An introduction to the real Spain
Spanish trip to Granada
Arriving in Granada at the moment you are greeted by Spanish flags emblazoning every balcony, from civic buildings to the humblest apartments. Earlier the leader of the Catalan government had fled to Brussels with his cabinet, and Spaniards everywhere are concerned about the unity of their country. 40 years of regional self-government, brought in after 40 years of centralised dictatorship, were suspended by Madrid taking direct rule of Catalonia just before we arrived.
Pupils were carrying out surveys in the city one afternoon, hoping to discuss stereotypes of the British and the Spanish with passers-by. One gentleman who was asked if he was Spanish responded, ‘No, I am not Spanish, I am Catalan.’
The various events of 1492 are centred on Granada, which was the final toehold of the Moorish kingdom until the Catholic Monarchs’ forces stormed the Alhambra on New Year’s Day, replacing the crescent and the star of David with the cross, and all of its attendant consequences. Touring the Alhambra and the Generalife, the winter and summer palaces of the Nasrid dynasty, the same questions of identity, equality and justice present themselves about life in the 13th century are being asked in the present day.
The sun was unseasonably present throughout our stay, our language school and family hosts talked repeatedly on WhatsApp about the encanto that our pupils were, and in 5 days many miles were walked, many songs sung, flamenco was observed and danced in the gypsy caves at Sacromonte, and ice cream, churros, tapas, ham sandwiches and large Spanish lunches (an ‘imposing’ lunch, as one waiter described it) were consumed in industrial quantities. Much Spanish was spoken in class, in homes, and in the streets, and overall this was an excellent introduction to the real Spain beyond the costas, a world of apparent chaos which somehow works rather well: one can only hope that description will still apply in the coming months and years.