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Friday, March 22, 2013

Cádiz: La Ciudad que Sonríe

By Domenic DeLuca
Major in Modern Languages & Culture (2015)
Cádiz, Spain (API)

Cádiz: la Ciudad que Sonríe: The City that Smiles, a cute name for a place that will never fail to make you smile. This semester I find myself on the tiny peninsula in the southern Atlantic Coast of Spain. After my last semester in Valparaíso, Chile, I wanted to go to a city with a little bit more history, so naturally I chose Cádiz. Cádiz is a small peninsula which has about 3,100 years of history jammed into just 5.13 square miles, with the historic part making up almost a third of the peninsula. For those of you needing a size comparison, imagine the population of Hartford living in a city about 1/4 of the size.  This leads to a winding labyrinth of narrow city streets with tall buildings providing a nice, cool shadow.

The crescent-shaped city gets the name “The city that smiles” from its shape and the incredibly laid back and kind attitude of its residents, called the Gaditanos. The word Gaditano comes from the name of the Roman city which existed as an unconnected island. Over the millennia, the city changed hands and names many times. The history of the name of the city begins with the Phoenician city named Gadir, which when taken by the Greeks was named Gádeira, then to the Romans who called it Gadis, to the conquering Islamic Moors who named it Qādis, and finally to the conquest by the Spanish Kingdom who changed the spelling to 'Cádiz.' This is only the history of the name changing, as many groups such as the Carthaginians, Visigoths, and Byzantines also controlled the city between some of the name changes. All of this makes Cádiz the oldest continuously inhabited city in Western Europe. This means that all the 13th century buildings which are visible sit on 1,000-2,000 year old foundations. That makes me feel very safe!

Despite its high population density, Cádiz has an extremely tranquil and friendly attitude which can be found in most of Southern Spain (Andalucía), but I am convinced the gaditanos take personal pride in being extra relaxed. Whenever I am looking for something and ask for directions my guide will respond with something like, “Oh well it’s over… I’ll take you there,” or, “oh I don’t know…” [Flags someone else down] “Do you know where this is?” Needless to say, this can be quite humorous. They seem to take pride in their city, and attempt to be helpful whenever you are lost. 

 As for my school experiences, I love my classes despite being extremely difficult. I take classes at La Universidad de Cádiz (UCA) with other Spanish students and some foreigners, and there is no separation between the foreigners and the Spaniards. So all my classes are taught in Spanish, with Spanish teachers and students, and with the professors expecting me to produce the same type of work as the other students. While this may sound scary, I absolutely love it, as it is forcing me to speak Spanish and not take 'easy' study abroad classes. For those of you who are not faint of heart, this is the ultimate immersion experience.

As for the classes I am taking, they are all fairly decent, except for one which is both the bane to my existence and favorite class. I decided to take an Arabic class while in Cádiz because of its history, proximity to Morocco, and mostly personal interest. This class is probably the greatest challenge I have ever experienced in an academic situation, not just because of the difficult material, but because of the structure of my class. My professor is teaching us Arabic in Spanish using a grammar book printed in Italian, and he frequently references Latin and French for grammatical examples. That’s right. With this class I have exposure to five languages at once. There’s no way that can get confusing, right?

Despite my current struggle with my class, I absolutely love the atmosphere of this small city. From the beautiful beaches to the winding streets, the bustling plazas and the quiet little cafes, Cádiz is a city that brings a smile and a laugh to my face every day. To those of you with an advanced Spanish ability looking for an opportunity to study in a city with relatively few foreigners and a relaxing life style, I recommend to you Cádiz. And if the Spanish ability part scares you, study abroad somewhere else in Spain, but at least come visit the city!

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