After a successful run in Madrid making new friends and visiting leading universities, my time had come to head on down to Atocha. This is the city’s main land transportation gateway to the south, both for rail and buses. For about $60 USD, I was able to get a seat on the AVE Renfe high-speed train bound for Seville. The trip’s duration was approximately 3 hours and half. Upon arrival in the late evening, I would be reunited for a few days with my long-time friend from high school, Alejandro Alves and his family. Upon completing their posting for Telefónica in Lima, they too had returned to their hometown.
|La Giralda in Seville|
While I travelled at ridiculous speeds through the Spanish countryside, covered under the thick blanket of night, I wondered what the city of Seville would look like. I assumed the architecture would be similar to that of Madrid and the majestic colonial buildings found in the Americas. Being the fourth largest urbanization in the country, I figured there would not be much to see in comparison to London, Paris, Rome – all cities I had yet to visit in my life – or even Madrid. The main purpose in this leg of my trip was seeing my good friend after 3 years. At this point, I realized how fast time can go by. After a brief layover in Cordoba (once again, not much to see through the window in the darkness of night) I arrived to be greeted by Alejandro and his father Adolfo.
During the next couple of days, both Adolfo and Alejandro volunteered to be my tour guides. I appreciated Adolfo’s company as he explained with great pride every inch of the city, from the towers for storing gold and silver to the city’s motto decorating every item of municipal property. It was a matter of seeing the cityscape in the daylight to realize my assumptions about the architecture formulated in the train were all wrong. I was surrounded by thousands of years or more of history. The old town is actually among the largest in Europe, which includes numerous UNESCO World Heritage sites. The “must sees” are hard to miss, especially the Giralda that can be spotted at a distance. This majestic structure resembles a towering minaret, giving you a feeling of walking around a major city in North Africa. As a matter of fact, this building was originally erected by the Moorish invaders who occupied Andalusia (Al-Andalus) for centuries and were ousted during the Spanish Reconquista.
As you approach the Giralda, you will notice it was a minaret converted into a steeple and is part of the Cathedral. Funny enough, the main foundations and supporting structures are typical from mosques but the decorations are all Christian altars, images and decorations. The raw materials used to forge these were gold and silver brought from the New World. What would have been of Latin America if all these riches would have stayed in their place of origin? Many of the virgins and altars weight far more than we can imagine and are hauled around the streets in an organized and proud procession during Holy Week. This is a valued tradition that has been passed on through generations. It was incredible to notice how attached Andalusians are to their roots and, although the Spanish people appear to be far less devout as Latin Americans continue to be, these traditions based in religion are far from disappearing.
|With Alejandro, the best tour guide|
Unfortunately, my time in Sevilla was hardly enough to uncover much of its history to satisfy my interest. I paid homage to the Virgin of Macarena, visited the site of Expo 1928 and 1992, the General Archive of the Indies and the House of Trade. The diversity in the countries heritage began to shed some light on the uniqueness of the people (‘nations’ as I had previously referenced in my nation-building blog) that make up the Kingdom of Spain. Many of the colonies appear much more uniform culturally in comparison to their ancestors’ homeland. I hoped to make another trip with more time to the Iberian peninsula in the not too distant future to get a better picture of the many realms in the Kingdom.