Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Alcalá Henares, Spain: Now and Forever a City of Immigrants

I went to Alcalá Henares, Spain, to visit a friend with some friends from my Masters' program. We went there to have a good time and discovered a historic city and interesting Holy Week Parades.

Never underestimate the visits to your friend’s towns in Spain, since you never know what you can find. How could I have undervalued the crib of Miguel de Cervantes, the author of Don Quixote de la Mancha, one of Spain's most famous literary pieces.

The population of the city has doubled in the last couple of years with the arrival of immigrants from Eastern Europe, Latin America and Africa. However, as we walked down the streets we noticed that Alcalá Henares has always been a city of immigrants where Christian, Jewish and Muslim people cohabitated for many years.

Even though Jewish people influenced the architecture of the city and its culture very little, the Muslim influence is imminent wherever you look, especially in the houses’ wide galleries and numerous arcs.

Nevertheless, as in the rest of Spain, the Christian influence continuous to have the greatest influence in the culture, especially during Holy Week, when Christian Processions leave a trail of incense that takes hold of every street corner.

After visiting Alcalá Henares I understood why my friend was so proud of his hometown, and why the city was declared World Heritage by UNESCO.

Religious Procession
This is how Spanish people celebrate Holy Week. They wear the veil to become anonymous, and despite the similarity suits that resemble KKK attires, although the two pieces of clothing and their significance are not related in any way.

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