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Orange Blossoms and Sevillanos

September 12, 2006

I can't recall where I first read about the orange trees in Sevilla, but whoever it was that numbered them made no exaggeration: they are everywhere. Nearly every street is lined on both sides with orange trees, and though they are not in bloom right now, when it is time the city is going to explode with white blossoms. I'll bet they smell fantastic. Even my humble little street has a dozen orange trees all its own, with more around every corner.

The people here are a facinating mix of attributes, both good and bad, a macrocosm of how people are, I suppose. In this city, patience is not a virtue, and you are reminded of that by the constant symphony of horns from passing cars. My friend Adriane commented that it is similar in Cambodia (where she has had the good fortune to travel extensively); that people seem to honk as if to inform you that yes, they are in fact inside of a vehicle, and they are going to use that horn the way God intended it to be used. It isn't that the Sevillanos are rude; rather, they just will not hesitate to beep at you if you do not begin moving the second the light turns green. Actually, it is preferable if you begin moving several seconds before the light turns green. And heaven help you if you try to cross the street without waiting for the proper signal…people will swerve around you and honk wildly, but they will not stop.

In fact, walking in this city is a constant game. The sidwalks are tiny (if they even exist), and they seem to start and end at random, as though they were an afterthought…which they may well have been. It is inadvisable to walk to close to the street while on a sidewalk, because you are liable to be hit by the mirror of a passing vehicle, but people here walk in the streets at will, because there is nowhere else for them to go. The acera, sidewalk, is fascinating in and of itself, because although the placement and size are poor, a great deal of artistry went into its making. Each sidewalk is a mosaic of slate-gray tiles of all shapes and sizes, with no recognizable pattern. It makes me wonder how something so useless could be so lovely, all at the same time.

Sevilla is a city of tiles and mosaic…they are everywhere, from the most modest kitchen to the most fabulous Cathedral. My school is filled with mosaics, on almost every wall in every hallway and classroom. They are endlessly fascinating, and heartbreakingly beautiful. In fact, the combined beauty of all the mosaic in this city is enough to take ones breath from them (especially when you think about how LONG it all took to put together). My favorite thing about the tiles is how you find them in the most unexpected places…turning a corner while in the process of being lost, for example, only to find a huge mosaic in front of you depicting the Roman past of this fair city.

The people, too, are a surprising mosaic. The women here dress well; very well. It isn't so much for competition, however, as it is a great pride in their femininity. Fans are still perfectly acceptable accessories here, and shoes are practically a religion. You are as likely to see a woman dressed to the nines here as you are to see someone wearing a GAP t-shirt in the States. Everywhere you turn, fashion is palpable…this city is definitely into appearance. Even the men here are fashionable. Capris are a big thing for men right now, especially considering the heat, but it is something that most American men wouldn't be caught dead wearing. The most interesting thing, however, is how these people see themselves. When they think about heritage, they do not see race, or Europe. Instead, the Sevillanos see the Romans and Phoenicians and Carthaginians who settled this land millenia ago… I wonder what it must be like to have such a long view of your past.

Today, however, has been a brisk 85 degrees, practically winter compared to the heat we've been having. Everyone is smiling more today, a little calmer, maybe a little less likely to press that horn…maybe not. Things are changing in this city, to be sure. Indeed, things are changing in all of Spain. But I think that honking your horn is a universal pleasure, and I won't be hearing the last of the carhorns for a long time to come.

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