It seems scarcely a month ago since I had to leave the pearly shores of Cádiz, Spain, the location which formed the second half of my Year Abroad. In fact, it was just over a year ago, and I can’t wait to one day return. This Andalusian treasure trove, located on the southern coast, not immensely far from our disputed territory of Gibraltar, is home to its fiercely proud “Gaditano” citizens. They have a fondness for good food (at disconcertingly small prices!), flamenco, and spending quality time with the family al fresco, whether it be on the beach, in the public squares, or congregated outside a tapas bar. Despite the overall friendliness of the locals, Cádiz is not without its amicable rivalry. The residents of the old part of the town, with its impressive and varied architecture, purport to be from “Cádiz Cádiz”, a phrase used for emphasis to mean REAL Cádiz, and instead ascribe “Cádiz” (singular) to the modern part of the city which, it has to be said, boasts little more than multitudinous high-rises and a McDonalds!
The old part of the city, however, has much historical significance. Christopher Columbus famously docked there on his voyage to the New World. It was also the location of a raid during the Anglo-Spanish war, when England was under Elizabethan rule. More recently, however, it has lent itself to popular culture. La Caleta beach and surrounding area doubled as Havana, Cuba in the location shooting of the James Bond film, “Die Another Day”. (Remember Halle Berry rising from the water to greet an on-looking Pierce Brosnan?). Most recently, Cádiz has also captured the interest of Hotelier/Traveller, Alex Polizzi, and celebrity chef, Rick Stein, for their respective TV programmes.
In terms of Cádiz’s steadfast traditions, the citizens come into their own as they celebrate their famed Carnaval, where many groups of people take to the streets in costume and show off their singing and dancing performances (most often with a satirical edge!). Another highlight in the calendar is the celebration of Semana Santa (Holy Week) where people take to the streets to watch the parading of religious idols by blind men, an awe-inspiring act of religious sufferance.
In terms of my placement, I had the good fortune of attending the University of Cádiz, which has the rare advantage of being right opposite the sea, with the quaint aforementioned La Caleta beach literally minutes away. I also relished the opportunity to go on trips with fellow ERASMUS students, organised by the University (ESN), at modest prices. To satisfy my curiosity, I took a day-trip with them to Gibraltar, a place which has to be seen to be believed. The local llanito language (a haphazard conflation of spoken English and Spanish) really is the stuff of fiction! I also enjoyed more exotic trips to Seville, and Córdoba, to name but a few!
One of my final experiences in Cádiz was going to watch a traditional flamenco show at “Peña Flamenca”, a two-hour performance of ceaseless, passionate dancing to cheering crowds. The building is dedicated to the gypsy performer, Antonia Gilabert Vargas. In much the same way as she was described as “La Perla de Cádiz” (The Pearl of Cádiz), I would like to consecrate the city with the title “The Pearl of Spain”. Cádiz, nos vemos pronto!
Written by Matthew Bruce
(Background Image Credit: Boa Lingua)
The UoB Linguist Magazine
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University of Birmingham