Wabash Blogs Immersion 2009: Spain - The Baroque Era

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Yo Soy Juan Carlos II

Friday, March 13th
This week has been full of new experiences, but today was especially interesting. I got a first hand glimpse into the history of the Spanish monarchy we’ve been learning about in class. If I were to imagine a royal palace in Madrid, what I saw this morning certainly fit the bill.
The Palacio Real de Madrid is located across from the national opera hall and the city’s main cathedral near the plaza de España in downtown Madrid. It’s a fantastic sight, with some architectural elements echoing those we saw in the Escorial. Composed mostly of locally obtained granite on the outside, the palace is an impressive place for important events and diplomatic events. It was particularly interesting to note that what was built to be the home of King Felipe V in the 18th century no longer houses the king and queen of Spain. 
Our tour guide very interestingly stated his opinion on the matter when referring to current King, Juan Carlos I (I know, I have a royal name!). His basic view is that all the politicians in the democratic government hold only their own party views as important and not the general well being of Spain as a whole, even President Zapatero. King Carlos I is a man who respects the Republic and his objection of using the palace on a regular basis aside from very important State events demonstrates the function of the contemporary monarchs.
Later at night, I got a good glimpse into some of the culture and pastimes of Spanish people. We enjoyed some of the best pastries in Madrid and walked around the busy Puerta del Sol. We then found a nice spot to enjoy some drinks and play pichilonga, a Spanish card game. After I got dinner in the Plaza Mayor with some of the guys, we met up with Professor Jaén-Portillo to see a Tablao Flamenco performance. The dancers were amazing and engaged the audience with some really fun beats. They ended with a funny chant and accompanying rhythms made with handclaps and foot stomping.           
This whole trip has offered some amazing opportunities to see all sorts of things I haven’t seen before. Aside from the awesome opportunities to see many of the things we talked about in class, I was most excited to see Velazquez and el Greco paintings in person. We were fortunate enough to be able to walk inside 17th century monuments and even see a Spanish play written by a golden age playwright, Lope de Vega. There’s no price you could put on this kind of learning. 
-Juan Carlos Venis ‘09