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on the road

Jul 9, 2017 | 14:05 GMT

3 mins read

Capturing the Spirit of Southern Spain

Video Producer
Marina Petric
Video Producer
An archway at Seville's Real Alcazar exhibits features of Gothic and Islamic architecture.
(Marina Petric/Stratfor)

I had never thought of going to the Iberian Peninsula. It just seemed too similar to Brazil, where I was born to a Brazilian mother and a father who had escaped Tito's autocratic rule in Yugoslavia. I grew up under a dictatorship, and as a child in Rio de Janeiro, I remember admiring the freedom of speech that most Anglo-Saxon cultures seemed to enjoy. I learned English and German. Then somehow I wound up living in the United States.

They say that when elephants get old, they walk back to the place where they were born. Now that I've traveled, lived in the United States and managed to adapt to life there, I've made peace with my roots. I began to understand and value the lifestyle and culture of the Latin world. In fact, I realized that I missed it. And so, I set off for Spain.

A view of the Alhambra palace and fortress in Granada.

The Alhambra fortress got its name -- derived from "the Red," in Arabic -- from the color of its walls.

(Marina Petric/Stratfor)

Once I got there, I was struck by the affinity I felt with Spanish culture. I wrote a post on social media during my travels that revealed my (very Latin) feelings: "My soul is diluted here." Beyond the common cultural bonds, I was awed during my time in Spain by the lingering legacy of La Convivencia, or the coexistence, the era stretching from the eighth through the 15th centuries when Spain's Muslim, Christian and Jewish communities thrived side by side. It is difficult today to imagine such a thing — Muslims, Jews and Christians generally sharing the same spaces, music and culture in peace. But evidence of their commingling abounds in Spain's architecture, its food, its people. The unforgettable sight of Cordoba's Great Mosque, a building in which Gothic columns and Byzantine mosaics support and adorn arches so characteristic of Islamic architecture, embodied that cultural convergence for me.

The Great Mosque in Cordoba integrates Byzantine mosaics with Gothic columns and Islamic arches.

The Great Mosque of Cordoba, now a Catholic cathedral, combines elements of Byzantine, Gothic and Islamic style in its architecture.

(Marina Petric/Stratfor)
Rib vaults give way to the iconic striped arches of the Cordoba mosque or cathedral.

Rib vaults give way to the iconic striped arches of the Cordoba mosque or cathedral.

(Marina Petric/Stratfor)

I saw another side of the spirit of Andalusia in Granada, watching performers play and dance flamenco in a cave. The Roma people at one time came to Spain from India by way of the Arabian Peninsula and North Africa, bringing their musical and dance traditions with them. Their influence permeates flamenco and adds another layer of complexity to the melting pot of southern Spain.

A flamenco dancer performs in a cave in Granada's Sacromonte area.

A flamenco dancer performs in the Sacromonte area of Granada. The neighborhood's name literally means "sacred hill," and its winding, rolling streets are dotted with caves, once home to Roma families. The caves offer natural insulation against the heat of the summer and a picturesque venue to watch traditional flamenco dance.

(Marina Petric/Stratfor)
A flamenco dancer performs in the Sacromonte neighborhood of Granada.

In flamenco, dancers express the music's emotion, an essential part of the art.

(Marina Petric/Stratfor)
Ali, an Egyptian man with a doctorate in molecular biology, writes people's names in Arabic outside tourist attractions.

Ali is Egyptian and holds a doctorate in molecular biology. In Granada, he makes a living writing people's names in Arabic outside tourist attractions. The unemployment rate in Andalusia is high, about 27 percent.

(Marina Petric/Stratfor)
A noose on display at the House of the Forgotten museum in Granada.

A noose is part of the exhibit at the House of the Forgotten, a museum in Granada dedicated to the city's Jewish community, which was mostly wiped out during the Spanish Inquisition.

(Marina Petric/Stratfor)

In Seville, as luck would have it, I arrived in time for Feria. The annual celebration reminded me, as a Carioca (or Rio native), of my home city's Carnival. Each year, a whole city made of tents is assembled in Seville for Feria. And after a week, the ciudad efimera, or ephemeral city, is dismantled. The festivities showed me how proud the Spanish people are of their culture and history and how they celebrate it.

Revelers enjoy the festivities at Seville's Feria.

Revelers enjoy the festivities at Seville's Feria.

(Marina Petric/Stratfor)
A woman dances to a sevillana during the annual Feria celebrations.

A woman dances to a sevillana, a style of song traditionally performed during the Feria.

(Marina Petric/Stratfor)
Women wear bright, flouncy skirts at the Feria in Seville.

Vibrant skirts are the order of the day at the Feria.

(Marina Petric/Stratfor)
The Patio de las Doncellas at Seville's Real Alcazar.

While Gothic architecture often broadcasts a building's grandeur on its facade, as the inner courtyard of Seville's Alcazar palace reveals, Islamic buildings typically save their opulence for the interior.

(Marina Petric/Stratfor)
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