included explorations, bumming it on another beach, tostones, more creative people, a few bars and nightclubs, and bumping into tennis superstar Rafael Nadal (with a photo to prove it)!

To those who celebrate it, have a Merry Christmas!  Happy Holidays to everyone, wherever you are in this beautiful world. 🙂

The Best and Worst Vacation of All Time

The perfect opportunity for an extended trip came about with a free weekend at the end of March that would lead into the start of Semana Santa (Holy Week), during which there’s no school.  I saw my friend Lis had posted that she was flying to Mallorca round-trip for 33 Euro, and she had asked if anyone would like to come with her.  Never having heard of Mallorca before, I Googled it, realized it was an island in the Mediterranean, saw some pictures, and was sold on the idea within five seconds.

Mediterranean beach weekend getaway and the round-trip flight’s only 33 pavos? ¡Apúntame!  I bought my ticket right away, and told Lis I’d join her. It ended up just being the two of us who went, but that’s no problem, man!  The less people, the less time gets wasted.  Or so I thought.  (Blatant foreshadowing)

We wanted this trip to be as cheap as possible (HA!), so we decided that we were going to try CouchSurfing (our first time!).  I looked at a few profiles of people who lived on the island, but I was nervous and a bit overwhelmed by the idea of just contacting someone to ask if we could stay at their house for a few days.  I ended up sending out a general post, letting local hosts know that two nice American girls were going to be there from March 28th until April 2nd (I really didn’t want to miss Semana Santa in Sevilla), and I was hoping that someone decent would contact me.

And by “decent,” I mean, “not a rapist or psycho killer.”

Brownie points if you suddenly got the Talking Heads song stuck in your head. (Fa fa fa faa fa fa fa fa faa…)

I was contacted by a potential host shortly afterward, named Dante.  I checked out his profile and references, and he seemed nice enough.  I accepted Dante’s invitation and just hoped that everything would go well.  And that, you know, I’d return to Sevilla alive.  That would be preferable.

The plan was that I would fly out on Wednesday evening and spend the first night in a hostel in Palma so that I could take advantage of having an entire beach day on Thursday, and Lis would join me Thursday night.  We would then pick up our rented car and drive to Dante’s place that night, and spend the rest of the days beach hopping and exploring the island.  Since I didn’t know how to drive stick-shift, Lis would be the one driving. It sounded simple enough, right? So we didn’t really plan ahead all that much.  IDIOT MISTAKE NUMBER 1.

As it turned out, it was for the best that I flew out on Wednesday, because that Thursday, March 29, was a national strike day in Spain (“29M – Huelga General” was pasted and spray-painted EVERYWHERE), and a lot of people were legitimately concerned about not being able to fly that day with so many workers on strike. But since I left on Wednesday, everything was normal for me.  This was probably the one positive thing with regards to transportation I had that whole week.

After an uneventful Ryanair flight to the island, I navigated the surprisingly large Palma airport and found my way to the bus stop.  I needed to get on the bus that would take me to S’Arenal.  I saw my bus chilling at the stop and was about to get on, but I saw it was almost empty and there was a big group of people waiting outside of it.  I figured there was a reason why they were waiting, so I decided to wait as well.  It was only when the bus doors closed and it drove off that I realized that this big group of people was waiting for a completely different bus and I had missed getting on the bus I needed.  I had literally sat there for 10 minutes staring at the bus I needed and I didn’t get on.  Now I would have to wait 30 more minutes until it came around again.  IDIOT MISTAKE NUMBER 2.

This started a sad trend of transportation errors that would haunt the rest of my trip and end up costing us a lot of $$$.

I finally got on the bus I should’ve been on in the first place and sat in front of these two girls.  From their accents I knew they were American.  I turned around and struck up a conversation with Jillian and Jessie, and I found out they were also studying abroad in Sevilla and we were getting off at the same stop!  We exchanged phone numbers and planned to hang out that night after we had checked into our respective hostels.  I invited Jillian and Jessie to come stay at my hostel, but they had already paid in advance for their own.  So I got to enjoy an entire 3-bed room and bathroom to myself!

Got the place all to myself....

After checking in, I met up with Jillian and Jessie at the beach.  We explored for a bit and came across a playground, then spent the next hour or so fooling around on the equipment.  Tired, I bid them adieu and headed back to my hostel, but not before making plans to meet up at the beach the next day.

I'm in Mallorca, trick!New friends! Jillian and Jessie

Thursday was Strike Day, but it didn’t affect my plans in the slightest.  I checked out of my room, left my bag with the staff, and walked the two blocks down to the beach for what was supposed to have been a lovely, relaxed day enjoying the sun, sand and surf.  I called Jillian to ask when they’d get down to the beach, and they said that first they were going to explore Palma and then come hang out.  Then I called the rental car company, Hiper Rent-a-Car, to double-check that everything was in order.  And that was when I was joined by a guy named Murphy who had brought his infamous Law with him.  To tell the rest of the story, I’ll provide a list of facts:

1. 19-year-olds can’t rent cars. You would’ve known this if you had done your research. IDIOT MISTAKE NUMBER 3.

2. 21-year-olds can rent cars.  For an extra fee. Of course.

3. 21-year-olds who can rent cars but don’t know how to drive stick-shift will freak out and spend the next couple of hours looking up driving instructions, utilizing the free wi-fi in a McDonalds instead of relaxing on the beach.  At least the Mickey Ds provides you with a nice view.

Free wi-fi and a view? McD's got it!

4. Regardless of age, you can only rent a car if you have your driver’s license with you, and didn’t forget it back at your apartment in Sevilla. IDIOT MISTAKE NUMBER 4.

5. Your travel companion who hasn’t left Sevilla yet has the ability to go pick up your driver’s license and bring it with her, as long as your host-mom or host-sister or either one of your roommates are there and able to let her in.

6. Believing that the issue has been solved, you will happily listen to British music as you enjoy an Italian pizza at a Greek restaurant owned by German immigrants on a Spanish island.

Best pizza I've had in Spain, no contest

7. You find out that your travel companion cannot retrieve your driver’s license, because none of the other 4 inhabitants of your apartment were home. Damn you, Murphy.

8. Rental car companies might accept you if your local government authority will fax them a letter on official letterhead saying that you are legally allowed to drive along with a photocopy of your driver’s license.

9. You local government authority will not do this, despite your mother’s best efforts to convince them to do so.

10. Jillian and Jessie are both 21. Jessie did not bring her driver’s license. Jillian did. You make an illegal plan to meet with them and rent the car with Jillian’s driver’s license.

11. They cannot get to you because a massive crowd gathered for the general strike in Palma has stopped the buses from leaving Palma.

12. All of the phone calls that needed to be made in order for all of this exchange of information between the rental car company, your travel companion, Dante, your mother, and Jillian/Jessie have taken their toll on your pre-paid phone, and you are forced to add more money to it, even though the amount that you had placed in it the day before would have normally lasted you until the end of the following month.  At least you got to see the sunset and some hot half-naked guys emerge from the water.

Hot guys emerging from the waves, yes!

13. Night falls, and you are all FINALLY able to meet right before the car rental company closes.  By this point, your travel companion has arrived and meets you at the car rental place.

14. You have planned on paying for the rental car with your debit card. The rental car company only accepts credit cards. IDIOT MISTAKE NUMBER 5.

15. Your travel companion has a credit card. You breathe a sigh of relief.

16. You find out that Jillian’s driver’s license is only a temporary paper one issued to her by the state of Wyoming while she waits for her new driver’s license to arrive in the mail. The rental car company does not accept paper licenses. Only plastic.

17. Despite your begging, you are unable to rent a car.  The four of you dejectedly return to S’Arenal and get a hostel room together.

18. The hostel room is cold, and there are not enough blankets.  The two blankets that they have provided look like they haven’t been washed since the 1960’s.  Given the foul odor, you suspect that is the case.

19. Upon waking, you find that Jessie and Jillian have already left and you didn’t get to say good-bye.  After your breakfast, you walk to the bus stop and pay for the bus to take you to Dante’s town on the other side of the island.

20. You get off on the wrong stop (IDIOT MISTAKE NUMBER 6) and end up walking the rest of the way from one end of the town to the other.

21. You finally arrive at Dante’s place.

So, that’s how I spent my Thursday.  What would have been a fun and relaxing beach day turned into a Hiper-headache due to our ignorance, the mistakes we made with regards to that blasted rental car, and also some forces that were not within our control (Murphy! You’re on my Sh*t List!).  However, as I Whatsapped with my mother that night, she reminded me that I was on a gorgeous island in the Mediterranean.  That really put it into perspective.  Her words lifted my spirits and reminded me that I was incredibly lucky to even be there in the first place!

The next few days were spent with our CouchSurfing host, Dante!  As you can tell, I wasn’t murdered. Huzzah! In your face, Murphy!  The CouchSurfing experience is what made my vacation in Mallorca one of the best I have ever been on.  Details about that will come in the next post!  Until then, I hope you enjoyed my misery in this anecdote!  I know I can look back on it now and have a great laugh about it. 🙂

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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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).

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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!

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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.

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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

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.

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!)

Breakfast à la Americano!

The same weekend as our trip to Córdoba, my friend Robbie and I got together at his Spanish friend’s apartment to make some bona-fide American meals!  The most important (and famous) is breakfast, of course, so we made scrambled eggs with bacon and toast, then pancakes with strawberries and whipped cream on top!  For lunch we made the Spaniards some BLT sandwiches.  Robbie entertained our Spanish host and her friends by playing his harmonica for them.  We had plans to make grilled cheese sandwiches, but everyone was way too full by then!  It was a lot of fun to make those meals to share a bit of our culinary culture, and at the same time Robbie and I got to enjoy some comfort food from back home.  It was a win-win!
Making the pancakes!And Robbie plays the harmonica, too!You know you want some.More and more kept arriving!

WIG PARTY

The Thursday after my trip to Barcelona, I got invited to the birthday party of one of the Spaniards in my class.  It was all girls, and it was themed: WIG PARTY!!! (Fiesta de la Peluca)  Well, silly me, I didn’t bring any of my pelucas to Spain, so I had to borrow one from my Spanish friend, Maria.  The wig was long and red, and I had a blue/green dress, so I decided to go as the Little Mermaid!

Hear my beautiful siren's voice?You know we're sexy.

The food was “Mexican” — so basically tacos and guacamole.  But it was so good!  One of the girls was going as Nikki Minaj, so she got creative and stuffed a pillow down the back of her leggings to give her a more “voluptuous” figure.  After much picture-taking, we hit the streets of Sevilla and attracted lots of strange looks and playful cat calls. 😉

Friends!Walking the streets of Sevilla. Yup.

We even met up with some of my American friends on Calle Alfalfa! I had a great time with the girls that night, and they enjoyed practicing their English and also teaching us all sorts of words and phrases popular among the young Spanish crowd these days.  A great night!

We met up w/ my friends! LOL @ KatherineThat's a good look for you, Robbie!
Bearded Katherine ^^^ & Robbie was such a good sport with that white wig! ^^^