Ever think about some mistakes you made in life that you wish you could change? Here's one of my ten worst choices: I didn't go to Spain when I had the chance. Luckily, you don't have to make a similar one, if you like to travel, thanks to a new LaGrange College opportunity. You can hear more details at their opening lecture series and travel session on Monday at 10 a.m. in the Dickson Assembly Room in Turner Hall, an event that is free and open to the public.
During my senior year, I worked for USAA in their public relations department. It was a good paying internship, made all the more important because there was a recession going on. We keep hearing how tough it is for college graduates today, but it may have been rougher on us, as there was a big hiring freeze going on across much of the country.
My folks were preparing to go on a summer trip to Spain: would I be interested in joining them? USAA would have even let me go on the two-week trip. I gave it a lot of thought, but eventually told them no. I wanted to make a good impression on my employers. And I figured I would always have a chance to travel to places like Madrid, Barcelona and Seville.
I was wrong.
I've been very fortunate to be able to attend and present at conferences abroad, but never Spain. And it turns out that I've missed out on a lot.
There's so much to Spain that makes it a “bucket list” country. My folks brought back amazing pictures and tales. I got to meet a number of Spaniards in graduate school, and they were some of the friendliest folks I've ever met.
There's a lot for a Southerner to appreciate about Spain. The country was the site of two bitter internal conflicts that resemble the Revolutionary War in the South, as well as our Civil War. Spain was initially crushed by Napoleon and the bloody insurgency against him, supported by the British, led to the term “guerrilla war.” It is well documented in Francisco Goya's sharp sketches. And their Civil War has sparked a bitterness matched only by our own, where hard feelings still linger for both. You'll find fewer and better accounts of this set of bitter battles than Ernest Hemingway's “For Whom the Bell Tolls,” one of my all-time favorites, as is Pablo Picasso's artwork of the aerial massacre of the Basque town of Guernica by Nazi warplanes.
Spain also has had a vibrant democracy since the 1970s. Despite having a parliamentary system (as opposed to our Presidential System), both Spain and the U.S. have a two-party political system. They are a fellow NATO ally. They have a “3/11” the way we have a “9/11,” both perpetrated by Al-Qaeda. And they also love football as much as we do (well, at least the soccer portion of it).
And if war, politics and sports aren't your thing, then look at the paintings of El Greco. His “View of Toledo” is one of the best ever in history. The sculptures of Juan Cristobal Gonzalez, the writings of Cervantes, the music of Segovia, the architecture left by the Romans, Moors, Christian cathedrals….you get the idea. So don't be like this college professor who blew a big opportunity. Stop by on Monday at 10 a.m. at the college and get more details.