Traveling: Peru as a member of the Team Peru Program, January 2015
A look at an experiential learning experience…
What woke you up in the morning? I shared a street with several prostitutes. In the morning they would bring out their coffee and laugh and joke on the street.
A daily task that you had to do differently? Dancing. Five hours a day, five days a week. This meant that I had to constantly pop blisters to walk in regular shoes.
A surprising sight? The Gitano community was very welcoming to me, which a lot of payos (non-gypsies) would find surprising. There is a lot of anti-gypsy sentiment and xenophobia in Spain which continues to reflect in public discourse, policy, and society.
Most memorable experience? ‘El Caracol de Lebrija’ is a huge outdoor flamenco festival that happens every year in the small village of Lebrija. Diana, a lady that took me under her wing, invited me to this exclusive festival. I was blown away. The festival gets its name from the large barrels of snails that they pour out in plastic cups for all participants. Deeply rooted in tradition, it is one of three similar events that happen every year, all based in different towns named by the traditional food they dish out to invitees. Roma families travel from all over Andalucía and the rest of Spain in huge groups for these events. Flamenco legends perform for their family, peers and friends, and I have never seen or been a part of such a raw musical experience.
Challenges? I was on a very limited budget while in Sevilla, which was a challenge. Most of the money I did have went to dance classes and trips to festivals and shows. Gitano culture is very hospitable and generous, so I knew if I was going to someone’s house I would get fed a delicious meal whether I wanted it or not.
Funny Moment? My tongue ring (I was in college) fell out at lunch onto my plate while I was interviewing a well-known guitarist in his studio. I was mortified, but he pretended not to notice. I took the ring out for good that night.
Epiphany/Insight? During one of our lunch meetings, my mentor Juan del Gastor, a well known guitarist from the Gastor Family, told me a simple story that changed my view on flamenco. When flamenco gained popularity with the bourgeois in Spain, flamencos would earn their money singing and performing in ‘café cantes’. One night a singer, after the first night of sleep in several days, gave one of his best performances. One patron, instead of congratulating him, scolded him for not singing “real flamenco” in his normally raspy voice. The singer shrugged his shoulders, and sang it again the way the patron wanted, and collected his tip. Every outsider has an idea of what flamenco is. Of what culture is. What is real and what is perceived are not necessarily one in the same.
Tweet of Advice? Prepare for snails and blisters. #oleconcole