Thursday, October 13, 2011

Día de la Hispanidad / Columbus Day in Spain

Columbus Day is a big deal here since Columbus sailed from Spain when he found the Americas.  Celebrated as the "Día de la Hispanidad," Columbus Day is a national holiday, complete with un desfile militar, a military parade.  Even the King of Spain is part of the parade.  Being from the US, where we don´t have a king or military parades, I was intrigued, so I went to check it out.  Turned out to be 100% fascinating.

The desfile militar began right near the Paseo del Prado, so I was conveniently able to roll out of bed, put on nice shoes (as is customary in Spain), and hop over to view the parade - college style.  All the streets entering the Glorieta del Emperador Carlos V were blocked to traffic, and crowds seeped in toward the parade, filling the air with excitement and smoke - mostly smoke.  All around me people cheered and clapped each time a new group passed.  From what I could tell, the cheers seemed neither to support nor to speak against the military, but rather they emphasized the exhilaration of a crowd mentality.  People were waving flags, wrapped in flags, draping flags over their balconies, etc.  Except me - Fascinated, I silently stood my ground (on my edge of a railing), and snapped photos of gigantic olive green tanks, people marching in unison, and the crowd.





Sweet white reflectors, right?
The Guardia Civil went by, along with the Polícia Militar, and tons of other military people.  Their costumes (uniforms?) were also 100% fascinating, and I think my cousin, Sue, would have appreciated the display.  I'm not sure if each group that marched past was a different position, rank, or whatever it´s called.  I´m not that well versed in military terminology since I somehow knew it would never, ever be my career path.  But I can still appreciate a parade.  I have tremendous appreciation for large groups of people who can move their feet exactly in unison.  The marching looked even better on the ones wearing a uniform that had a white bands around the ankles, as if to emphasize the feet.  It was interesting to note that each group had a unique march.

The amount of weapons that passed by that morning was more than I've ever seen in my entire life.  So many guns, so many different kinds of guns, and so many other weapon-looking things.  Tons and tons of ugly, green tanks.  I guess it's a military thing.

The Goat and his/her Escort
One thing that confused me at the parade was when a goat, dressed to the nines, walked by.  It wore a very elaborate cape, and was walking with a man in a matching uniform.  I have no idea what the significance of this goat is, but I´m sort of curious.  Additionally, there were horses, motorcycles, boats, tanks, cars, and more.

Another point of interest was that the parade seemed to arrive from two or three different streets, converge in the Glorieta del Emperador Carlos V (a roundabout), go around the circle, and continue down the Paseo del Prado.  Think of the Glorieta as a wagon wheel.  The parade simultaneously comes down two or three spokes of the wheel, meets in the center, goes around the center (the Glorieta), and continues down a spoke on the other side of the wheel.  All the parades I´ve ever seen come from one direction and proceed in the opposite direction. This one was a little more complicated, and you never got to see what was on the other streets.

The Military also paraded their airplanes, which was super cool.  Some of the planes left neon trails in the sky.   You could always tell when I plan was coming because the crowd would point at the sky and shout, "¡Mira, mira, mira!" (Look, look, look!)

Las Meninas
Also, since this was a national holiday, all the museums offered free admission all day long.  It was sweet.  The line to get into the Thyssen was huge, so I went to the Prado to see Las Meninas by Diego Velasquez.  Great painting, super cool.  It´s a painting of the Infanta Margarita with her "ladies in waiting."  Her parents are reflected in a mirror in the background, and Velasquez also painted himself (painting, of course) into the left side of the picture.  There´s a lot to look at, not to mention the Infanta Margarita´s exquisite dress.

I wasn't supposed to take this picture....it's blurry because I was trying to hide my camera.
La acróbata en la bola








The Prado also had a special exhibition of one of Pablo Picasso´s paintings, "Girl on a Ball," which belongs to a museum in Moscow.  This painting is from Picasso´s Rose Period, and emphasizes the difference between the lightness of the acrobat and the weighty figure of the man in the foreground.

Btw - Columbus Day is October 12th here.  None of this 2nd Monday of the month business, or anything confusing like that.



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