In January, fifteen Moore students enjoyed 12 days in Granada, Spain, as part of their Cultural Immersion class, taught by Dr. Kelly Kirby, Liberal Arts department chair, who traveled with the students.
The group from Moore toured Granada, a southern city in the Andalusia region, in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountains.
Courtney Warren, a junior Curatorial Studies student, documented the trip. This is the sixth dispatch in a series.
By Courtney Warren '21
Before coming to Spain, I did some research. Multiple blogs I found mention Granada’s prominent street art. Street art, street art, street art. That could mean anything. Is it tagging? Do they have muralists like the artists in Philly? Are there people on the streets making art? Put together out of context, street and art are two words that create fluff.
Upon arriving in Granada, it was pretty clear what it meant. There are artists who doodle on the walls, little faces and drawings in spray paint. There are a few muralists, but what litters the city is political graffiti. Anarchist symbols, communist markings, criticisms of the tourists and people in power, and messages of vegan activism are strewn across buildings. One bold artist had marked the pork shop down the street from our hotel with “VEGAN” in big, black spray-painted letters.
Sometimes if you went somewhere you’d been before, you’d see new symbols or artists replying back to one another. Granada is a city where people, particularly artists, have something to say. It’s not just young people, either. On one of our first days in the city, our Arcadia professor walked us past a group of protesters advocating for higher pensions. Before showing us some places, she stopped and explained, “Their retirement pensions go down every year.” But multiple family members are living off of this money.
A WORK IN PROGRESS
We learned more about the state of contemporary Spain. I thought it was timely that we had arrived just in time to see the Epiphany holiday. The people had also finally elected a president while we were there. Their previous president, before the acting president was put into place, was ousted due to corruption riddling his party. Spain had been in a long state of limbo up until the time in which we were there.
While we enjoyed the cultural fruits of Spain, and joked about moving there, finding internships or coming back, having a lecture about contemporary Spain reframed my thoughts. Spain is a beautiful country, with great food and an easy-going schedule, but it’s a western country that still has traces of its colonial past, like its statues of Chirstopher Colombus, or the representations of empire still on its flag. It also has contemporary issues, like a shortage of jobs for college graduates. They migrate to other countries in Europe to work
Spain is a work in progress, just like the rest of the world; it's beautiful but it’s still changing every day, not unlike street art.
OLIVE OIL TOUR
After our olive oil tour on Day 11, Dr. Kirby, our professor, remarked, “I think I’m an olive oil snob now.” I’m remembering this, mostly because I think I am, too.
We drove through mountains spotted with olive trees, which were undergoing the last harvesting of the season, and we arrived at the generational house of our hosts for the day.
With the gentle trickle of a mountain water fountain in the background, our guide pulled us through the process of olive oil production. He explained every step compared to how mass produced olive oil was made. The waste of concentrated oil is taken, whatever is left is squeezed out, usually just the clear fats, and about 10% of higher quality oil is added for color and taste. That contrasts with the process we saw, where organic olives are grown, cleaned and pressed cold to maintain the flavor and nutrients.
After our tour, we had breakfast and a tasting. If it wasn’t just explained to me, I don’t think I could recognize what we call olive oil at home anymore. We had bread, goat cheese made with olive oil, and cake. The difference is still stumping me. But it's made me think deeper about what it takes to produce the goods we buy.
Getting to talk with maintenance artist Mierle Laderman Ukeles at a workshop at Moore this past semester has had me reflecting on my jobs in production and service. I thought I had a pretty good understanding of the behind-the-scenes work of our daily lives. However, now I think there's a new facet to that. Living in a world of mass production, quality is conflated. Sometimes we think more money equates to quality; it turns out paying a few dollars more for “good” olive oil might mean just 5 percent more of the concentrated oil to the waste product. I think I have a new understanding of what quality means. Or I might just be an olive oil snob.