We have finally passed the one-week mark and are all beginning to acclimate to our living situations and classes here in Spain. Our group now has an official meeting place in the Plaza Mayor, our professors at Mester know our names without looking at their attendance sheets, and it’s been at least 24 hours since one of us got lost on our way to or from our houses. So you could say we’re basically Spaniards now.
Today was a day of class, a lecture on Spanish art, salsa dancing, and a visit to the Museo Taurino de Salamanca, or the bullfighting museum in Salamanca. For those of you who know anything about the subjunctive tense in Spanish, you’ll know that after a couple of hours you need something fun to revive your mind and spirits. So after class and lunch, our group got to listen to our tour guide, Carlos, lecture on the various works of Goya, Velazquez, and El Greco, many of which we will see in our trip to the Museo del Padro in Madrid this Saturday!
Following the lecture, some of us chose to get our hearts (and feet) jumping again with a salsa dance class. The instructor taught us a number of basic steps, and then we gradually put them all together, resulting in quite the routine! Everyone was trying to concentrate on the steps, but we couldn’t help but laugh half the time when we continued to forget the next step or turned on the wrong foot just a little too quickly. However, we are definitely going to bring out some of those moves the next time we go dancing!
After “mastering” (more or less) the art of salsa-ing, we got to take a deeper look into a much different art form: bullfighting. While bullfighting can be traced back to prehistoric times, it began to take a central role in Spanish culture during the early 18th century. Viewed as an art form and cultural event, bullfighting has a long and rich history in Spain. The photos in the museum depicted men in their traditional fighting garb, posing quite grandiosely with their capotes (capes), varas (lances used on horseback), banderillos (sharp, barbed sticks), and finally the muleta (the famous red cape) and their swords. Traditionally, bullfighting has three parts to it: in the first part, the matador uses the large magenta and gold capote to observe the mannerisms of the bull by testing out whether or not it will attack the cape and if it lowers its head while doing so. The second part requires first, lancing the back of the bull at the nape of its neck, then placing four banderillos in the same location. In the final third of the fight, the matador uses his smaller red muleta and lures the bull closer to him, eventually using one arm with the cape as bait and the other arm carries the sword with which he stabs the bull and wins the fight.
Carlos told us that while this is still a traditional and cultural event that occurs, more and more people from the younger generation are either disinterested, or are strongly opposed to it. Whatever you may think of it, the fact remains that bullfighting has a long and rich history in Spanish culture, and while it may be dying out, it will continue to be one of the more romantic periods in Spain’s history. Overall, today was a great day of learning even more about the beautiful culture and people here in Spain, and undoubtedly the rest of the trip will continue in the same way!