¡Viva La Pepa!

Today is a national public holiday in Spain: Constitution Day marks the anniversary of a referendum held on December 6, 1978 where a new constitution was approved. This was an important step in Spain’s transition to becoming a constitutional monarchy and democracy, because it was the constitution that came after Franco’s dictatorship and helped the country move forward.

However, I also wanted to bring attention to another important Spanish Constitution: The 1812 Constitution of Cádiz (La Pepa).

This year, Spain celebrated the 200th anniversary of the Constitution of 1812, known affectionately as “La Pepa” because it was adopted on March 19, the feast day of St. Joseph (Joseph is “José” in Spanish, and the nickname for José is “Pepe” — so the feminine form used for the Constitution is “Pepa”).  This was the same constitution I mentioned in my previous post that was surrounded by so much drama!

La Pepa established the principles of universal male suffrage, national sovereignty, constitutional monarchy and freedom of the press, and supported land reform and free enterprise.  It was one of the most liberal constitutions of its time, and influenced many others!  For many years, the phrase “Viva la Pepa” was politically charged and represented anti-monarchy sentiment.  More recently, it has become more light-hearted, but is still used in Spain by those who oppose a monarchy.  I remember during my semester in Sevilla, I would hear random shouts of, “Viva la Pepa!” by Spaniards when I’d go out at night.

Fun fact: in Latin America, a popular phrase is “Viva la Pepa!” which is used at parties and such; an exclamation of fun and carefree times and people.  My mom, born and raised in El Salvador, has used this phrase her entire life; she had no idea that what they are actually referring to every time they say “Viva la Pepa!” is the Spanish Constitution!  My mom said she thought it was just some random girl’s name. 😀

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)


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)


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.


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.


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)


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??


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.


Itálica is dead.

It’s a dead city, I mean.  It used to be one of the most important cities in the Iberian Peninsula during the time of the Roman Empire, and two great Roman emperors (Trajan and Hadrian) came from here.  Now, nobody lives here.  It’s just some Roman ruins chilling right outside of a town called Santiponce, a little bit north of Sevilla.  Methinks the ruins here are probably the oldest things I’ve ever touched.

A bustling Roman city used to be here.Incredible how it's lasted so long

Gods the weekdays are named after.Man v. Animal, battles to the death.Gladiators passed through here.Emperor Hadrian. What's left of him.
In any case, I think my favorite fun fact I learned was that none of it has been retouched.  All of the colors, all of the stones, all of the designs have been left completely alone for the past couple thousand years.  There are no coverings, so it’s all completely exposed to the elements as well.  So, taking that into consideration, the fact that I can still clearly see the murals and such is really quite impressive.  Way to go, Romans!
Owl!Awesome centaur.
Vivid colors, thousands of years oldTiger, Tiger, Burning Bright

The Oldest City in Western Europe

After visiting Jerez de la Frontera we continued on to Cádiz, the OLDEST (continuously inhabited) CITY IN WESTERN EUROPE. It was founded by the Phoenicians (you know, the dudes who invented the alphabet? No big deal.) circa 1100 B.C.  It’s also a great little beach town, so we enjoyed a day in the sun, sand and surf. The water was waaaaayyy too cold to fully enjoy the surf though haha. But the point is: now I know what a beach on the other side of the Atlantic is like, too!
In Cadiz with friends! Here's Katherine.Beautiful Cadiz
Carnaval weekend!
Walking the streets of the cityCity + beach = Happiness


Granada: Day 2

Sorry for my long hiatus! August was an action-packed month for me. But I’m back! And so are my anecdotes about Spain. Here’s more about Granada! 
On Saturday we took an early morning stroll to see more of what Granada has to offer. We went to the Arab baths and learned about its social importance to the Moors who ruled in Granada for 8 centuries until 1492. In 1492, the last Sultan surrendered the city to Queen Isabel of Castilla-Leon and King Ferdinand of Aragon, and led his people out of the city. There’s actually a spot outside of the city known as “The Moor’s Sigh,” where the Sultan supposedly turned to look at Granada one last time and sighed sadly. According to legend, his mother said to him, “You weep like a woman for the city you could not defend as a man.” Ouch, that one must’ve stung!
Then, we headed to the royal chapel where Queen Isabel and King Ferdinand are buried. This was a huge deal to me. I’m such a history nerd! This couple, known as the Catholic Monarchs, led Spain into its golden age. Prior to their marriage, Spain had been divided in 4 separate kingdoms. With their union, they united the country as well and made it one kingdom. They also expelled all the Jews and Moors from the country and made it a Catholic nation (This lovely period of time was called the Spanish Inquisition and is best known for its religious extremism and violence. Yaaayyy!). Granada was the last Moorish stronghold in Spain. Only after Granada had been reconquered by the Spaniards did the Catholic Monarchs start to pay attention to this one guy by the name of Christopher Columbus. According to the lore, Queen Isabel sold her own jewels in order to fund his excursion to “India.” And the rest, as they say, is history (pun intended).
Her crown & scepter; His sword

BTW: The Spaniards LOVE Christopher Columbus (Cristóbal Colón), and Spain claims him as one of its own (despite the fact that he specifically requested not to be buried under Spanish soil). Time after time I was given the impression that Spain takes great pride in their role of the discovery of the American continent, since it was the Spanish who funded and manned his voyage, and Columbus set sail from Spain. He planted the Spanish flag and claimed all new territories in the name of Isabel & Ferdinand.  That also explains why he called the land “Hispaniola” when he first landed in the Dominican Republic. The word is similar to the Roman origins of the word España (came from the Latin “Hispania”).

One of my favorite fun facts I learned while I was there was that Ferdinand was the warrior, but Isabel was the brains of the outfit. That’s why, on their tomb, her pillows look like they are sunken more than his are. It’s a sign that her head is “heavier” because of her intelligence. Hee-hee!

Isabel's head rests on her sunken pillow
Can you tell which one is Isabel? 🙂

I went to Great Britain! ;)

You know you're in Great Britain when...OMG IT'S AFRICA!!!!
Cannons shot from the top reach Africa!Stalactites in St. Michael's Cave
And if you don't know, now ya know...City of Gibraltar

I took a day trip with friends to Gibraltar on Feb. 11, and here’s some of what we saw!

It was so cool being in a place with that much history. Everyone has heard of Gibraltar, and now I’ve been there! I cannot describe how awesome it was seeing the shadowy form of Africa looming in the distance. From Europa Point you can see Gibraltar, Spain, the Atlantic Ocean, Africa, the Straight of Gibraltar, and the Mediterranean Sea! There’s tons of cannons all over the place too, since this little piece of land has had a pretty violent past. There’s a cannon here that weighs 100 TONS! There’s also another cannon at the very tippy-top of The Rock that can fire cannonballs that reach Africa!

Also, one of my favorite things I found out was that one of Hercules’ mythical 12 tasks was performed here. He was asked to split the land in order to reach Hades. So, in order to complete the task, what he did was place one foot in Gibraltar, and the other foot in Africa, and by splitting his feet apart he created the Straight of Gibraltar!

Also, the Gibraltarians are a pretty interesting lot. They speak English with a British accent, but then can switch into perfect Spanish at a moment’s notice! Very disorienting, but very cool. And of course, they love their queen. Gibraltar has been English territory since the early 18th century. I loved seeing a little bit of British culture. I even got to eat fish & chips! And take a photo in a red telephone booth!

But, I have to say, my favorite part was playing with the MONKEYS!!!!

Two monkeys!This one jumped on me by surprise.
Then he peed on me!Two young monkeys! :)

I loved the Gibraltar monkeys! Even though one of them peed on me, the pictures I got were worth it!!


This is a symbol that you see quite literally EVERYWHERE in Sevilla. On bike racks, drains, bus stops, street signs, manhole covers, taxis, monuments, Christopher Columbus’ tomb… everywhere.

When I did a bit of research on it, I found out that it’s Sevilla’s motto. Here’s what Wikipedia has to say about it:

The motto is a rebus, combining the Spanish syllables (NO and DO) and a drawing in between of the figure “8”. The figure represents a skein of yarn, or in Spanish, a “madeja.” When read aloud, “No madeja do” sounds like “No me ha dejado”, which means “It [Seville] has not abandoned me”.

The story of how NO8DO came to be the motto of the city has undoubtedly been embellished throughout the centuries, but legend has it that after the conquest of Seville from the Muslims in 1248, King Ferdinand III of Castile and León moved his court to the former Muslim palace, the Alcázar of Seville.

After Ferdinand’s death, his son, Alfonso X assumed the throne. Alfonso’s son, Sancho IV, tried to usurp the throne from his father, but the people of Seville remained loyal to Alfonso and this is where NO8DO was believed to have originated when, according to legend, Alfonso X rewarded the fidelity of the Sevillanos with the words that now appear on the official emblem of the city of Seville.

Sevilla’s flag:

Day Trip to El Escorial

El Escorial is Spain’s royal monastery, and it’s divided into 4 parts: The monastery, the school, the palace, and the cathedral. It was constructed based on the descriptions of Solomon’s temple. It also has a library containing thousands of books, with some as old as the 8th century!! Students and scholars can actually read & use the ORIGINAL books for their projects or research (in a very special room, but still)! Here’s the library:

El Escorial library

It also has a huge underground network that houses the tombs of dozens of kings and queens of Spain from the past 5 centuries, along with many members of the royal families. In order for a queen to be buried there, she had to be the mother of a king. So even if you were the wife of the king of Spain, if your son didn’t become king, then you couldn’t be buried there. The circular room they’re buried in (called the Pantheon of the Kings) is GORGEOUS, and directly beneath the Cathedral’s main altar. Once again, like the royal palace, I was not allowed to take pictures inside. Sadness. But here’s a picture of the cathedral’s altar I found online:

In any case, I found out something pretty gruesome. The room and coffins are already made, so that means the kings and queens who die have to fit into those pre-made coffins. So, what they do is: after a king or queen who will be buried there dies, they are put in a special “rotting chamber” in El Escorial called a pudridero, and they’re left there for about 40 years. After that time passes, they’re just bones. Then the bones are placed inside the coffin. The current king’s parents are both in a rotting room, and they are going to take the final two slots available in the special burial room (26 total). That means the current king (Juan Carlos I) has to pick another place to be buried, since El Escorial ran out of space.

But yeah, it was absolutely awe-inspiring, and I really wish I could’ve taken a picture to show you all! But here’s one I found online (none of the pictures in this post do the real thing justice, but just to give you an idea):Pantheon of the Kings