Search "Sundays in Spain"

Showing posts with label Moors in Spain. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Moors in Spain. Show all posts

Sunday, October 14, 2012

What We Missed While Going to Frankfurt

I knew, last week, that Spain's national celebration, La Fiesta Nacional de España, was going to be celebrated on Friday, October 12, while we were out of the country attending the Frankfurt Book Fair. What I didn't know, or perhaps at one time knew but certainly forgot, was that Tuesday, October 9, was also a holiday.

As I left my Spanish class Monday at noon, the class was reminded that the next day (that is, Tuesday) was also a holiday. We were leaving on Tuesday afternoon, and I had another Spanish class Tuesday morning, so I didn't have time to research the significance of the day. But we did discover, while trying to buy some last-minute item, that the stores were closed on Tuesday. We survived in Frankfurt without whatever it was that we thought at the last minute that we needed, and it wasn't until this Sunday morning, back in Spain, that I thought again about October 9.

I read an article in one of the local Norwegian newspapers that said that thousands had celebrated "Valencia's national day." Ah yes, that is why I didn't remember the holiday--it's a regional holiday and we have spent, what, only four Octobers in this region? Nevertheless, thanks to Spaniaposten, I now know that October 9 is the official day commemorating when Spanish King Jaime I marched triumphantly into Valencia in 1238 and liberated it from the Moors, who had ruled there and in much of the territory of present-day Spain, since the year 714.

Surprisingly according to the article, the victory was relatively peaceful, and King Jaime promised that the Moors then living in Valencia could either continue to live there under his rule, or take their possessions and leave the area. Perhaps they did live peacefully until the Spanish Inquisition was instituted more than 200 years later. At any rate, October 9 is now celebrated in Valencia with people dressed as Moors and as Christians in a single five-hour-long parade called the Entrada de Moros y Cristianos. According to the paper, more than 5000 participated this year.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Blanket Trip to Guadalest

This past Thursday I took the day off for a "blanket trip" to Guadalest. These blanket trips are not like the fabled blanket parties of my youth. They are free bus trips, sponsored by a blanket manufacturer, to various tourist attractions. All you have to do is promise to sit through a half-hour demonstration of the company's premium merino wool bedding products. The company provides coffee and a muffin as an inducement. Since the demo runs a little over the half hour, they add a mild liqueur at the close of the demo.

We were picked up at a nearby bus stop at 9:15 and had very comfortable seats in an air-conditioned coach for the one-hour trip north to Benidorm and then inland to our destinations. Informative English commentary along the way pointed out sites and gave us history of the area that was new to us. We got the blanket excursion out of the way in the morning and then had two and a half hours in the beautiful mountain village of Guadalest in the afternoon.

Our first stop in the village was at a Spanish bar for tapas of albondigas (meatballs) and tortilla, washed down with a small glass of vino tinto. Fortified, we wandered on the stone-paved walkways toward the castle perched at the top of a granite mountain. On the way, we passed by an incredible number of museums, shops, and more restaurants, but we couldn't resist a tiny open-air museum. It was the Magic Garden of the Museum of Ribera Girona, outdoor home to sculptures of over 150 animals and insects, all hidden among the lush vegetation. I could have spent the entire afternoon there and still not found all 150 species.

On we went again up the stone walkway toward the Peñon de la Alcalá tower, and then we found a beautiful surprise--the lake of Guadalest. I knew there had to be some water. I learned a long time ago that guad means "water" in Arabic, and al is the definite article "the." Este is "east" in Spanish. Guadalest has existed since Moorish times, so I believe the name of the town means "water to the east." This is not what our guide told us, but I think she was wrong. This is my fantasy and I'm sticking to it.

And it will be a long time before I forget the luminescent turquoise blue-green of the clear water far below the ancient town wall of Guadalest. It could be the most beautiful lake I have ever seen, but it's not really a lake--it's a reservoir. Formed when the Guadalest River was dammed from 1953-1964, the reservoir  provides water to several surrounding towns, including the huge tourist center of Benidorm. I now realize that one can drive or even hike around the reservoir, so I have Guadalest on my agenda for another trip in the future, this one not dependent on the good graces of the blanket company.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Spain's New Christians

I'm not a theologian, but I would guess that it's correct to say that Christianity started 2009 years ago on Easter, when the Resurrection of a Jewish man named Jesus caused some Jews to revise their faith. They became the first "New Christians."

Spain had its own New Christians in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. They were moriscos, Moors, who were forced to abandon their faith and officially become cristianos nuevos, New Christians. After years of fighting, the Moors had been finally defeated by the forces of los reyes católicos, Ferdinand and Isabella, at Granada in 1492. Many fled, but those who remained in Spain converted, at least on the surface.

Ironically in this week preceding Easter, Semana Santa to the Spaniards, I read that it was the 400th anniversary of the expulsion of the moriscos from Spain. In 1609, on April 9, Felipe III signed the decree authorizing the greatest exodus Spain has ever known. About 300,000 inhabitants were sent out of their country, which figures to be 4.3% of the population of the time. The same percentage today of Spain's nearly 46 million inhabitants would put the number at approximately 2 million people.

Spanish historians are reexamining the record of this great expulsion and note that on the same day Felipe signed a truce with Dutch Protestants in the Twelve Year War. They say that Felipe was telling the world that even though Spain had compromised with the heretical Protestants, it was still Catholic enough to deport more than four percent of its own population.

Today, with modern immigration, there are once again Muslims in Spain, and many of the customs of the early moriscos are alive in the country. One of the ways that 17th-century Christians were able to detect moriscos was through their bathing habits: Moriscos washed themselves once a week, on Friday, while Christians of the time limited their baths to twice a year. Other morisco habits were cooking with olive oil instead of animal fats, eating many vegetables and fruits, using perfume, and dressing in colorful clothing. In such ways does the culture of the vanquished live on.

Already a hundred years after the expulsion, in the eighteenth century, the deportation was regretted and called "the ruination of Spain." Today Spain is preserving its Moorish culture with pride. The 400th anniversary of the expulsion was noted, but not celebrated.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

The Alcazaba in Almería

The Alcazaba in Almería rises high over the city and cannot be missed when approaching Almería from the west, which is the direction from which you drive when coming from Roquetas. We've been to the Alcazaba a few times before and found it to be a pleasant and ever-changing experience. The grounds of this ancient fortress and castle, dating from the 10th century, are well-maintained, with the terracing, water pools, gardens, and patios common to Moorish dwellings. Now that spring seems to be arriving in southern Spain, I was hoping to see some colorful flowers, different from the ones I had seen on previous trips in high summer and mid-winter.

Every time I had previously visited the Alcazaba there were several workmen present doing restoration work, and some areas were off-limits for visits. The only workmen I saw this time were gardeners who were busy pruning the various green plantings--bougainvillea and lavender hedges provided most of the color at this time, but I know that later there will be lots of roses. I hope the current economic crisis has not halted restoration of the Alcazaba, which has gathered much support from the European Union (EU citizens receive free admission, but no one checks passports).

It's impossible to walk the entire grounds in one visit. This time I saw a complete restoration of a Moorish home, with central patio and surrounding salon, bedrooms, and cooking area, all furnished with typical mattresses, tapestries, pots and ceramics, with detailed signage, though only in Spanish. One larger room is always devoted to a contemporary art exhibit, and though I've not yet attended, there are occasional musical concerts within the grounds.

As with most historical sites in Spain, no single civilization can lay exclusive claim to the Alcazaba. Though the structure currently standing was built in the 10th century by the Moors and exhibits mostly an Arab face, the Romans got there first, specifically the Carthaginians. Roman baths were being re-excavated the last time I was there, and last Friday the area had been cleaned up but is still waiting for some interpretation. The Christians laid claim to the area briefly during the 12 century and again later at the end of the 15th century, Los Reyes Católicos, Ferdinand and Isabella, expanded the fortress to defend their faith against the Moors. This visit I made it over to the far side of the monument, where the high stone walls have the usual round holes carved out to let cannon balls through, in case predators attempt to approach. They make good peep-holes these days through which one can view the lovely Almería harbor. But the cross on the top of the cannon hole serves as a good means of reminding modern visitors that it is not the Muslims alone who have waged holy wars.