I gawked at enormous Catholic churches with figures of Jesus staring with tortured eyes, the brightly colored and glimmering costumes worn by the bravest of bull fighters, and Paellas rich with local spices. How could one truly capture this with a camera? As I wandered through the paved streets below the ancient buildings of Salamanca, Spain, I felt a symbiotic relationship between the historic and modern aspects of the northern Spanish city. Home to the University of Salamanca, built in the 13thcentury, the city is influenced by new minds in an ancient setting.
â–º SEMI FINALIST 2012 TEEN TRAVEL WRITING SCHOLARSHIP
As I woke after a loud night of celebration, rays of fresh sunlight pulled me to consciousness. The day before España’s soccer team had beat nearby Portugal in a suspenseful shoot out and were now in the much anticipated Euro Cup Finals. Young men staggered through the streets below, determining that after a night full of beers and cheers it was time to get some rest.
On this day, my class was taking an excursion to Portugal and was to be back in plenty of time for the game and festivities. However, a few wrong turns found us lost and increasingly anxious as we struggled to accept the possibility of missing the excitement of tonight’s game. The air was thick with tension as we listened with closed eyes to make out what we could from the static-y radio broadcast of the game. I couldn’t shake my disappointment until I saw it, the distinct dome of the Catedral Nueva peaking out behind the rolling hills. A surge of joy coursed through my body as I knew Salamanca was minutes away.
We inched to the edge of our seats until finally able to bound off into the crowded streets. Flying into Plaza Mayor, we saw the expanse packed with Salamancans and a student population representing practically every nation on the globe. I was met by a turbulent sea of red. Flags flew from balconies and howls of cheers came from all directions.
My group and I hurried to one of the giant televisions along the border of the Plaza. As we scurried to find seats there was an explosion, a firework of cheers. Spain had scored and the previous buzz of excitement had erupted into a roar that filled the summer air.
When crowd settled down, I took in the scene. I realized the most important aspect of Spanish culture, the national pride that brings all facets of the population under one flag, all differences cast aside. Despite disputes and hardships, all join to support the country they share.
It was refreshing to see the sudden brotherly love shared by all in the Plaza. In the US fans have pride for a team, but one that competes against other teams of the same country. Rarely does the whole nation have a single cause that brings all together and it seemed that the bonds connecting us together in Spain would be rare to experience in the US. In the Spanish way of life the regularity of such national pride-building events helps defy animosity. Like maintaing a violin by periodically tightening the strings, the people are brought together often enough that they create a strong bond, a beautiful piece of music.
This infectious pride carried into the student group I was getting to know. It encouraged attempts to start new friendships and use Spanish as our own glue, the language we all shared. And as we returned to our respective countries we all took back a lesson learned from the Spanish people. A common cause can unite us all.
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