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The wonderful Spanish culture!

Updated on April 14, 2012
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When you think of Spain, what comes to mind? You are probably thinking Flamenco music and dance, bullfights, beaches, sunshine and paella (which, by the way is utterly delicious with chicken!). If so, you'd be correct, but Spain does have more to offer! Spain is one of the countries in Europe with the most culture, some people would say.
Art - In general, Spain has a very interesting artistic heritage, with very famous artists such as Pablo Picasso, and Salvador Dalí originating here!

Franciso de Goya emerged in the 18th century as Spain's most prolific painter and he produced quite unflaterring portratits of royalty!

In the early 20th century, the world of art was influenced largely by Pablo Picasso, Joan Miró, Juan Gris, and Salvador Dalí who were ambassadors of the artistic culture in Spain.

Prominent styles of art present in Spain include, renaissance, mannerism, baroque, romanticism, impressionism and post-impressionism!

Antonio Gaudi -

  • Born in Reus in 1852, and died in Barcelona in 1926 after being knocked down by a tram.
  • He died a very poor man, but he certainly left his mark on Barcelona - he was soon labelled one of the best architects of all time! His style was very unique - there had never been anything like and it there probably won't ever be anything like it again!
  • Nature was his biggest inspiration, especially the holy mountain of Montserrat which is 40km inland of Barcelona. Antonio Gaudi said only men drew straight lines, 'god and nature much prefered curves'.
  • Gaudi designed a building called Palau Guell, just off the famous 'La Rambla walkway' which is now one of the most luxurious buildings in Barcelona!

Pablo Picasso -

  • His full name is "Pablo Diego José Francisco de Paula Juan Nepomuceno María de los Remedios Cirpriano de la Satísima Trinidad Ruiz y Pacasso" - yes, seriously! He was born on the 25th of October 1881 (in Malaga, it is presumed) and died on the 8th of April 1973!
  • He was a Spanish painter, sculptor and draughtsman who actually lived most of his adult life in France.
  • He is best known for co-founding the Cubist movement and for the wide variety of styles that he helped develop and worked in.
  • Picasso demonstrated his artistic talent in his early years, painting in a more realistic manner though through his childhood his style changed as experimented with different theories, techniques and ideas.
  • He was one of the best-known figures in 20th century art!

Franciso de Goya -

  • His full name is Francisco José de Goya y Lucientes.
  • He was born on the 30th of March 1746 in Fuendetodos and died on the 16th of April 1828.
  • He was a Spanish romantic painter and printmaker regarded as the last of the old masters and as the first of the moderns.
  • Francisco once worked as court painter to the Spanish crown!
  • The subversive and imaginative element in his art, as well as his bold handling of paint provided a model for the work of later generations of artists, one being Picasso!
  • Over the course of his long career he changed from painting jolly and lighthearted pieces to becoming deeply pessimistic in his paintings and drawings.
  • Although he was born in Fuendetodos he later moved to Saragossa along with his parents, and at the age of fourteen began studying with the painter - José Luzán Martínez, and his artist talent developed from then on!

Music and dance - Flamenco is a form of dance, often seen as an art, and is traditional to Spain.

Flamenco is closely associated with the gypsies of Andalucía, and it is a highly stylised form of dance, song, and guitar playing, expressing the joys, sorrows and pains of life, often surrounding love.

For approximately 100 years, maybe even more, Flamenco has been the music and expression of people on the margins of society.

True flamenco is full of danger and excitement, although today some of this has been watered down to suit tourists; speaking from experience, the flamenco dancing that has not been watered down is so much more exciting, and gives you a real sense of strong culture, although it is hard to find nowadays.

Andalucía is the flamenco heartland and its development has been influenced by the Jewish and Moorish communities of this region.

Modern performers also tend to improvise, adding their own interpretations of flamenco, this means it is constantly evolving; this brings out different opinions - some think it is wonderful that it is evolving and keeping with the time, although others feel the original flamenco is slowly dying out.

Flamenco is usually performed in a bar or club, and typically there are four people on stage - a guitarist, singer, dancer and a hand clapper (who keeps the rhythm), although it is also often performed in large groups.

Rhythm is very important in flamenco, and it is emphasised by the clapping, clicking of castanets and the stamping and clicking heels of the male and female dancers.

This engages the audience and they often join in, clapping, stamping and shouting a word you may have heard associated with Spain - "OLÉ"; this encourages the dancer to greater demonstrations of what is often called 'duende', the mysterious magic of flamenco!

Spain has produced some singers now popular all over the world! Including Enrique Iglesias and Shakira! Enrique sung the very popular "Hero" and "Do you know" (Dímelo), and some of his recent songs include "I like it" and "Tonight". Shakira has sung many songs, including the Fifa world cup song!

Bullfighting -

Bullfighting is very traditional to Spain and can be traced back to 711 AD!

The first bullfight took place in that year, to celebrate the crowining of King Alfonso VIII and since then, it has been a popular tradition in Spain, and nowadays, approximately 1 million people watch bullfighting in Spain every year.

Ok, so, you're probably wondering what the format of a bullfight is:

  • Firstly the bull is let into the ring on its own, then the top bullfighter (traditionally called the Matador) watches his chief assistant wave a bright yellow and magenta cape in fron of the bull in order to make it charge.
  • This allows him to determine the bull's qualities and mood before taking over the bullfight himself.
  • Once the Matador is ready, a trumpet will soun and several fighters (called Picadores) will weaken the bull by placing spears into it, which normally takes around ten minutes.
  • After that is complete, another trumpet is sounded and the Matador removes his black winged hat in order to dedicate the death of the bull to the crowd or important person watching the fight.
  • The Matador will then begin what is called the faena, which is the most beautifula and skillful section of the fight and it is the part of the fight where the Matador must prove his courage and artistry.
  • During the faena, the bull will run at the Matador while he is carrying the muleta (a piece of thick crimson cloth draped over a short stick, which is either held in the left hand or draped over the killing sword, often called an espada - the espada is always held in the right hand).
  • The muleta is usually held in front of the Matador to make the bull charge, then it is swung across and away from the Matador's body in the hope of taking the bull with it.
  • If this doesn't work, there is a risk the Matador could become impaled on the horns of the bull.
  • The Matador has the responsibility of making the dance (or fight) dramatic and enjoyable for the audience.
  • The faena will continue until the Matador has demonstrated his superiority over the bull, and once this has been achieved, the bull is ready to be killed. If the crowd are pleased they will throw flowers into the ring.
  • This is a traditional bullfight!

Bullfighting creates lots of controversy; many animal rights campaigners are completely against it because it is a form of animal cruelty - the bulls are being provoked and killed purely for the entertainment of an audience. Although some think it is exciting, and a brilliant part of Spanish culture that should not be lost. Though, really, while the Matadors do sometimes die, the odds are really stacked against the bull. I will leave it to you decide whether it should be allowed or not.


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