The streets were luminescent with life. Smells of croquetas met yearning nostrils. The fast paced, piquant Spanish dialect was ambient. The air was warm but not humid, and it folded around me, welcoming me home.
My ancestors left Spain to join Cortésin his conquest of the Aztecs, and they never returned to the mother country. Now that I was in the land of Cervantes, I couldn’t imagine why anyone would choose to leave it on his own accord. For there was so much to explore, so much to experience. Every town we visited was a new world in itself, with its own flavor, its own distinct culture.
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I sat on a street in Toledo with a friend. We had bought four minute mazapáns, all of different flavors. We neatly divided the delectable and savored the uniqueness of every bite.
I couldn’t help but ponder on how different this summer had been. Since age twelve, I had spent the summer away from my parents at ballet intensives. I danced eight hours a day, no matter whether I was soar or bleeding. I couldn’t see what surrounded me; I was too focused on technical precision. Whenever it was time to return home, I was eager and grateful. When I was a sophomore, I decided to pursue academics in lieu of a career in ballet.
It was late June after a rigorous scholastic year, and I had spent the past several weeks studying Spanish at La Universidad de Cantabria with SPI in an attempt to improve my conversation skills. Now, our time in Spain was over. Toledo was our final tour before we would board a plane and return to Texas. For the first time in my life, I didn’t want to leave my summer destination. I was perfectly content right where I was.
My friend split another mazapán: chocolate this time.
I thought of Segovia. I recalled the towering Roman aqueducts, robust and beautiful despite their age. An artist sat painting history, and he chuckled. Then, he returned to his canvas. When we arrived in the central square, there was a lively celebration taking place; Spaniards danced and sang, and I couldn’t help but feel the fraternity of the town.
Another mazapán: this one was topped by nuts.
Madrid filled my consciousness. The energetic, glamorous city had been my first impression of Spain. I had been overwhelmed by its stunning architecture, its role as a cultural hearth. I could smell the cigarette smoke surrounding me, and I unwillingly let out a little cough.
The last mazapán: the classic.
My Señora stood in the kitchen, preparing the perfect Spanish empanada. My Señor sat at the dining table, and I joined him. We talked about politics and he told me about his childhood. Soon Sara, his daughter, came to join us, and she asked me to go down to Santander’s marina and watch the lunar eclipse with her that evening. I complied, and after dinner we walked down to the water as we forged a new friendship.
My friend took the empty mazapán box and threw it in the trash. We began our escapade back to the hotel, and I tried to tell Spain goodbye. I caressed the cobblestone road with my feet and admired the damasquino jewelry displayed in shop windows.
Spain had been my cure. After countless years of striving for perfection in a moribund field, Spanish culture had finally allowed me to let down my guard and feel again. I could not say farewell to the nation that had rejuvenated my spirit.
And so I whispered a simple “hasta luego.”
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