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Journal 2 - First Impressions of Cádiz
Saturday, Jan. 14
After around three days to explore the city of Cádiz, it has been interesting to compare and contrast this city to my experience in South and North American cities. There is certainly a mix of worlds here that I have never seen together to this extent.
My first impression of Cádiz was a strong connection in architecture to that which I have seen in Cuzco, Peru. Buildings are made out of brick and concrete and older buildings use more stone similar to many places colonized by the Spanish in South America. Like Cuzco, there are narrow streets of cobblestone with buildings lined with small balconies. However, the buildings here represent a history much broader than the colonial era.
Although we are told that the history of the city on this isthmus dates as far back as 1100 B.C.E. to a Phoenician settlement named Gabir, many conquests and redevelopments of the city have buried much of its history. The earliest structure that stands is the Roman amphitheatre, which would date back to somewhere within the seven centuries of Roman control of the city, between 241 B.C.E. and mid 470’s C.E. After the Roman empire began to crumble, the Visigoths controlled Spain until 711 when the region fell to the Arabs. There is Arabic influence in a number of significant buildings in the Cádiz, including the Palacio de Cogressos, which was once a tobacco factory. After the Christians regained control of Spain, they found success in their travels to the Americas and other economic gains, ushering in the “Siglo de Oro.” During this time, other great buildings and fortifications were constructed in the city. I will be interested to learn more about when various landmarks were built as we spend more time in Cádiz.
Spain’s experience declined after the Siglo de Oro through economic struggle, civil war, and finally came under Franco’s dictatorship in the early 20th century. After his death, he appointed Juan Carlos as his successor, who set up the monarchy system that works alongside a democratic government which still functions today. Towards the end of the last century, Spain joined with the European Community, now the European Union, and has continued to advance economically. This is also evident in their new buildings, transportation systems, and other recent developments. Simply from looking at the buildings of the city, there is evidence of a long and rich history.
Culture is another thing that will be interesting to learn about. As I have mentioned, there have been numerous cultures that have made their way through Cádiz. From our few days, we have hardly been able to see what that involves in the city today. The people with which we have interacted have been remarkably helpful and friendly so far. The food is classy and prepared in style. On the negative side, we are not sure yet if the diet is really healthy—it seems to consist of lots of bread, oil, cheese and meats, which limited fruits, vegetables and dairy. I suppose we will see more about what is normal through home stays that are yet ahead.
In some ways, our first few days here have really given us a minimal exposure to Cádiz. We have not been pushed to change our sleeping, eating, or English-speaking habits. We have limited connections beyond a few contacts in the University to meet with persons other than ourselves.
On the other hand, it has been a good in-between to get our feet wet in Spanish culture and to get to know one another in our own group better before a real plunge in to our experience in Spain. We’ve been able to make some helpful connections with the university and host families, and we will have a little something with which to compare Ceuta once we are there. From this point on, I expect to be much less focused on the group and more on first-hand experience with La Cruz Blanca, host families and studies.