It's time for this week's So Your Character is ... Post! This is a weekly segment where I interview lovely volunteers from around the world to give you a firsthand account of being a citizen of their respective country or having a disability. I'm hoping to encourage international diversity, break stereotypes, and give writers a crash course on how to write a character from these different places on our planet. If you haven't checked out last week's So Your Character is from Luxembourg ... be sure to hop on over there and give it a read!
Disclaimer: The content below may be culturally shocking to some. Each of these posts is as uncensored as possible to preserve the authenticity of the cultures of each of the interviewees.
(None of the Images are Mine)
My name is Ana and I’m 27 years old. I live in Barcelona, which is the main city of Catalonia, a northern-eastern region of Spain. I work in digital advertising in a city close to Barcelona, and I love watching movies, reading, trying new restaurants and listening to music.
Hi, I’m Paula! I’m a 20 years old girl from Barcelona, Spain. I’m currently studying Journalism here, where I was born, yet my entire family is from Andalusia, where I spend the holidays. Being both Catalan and Andalusian I feel like I get a very “global” and different view on our country since everything, from the culture to the people, is so very different in these two places. Makeup is my passion, and I’d love to turn that into my profession someday, which is why I created Flaw Decay. I also love art, music, video games, and writing, among other things.
What do you feel is unique to your country? Landmarks? Celebrations?
Ana: We’re a very varied country that speaks about five different languages. Spanish, Catalan, Galician, Euskera, and Aranes.
My favorite celebration is Saint George’s Day, where couples give each other books and roses. It's a popular legend all over Catalonia, Spain. In Montblanc – the region's name changes depending on the person asked – there was a dragon attacking the kingdom. Scared to death, the inhabitants decided to give two lambs every day to the dragon to satisfy its hunger and prevent attacks on the village. But when the animals became scarce it was decided to send a person, chosen by drawing lots, and a lamb. When a family member was devoured by the dragon, the family received a rich compensation from the Kingdom's Treasury.
There are two versions of the legend at this juncture: the first one involves people getting tired of no member of the royal family being sent and therefore decide that the princess should be sent to the Dragon; while the second version says that one day a princess was chosen by drawing lots to accompany the lamb. In any case, on the cave of the dragon, the princess found a gentleman or knight of the name Jordi (George) and he slew the dragon by stabbing his sword into it and rescued her. From the blood that flowed from the lifeless body of the monster was born a red rose which the gentleman handed to the princess. The king offered the gentleman all the riches imaginable but he preferred that the riches be allocated to the inhabitants of the kingdom. In addition, a church was built in his name, from which flowed miraculous water that was able to heal the sick. ]
On New Year’s Eve, we eat 12 grapes during the last 12 seconds.
Paula: I feel like the weather, the food, the art and the museums (El Greco, Goya, Picasso, Velázquez, to name a few great artists), the buildings and cathedrals (Gaudi’s are especially beautiful and “wowing”), the people… everything altogether makes Spain a very unique country with a lot to offer and a lot of diversity.
Some of our best-known landmarks are la Sagrada Familia and la Alhambra, both truly stunning. In Barcelona, concretely, we also have la Casa Milà, el Park Güell, la Basílica de Santa María... the perfect mixture of art and architecture.
As for celebrations, we’re known for loving them. Every occasion is the perfect moment to celebrate something! Semana Santa or Holy Week (Easter break), for instance, is full of processions and religious rituals, Carnaval (around February), where people dress up and party, Sant Jordi (or “day of the book” for people outside Catalonia), where people give books to their partner. For instance, according to tradition in Catalonia at Sant Jordi women have to gift books to men and men have to give roses to women. Apart from these, there are many more! Basically, every region has their own traditions and celebrations.
|La Casa Mila|
|Basilica de Santa Maria|
Tell me about your country's environment. What are some of your favorite places?Ana: We are surrounded by the Mediterranean, Atlantic and Cantabric seas. We have mountains in the north-east, valleys in the north-center and plains in the center.
The country’s capital is Madrid. Depending on what you want to see, you can visit north south, east or west. The costa brava is beautiful and the north has amazing places to eat.
This also applies to weather and landscapes, the south of Spain is way drier and hotter than the north. In the northern regions of Spain you get to see the most beautiful green landscapes, especially around the Pilgrimage of Compostela, everything is exceptionally fresh and green. And so the east coast, for instance, is known for their beautiful beaches. Spain, one can say is very multifaceted.
Ana: We’re most famous because of tapas (patatas bravas, chocos…) and our paella (and no, rice with stuff is not paella). Tapas are like snacks, they can be cold or hot and they can be like olives, chips, fish, omelet... But in small portions. Paella is made out of rice and they can be seafood paella or vegetable paella (or mixed). We also make Spanish omelettes and something I love about my region is “calçots”, which are like big onions and you eat with sauce.
Paula: If there’s one thing about Spain that it’s undeniably good, that’s the food. I’m not talking about “turistadas”, places with expensive pricing and normal to bad quality food that are “made” for tourists; I’m talking about restaurants with homemade food. It doesn’t have to be expensive to be great, especially in the south of Spain.
My favorite Spanish dishes are croquetas (croquettes), gazpacho (cold veggie -mainly tomato- soup and toppings like ham), pulpo a la gallega (the traditional way of making Octopus in Galicia) and my grandma’s migas (breadcrumbs, basically, but it’s very delicious). As for desserts I love churros con chocolate (the traditional ones, also known as “porras”), crema catalana (pretty much a crème brûlée) and tocinillo de cielo (a traditional Andalusian dessert made with the egg’s yolk which is a literal heaven).
|Pulpo a la Gallega|
|tocinillo de cielo|
Ana: We have different languages, so for example, in Catalonia, we speak Catalan as well as Spanish, for example. The Basque Country speaks Euskera and in Galicia, they speak Gallego. As a curiosity, we have a word that it’s “merienda”, which I don’t think it exists in English. It’s like breakfast but in the afternoon.
Paula: Spain has four different languages: Spanish, Basque, Catalan, and Galician. All of them except Spanish are taught in different regions and they’re one of the things that distinguish them from the rest. Not only that, but we also have different accents in practically every region of the country and subsequently, slang words and phrases. For instance, while most of us call buses “autobuses”, people from Canarias call them “guaguas”
Also as in every other country Spain has their very own expression which can be very funny when one tries to translate them into other languages: for example, Spaniards very often say “vete a freír espárragos/vete a pastar” (“go fry asparagus/go eat grass”), which when one thinks about it makes absolutely no sense but we have gotten so used to it that we just don't question it, and then there’s quotes like “eres la alegría de la huerta” (“you are the joy of the vegetable garden”), which literally makes no sense but we still use it and all know its meaning.
Describe briefly a regular day in your country.
Ana: It’s pretty standard… we wake up and go to work. Here we usually eat at around 2pm and then we leave work at around 6pm (it depends…). And dinner is about 9-10 pm. People go to bed usually at 12. And no, we don’t sleep “siestas” every day… But I do at weekends ;)
Paula: A regular day in Spain obviously depends on the person, but I usually wake up at 7am, get ready for college, and come back home around 2pm, which is when I eat. I walk my dog and work on my blog as well, and if I can, I also spend time with friends at shopping centers or coffee places. Weirdly enough (at least for other countries), we usually have dinner between 9 and 10pm.
How does your country compare to others, especially the States since my audience is primarily American? Environmentally? Politically? Culturally?
Ana: We have a rich history in terms of culture. Literature, art and sports are some of our strongest aspects. Miguel de Cervantes, Lorca, Velázquez, Goya, Picasso, Dalí… and fútbol, of course (although I don’t like fútbol at all).
Politically, we have many parties, unlike in the US (where you mostly need to vote between Democrats and Republicans). Here, the right-winged parties would be like your democrats, and we have some left-winged parties. Right now, our president is from the Popular Party, which is one of the right-winged ones, but each region has its own government.
Paula: Unfortunately, Spanish politics is full of corruption and even our current president is involved in a corruption case right now. Instead of quitting, like most politics do when people find out about their corruption, he’s saying that he didn’t do anything, even if it’s very much clear that he is corrupt. His political party is known for being corrupt and traditional, so in other words, politics is not the pride of Spain.
Culturally speaking, Spain counts with an impressive variety, as mentioned previously practically every region has their own little culture and traditions, which obviously ends up translating into their art and literature. I would have to say that what makes Spain so unique is our diversity.
Paula: I guess one of the, if not the, most important one, is the end of Franco’s dictatorship. Spain was under the control of Francisco Franco from 1939 to his death, 1975, which has marled our society up to this day. Another historically relevant event took place in 1978 when Spain finally became a democratic and constitutional country officially. And finally, probably the most relevant moment in Spanish history: when in 1492 the Spanish Armada “discovered” America, an event that not only changed the Spanish society but the global history. Personally, I don’t see the invasion of America as a particularly good thing, but it was a massive change, and pretty much introduced the world as we know it nowadays.
What are some stereotypes about your country that irk you? What media portrays your country badly be it a movie, a book, or a TV show?
Ana: The most common (and wrong) stereotype is confusing Spain with Mexico. As much as I love tacos and fajitas, that is not our food, we don’t have mariachis and we don’t speak with a Mexican accent. Also, people seem to think we all dance “flamenco” and dress. When that is only in the South. We’re mostly white, although some are perpetually tanned because of the good weather. We don’t sleep siesta all days and we don’t celebrate San Fermines all year (some of us dislike that celebration).
Paula: Ed Sheeran wrote a song called “Barcelona” for his latest album, trying to portray the Spanish (night) life… and accomplishing the impossible: making the entire country cringe. Foreigners like him, especially from the north of Europe, usually think Spain is the country of partying, paella and sangria, while in reality, that’s due to our dependence on tourism. We love partying, but most of us aren’t as crazy about it as it’s portrayed. And we’re not crazy about foreigners coming here just to party either. And we have much more food other than paella!
I actually read somewhere that life in Spain is “not centered around work, but on parties and free time”, which was rather insulting. Of course, you’re seeing that; that’s because you’re here as a tourist, not as a worker.
Another common misconception about Spanish people is that we take “siestas” every single day when most of us don’t even take them at all. We wish, though. And we’re not that religious… we have many religious celebrations, but just because Antonio Banderas is pictured participating in Holy Week doesn’t mean all of us do it.
What media portrays your country well be it a movie, a book, or a TV show?
Ana: Whenever they portray us as normal, regular people with normal jobs :)
Paula: There’s this Spanish comedy called “Ocho Apellidos Vascos” (and its sequel, “Ocho Apellidos Catalanes”), which take to an extreme the relationship between Andalusia and both the Basque Country and Catalonia, that represents us quite a bit. Andalusian people are known for being very passionate, so much so the protagonist of the movie falls in love with a Basque girl, the complete opposite to him, and he wants to “take her back to Seville”… I guess it makes sense for us because we know the conflicts between these regions, but if someone from the USA watched it, they would think we’re crazy!
Who are your top three favorite fictional characters native to your country in books, movies, or shows?
Ana: Right now, I can only think of Iñigo Montoya from The Princess Bride.
Paula: We aren’t portrayed in blockbuster movies very often, as Spanish-speaking characters are mostly from South America (both the actor/actress and the character). I don’t usually watch shows that prioritize building lovable characters and couples that will take over the Internet, which is, in my honest opinion, what most TV shows and movies in the US have a tendency of doing. But if I had to choose three fictional characters, they would be Carlota from “Las chicas del cable”, Don Quixote, and Ofelia from “El laberinto del fauno”. They’re all adventurous and brave, which I love!
Thank you, Ana and Paula, for this very informative post! Come back next week for a post all about Spain!
Are you interested in participating in this project? Check out the tips archive to see which countries have been filled and if you're from a different country, shoot me an email at howellvictoriagrace(a)gmail(dot)com. I'm especially looking for Cuba, Venezuela, Switzerland, Zimbabwe, and Iraq.
Do you have any characters from Spain? Did this inspire you to write a Spanish character or set a book in Spain? Are from this or been to this country and you have further input? Feel free to share! Do you have any questions for Ana and Paula? Be sure to thank them!
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