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

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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.

Mama, Papa, I’m sorry. I’ve become a thief.

Journal Entry: March 4, 2012

I know you’ve raised me better than this, but my circumstances have made me this way! I’m not alone, either. All of the American girls have become thieves.

You see, the problem is this: There is no toilet paper in Sevilla. Let me rephrase that. There is hardly ever any toilet paper in any of the restrooms in Sevilla. With the exception of your bathroom at home, you won’t find it. I can’t believe I haven’t written about this before, cuz it’s a pretty big deal.

As a result, the American girls have resorted to thievery. Yes, thievery. Although it shames me… I steal the cheap paper napkins from the little metal napkin dispensers at restaurants and store them in my purse for later use as toilet paper. THERE! I admit it! I’m sorry! I just don’t know what else to do! The boys don’t know how easy they have it. But you know what the worst part of it is? The napkins aren’t even soft like toilet paper. They feel more like wax paper; they make crinkly noises.

Also, it’s crazy how we’ve adapted to our environment. Before we figured out the napkin trick (it took us about a week and a half), a lot of the girls would stop drinking water prior to heading out so that they wouldn’t have to use the bathroom.

Just the other day, one of my friends was stepping out of a café’s bathroom when I felt “the urge.” These were the words that came out of my mouth regarding the bathroom: “Is it clean? Scratch that. Is there toilet paper?” To which she responded with an elated, “YES! It actually has toilet paper!”

I’ll never take toilet paper for granted again.

18 Things I Missed….

…that Make Me Sound like a Spoiled Rotten American Brat:

**I hope there are no misunderstandings– I absolutely LOVED my time in Spain; there are many things I liked about it that I felt were much better than what we have in the United States, and I have plans to move back there in the future.  I did, however, experience culture shock while I was there, and wanted to share parts of my experience with you.  These are the things that I missed from my life in the U.S., and how I felt about it at the time.**

1. Dryers: I missed the feeling of warm clothes right out of the dryer. And closely related to that…

2. Fabric Softener: Need I say more?

3. To-Go Boxes: If I paid for it, why can’t I take it home with me to finish eating later? *pouts*

4. Customer Service: I received great customer service at many restaurants, but in my experience, poor service occurred far more often than what we (the U.S. American students) were used to. Sometimes, our waiters were obviously in a sour mood, or you could tell they were treating us differently for being foreigners (I know it wasn’t because we were acting obnoxious or anything like that; my group of friends was really respectful and we always tried our darnedest to integrate).  We just chalked it up to the fact that the waiters in Spain don’t work for tips, so we figured they might not care as much about making a good impression on the study abroad students.  Whatever the case, when ever we had a negative experience in a restaurant, we’d miss the customer service we had grown up with.

On the flip side, I’d like to mention that I really enjoyed how the waiters in Spain don’t hover around your table nagging you with the endless cycle of, “Is everything alright?” and “How is everything here?” or “Can I get this plate out of your way?”  I worked at a restaurant in the U.S. before coming to Spain, and we were taught to constantly check on the customers, so I know what it’s like both from the customer’s perspective and the waiter’s.   Before leaving for Spain I’d never noticed it, but since my return to the U.S. it has taken me a while to get used to again.

5. Cleaning Up After Your Dog: FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THINGS GOOD AND HYGIENIC!  Many in Sevilla cleaned up after their dogs, but many didn’t.  There was doggie poo all over the place! Not just on the grass; 50% of it was right in the middle of the sidewalk. I had way too many close calls!

6. Tissues: If I had a runny nose, toilet paper was my only option. Where the Kleenex at? (Towards the end of my stay in Sevilla, I found tissues at a Mercadona, so I just figured that my host-mom wasn’t in the habit of buying them.)

7. Chocolate: The selection in Sevilla was very limited, and very expensive. *sigh* What’s a girl to do?

8. Free refills: Especially for water. One tiny glass of water with my meal wasn’t enough, and I was often dehydrated.  I got accustomed to carrying a bottle of water around with me and refilling it whenever the opportunity presented itself.

9. Peanut Butter: Peanut Butter. Peanut Butter. PEANUT BUTTER.

10. 24-Hour Convenience Stores: What if I felt sick all of a sudden and wanted to make a midnight run to the local 24-hour pharmacy to get some Tylenol? Or, more importantly, if I got the 4 AM munchies after partying with friends???  I finally found a 24-hour store near the Alameda de Hercules in May, but by then I only had 2 weeks left in Sevilla!

11. Central Heating: It could get REALLY cold in our apartment at night during February. Brrr!

12. Big Breakfasts: Toast drizzled with olive oil was nice, but on Saturday mornings I missed pancakes with maple syrup and whipped cream and blueberries.  Or a bagel with some cream cheese spread on it.  Or muffins. Mmmmm….

13. Blueberries: I never once saw a single blueberry in Spain, and they’re one of my favorite fruits. Sad face.

14. Limes: I only saw lemons in Spain.  Once on the Balearic Island of Mallorca I saw limes, and I went NUTS.  I took a picture of them and started excitedly gesturing for my Mallorcan friend to come over and see the limes I had found.  He looked at me like I might need to take a trip to the loony bin.  But I was so excited!  In accordance with my Latin American heritage, I enjoy putting lime juice and salt on a variety of foods.

15. My Car: I missed you, baby! The bus was fine (public transportation in Spain is actually pretty awesome), but it couldn’t compare to the freedom that a car gives you.  However, I did enjoy that a car wasn’t necessary like it often is in the U.S. — I really enjoyed strolling around the city to admire the beautiful buildings and parks (while avoiding stepping in dog poop).

16. Free Public Restrooms: More often than not I’d have to duck into a café or a McDonald’s and buy the cheapest thing so I could officially be a “customer” who was allowed to use their restrooms.  This was also a problem at beaches.  There weren’t public restrooms close to the beach, so in February and March when the water was WAY too cold to wade in past your knees, we’d have to make a long trek away from the beach to find any bathrooms.

17. Free Public Swimming Pools: Right around when May came along, I was really missing being able to take a dip in a nice, refreshing pool, but it was not a good deal for me to pay for the membership costs because I would be leaving Sevilla very soon.

And last but most certainly not least:

18. My Family: I LOVE YOU!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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Question for the Readers:  What, if anything, have you missed from your home country while you were abroad?

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Sometime in the near future I’ll start posting about this odd creature called Reverse Culture Shock, and the things I miss from Spain now that I’m stateside. Quick preview: almost everything!

Unibrows

Journal Entry: February 22, 2012

Unibrows. They’re here, and they’re not going anywhere.

I’ve come to terms with the fact that unibrows are more common in Spain than they are back home. Spaniards are a bit more hairy than your average Anglo/Caucasian. Or maybe it’s just more noticeable because here it’s black hair on pale skin. In any case, I see lots of guys sporting the peach fuzz above their noses, and it’s fine. Certainly not worth commenting on.

But then came along THIS GUY.

I was on the bus headed to class in the morning, and I was minding my own business. Then, this man stepped onto the bus and my eyes couldn’t help but immediately hone in and focus on his face. At first, I thought it was a joke. Like, he had put a fake mustache on his forehead just to see what reactions he would get from people. Haha. Then, he walked closer to me. And I realized that I had been very, very wrong. It was, in fact, real. Thankfully I was wearing sunglasses, because I couldn’t tear my eyes away even if I’d wanted to. I just couldn’t believe it. It was growing onto the bridge of his nose, and from his profile you could see it sticking straight out! I have never in my life seen such a complete unibrow/monobrow/whatever-you-call-it. Crazy! And he was a good-looking guy, too!

I immediately thought of how I needed to share this with my family and friends in the future. Obviously, it would have been rude and unforgivable to take a picture of him (although I was tempted to try to sneak one, I didn’t because that would officially make me the Worst Person Ever). So I took a mental picture instead. And that sketch on a napkin was the result.

After that, I scanned the face of every male I passed to see if they sported unibrows, too. Almost every single guy had some sort of unibrow action going on. But obviously, none as drastic as Monobrow Man. It just made me realize how commonplace unibrows are in Spain. I hadn’t really paid them much attention prior to this week, but now that I’ve realized it, it’s like the veil (or hair, rather) over my eyes has been lifted. They. Are. Everywhere. With or without them though, Spanish men are still GORGEOUS.

¡¡¡VIVA LA UNIBROW!!!

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? 🙂

Día de San Valentín

St. Valentine’s Day in Spain. Not a big deal. Or, rather, not as commercialized as it is back in the good ‘ole U.S. of A.  I think I might have seen only two or three pink and red window displays in the weeks leading up to it. No little Cupids hanging in stores or on windows, no random hearts, I didn’t even see people selling flowers on the streets. People didn’t dress special on Valentine’s Day. I didn’t see any more red shirts than usual. I don’t know if there were commercials on TV advertising for it, because we don’t have a TV in this apartment.

That’s right. The last time I watched TV was when I was in the U.S in January.

People acknowledged St. Valentine’s Day, at least. I saw couples holding hands and making out (but that’s not strange, Public Displays of Affection are EXTREMELY COMMON in Spain, and nobody bats an eyelash when they pass by two people trying their darnedest to eat each other’s face right in the middle of the street).

And some guy I had met the week prior texted me “Happy Love & Friendship Day” in Spanish.

But that was about it as far as February 14th in Spain went. If you were expecting throngs of dashing young men playing Spanish guitars and singing love ballads outside the windows of their beloveds with bouquets of roses all over the place (like Hollywood would have you believe), you were very, very wrong.

guess HOPE Spaniards save their romantic stuff for some other time!