Timothy M. Leonard
He moved into broken fall sunlight past Neoclassical Spanish stone cathedrals holding gigantic silent iron bells and walked to the Torre Tavira Tower and the Camera Obscura at the intersection of Marques del Real Tesoro and Sacramento.
Cádiz, Spain was famous for its dominating watchtowers during the prosperous period of trade in the 18th century. The tower was built in the baroque style as part of the palace of the Marquis of Recano. It was named for it's first watchman, Antonio Tavira and appointed the official watchtower of the town in 1778.
The Camera Obscura projects a live 360 degree moving image of Cádiz. The guide pointed out the imported rubber trees from Brazil, Mercado central market, political and religious buildings.
Display maps show red lined geographical expansion since 1600. They depict ocean explorations to Central and South America, Africa and Northern Europe.
The Phoenicians founded Cádiz in 1100 BC. making it the oldest city in Europe. Romans called it Gadir, established a navel base trading amber and tin.
The Spanish Inquisition started in 1481. Tribunals were responsible for 12,000 deaths over three centuries.
Columbus sailed from Palos de la Frontera, north of Cádiz, in 1492 having received a cedula real or royal document after the abbot, Juan Perez, a former confessor of Queen Isabel took up his cause. The royal document granted Columbus 100 men and three vessels.
In 1492 a bankrupt Isabel and Fernando monarchy expelled 200,0000 Jews from Spain who refused Christian baptism. The middle class was decimated by the church, state and landlords. Money, power and control.
Sir Francis Drake raided the harbor in 1587. Cádiz's golden age was the 18th century when they controlled 75% of trade with the Americas. This contributed to it's development as a progressive city with a liberal middle class and imported architecture.
The Napoleonic Wars and British warships blocked the city after shattering the Spanish Fleet at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805. Spain turned against France and Cádiz withstood a two-year siege from 1810-1812 against Napoleon. In 1812 delegates in Cádiz adopted the first Spanish constitution followed by years of ideological struggle.
Twilight was in a hurry toward night as a million birds sang in huge banyan trees with roots spreading the gospel in Plaza de Mina, outside the Museum of Cádiz. He scaled stairs and passed through huge brass doors. A marble sculpture of David glowered down.
The receptionist asked where he was from. There was a male guard with her. Their visitor was silent.
"Where are you from," spitting his angry Spanish and the visitor didn't answer, knowing it was free for Europeans and 1.5 Euros for foreigners.
In fractured Spanish he said, "I am from heaven," pointing up toward a finely wrought ceiling covered in tapestries, "down to have a look around."
This threw them off because they'd never met an angel before.The guard, busy hustling the receptionist, wanted to get rid of the shape shifter.
"Are you from Germany? English?"
"No, really, I am from heaven," he replied extracting money when the receptionist offered a ticket.
"Go ahead, it's free." A little stupidity went a long way when it came to saving a Euro to see Iberian history.
Greeks and Phoenicians introduced the potter's wheel, writing, olive tree, donkey and hen to Spain. They replaced iron with bronze. Metals became currencies. People developed agriculture and expanding populations constructed walls, towers and castles for Romans contributed aqueducts, temples, theaters, circuses, and baths. They gave the Iberian peninsula Castilian language based on 2000 year old Latin. Their desire, wanderlust and greed built roads, establishing communities to satisfy their impulse for cuisine, sex, music and trade expanding their nation state.
The Museo de Cádiz was filled with Roman artifacts. He wandered through archeological epoch discoveries from settlements in Gades along the coast extending inland to Seville and Cordoba. He found estuaries, towns, villages, isolated tight white pueblos, rooms full of coins, maps, heads, pottery, faces, vases and dynasties. He absorbed ruins, Roman legion armor, burial sites, aqueduct maps, temples, theaters, masks, busts, sculptures, marble, glass, utensils, sewing bones. Human remains inside stoned chambers. Bones resting in dust. Being a dust collector he felt right at home.
Spanish conquistadors sailed for the Seven Cities of Gold taking them to Mexico and north to Santa Fe, with their murderous desire for greed and wealth. They found songs and ceremony as the Anasazi and Zuni Indians connected with the spirit world.
In 1543 a Spanish explorer, Anbrio de Espejo, discovered El Morro, New Mexico. He described it as "the pool at the great rock" because a source of water meant survival in the harsh environment.
Don Juan de Onate, another Spanish explorer, carved his name on the soft sandstone walls in 1605. He was responsible for killing hundreds of Indian men, women and children in his quest for gold as he rampaged through the Southwest. His legacy was European black death. His silver sword severed one foot from every Indian warrior he met.
They converted the natives with promises of salvation as bibles and swords dripped blood. They exported silver and gold to Cádiz where the Spanish crown took their 20%, called the quinto real or royal fifth before Antonio Tavira was born.
Church bells pealed eternal melancholy songs of hope and redemption across from the Castelilo de Santa Catalina the main citadel of Cádiz built in 1598.
Near the sea, Sophia from Panama, pointed to her exhibit. Sand littered with footprints covered the floor. Yellow candles, icons and a huge black and white image of a Central America jungle warrior in a loincloth and feathered skull stood at the far end of the interactive display. Colorful exotic travel brochures were fanned out on a table. In the center of the empty room encased in glass was a transparent reality. A TV with wires showed Panamanian women dancing black and white rituals.
"People are afraid to go in there," she said. Her dark eyes were brilliant. The sound of Spanish men hammering their construction anger without success at a church filled with bloody icons faded as Atlantic waves cleaned the world of perception.
"Maybe they've lost their curiosity," he said pronouncing each letter.
"It appears so. We have to encourage them to go in."
"It's a time warp," he said. "I sat in the flower market yesterday counting smiling faces and only saw four in an hour. The people here wear a sadness."
"It's the way they live. They study the stones at their feet when they walk."
"Yes, they are in love with the street. The beauty of the street. It is an old love."
"Love is fickle," she said dancing with an unlit cigarette in her hand outside the exhibition hall. They stood on white marble steps hearing the ocean wear down Spanish land. She spelled English words on the palm of her hand.
"You have to learn Spanish," she whispered.
He wanted her. He desired to tell her she was beautiful in her language. Her own sweet particular language full of verbs, prepositions, proposals, poetry.
"Will you be here tomorrow?" he asked.
Sophia danced away. "It's all random when I will be here."
While they were speaking someone blew up a Coca-Cola plant in India. There were some pissed off humans in the world. So much for sugar consumption in the caste system. A low fat diet of fear, poverty and despair took care of minimum daily requirements.
He said goodbye to Sophia and wandered into a room containing beautiful black handmade fans with Spanish tributes to Frederico Garcia Lorca. He was assassinated during the Spanish civil war in 1936 by the Black Squadron for his homosexuality and leftist leanings. He belonged to the Generation of '27 with Dali and Brunuel. He identified with the marginalized gitanos and woman chained to conventional social expectations in Andalucia. He wrote dramatic plays about entrapment, liberation, passion and repression.
A long red scarf lay draped over a single rattan chair. Invisible wires held black fans decorated with peacock feathers and rainbow colors suspended in silence.
Across the street outside the Spanish cathedral a bride threw her wedding bouquet into the sky as friends pelted her with white rice containing 50,000 genes.
"What's happening?" an old woman in black said to her son.
"They are celebrating the passing of an era," he said. She was a survivor of the Civil War in 1936 when 350,000 Spaniards died. The war divided families, communities and friends. Another 100,000 were killed or died in prison after the war. Some 500,000 fled Spain.
For decades her brothers lay in a mass grave but it was not until more than 60 years after they were shot during the war that she could reclaim what she thought were their remains.
"What better flowers to take to my mother's grave than the bones of her son?" said 87-year-old Alvarez, waiting for DNA tests to identify her two brothers.
The rebellion started in Morocco in 1936 when Spanish Foreign Legion generals led by Franco revolted against the leftist government. German and Italian soldiers, weapons and planes shifted the balance of power to the Nationalists.
A U.N. sponsored trade boycott of Spain in the late 1940's gave Andalucia 'the years of hunger.' Peasants ate wild herbs and soup made from grass. 1.5 million Andalusians left to find work elsewhere.
Now 150,000 Spaniards of all ages formed long lines, waiting for hours rain or shine, to see Exile, an exhibition about those who disappeared during or after the war. Exile recalled history with a ragtag collection of artifacts belonging to individuals, including pictures of men clutching children as they traipsed through snow into exile dragging a suitcase which would serve as a cradle in a French refugee camp.
In many cases people in villages knew where their relatives were buried. Isabel Gonzalez, 85, said she was told in the 1940's where her brother's grave was - by the man fascist troops had forced to dig it. For years she made clandestine visits to leave flowers, but never dared stay long in case she was caught.
"Let's cross here," seductive women in silk dresses said to their matador escorts in tuxedos, trailing red capes dripping blood.
They blessed themselves under petals. It was impossible for me to explain how it could rain flowers but it happened and they knew it and he whispered the truth to them, a variety of theories mixed in cosmic soup. When old people at the wedding reception heard the word soup, they experienced enlightenment with lentils, carrots, potatoes, bread and a sliver of ham sitting in peace near a pinion wood fire.
Time was a flock of nightingales zooming down narrow crooked Spanish corridors under balconies dripping red geraniums looking for the key to forbidden doors with brass Arabic hands and heads.
The doors remained from Moorish forces when occupation was a way to make a living. The unassuming and tolerant gaditanos people of Cádiz and Andalucia lived the spectrum from 18th century wealth to 40% unemployment figures in the 21st century.
A well dressed man bald man with gypsy blood wearing highly polished black wing tips carrying a paperback novel with creased pages used the financial section of a daily rag to collect his dog's shit off the street. He dumped it in a metal trash basket nailed to a wall. Five minutes later a obsessive compulsive Spanish woman cleaning her ground floor flat said, "What is that smell?"
"History," he said walking toward the sea.
One if by land and two if by sea easy rider.
"Oh say can you see? Star light star bright first star I see tonight, I wish I may I wish I might dream the impossible dream and throw out the first ball," sang history's child.
"We're headed to extra innings and the bullpens are empty," a radio announcer crooned from a nearby navel base on armed forces radio waves, "and now this," cutting to a commercial message from a used car salesman offering interest free, no down payment selections of the finest vehicles money could buy.
"Drive it away today," he pleaded.
Every car on the road is a used car.
This alert was followed by a commercial for cheap fuel and a political proposal to open the Alaskan wilderness for drilling. Unemployed dentists signed up.
"The large print giveth and the small print taketh away," said a priest brushing wild rice out of his hair. The cleaning woman wore black every day as a sign of respect for her late husband. It was the custom in Andalucia. He was engulfed by women in black. She remembered everything about him. He was a good listener, nodding thoughtfully by the fire of their love as they admired their rooster figurines and cracked cups on the dusted mantle.
As contrite parishioners they bowed through tight wooden recesses into Sunday services at Plaza Tio de la Tiza. He nodded softly toward the street as they strolled and she talked about the weather. He studied his shiny black shoes.
"The price of meat is rising," she said.
"It's the fat on the bone," he answered. They passed a bull's head hanging in a shattered window.
"Maybe we should consider buying a lottery ticket," she suggested. "Help out the unemployed. All my friends say it is a chance. A once in a lifetime opportunity. We could jump through a window into a new reality with the winnings."
"Yes," he said, remembering her lament about the butcher. "Maybe we should cut down our consumption."
Her husband's hands were soft and she loved them. His favorite word was yes and she couldn't hear it enough. They alternated walking between Plaza de Mira with its tall palms in the original city vegetable gardens; intimate Plaza del Mentidero with its huge fountain; the grand San Antonio Cathedral renovated in 1658, Teatro Plaza del Falla with its red Moorish facade and Plaza de Candeleria.
In the Plaza de la Cathedral they knelt to pray as white robed priests with a mandate from Rome guided their spirits into faith, hope and charity while administering final sacraments after hearing their confession.