What up, gente!?!?
So, I finally was able to get a little rest, as well as roam around the city a bit more yesterday. It was our "day off" but writers don't get days off - we just write more or think of what to write about, or edit, or read, or panic or imagine. In other words - it is never a dull moment when you have art on the brain. If you are ready and in the mood to read a bit more about these adventures, then let's do the damn thing!!
The trip Thursday, (JUNE 19th) took us to two places - Alcalá de Henares and Aranjuez. Although to be honest, the trip to Alcalá was much more interesting. So, I will post mostly on that adventure. We took the day in Alcalá and had the opportunity to visit the University. It is a sight to see. Historically, The University of Alcalá (this part is taken from a google search) is especially renowned in the Spanish-speaking world for its annual presentation of the highly prestigious Cervantes Prize. (CLICK on the BOLD to get more info) The University currently enrolls 28,336 students, 17,252 of whom are studying undergraduate degrees which are taught by a teaching staff of 2,608 professors, lecturers and researchers belonging to 24 departments.
What I thought was most impressive, was the fact that the central portion of the campus is the oldest - they still use the building. Originally the campus was founded in 1293. YES, you read that right. 1293 - originally founded as the STUDY of GENERAL SCHOOLS in ALCALA under decree of then King Sancho IV of Spain. By 1499, it was an official university. There is history in the halls and the courts of this place.
So with that small tour, we got to check out the school and found an amazing amount of points of interest - but there is one that for me is a good omen:
I found this seal in the wall - San Ignacio de Loyola. I smiled at the sight of this - don't know why- perhaps a connection between the past and the present and the future. Perhaps an understanding that all people are connected. Perhaps all of it - but it was a neat "discovery", especially since I will be teaching at a Jesuit school in the coming weeks. I had no idea behind the history of the Jesuits, except for what I studied in my undergraduate degree in conjunction with the history of the Basilian Fathers at the University Of St. Thomas (HOUSTON) - and even then it was little. Just like the Basilian Fathers, Jesuits pursue education and faith. I find this connection to my past and my future employment as a positive. OK, so if you are at Cristo Rey Jesuit back home and are reading this - get ready - I'M COMING FOR YOU!! I give you this gift, an image that represents one of the founders of the Jesuits. You are most welcome. ;)
NOW, back to the trip.
SO, our next stop was to visit the childhood home of Cervantes, the writer - it was a cute cottage, but we couldn't take any pictures and we didn't have a guide to help put things in context - BUT what we did after was more important - Thanks to Daniel Chacón (our profe), he was able to get us an amazing hook up with a poet who is currently working on her residency/fellowship there in Alcalá!! We were joined by XÁNATH CARAZA (CLICK ON HER NAME TO GET MORE INFO).
It was amazing experience - getting the chance to meet with a poet and writer whom I had only been able to meet exclusively thought TWITTER. We follow each other and it was great getting to put comments to face.
It was extraordinary experience getting to talk to her. I took the opportunity to ask as many different questions about craft and habits of writing and translations and language as I could think of. It was a good conversation. She is a mystical writer- her use of language and image, her depth and her sincerity are all right there on the page.
She talked to us about what poetry means to her, how she got her start writing as a teen and working on a column for a local newspaper and realizing she had a skill for writing. I was able to ask her about the themes she feels are always present in her work and she told us about women issues, the feminine identity is always there. She said her work always pushes the envelope. I asked if she still feels if it is difficult to write poetry and try to keep the language important or does the soap box element sneak in and she said something comforting -"it is always there"- and that makes me feel good, to know that someone struggles with this. It means I am doing it right.
Xánath is warm soul. She read us two poems (dos poemas mas chingones) and listened to us as we read poems to her. It was intimate, it was very real - and all the while, we sat eating and sharing, drinking and talking right in front of Cervantes' home. Quijote and Panza watched us the entire time. This is a moment I will not forget. It was good to amongst writers, talking about writing, finding out what other writers do with their work and what it means for them to write.
From there, we took a small tour of the city- Xánath was willing to walk with us - pointing out the things she found fascinating about Alcalá. We walked in the sun and the breeze, under the darting golondrinas (swallows) and the storks (cigüeñas) - the emblem bird of the city of Alcalá. It was an energizing day.
You should check out her work. She has a series of books out, but the two that I am most familiar with are (Click on each title and check out each book!!) :
From there, we said our goodbyes and made our way to Aranjuez and checked out an old palace, once the residence of Queen Isabelle II:
And that folks, was all she wrote... I wish I could tell you more about the palace, but we didn't have a guide and we couldn't take pictures. It was really regal though. A shit load of gold and tapestries.
For now, this closes out this blog post - I think I should have one more to post here from Madrid the day after tomorrow. It has been a fun trip. The adventure continues...