Two Weeks in One Picture

By SPA 370-Spring 19

Our last posting is a collection of photos. Each of us was charged with selecting one image that could somehow represent a key moment or realization that happened during the trip. The pictures below are the result of that quest and, we believe, will stay with us long after these two weeks of following the steps of Sira Quiroga, the main character of El tiempo entre costuras (The Time in Between, María Dueñas, 2009), through Spain, Morocco, and Portugal.

We could choose between writing the caption in Spanish or English. The photos and captions are posted in the order in which they were submitted.


Caves of Hercules, near Tangier
Caves of Hercules, in Tangier (Marruecos)

Ana (our insider in Spain and support instructor)

Para mí, ésta es la imagen que resume mejor la experiencia de estas dos semanas: el encuentro que hemos vivido entre el Atlántico y el Mediterráneo. Nuestro grupo representa las ganas de aprender, de conocer mejor la cultura del Mediterráneo, viniendo del Atlántico. Del mismo modo, la protagonista de El tiempo entre costuras se ve empujada a este encuentro, que marcará su vida, como la nuestra, acercándola a otras culturas, a otras realidades. Gracias por la oportunidad de compartir esta experiencia maravillosa.


Leaving Morocco and heading back to Ceuta


Esta imagen –tomada desde el bus cuando regresábamos a Ceuta (territorio español en África) desde Marruecos– para mí resume un poco la experiencia de estas dos semanas. Refleja lo oculto detrás de estas tierras y mares, y sobre todo cuenta una historia. Una historia de montañas verdes, ríos y lagos donde los estereotipos me habían hecho pensar que encontraría desiertos; una historia de bellas ciudades que visitamos, de gente amable, de carreteras y altas colinas que nos permitieron apreciar tanto paisajes urbanos como la naturaleza. Fue un recorrido grandioso seguir los pasos de Sira a lo largo de dos continentes.


Geraniums's patio


I pick this photo because while wandering in Málaga (I may have been a little lost) this scene caught my attention. I hope to soon return to Spain after longing to visit for years. I would love to be able to sit at this very table with someone I care about and further grow as a person in such a beautiful country.


Looking out over Lisbon


Looking out over Lisbon. This photo was taken towards the end of our journey across the Atlantic. This Faculty-Led Program offered me the opportunity to follow the footsteps of Sira, the protagonist of El tiempo entre costuras, and see the marvelous sights as she would have in the 1930s and 1940s. But it also gave me a chance to revel in the various cultures and customs which each of the countries afforded us. From the siestas in Spain, the markets in Morocco, to the pastries in Portugal… it is impossible to choose a favorite place as each one is unique and special in its own way. 💕


Lisbon from above


In our way up the slippery slopes of Lisboa I was high enough to see the amazing panoramic views of the city. I loved Lisboa’s energy and hospitality. It’s a great place where I talked to locals and practiced my Portuguese, something I’ve been wanting to do for months. I hope I will return to Portugal soon–if not I’ll go to Brazil and discover Brazilian Portuguese.


Group photo in Málaga-Alcazaba in the background

Silvia (instructor)

I chose this photo because it was taken in our “headquarters” in Málaga; because we are all in it and, above all, because it shows a process rather than a perfect group shot. We have visited three countries and several cities; every move meant that we had to find our bearings once again and adapt to a different language, geography, food… Just like in the photo, it took some time to adjust, but in the process I hope we all became more open, flexible, and respectful when confronted with difference.


First sight of Africa


One of my favorite pictures of the trip. Not because of the picture, but because of the feeling it gave me. I never thought I would have the chance to go to Africa. And we did! This was a very emotional moment for me because I had never seen such natural beauty. Being immersed in a culture that was so different from mine was humbling, and exciting.


Sira Should Not Have Skipped Belém


By Alejandra Morillo, SPA 370-Spring 19

During our exploration day in downtown Lisbon, we visited several places where Sira, the protagonist of El tiempo entre costuras (The Time in Between), spent some time as part of her mission in Portugal. We started with the beautiful Igreja de São Domingos, then went to Rossio  (Plaza de Pedro IV), Rua Áurea o Rua do Ouro, Rua do Plata and other locations that connect with the novel.

It was interesting to find out that the trade of gold in Rua do Ouro (street of gold) started in the 15th century. Today the street seems dedicated to handmade jewellery and more items marketed for tourists. One may also find a few shops that sell gold, which traces back to the rua’s original specialty.

Although Sira did not visit Belém, in the afternoon we headed west to this town that used to be separated from Lisbon but it is now practically part of the city.  We found our way to the Moasterio dos Jerónimos (Jerónimos Monastery, an impressive construction of Gothic style built in the 16th century) and the Tower of Belém, which was also built in that same century and with a similar style but with defense purposes. We also walked by the Monument of the Discoveries, a homage to the Portuguese “age of explorers” that in the 15th and 16th century developed maritime routes to China and India. It was inaugurated in 1960.

The most exciting part of this excursion was our visit to the famous café Pastéis de Belém–the name of the place as well as of their most famous pastry, the pastéis de nata. These Portuguese custard tarts, currently sold for one euro and five cents a piece, are worth the wait! Not surprisingly, given the historical details mentioned above, this delicacy is also found in former Portuguese colonies such as Brasil, Macau and Taiwan.

Sevilla: City of Real and Imaginary Kingdoms


By Tonya Ellis and Roko Jelavic, SPA 370-Spring 19

While touring Sevilla we learned that this city is not only rich it history but has excelled at transforming itself into a modern metropolis. Its diverse architecture attracts tourists and students from across the globe. Our first stop was at what used to be the Royal Tobacco Factory. This marvelous building, which was the first of its kind in Europe, has been repurposed into what is now the University of Seville.

Next on our itinerary was the General Archive of the Indies. This world heritage site has also served multiple purposes since its conception in the 16th century. Due to the navigability of the Guadalquivir River, Seville became the only port licensed to trade and deal with the “new world”. The Merchant Exchange was then constructed in between the Cathedral and the Royal Alcázar. The activities which originally took place within its walls were similar to that of a modern day stock exchange. It later became a tenement house, before being converted into the archive that it is today. It was once again repurposed as it was necessary to house records Spain had began keeping in response to the English literature that shone a negative light on Spanish colonization methods in the “new world”.

We then walked straight into the kingdom of Dorne. Well, not really but our imaginations did run wild as we stepped foot into the former residence of many royal Spanish families. We can see why HBO chose the Royal Alcázar as a backdrop for its hit series Game of Thrones. We explored the halls of the palace–whose architecture and design combine the Gothic and Mudéjar traditions–and among its many gardens and patios.

Before leaving Seville we made a brief stop at the Plaza de España. The plaza, which you may know as the Kingdom of Naboo, was built in the early 20th century in a regionalist style (a combination of neo-mudéjar and neo-baroque). One can easily see why this location was chosen as princess Leia’s palace in Star Wars Episode One.

Seville proved to be the perfect stop before leaving Spain and heading to Portugal. We were able to follow the footsteps of both historical and fictional royal figures.

Jueves, 23 de mayo: Getting to Know Students in Spain

During our day in Seville, we interviewed a few students in Universidad de Sevilla. The main building of this university was a tobacco factory until the 19 century. It currently houses the Rectorate, as well as schools like philology, philosophy and history.

Sevilla-from left to right Yakaira, Alejandra, Mariana, Tamara, Patty, Maricruz, Bianca and Tonya

Tamara, 21, psychology major, interviewed by Yakaira

The most interesting part of talking to Tamara and her friends was learning about the economic situation of Spain. According to Tamara, after graduating from college you may or may not find a job because it all depends on the grades you achieve during your four years of studies. Also, many students end up being over qualified. Because of the high unemployment rates, some students decide to go to graduate school, but when they finished it’s often difficult to find jobs adequate to their level of education.

Maricruz, 19, psychology major, interviewed by Tonya

Maricruz was the shyest of the group of students that we interviewed. What I found most interesting while chatting with her was the incredibly low cost of tuition in a public university like Universidad de Sevilla (about 800 euros per academic year), and that the activities she engages in during her free time are not that different from what many students in the US would do: eating and napping.

Patty, 20, psychology major, interviewed by Alejandra

Patty loves to eat in a restaurant called Pura Gula, in Sevilla. She is a kind girl and loves to take a nap after finishing up her classes in the morning.

Mariana, 19, psychology major, interviewed by Bianca

Mariana wasn’t the most outgoing in the group but she did put in her advice and answers here and there. She would seem intrigued and involved in the conversation while also saying very little but not being the most quiet of the group.

Seville-Cameron and Roco with María (right)

María, 21, a philosophy and French major, interviewed by Cameron and Roko

Talking to María and several other students we found out that in some ways Spanish universities function very differently than universities in the U.S. There is no culture of living on campus, for instance. In fact, they don’t even have residence halls! They take their grades much more seriously than us in the U.S., and there does not seem to be as much of a party/binge drinking culture.

History Alive in the Mosque-Cathedral of Córdoba

By Yakaira Cabral, SPA 370-Spring 2019

We travelled from Málaga to Córdoba to visit the Mosque-Cathedral of Córdoba. It was fascinating to be able to experience in person the rich history and architecture of this building after done bibliographic research back home, in Albany. In the Mosque-Cathedral you can find Islamic architecture and Roman and Byzantine touches, as well as Christian architecture. You can actually see how this impressive building and the city that surrounds it have been transformed by men of different cultures and religions. In fact, before entering the Mosque-Cathedral we saw the Roman bridge, which is an older construction.

As far as we know, the history of Mosque-Cathedral began with a Christian temple called the Visigoth Basilica during the 6th century. The edification of the Mosque on that same site began in the 8th century, after the arrival of the Muslims into the Iberian Peninsula from North Africa. Between then and the 13th century, when the Christians expelled the Muslim rulers from Córdoba, the Mosque went through three extensions as the Muslim population expanded in the city. In the typical fashion of Muslim architecture, for the first Mosque, Roman columns from previous constructions were recicled. It included 11 naves standing towards the Kiblah wall facing the south (or, facing Mecca as all Kiblahs should). The second enlargement of the Mosque corresponds to the apogee of Muslim rule in Córdoba, which is clearly shown in the beautiful gold and glass finish of the Kiblah, as well as the staggered pink and grey columns (all of them made for the Mosque and not recycled like the ones used in the two older sections).


Christians seized Córdoba in the 13th century. Until 1492, when Christian troops took over Granada and officially expelled all Muslim rulers from Al-Andalus (the Muslim name for the Iberian peninsula), they destroyed all the mosques in all the cities they retook… with the exception of the mosque in Córdoba. Some Catholic chapels were immediately adapted in the former Muslim temple. Later, in the 17th century, a Catholic cathedral was built in the heart of the mosque.


The Mosque-Cathedral was declared Cultural Patrimony of Humanity by UNESCO in 1984. In Córdoba we also visited a synagogue in la judería, or what used to be the Jewish neighborhood. Both the beautiful Mosque-Cathedral and the city show how Christians, Jewish and Muslim citizens struggled but managed to coexist until the 15th century, when the process of expelling those of Muslim and Jewish faith from the Iberian peninsula began.