Spanish Strength

Trip Start Sep 02, 2010
Trip End Jun 13, 2011

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Flag of Spain  , Andalusia,
Friday, May 27, 2011

As our plane landed in Seville, Georgie and I were mortified. Dan was singing a song that he'd learned from Sesame Street when he was a wee lad, and it went like this: "Granaaaaada no es Seville, where butter is called 'mantequilla'! Ole ole ole ole ole ole ole!" Apparently, Grover did a whole flamenco dance to accompany his song because we got a good look at this dance as we walked off the plane. And that was our classy entry into Seville.
Seville is such a beautiful Spanish city. In the 16th century, it was considered Europe's richest port, and such a legacy is apparent as you walk its charming narrow streets. As we strolled along, I admired the cafes and tapas bars in the little plazas, where people were enjoying their vino. I love how Spain has more bars and restaurants per capita than any other country--people love going out. And especially at this time of year, when the sun sets around 9:45 in the evening, and the light shines a golden color on the plazas
On one such golden evening we were walking alongside the cathedral, and a little parade of children, dressed in their finest traditional Spanish attire, marched by. The girls, with their long dresses and fans, were giggling as the boys very seriously held up a cross. One passer-by wondered if the kids were processing for a confirmation ceremony. I love how the Spanish seem to take their traditions--and their fiestas--very seriously. The kids didn't seem the least bit fazed by all the snap-snaps of the tourists' cameras; they just kept marching along, having a good time. They weren't processing for our benefit. This wasn't a Sesame Street kind of fiesta. 
Later that night, as we watched a flamenco show, I was once again taken by how such a traditional Spanish ritual is still so popular nowadays--still an essential part of the culture. The cantador's wails, accompanied by the guitar, were mesmerizing. And those dancers were incredible--as they alternated between stepping lightly and stomping their way around the stage, the twists of their wrists were as expressive as their faces. Though I couldn't understand the words, I felt like I could follow the story: the push-me-pull-me romance depicted by the dancers' fierce gestures. Their physical strength illustrated their battle for emotional strength. 
Contests of strength do seem highly respected in Spanish culture. Consider the bullfight. It's an odd sort of power-play, and one that emphasizes strength over weakness. The drama unfolds as the matador wounds the bull--not to weaken the animal, but to make it angry so it will show its strength and courage. And in the climax moment, when the matador kills the bull, we champion him for his own strength...but we don't claim the bull was weak. We whisper that the bull must have been killed; otherwise, he would surely have won in the next fight. He would be too angry, and too strong. 

Even the Spanish language sounds strong: its rolled "r" and its throaty intensity make it seem robust. And somehow, even the most basic conversations tend to seem passionate or forceful. I don't think I've heard anyone ever respond to a question with a quick "si." It's always "si--si si si" or "pero, si......" with furrowed brows. 
"Fuerte." That's what gaucho Don Carlos had told me I needed in order to control my horse in Argentina. Here, on the other end of the Earth, "fuerte" also means physical strength and emotional strength. But additionally, it seems to mean passion. Passion for those processions and those dances and those fights and those conversations that have made your culture what it is and have made you who you are. 

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