We love to explore areas “off the beaten path” when we travel. While we still want to see all the sightseeing attractions and landmarks like regular tourists, the difference between a traveler and a tourist is in understanding the day-to-day life of the people. We feel that when we understand how others live, we can find a way to live on this earth together in harmony.
A Bit About Triana
I am always excited when we have an “eating and drinking” tour. Our guide Penelope took us on a tapas tour in the neighborhood of Triana, the working class community of Seville.
Separated from the rest of the Seville by the Guadalquivir River, Triana has a distinct personality of its own. Residents of Triana have the same friendly, outgoing nature of the rest of Seville. As a working class neighborhood, Triana has a stronge sense of communal pride. This is typical of working class communities around the world. The average tourist would likely be disappointed in the landmarks in the area. In Triana, it is more about who you meet rather than what you see.
Penelope is a Triana resident herself, evident in her knowledge and pride of Triana in particular and Seville as a whole. As we crossed the bridge connecting Triana to the rest of the city, Penelope explained the bridge in the mid-1850. This makes it reasonably new by European standards. Before that time the neighborhood connected to the rest of Seville by a pontoon bridge. The pontoon bridge dated back to the Moorish conquest times in the 1100s and was necessary because the river was prone to flooding. A standing bridge could not survive the rushing flood water. However the river now is actually a canal in a practical sense. The city diverted the “real” river 3 miles away to control flooding and a standing bridge could be built.
Highlights of Triana
As Spain colonized the New World, Seville was the official point of entry for ships and cargo coming back from the Americas. So Triana was home to sailors traveling back and forth across the Atlantic for centuries. As such, Triana was home to the University of Sailors. Located on the riverfront street Calle Betis, the university was instrumental in recruiting and training sailors for the dangerous sea voyages. But the treasures that returned on these trips established Spain as a world empire for centuries.
Triana also claims a major part in the development of flamenco. Flamenco, derived from the Arabic term “felah mengus”, which translates to “peasant with no land”. It is an Andalusian art form combining guitars, singing and dancing. Along with the towns of Cadiz and Jerez de la Frontera, Triana forms the last point of the “Golden Triangle” of flamenco, where it is believed that all major styles of flamenco song began. Triana developed the “martinete” style of flamenco, which originated from the rhythm of the barrio forges.
Bullfighting is an important part of the Spanish culture and tradition. Triana is the birthplace of Juan Belmonte, who many consider the father of modern bullfighting. He has a statue in the main square of the neighborhood, facing the famous Seville bullfighting ring on the east side of the river. There is a hole in the chest of the statue, right where the heart would be. Looking through the hole from the back of the statue, it is possible to see the Seville bull-fighting ring on the opposite side of the river. Juan Belmonte said his heart would always be in the Seville bullring.
Sherry, Tile and the Inquisition
Penelope directed us through different streets in the neighborhood, and down to the market very close to the bridge. Our guide is a sherry aficionado, so we got the opportunity to learn about Spanish sherry and to sample some at a market shop. Sherry is a fortified wine, made by Palomino grapes grown near the town of Jerez de la Frontera in Andalusia. As an Andalusian product, sherry is very popular in this region. After sampling the wine, I completely understand why.
The market was completed in 2005, but is built on the foundation walls of the Castillo (Castle) de San Jorge. This castle is infamous as the headquarters of the Spanish Inquisition. The Inquisition began in Seville after the expulsion of Jews during the Spanish Reconquesta. While the Inquisition was originally a way to protect the monarchy, it soon turned into a fanatic method of anyone non-Catholic (Jews, conquered Moors, Gypsies and Protestants). The Inquisition lasted in Seville until the early 1800s after over 350 years of torture and execution.
We continued our journey through the neighborhood, stopped for tapas at a small local bar. The bar was decorated with a myriad of colorful tile. We discovered that Triana is renowned for its tile industry. At one time, there were many tile making companies in Triana but currently only two survive. However almost every house, street and business have tile decorations, proudly exhibiting its rich tile-making heritage.
Triana in Summary
We stopped at Bar Blanca Paloma for more tapas. Here, over beer and sherry, we learned more about how Triana citizens live today. Not surprisingly, the people of Triana live, work, love and raise their families pretty much the same as any working class neighborhood in the US, and that is a comforting thought. When people see others as kindred people who want to live the same as everyone else, it breaks through the stereotypes and prejudices we all have about foreign people and culture. Languages and customs are different in every culture, but one reason we travel is to understand that the desire to live in peace and happiness is a universal hope.