Wednesday 30 Sep, 2015

Spain: Land of Many Cultures

Moorish poets spoke of the Calat Alhambra, a palace and fortress in Granada, Spain, as “a pearl set in
emeralds.” It was an allusion to the color of its buildings and the surrounding green woods. When you introduce your students to Spain, you can take the jewelry metaphor—especially the mixture of gems—and apply it to the whole beautiful country and the subjects you can teach there.

While some nations take in different cultures and create a new whole, the Spanish experience essentially preserves the elements of centuries past and builds around them. You can see it in the intricate arabesques and mocárabe of the Alhambra, and you can see it in the humble paella. (Which, typically of Spain, is made not in a melting pot, but a stir-fry, with the individual flavors preserved.)


The most visually stunning example of this mixtura is Barcelona, the capital of Catalonia. Centuries-old buildings sit side by side with modern architectural wonders by Gaudi and Montaner. Barcelona houses some of the most comprehensive collections of masters like Dali, Velasquez and Picasso, but your students won’t need to visit a gallery to admire great art. Take them through sites like Park Güell, La Sagrada Familia and the Modernist district to show them how the city itself is a breathtaking exhibition.

Even fútbol, the most popular sport in Spain, achieves harmony from diversity. The Spanish National Team (with players from every corner of the country) is known for the tiki-taka method, a collaborative style that helped Spain win the FIFA World Cup in 2010. Regional clubs like Real Madrid, who compete in La Liga, and Copa del Rey bring together superstar athletes from around the world, known as galácticos. This constellation of talent is of social and economic interest. Recently, one of our partners in higher education used the monetization of fútbol in Spain to teach her students about business opportunities in sports and entertainment.

SLAA Barce

Naturally for a country so rich in art and sport, there must be a place where the two intersect. The most distinctive is corrida de toros, or bullfighting, considered by enthusiasts to be a fine art with ancient roots. This controversial drama takes place in three heart-stopping acts—literally. In the final act, the tercio de muerte, a lone matador pierces the bull’s heart with a steel sword.

SLAA Bull Fight

Straddling a similar line is flamenco, the apotheosis of Spanish culture, which combines guitar playing, singing, chanting, dancing, heelwork and handclapping. Both flamenco and bullfighting feature a strong improvisational element within an established narrative arc. Students of theater will appreciate how performers in both disciplines use disparate senses to create a unified impression.
As you and your students make your way through the jewels of Spain, you will make new discoveries and find new perspectives on the diverse art, history and spirit of the people. After all, if you want to understand this fabled land of many cultures, there’s nothing quite like experiencing it. As poet Antonio Machado said:

Traveler, there is no path,
the path is made by walking.

SLAA People

Above are just a few examples where we’ve helped facilitate educational discoveries. Take your students all over Spain or help us create a custom itinerary based on your curriculum. Let’s make it happen.