A Second Opinion: Beyond “Topicos Tipicos” in New Age Spain!

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Despite all its grace and glory, Flamenco only defines a certain portion of the Spanish cultural pie chart!


by Mary Foran


Although I am anything but Spanish, perhaps that’s why I can be somewhat objective about the way Spaniards tend to be depicted, saddled as they are with “topicos tipicos” that tend to arise in a discussion about Spain.

To wit:

FLAMENCO!  In all its grace and glory! But do all Spaniards learn that dance art and music from the cradle and make it their own? Often that is the case, but other Spaniards do not…ever! Spain is such a culturally diverse country that every province has its own dances and folk songs and traditions, so Flamenco only defines a certain portion of the Spanish cultural pie chart!

Bullfight: it may soon be just an attraction for tourists

THE BULLFIGHT! “Los Toros” does seem to be the subject of many Spaniards’ conversations, but not all of them are blatant aficionados. In fact, many young Spaniards “pasan por completo” (are indifferent to) this historic blood-letting practice and pageantry. The new age Spaniard is more focused on technology than on banderilleros, although they might not admit it outright!

(Don’t worry, The Bullfight tradition is not going to die out in Spain, but it may soon be just an attraction for tourists, like Pamplona’s bull run is becoming.)

Yes, the old ways are still there, but youth follows its own siren song. The younger up-and-coming Spaniard loves innovation and forward-thinking, and to be on the cutting edge of cultural change. Perhaps the young, seeking role models from here and there, sometimes imitate rather than innovate, that’s true, but they do say that “imitation is the greatest form of flattery”; I guess one should feel flattered instead of heartsick at what they choose to imitate!

Alright, you can tell I’ve been a teacher, and that I feel for all my potential and past students. And it must be said that I learned a tremendous amount from my students, so the exchange was mutual!

Tapas, the tourists’ favorite. But burger joints are filled to capacity with youthful Spaniards

THE FOOD! The tourists’ favorite “Topico Tipico” is the degustation of Spain’s famous TAPAS and other dishes such as PAELLA and Cocido Madrileno, to name a few. Paired with a deep, red Rioja or a refreshing Mahou…but, if you walk up and down the Gran Via, you’ll notice that the burger joints are filled to capacity with youthful Spaniards who must be tired of their country’s own delicious cuisine!

Well, wouldn’t you know it, but it is true: tourists get the best of everything Spain has to offer, such as stays in Spain’s system of Paradores Nacionales which dot the country. What an ingenious way to save the ancient castles and mansions of Spain’s long history by turning these magnificent structures into five-star hotels!  To be a tourist in Spain is to be treated with kid-glove atenciones, as when you get a tip (instead of give a tip!) from a waiter about the special sights and events you should not miss!

Where you’ll find anything you forgot to bring with you, and where you can find those last-minute presents

Last, but not least, THE CORTE INGLES! That’s where you’ll find anything you forgot to bring with you, and where you can find those last-minute presents you promised the folks back home, as well as a new pair of walking shoes to explore the beautiful streets of old Madrid.

Spain is on the cusp of changes that are bubbling up like hot springs all around. There is a notable dissatisfaction with the Status Quo and a longing for clarity in social policies. But there is still a great sense of Pride in being Spanish that sometimes comes off as arrogance, but is based on a rich and wise cultural heritage and a sense of real identity.

For the tourist, there is a wariness about the mass protests that seem to be blossoming all over, and a touchiness at the Spaniard’s famous mal genio and penchant for cotillejo! It’s obvious that in a country of such diversity, satisfying everyone is an impossible task. The grumblings continue as the country strains to maintain control and “political discipline”. The heart and soul of the people cannot be understood through superficialities, although topicos tipicos are important too.

Real Academia de la Lengua Española

In my Spanish studies I have found great literature, great art, great wisdom and great conundrums which puzzle me to this day. Spain is as complicated as a finely-crafted patchwork quilt-of-old. The language itself is showing growing pains, with modern expressions constantly being created and added to the lexicon, many words infiltrating from other cultures. Sometimes it seems that all you have to do is put an “o” on the end of the word, and you’ll be understood, such as “fan-o”–aficionado? (The Academia Real Dictionary is groaning at that comment!)

New Age Spain is not to be taken lightly. It is a real and fascinating movement. Let’s end this discussion of the lead weight of Topicos Tipicos with quotes from the now late world-famous physicist, Steven Hawkings:

“One, remember to look up at the stars, and not down at your feet. Two, never give up work. Work gives you meaning and purpose and life is empty without it. Three, If you are lucky enough to find love, remember it is there, and don’t throw it away.”

And he said: “Quiet people have the loudest minds.”

And he concluded: “Life would be tragic if it weren’t funny!”


Featured image/Flavio (www.flickr.com/photos/37873897@N06/ ), CC BY2.0
Bullfight/Eric Titcombe via Flickr, CC BY2.0
Tapas/Juantiagues via Flickr, CC BY-SA2.0
El Corte Ingles/total13 via Flickr, CC BY2.0
Real Academia de la Lengua Española/Federico Jorda, CC BY2.0