Just got back from Madrid – ciudad capital del país de mi corazón – I’m an American with a Spanish heart; how I love that city. As always, I enjoyed traveling with my students – they are precious and fun, and they help me stay young. That latter item is very important, as I am not as young chronologically as I certainly feel and want to keep feeling! We had a great time, all of us, I think, and there were some really special moments along the way.
I always enjoy the sights of this beautiful city, and each time I visit, I am moved by its beauty. From Cibeles to Retiro Park to the fabulous Plaza Mayor, it inspires me to imagine myself a beautiful, young gitana dancing with abandon, and I can’t keep myself from jumping up and down and clapping my hands like a child, not caring, of course, that I’m making my students roll their eyes and mock me, when I first see each ancient monument again. We have truly become friends, Madrid and I.
The trip was full of tours of Madrid and Toledo, of art and museums and of literature that comes to life. The Prado was a highlight for all of us, I think, as was seeing Guernica in the Museo Reina Sofía. My students loved Las Meninas because we had studied it, and almost everyone (except me) loved Bosch’s Garden of Earthly Delights. I think Goya’s paintings on the massacre of May 1808 made an impression, especially after our guide explained so well how Spain suffered as a result of Napoleon’s greed for power. It is hard for me to stand before those two paintings and not cry. Guernica had the same effect on me. I’m sure my students are not so sensitive but I am certain, nonetheless, that at least a handful of the students found themselves thinking more deeply about history and humanity and about good and evil.
But high school students don’t get too excited about museums and such, and I am mistaken when I want them to. They don’t and they generally won’t, at least until they are older or until suffering comes to call, as it does to all of us eventually, and to some of us way too soon. Literature captures their imagination even less, especially sixteenth century Spanish literature, but this time, there was a surprise in store along the way for these particular students.
Upon our arrival in Toboso, the town from which the legendary Dulcinea of Cervantes’ Don Quijote hailed, we were met by a fellow in pants that looked like they belonged on Shakespeare. He said he was going to introduce us to Don Quijote and even to Cervantes himself.
This he did, indeed, by turning all of Toboso into a stage. He took the lead in creating the scenes, and he cast the students in supporting roles. Before we knew it, Sancho, Dulcinea, the kitchen wenches, the innkeeper and other characters lived and breathed through the students themselves.
The characters came to life for us in a way that they never could by my feeble introduction to the work in class; I had tried, and they had learned some things about the work and about Cervantes, but by putting on the wigs, the jackets, and the hats, by dueling with the swords and by sashaying about declaring, “Vendo queso!” and “Vendo vino!”, they acquired a feel for the work and the time that will stay with them. We laughed at ourselves, and we embraced the characters, and I for one, fell again for the Knight of the Woeful Countenance.
Agape Teatro, a theatre group that does educational theatrical tours in Castilla la Mancha, is the company that sent an actor out to meet my students. Here is the link to their website – highly recommended! http://www.agapeteatro.com/rutas_teatralizadas.asp