How did different cultures live together throughout history? How can we build cross-cultural understanding today?
Spain’s Andalucia region is famous for its visible mix of Christian, Jewish, and Islamic influence. Several ancient empires laid claim over this strategic territory on the Iberian peninsula, including the Catholic Romans and Visigoths, and the Muslim Umayyads, and all left their mark in the form of now-iconic landmarks and traditions that we can still visit today.
During the approximately 700 years of Islamic rule in Southern Spain, the concept of “convivencia” was born - the idea that people of diverse faiths and cultures can live together peacefully and respect each other’s customs. The multicultural blend is everywhere - in the architecture of churches and mosques, the rhythm of the flamenco dance, and the roots of common Spanish phrases. In Andalucia, multiculturalism is alive in a tangible way.
On this trip, we will examine the concept of multiculturalism both historically and in current-day Spain. We will explore questions like: What are the different components of culture, and why do cultures sometimes come into conflict with one another? Can culture be “stolen,” or do elements of different cultures naturally get adopted into one another over time? Does contemporary Spanish culture correspond with or contradict the historical ideal of convivencia?
Sevilla is the capital of the Andalucia region and the home of the Alcazar, a Castillian castle built over the foundations of a Moorish fort. Here we will take in our first impressions of the ornate design and blend of cultural influences we find in the royal complex. We’ll also take a flamenco class and learn about the history of the dance as a form of cultural expression. And we will talk with local Sevillanos about multiculturalism in modern Spain.
We’ll continue our survey of multicultural architecture at the world-famous Alhambra, the grand royal palace of 14th-century Nasrid sultans, which was later converted into a court for Catholic royalty. The impressive structure, along with the adjoining Albaicin, is a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site. Here we will visit the souks and old Arab neighborhoods in the town center, and further examine the various religious and cultural influences we see. Our investigation will help us understand the different power dynamics of Spain over the last thousand years, and build context for current-day issues.
Córdoba is known as the City of Three Cultures. Here we’ll set our eyes on the stunning Mosque-Cathedral of Córdoba, visit the historic Arab baths, and take a walk in the old Jewish Quarter. We’ll also meet with religious leaders and local business owners to learn about the mix of migrant cultures that are continuing to flow into the city today. And we’ll practice our Spanish skills at the vibrant local markets and shops in town.
As Spain’s contemporary center of power, Madrid will broaden our exposure to Spanish identity and history across the peninsula. We’ll get caught up on modern Spanish history, get a sense for the national political climate, and celebrate our journey with a classic treat of churros con chocolate.
Atlas Workshops has a passion for working with schools to build trips that meet their goals and align with their curriculum. Spain’s rich history, regional diversity, and unique culture offer a great number of educational opportunities.
We can adapt the trip to have a strong focus on a specific time period in Spanish history, or prominent current issues like Euro-Arab relations, transnational migration, or economics and trade. From a targeted look at art and architecture, to cultural memory and historical preservation, this trip template is flexible.
By balancing exploration of different themes and contexts, a trip to Spain can combine disparate interests and appeal to a large group of students. By asking questions about interculturalism and historical narratives, this trip can also fit into a wider discussion about global citizenship and diversity at a school.
For a trip with a deeper focus on Spanish language and culture, we have a variety of other programs in the country, such as In-Depth Spanish History and Separatism in Catalunia. Likewise we can also link this focus on multiculturalism to a program in another country, such as France, Italy, Australia, Mexico, or Uruguay.