Spain After Franco & The Role of Monarchy

From the year 1939, until his death in November 1975, Francisco Franco was the ruling dictator of all of Spain.  He was pro-fascism, with a strong sense of Spanish nationalism. His 40-year ruling kept one thing in mind: protection of the country’s territorial integrity. This included Catholicism, anti-communism, anti-masonry, and traditional values.

As quoted in a Time Magazine article written on Nov. 3, 1975, almost two weeks before his death,

“Long the Continent’s most reviled pariah, Franco was a haunting, living reminder that the West had failed to act decisively during the Spanish Civil War, when the forces of Communism, Fascism and democracy confronted each other in what turned out to be a dress rehearsal for World War II.”  (time.com)

After his death, Spain gradually began its transition to democracy. Franco’s chosen heir, Juan Carlos and his collaborators peacefully and legally brought Spain to a democracy at last. There was no civil war – no revolutionary overthrow –  no defeat by a foreign power. The institutional mechanisms that were originally created to maintain Franco’s authoritarian system now made it possible to legislate a democratic constitutional monarchy into existence.

Once this monarchy was established, one could describe this period as a dramatic transformation. Although Franco himself had picked Juan Carlos to rule after his death, he greatly oversaw his education. Soon he appointed Adolfo Suarez as prime minister of Spain. Whereas Suarez’s political expertise and approach enabled him to manipulate the bureaucratic machinery, Juan Carlos’s ability to maintain the allegiance of the armed forces made a peaceful transition to democracy possible during these precarious months.

Juan Carlos established numerous reforms that saved Spain from the government rule they were previously under.  With the institution of the monarchy, he led to today’s minimal power pertaining to the King of Spain, yet still regarded as a vital symbol of the country’s unity.

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Andalucía’s Rhythmic Treasure

The steps. The rhythm. The beauty. The passion.

Flamenco is a passionate style of music and dance, which has been commonly associated with all of Spain over the years.  Although flamenco is now considered a cultural phenomenon seen internationally distinctive of Spain, its true origins is in the region of Andalucía. When you listen to the rhythm of the guitar, the sensual voice of the singer, and the passionate steps of the dancer, however, you can tell that the mystical region of Andalucía has left all of her imprints on this music and dance.

Andalucía in the south area of the Iberian peninsula, and at one point was the center of power during the ages of Moorish conquest. The name Andalucia derives from the Arabic language, and Arabic influences are evident all throughout the region. During our trip to Sevilla, the largest city in Andalucia, we also were able to visit and immerse ourselves in the culture of two of the other seven cities – Cordoba and Granada.

Its regional location is what made Andalucia a prominent gateway between Europe and Africa. The Moors invaded Spain in the 8th century, which transformed the region into a centre of unimaginable wealth, sophistication, culture and learning unrivalled anywhere in either the western or Islamic eastern worlds.

This culture is where Flamenco first got its fire, no so much the wealth or sophistication.  Flamenco was music played from the gypsies of Andalucia. With all the middle-eastern influences that accumulated in Andalucia at the time, while gypsies flocked to live in small communities—flamenco was born.

Today, flamenco dancers and singers all around the world carry on the tradition of this beautiful art. They still use the traditional Spanish guitars; the frilly, voluptuous spotted dresses; and the zapateado that sends chills up the spine.

In our stay in Sevilla, we visited a museum of flamenco, and were able to try out a few dance moves. It was pretty difficult for me (not being coordinated in the slightest bit) yet insanely exhilarating. It was only then when I was able to truly appreciate this form of dance. From the footwork, to the hand movement, and the body’s alignment—there are so many different elements to the dance that make it spectacular.

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Propaganda? No, Advocacy Journalism

With any sign of political turmoil, weak government, or economic crisis, comes advocacy journalism. Each element comes hand in hand, feeding off of each other. I suppose I shouldn’t be so harsh, after all, advocacy journalism (unlike propaganda) is a genre of journalism based on facts that intentionally and transparently adopts a biased viewpoint, usually for some social or political purpose.

Any country with freedom of press is subject to advocacy journalism. It is how opinions are heard, minds are made, and people are moved. In our country, it is ethical to remain unbiased as an honest journalist. As socialist Michael Schudson put, “the belief in objectivity is a faith in ‘facts,’ a distrust in ‘values,’ and a commitment to their segregation.” (Schudson, Michael 1978) It is the job of all journalists to report the truth to the people, not pertaining to their personal beliefs. For this reason, advocacy journalism is usually restricted to editorial and op-ed pages, which are clearly distinguished in their publication.

However, advocacy journalism is seen evident throughout Western Europe, more specifically Spain. It is relatively recent that Spain was granted freedom of press. This opens journalists to a world of new reporting, and freedom to do as they please. For this reason, it should be no surprise to see common newspapers engaging in advocacy journalism. However, journalists in Spain do not feel as though their writing is biased. They treat it as a public service to their niche ‘‘nations’’ of readers with whom they feel a special kinship and for. (Lewis, Seth C. 2008).

Whatever the case may be, advocacy journalism is a genre that is here to stay. Just like here in America, freedom of the press has granted countries around Western Europe the ability to provide the facts, and voice their opinion. Whether you see these reporters as truth-seeking pioneers, or muckrakers, it is our duty as the public to cautiously determine what our media tells us, and what we believe to be true.

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Lord I Miss You

I’ve been waiting in the hall,

Been waiting on your call.

Lord I Miss You

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Museo del Prado

The Meseo del Prado is unarguably one of Madrid’s best-kept treasures, filled with endless masterpieces of 12th century to the early 19th century. Not only does its beauty make each piece of art stand out, its remarkable way of retelling history is what left me in awe as I walked through the gorgeous halls.

Featured in this spectacular museum are three of Seville’s finest artists of all time—Diego Velázquez, Zurbaran, and Alonso Cano.

Diego Velázquez is a native of Seville, born in 1599. From an early age he began studying under various artists, from rebellious to cautious, picking up different techniques to finally make his own unique masterpieces. When I first saw Velázquez’s masterpiece, Las Meninas I was blown away. His painting— which is of  a Spanish princess posing with her servants, while also incorporating his own self portrait— tells an untold story, and you are only left wondering what’s behind the painting. This painting is still such a distinct icon of Spain, that an ad campaign for fashion in Spain features a recreation of the painting, with chic models dressed to mimic the young Infanta Margarita. Infanta Margarita was daughter of King Philip IV of Spain, who also makes an appearance in the painting.  Altogether, I feel as though the painting provides a beautiful snapshot of a moment in this young girl’s life. No matter the occasion, whether it be for a wedding or just dinner, our generation can now see a moment in time over 300 years ago, that we would never have been able to see without this painting.

Zurbaran was born in Madrid in 1598, yet he was mainly active in Seville. He created very spiritual painting, which was common in that era in Spain. His paintings consist of nuns, Virgin Mary, Jesus, and even a beautifully painted tied up lamb, painted to represent Jesus as the Lamb of God.

However, the thing that stuck out most about Zurbaran’s painting is one that I did not see in any else. Zurbaran went back in time through his paintings by painting a collection of mythological creatures. This absolutely fascinated me, since I have to admit, I’ve always been fascinated by Greek mythology. He features a collection of paintings of Hercules, one of the most popular Greek gods. As some may know, Hercules was son of Zeus, yet raised as a human. He had to prove to not only himself, but the rest of the gods that he was worthy enough to be accepted as a god. Zurbaran’s appeal to Hercules may symbolize his own life—whether he had to prove himself, or maybe he too had a strong fascination with Greek mythology, and just chose that god at random. Whatever the case may be, we are left with a beautifully painted, detail oriented collection of shots featuring Hercules as the heroine, and battling the different creatures. His strong anatomy is beautifully sculpted with Zurbaran’s paint strokes, leaving us with a strong image to put together with the myths.

Lastly, Alanzo Cano was not only a painter, but also an architect and sculptor born in Granada in 1601. When visiting Granada, we learned a lot about Cano during our tour of the Cathedral. He sculpted many artifacts in the Church, including a beautiful cross of Jesus. We also learned that he had a horrible temper, and was later wrongfully convicted of murdering his wife. Although he was sentenced to jail, he kept his art flowing throughout his sentence, and even after he got out. It is obvious that Cano is both an architect and sculptor when you look at his paintings. Some of them, like Coronación de un poeta-soldad, even look like blueprint sketches. My personal favorite, however, is one that features a lot of color and detail. Cristo muerto sostenido por un angel is a picture of an angel holding Jesus, already crucified. The reason why I like this painting so much is for the huge contrast Cano painted between the angel and the dead Jesus. The angel, who has kind warm skin tones, is holding Jesus’ lifeless body—white, pale, and one could even say cold. The background shows beautifully colored clouds and a sunset, while Jesus’ white body stands out right in the middle of the painting. The ability to have two completely contrasting images is what makes this painting so unique to me. The way he painted Jesus’ lifeless body—even his facial expression—leaves one feeling true sorrow. However, the warmness of the angel, and the beautiful background gives us a sense of security in knowing the real reason Jesus died on that cross.

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Web 1.0, 2.0, 3.0??

Will it ever end?

In this day in age, it is impossible to imagine life without the internet. It is the very essence of our generation. Instant information — at the blink of the eye. Instant clicks, instant responses, instant communication, instant shopping, instant learning, instant teaching… instant gratification, whatever it may be.

It shouldn’t be a surprise that our world is evolving to the web, especially as mass communicators of the globe. It doesn’t matter who you are: top entertainer acknowledging fans, CNN newscaster bringing you the latest updates, young entrepreneur trying to make your first million, aspiring fashionista flaunting your latest style, local underground rapper tryin’a make it to the limelight, college graduate looking for a job… one thing is the same — the internet is crucial to your survival. Now more than ever, Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, and so on, are what we are depending on to get our message heard. Who would have guessed this massive dependancy on the web? Did anyone ever think the internet would be so huge, so essential in our everday life? The answer is yes. Madrid based communications company, Vivocom, did.

We were lucky enough to have a chance to meet with one of Vivocom’s talented innovators, who explained to us its revolutionary impact on communication in Spain. Vivocom was the first to convert TV to the internet in Spain. As early as the mid-90’s, the innovators at Vivocom were foreshadowing the extremity that the internet would bring within the next decade.

Vivocom started out as a small production company in Madrid. We were shown press releases sent out in the 90’s discussing how the internet will be their key to success in the coming years. Since their budget was tight in the beginning, they constructed their own production studios in their tiny office in Madrid. Now, Vivocom is one of the leading businesses in Spain, broadcasting throughout the country to various clients. Amazing to see what a little innovative, creative, and outside the box thinking leads to. Vivocom is recognized among companies such as Nokia, Microsoft, Nintendo… as one of the 100 “Best Ideas of the Year” according to a prestigious business magazine in Spain.

Congrats Vivocom! And thank you for the insight. Now I must go against my initial beliefs, set up a Twitter, and a Youtube account, follow some blogs, and prepare myself to be a mass communicator in the 21st century.

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Walking Alone

It feels more natural to me. I’m on my time, no one else’s.  Just me and my feet. Taking me wherever I want to go.

I started off walking with the girls. Chit-chatting, gossiping, window shopping . It was fun, I can’t deny. I’ve gotten lucky with my three roommates, all so different yet forming a perfect quirky match. But it was time to rummage on my own. After all we were only in Madrid for two days, and personal time is a scarce treasure in between day long itineraries consisting of tours and museums, cathedrals and exhibits.

I venture off in between the slender streets of Madrid. Something about this city fascinates me. Its vintage flair reminds me of Greenwich Village, NYC. As I drift in and out of the obscure streets, I see gorgeous handcraft stores, smell the sweet scent of fresh pastries, and feel the excitement as I turn every street corner unto a new adventure.

Finally, after a pit stop to grab some helado de coco, I run into a sign that catches my eye.

“How much for the Doors posters?”

“Not for sale.”

“How come?”

“Owner’s personal collection. Loves ‘em too much”

“Must be a good man.”

“Sure am.”

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