Mary and Jesus
Today is Good Friday, and in the Catholic faith, today is one the most important days of the liturgical calendar. In Spain, Semana Santa is celebrated from Palm Sunday to Easter with processions. And they are amazing! In the south of Spain, in the provinces of Andalucia, such as Malaga and Sevilla, the processions are huge and extravagant. They are not as flashy in Madrid but there is a procession every day and today was the day to see it. These processions are intense and could frighten small children, but are altogether moving and a great religious experience.
The procession is carried out by people dressed in white robes and black shoes and masks over their faces that come to a point at the top. As they were explained in class, they look like the KKK. Not a great reference, but an accurate one. They carry the banners and candles and the first person in the procession is the cross-bearer. The crucifix he holds is massive and silver and so beautiful. Then came the military band and they were great. Then came the sinners. Yeah, hold on I’m getting to why I said that. The people who came after the band walked the procession barefoot with chains around their ankles, as an act of penance in order to be forgiven for their sins. The Spanish onlookers have 2 different opinions about these people: some people are generally moved that they have taken on this challenge and are paying for their sins. The other half looks down on them and sneers at how they are obviously sinners and deserve to walk with chains. Behind them are three people, 2 men and 1 woman, who bear wooden crosses as their act of penance in the same style that Jesus bore his cross.
After that, there was an explosion of “AYYYY GUAPO!”, tears and clapping. A gigantic float of Jesus came parading down the street being pushed along by more people in the masks. The float was absolutely breathtaking and many people, including myself, said the Our Father. As Jesus passed, a wave of women in all black with old school high veils followed behind, and another wave of tears and clapping started. I figured out why about 2 minutes afterwards. These women signify the women who mourn Jesus and behind the crowd of veiled women was another gigantic statue, this one of the Virgin Mary. Spanish people love the Blessed Mother more than anything in the world and as she passed, the crowd broke out into the Ave Maria [Hail Mary] prayer out loud.
It was a beautiful ceremony and I was so excited to watch a religious and cultural experience amongst Spaniards!
What’s “Baloncesto”, you may be wondering. Baloncesto, in Spanish, means “basketball”! Last night for our soccer class [yes I know, basketball game for soccer class..?] we went to a basketball game. Professional basketball in Spain is big here. No where close to the following of soccer, but the stadium was pretty full last night. We saw Real Madrid [who is owned by Real Madrid Football Club] play Lokomotiv Kuban, a Russian team whose uniforms were blinding red. The game was held at the Palacio de Deportes, a casual 4 minute stroll from where I live in Goya. The building is beautiful with big glass windows and painted teal with stars on it. The
Real Madrid v. Lokomotiv during warmups
reason we got to go to the game is because one of my soccer professors, Pablo, used to play for Estudiantes, another professional Spanish basketball team when he was younger. After he retired, he went into business and him and Marco, my other professor, are partners. Right?! How cool is that?! The game was interesting for about 5 minutes but Real Madrid was running circles around Russia and ended up beating Russia by more than 25 points. It was a fun experience and really interesting to see Spaniards invested in another sport other than soccer.
As a sports marketing person, maybe Spain is the country for me to work in 🙂
For class on Thursday, we went on a cultural field trip to the Reina Sofia museum. The museum is named after the current Queen, Sofia, and houses contemporary art. This museum holds pieces different from the Prado, which I’ve mentioned in previous posts. The Prado holds classic art, such as Baroque and Renaissance styles that are each associated with a specific century. But contemporary art has many styles so there isn’t one that stands out the most. The museum is HUGE so we only saw the highlights of the museum. We saw works by Goya and other artists but then we saw the most important piece in the whole museum: Picassos’s Guernica. This painting is enormous and really weird, but the significance is awesome. As with all big masterpieces, there is controversy over it. The painting is located in Madrid, but the town of Guernica is located in the Basque country. So, obviously, the Basque want it back to put in the Guggenheim, but the Spanish government said no. Madrid 1 – Basque Country 0.
The Guernica is about the bombing of Guernica, where the fascists bombed the town of innocent civilians during the reign of Franco. Immediately, Picasso started working on the piece and 7 weeks later, the 30 foot masterpiece was completed. However, because Picasso is Picasso and was very creative and different with his work, the painting is not pretty or comprehensible. But, of course, each piece of the painting represents something. The two main animals in Spain are bulls and horses, so they’re included. The Spanish word for lightbulb is “bombillo”, representing the bomb that was dropped on the town. It was definitely a cool cultural excursion!
[photo credit: Wikipedia page – El Rastro]
Yesterday was a local day where I spent all day outside doing Madrid things. First, I went with Jessica to El Rastro. El Rastro is a huge open flea market in La Latina every Sunday. At least 7 blocks are lined with kiosks selling everything from T-shirts to Pashmina scarves to old Spanish comics to religious statues. We trolled around the place, looking at everything and starting our very long list of souvenir shopping. This is one of the local attractions of Madrid and a great way to spend Sunday morning/afternoon. Cuidado: the place gets PACKED by noon so going early has less crowds!
After lunch at our favorite Durum Kebap place, I met up with Gabby and we travelled to the end of the green line to go to the Madrid Zoo/Aquarium. This zoo was unlike any zoo in the United States. The first thing we noticed was that there aren’t exactly high fences keeping in these animals, especially for animals that can jump and leap like antelope. There was no net or fence or anything, just a small ledge. And the antelope were everywhere, just casually. This zoo was also less organized than all other zoos. Stumbling upon the antelope, then we passed black bears, zebras and giraffes and emus. None of those are in the same family or found in the same area of the world! Another thing was that it is perfectly acceptable to throw peanuts at the animals — I only thought that was a thing in the movies! But the zoo was great and we saw so many animals, including a huge dolphin display that looked like SeaWorld. Each of the dolphins had scratches and scars on their skin and fins, which made us realize why the zoo had so many different types of animals from all over the world. This specific zoo is a rescuing zoo!
We had a great time and a lovely day in Madrid, just doing local things! It’s nice to spend time in my own city, ya know?
This past Tuesday for class we went on a field trip! You may be wondering if I actually go to school. The answer is yes: I suffer on Thursdays through a 4 hour block class. So the field trip helps counter act the torture. So we went to the Royal Palace of Madrid, because every princess should see their royal home in every city.
The Royal Palace is huge and is very ornate. Of course, we were warned numerous times to not take pictures but I managed to snap a few, but not as many as I would’ve liked. The huge corridor in the front showcases a statue of Felipe II, the great-grandson of the Catholic Kings, Fernando and Isabel. He is the one who ordered the construction of the palace and is commemorated for doing so. Up the extensive marble staircase is the coat of arms and the many grand ballrooms, dining rooms and sitting rooms. Each room has a theme or specific reason to it, similar to the Blue Room in the White House. [There is a Yellow Room in the Palace]. Fun Fact: when Franco died, his body was put on display in the royal palace when Juan Carlos I took over again as a sign of thanks for choosing him to be the newest King. Apparently the line to see Franco’s body was more than a mile long! There is also a huge collection of clocks in the Royal Palace and at least 3 in every room. These clocks were collected by King Felipe II and are grandiose and very old — in fact, these clocks are so old and so important that the Palace has its own team of clock cleaners and repairers. Felipe II was a bit of a strange king because he ordered some interesting features to be added to the palace. For example, during the time of the construction, Asian fashion and designs resembled social status and how up to date you were. So there is an entire room that is overwhelming with depictions of trees, Asian faces and designs and is filled with zen. It was very calming. He also had 3 eating rooms, one for each meal of the day. And he always ate alone without his family. Very weird, but still interesting.
Outside the palace, there is an entire plaza just to itself with gardens and statues representing saints and other noble people. In the center is a statue of Felipe IV, the grandson of Felipe II who constructed the Palace. This statue is very unique because it is made of bronze, which was uncommon for the time. It is also unique because in order to construct it, the statue took 4 masters in the world to help create. One of which was Velazquéz, who painted a portrait for Felipe IV on horseback and his painting was the model for the statue. [The painting is currently hanging in the Prado museum]. Interestingly, one of the other masters to help with this scultpure was Galileo Galilei, whose mathematics and calculations allowed for the horse to be able to stand on its hind legs without falling over. Stay tuned for more field trips! Love, Meg