Flores de otro mundo.

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The 1999 film Flowers from Another World by Spanish director Iciár Bollaín is a realistic look at the bleak life in España Profunda at the end of the 20th century. La película de 1999 Flores de otro Mundo de directora española Icíar Bollaín es una mirada real en la vida sombría en España Profunda al final del Siglo XX. 

In the small village Santa Eulalia in Guadalajara, the single men are lonely and their prospects of finding a woman to marry are slim. They have an annual party where a bus full of single women looking for love or immigration papers come to town to meet and greet the single men in hopes of a spark. This year, the women include Marirrosi (Elena Irureta), a divorced nurse from Bilbao, the capital of the world, Patricia (Lissete Mejía), a Domincan mother in Spain illegaly, and Milady (Marilyn Torres), a young Cuban wanting to explore the world. En el pueblo pequeño Santa Eulalia en Guadalajara, los hombres solteros se sienten solos y sus prospectivas de conocer una mujer para casarse son pocas. Hay una fiesta anual donde un autóbus llena de solteras buscando amor o papeles de inmigración vienen para conocer los solteros, esperando una chispa. Este año, dentro de las mujeres que vienen, son Marirrosi (Elena Irureta), una enfermera divorciada de Bilbao, la capital del mundo, Patricia (Lissette Mejía), una madre dominicana sin papeles, y Milady (Marilyn Torres), una cubana joven que quiere ver el mundo. 

Patricia meets Damian (Luis Tosar), and settles into life with him and his mother. His mother is racist and doesn’t like the fact her son wants to marry an immigrant and makes Patricia’s life hell. Patricia already has enough problems trying to change her legal status in Spain. Patricia conoce a Damian (Luis Tosar) y empieza una vida con él en la casa de su madre. Su madre es racista y no le gusta nada el hecho que su hijo quiere casarse con una inmigrante. Crea muchos problemas para Patricia. Patricia ya tenía bastantes problemas intentando cambiar su estatus legal en España. 

Marirrosi meets Alfonso (Chete Lera), and the two begin a long-distance relationship. Can a city-girl and a country-boy find middle ground? Marirrosi conoce a Alfonso (Chete Lera), y los dos empiezan una relación a distancia. ¿Puede encontrar una manera de mezclar la vida de una chica de la ciudad y la vida de un chico del pueblo? 

Milady is a free spirit, and she has problems settling in with Carmelo (José Sancho) and living in a small town. After she hitches a ride with a truck driver to Valencia, he beats her and she yearns to escape the village and the man. Milady es un espíritu libre, y tiene problemas con vivir en la casa de Carmelo (José Sancho) y vivir en un pueblo tan pequeño. Después de hacer autostop con un conductor de camión a València, le golpea. Quiere escapar el pueblo y el hombre. 

The film has its basis on reality, as sometimes these “caravans of women” do go to villages in rural Spain. (Or did, I’ve never heard of one outside this film.) La película era inspirada de la realidad, como estas caravanas de mujeres a veces van a pueblos en España profunda. 

It’s a fantastic look at life in rural Spain, the “España profunda” the city folk like to joke about. It looks at the loneliness and the desolation of the villages. Many Spanish villages are in danger of disappearing due to the mass exodus to the cities in the second half of the 20th century. Es una mirada fantástica de la vida en España profunda. Mira la soledad y la desolación de estos pueblos. Muchos pueblos españoles están en peligro de desaparecer dado a todos yendo a vivir en las ciudades en la segunda parte del Siglo XX. 

It also examines the harsh reality of being an immigrant in Spain. I really felt for Patricia’s fight to find a job and get her papers in order. Her speech toward the end of the film about the catch 22 of needing residency to find a job but a job to have residency hit home. También mira la realidad dura de ser un(a) inmigrante en España. Me senti mucho la lucha de Patricia de encontrar un trabajo y arreglar los papeles. Su discurso en la última media hora de la película sobre necesitar residencia para encontrar trabajo pero necesitar un trabajo para tener residencia es la verdad de vivir en España. 

Bollaín’s films have a reputation of being realistic, and sometimes realism is a bit tough to swallow. We’re not going to have a man seeing a chicken walking through the room at 2:00 a.m. (Buñuel), men hanging off the Schweppes sign in Madrid (Álex de la Iglesia), or Andrea Caracortada, con lo peor del día (Almodóvar) here. We’re going to have the gritty reality of life, the good and the bad. Las películas de Bollaín tienen fama de ser muy realistas y a veces el realismo es duro. No vamos a ver un gallo pasa la habitación de un hombre a las 2 de la mañana (Buñuel), hombres colgando del edificio de Schweppes en Madrid (Álex de la Iglesia) o Andrea Caracortada, con lo peor del día (Almodóvar) aquí. Vamos a ver la realidad cruda de la vida, lo bueno y lo malo. 

I originally saw this film in my Spanish Cinema class in 2007, and it always stuck with me. I still remembered Milady’s American flag trousers and the scenes of the village when I watched it a second time. I understood the film on a whole new level after living in Spain for 9 years and seeing some of these rural Spanish villages. La vi por la primera vez en 2007 en mi clase de cine español, y siempre lo recordaba. Recordaba los pantalones de Milady de la bandera estadounidense y recordaba las escenas del pueblo asilado cuando la vi por la segunda vez. Esta vez, entendí la película de una manera distinta después de vivir en España durante 9 años y ver algunos de esos pueblos de España profunda. 

The town “Cantalojas” served as the fictional Sta. Eulalia. El pueblo “Cantalojas” sirvió como el pueblo ficticio Sta. Eulalia. 

Rating: A-

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Una mañana en la otra Guadalajara.

I’ve always been curious about the capital city of Guadalajara, population 84,803. Everyone always talks about Segovia, Toledo, Ávila and even Cuenca, but Guadalajara flies under the radar. It doesn’t have any hanging houses, it doesn’t have three cultures, and there is no aqueduct or alcázar to boast of. However, it does have its charm. Siempre he tenido una curiosidad de Guadalajara capital, población 84.803. Todo el mundo habla de Segovia, Toledo, Ávila y incluso Cuenca, pero nadie conoce Guadalajara. Ni tiene casas colgantes, ni tiene tres culturas, ni tiene acueducto para atraer visitantes. Sin embargo, tiene su encanto.

I’d been to the province a few times, to Sigüenza, to the Pueblos Negros and for a hiking excursion, but I’d never made it to the capital. While I was in Madrid in August, I decided to visit the city to see what it’s like. Había visitado la provincia unas veces. Ya conocí Sigüenza, los Pueblos Negros y también hice una excursión de senderismo allí, pero nunca había ido a la capital. Mientras estaba en Madrid en agosto, decidí visitar la ciudad para ver como es.

It was a hot day in the middle of August, and I felt the heat every second. I caught Cercanías from Recoletos in Madrid. The journey to Guadalajara takes about an hour, and the station is about 1.5 kilometres from the city centre. Era un día caluroso de medias de agosto, y sentí el calor cada segundo. Cogí el Cercanías de Recoletos en Madrid. El viaje tarda sobre una hora, y la estación está a unos 1,5 kilómetros del centro de la ciudad. 

The city has some quaint churches and the River Henares adds to the experience. The co-Cathedral Santa María is another highlight. La ciudad tiene muchas iglesias pintorescas y la Ría Henares añade a la experiencia. La co-catedral Santa María es otra cosa que hay que ver.

My plan was to stop in the more famous Alcalá de Henares, birthplace of Cervantes, but due to the heat and the fact I had been there once before, I decided to seek air conditioning before the afternoon. Mi plan era parar en la ciudad más famosa que está a lado, Alcalá de Henares, donde nació el Cervantes. Al final no paré dado al calor y como ya lo conocía. Quería buscar aire acondicionado para la tarde. 

The Spanish Guadalajara may not be as famous as the Mexican one, but it has its charm and would be a great day trip combined with Alcalá de Henares for Madrid visitors to discover a different Spain. La Guadalajara española no tiene la fama de la Guadalajara mexicana, pero tiene su encanto y sería una buena excursión combinado con Alcalá de Henares para los turistas de Madrid quien quiere ver una España diferente. 

Guadalajara. Not just in Mexico.

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When someone talks about Guadalajara, chances are they’re referring to Mexico’s second largest city, unaware that there is a city and province that gave the more famous one its name. Castilla La Mancha has four provinces, and two of them lent their names to bigger cities in the Americas, as Toledo also gave its (very butchered pronunciation) name to the real mistake on the lake in Ohio. (Cleveland just has burning rivers. They don’t have toxic algae in 2013, folks. My hometown is about halfway between the two, but Toledo, Spain, is my Spanish “village”.

Lying just north of Madrid, the province of Guadalajara is a treasure of medieval villages, beautiful scenery and the “pueblos negros”, villages made of slate. Most of the time, Guadalajara just serves as a dot on the motorway/highway that connects Madrid, Zaragoza and Barcelona. While I haven’t visited the capital city, I have gone on hiking excursions, visited some of the most special villages in the World’s Greatest Peninsula and seen the great pueblo named Sigüenza.  The entire province only has around 250,000 people, and the capital city is much smaller than the famed Mexican location with only 85,000 people. Guadalajara comes from Arab, meaning a stream bed or valley of stones. The name applies.

My first real visit to the province came in 2012 on a hiking excursion with my gym through the hills in the Parque Natural del Barranco de la Hoz del Río Dulce (Natural Park of the Ravine of the Hoz of the River Sweet). I have fond memories of this hike, despite not knowing anyone as most of them were from the other branch of the gym, and I tend to not speak to anyone at the gym due to my shyness. I’m there to get fit, not have a conversation. The hike lead us through stunning scenery, and the grass was green, despite the typical arid climate of the region. There were a few sparsely populated villages along the way, but most of the trip was through the scenery. We stopped a few times on the bus ride back to Madrid to take pictures of the ravine (and for a relaxing café con leche, you know those madrileños like their relaxing cafés con leche!).

My second trip came the weekend of San José in March 2013 on a very rainy Saturday. Sigüenza is about a two-hour train ride north of Madrid, so I woke up early to catch the train. While the city is beautiful and on the Ruta (Trail) de Quijote, a rainy Saturday in March is not the best day to go. Silly me buying the ticket in advance on Renfe to take advantage of the cheaper, unchangeable fare! I still loved the city. The Parador is enchanting, and the medieval feel of the place made me feel like I was stepping back in time.

The third trip was another excursion, this time with a group of gay Christians (Crismhom) of Madrid, to a place that had been on my Madrid Bucket List for quite sometime but is quite inaccessible without a car. The Pueblos Negros! These are small villages in the heart of the wilderness of Guadalajara made entirely of slate, similar to Patones de Arriba in Madrid. While not many people live there, the villages are a popular day trip for madrileños and as there is a lack of public transport, there are not as many tourists as there are in other medieval gems like Toledo and Segovia.

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Pueblos Negros

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Campillo de Ranas, El Espinar, Campillejo, Majaelrayo, Roblelacasa and Robleluengo are some of the villages constructed from slate. These villages are isolated, and the only way of reaching them is by car. They are in the middle of nowhere but well worth the visit. They remain one of the most unusual things I have seen in a country that does not cease to amaze me with its nonstop list of unique things. They serve as a reminder of a life gone by. And it is rather fun to have a relaxing café con leche in a bar made of slate as the señoritos talk about how “España iba mejor con los Reyes Católicos” too. (Spain was better when the Catholic Kings were around.)

Castle de Atienza

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The actual castle (this one is nearby, as I didn’t have any pictures of the actual one. I want to kick 2012 me for not labeling my photos more carefully.)  is more impressive and was fought over for centuries by the Catholics and the Muslims, and its location high upon a rocky hill means it can be seen from kilometres away.

Barranco del Río Dulce

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The ravine of the Río Dulce offers some spectacular views, but the Parque Natural is best seen on foot. It borders the municipalities of Algora, Mandayona (Aragosa), Mirabueno, Saúca (Jodra del Pinar), Sigüenza (La Cabrera y Pelegrina) y Torremocha del Campo.

Sigüenza

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The small medieval town of Sigüenza, population 5000, is a charming hamlet not far from the autopista that takes you from Madrid to Zaragoza from Barcelona and is well worth the pitstop. It boasts an impressive cathedral which houses the sepulchre of Martín Vázques de Arce, named the Doncel de Sigüenza by the Generación de ’98 and is an example of Spanish Medieval art. The medieval flare adds the beauty of the city.

Parador de Sigüenza

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The Castle of Sigüenza, now an official Parador (one of the castles that have been converted into a hotel), has a history of being changed and added on to. The Visigoths built it in the fifth century, and the Moors built a bigger version of it in the eighth Century. Bernard de Seriac conquered it from the Moors, and Alfonso de la Cerda and Ferdinand IV de Castilla battled for it in 1298. In the 15th Century, it was fortified against attacks from Aragón and Navarra (the actual Kingdoms responsible for today’s indepentistas of their respective Catalunya and Euskadi (Basque Country, I must remark…if you want to annoy a Catalán or a Basque, remind them that it’s Aragón and Navarra that were the Kingdoms responsible for them becoming Spain!) Later, during the War of Spanish Succession, the French looted it for riches. And now it’s a hotel with a café con leche for the mere price of 1.70€ (normal in Castilla La Mancha is 1.20!)

Guadalajara Capital

60 kilometres or 37 miles north of Madrid, you can find the capital of the province Guadalajara. Although the main cathedral is in Sigüenza, Guadalajara has many churches, including the “co-cathedral” St. Mary. It also has a river, Henares, with several interesting bridges, and it has several parks.

Pastrana

45 km or 25 miles from the province capital lies the medieval town of Pastrana. The Princess Éboli (NOT EBOLA) was imprisoned here by Felipe II in 1573 at the Palacio Ducal. Rumour has it she was allowed to look out the window for an hour a day on the town’s plaza, giving it the name Plaza de la Hora. The village has a population of around 1000 people today.