Proctor en Segovia: Grappling with Spain's Complicated History

Posted by Proctor en Segovia


After returning from Basque Country, Proctor en Segovia students have spent the past week closer to their home base in Spain. They are not lacking, however, in opportunities to continue their Spanish history education, first during morning history classes and then in the castle tower high above the old quarter of Segovia and in an underground basilica in the Guadarrama Mountains that separate Segovia and Madrid. Another highlight from this past week was the Thursday night cooking class featuring a parent visitor and guest chef and host mom Lujan!

Proctor en Segovia learns about Spanish food culture and tapasProctor en Segovia students participate in a weekly Thursday night cooking class. Host mom, Lujan, was the guest chef and taught students how to make homemade gnocchi. 

Alcázar de Segovia - Mia '23, Henry '24, and Natalie '23

On Sunday morning, bright and early at 11:00 am, the group met up at the castle at the end of the city. The name of the castle is Alcázar. We strolled around the gardens and headed inside the castle to explore. Before entering, we were told that Disney had taken some inspiration from the castle, and after another look, we could see the resemblance. Within many parts and rooms have their own characteristics. We were amazed by the ceilings in all of the rooms. They were very detailed and had fascinating patterns. When we first entered, we saw two big horses covered in armor. The details within the castle were very intriguing, and the view was even more special. There were many stained glass windows with incredible images within them. Murals and tapestries covered the walls adding another element of creativity to the space. One great room had paintings of many essential leaders in history lining the ceilings.

Proctor Academy experiential learning about history in Spain

Proctor Academy experiential learning in Spain

Proctor Academy learning through cultural and linguistic immersionWillem and Henry with decorative esgrafiado in the background. 

As we ventured further inside, we ended up in a room filled with weapons, including cannons, mortars, and armor. After this, we headed back to where we started, where we had a reservation to climb up the tower at 12:15. Once it was time, we tied our shoes and started the trek. It was a small, windy spiral staircase of about 100 stairs. The dizziness was setting in when the bright blue sky appeared blindingly. A massive Spanish flag was flying in the wind, and the view from all angles was stunning. The Catedral sat perfectly in view with the town of Segovia behind it. The group headed back down the staircase, trying hard to keep our balance and not get too dizzy. Exiting the castle, we crossed a bridge sitting over an enormous moat. We ended up back where we started at the beautiful, well-tended garden.

Proctor Academy Spanish learning abroad

Valle de los Caídos - Presley '24, Lane '23, Willem N. '24

Over this weekend, we visited Valle de los Caídos, also known as Valley of the Fallen. Going into this experience, we spent the prior week learning about Franco and completing slideshows that talk about different parts of Franco's life. We had spent the entire week reading about his accomplishments, his downfall as a leader, and the transition to democracy after his death. Francisco Franco was a fascist dictator who ruled Spain for almost four decades.

Proctor Academy students learn about the Francisco Franco regime

We spoke as a group about the moral aspect of why it felt wrong in a way to be there. Franco built his great monument in the early 1950s. Instead of Franco building it with paid workers, he had prisoners of war construct it. Talking about it as a group, everybody had similar thoughts about why it felt wrong to believe this was such a great monument. As a group, we felt uneasy inside such a controversial place. However, this experience reminded us that enslaved people also built many historical buildings.

Proctor Academy students study abroad in Spain

A valley drove through mountains, opening up to one towering above. While driving up the winding hillside roads, we saw a giant stone cross that thundered above all else, indicating what lay below—acting like a pin on a map. Three giant open courtyards granted views of the valley and hills below. The outside: a giant faded white grey with matching wings on either side, decorated with a dying corpse in the arms of a man placed on top. Visitors enter the building through a dimly lit room and marble flooring. On either side of the first room lay the tombs of the enslaved people that built the resting place, casually thrown on top of each other. This act created an ongoing conflict in Spain.

Proctor Academy experiential learning in Spain

Walking into Valle de los Caídos, I was astounded by the detail. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing throughout the tomb buried within the mountain. There was wild art with fascist symbols integrated within the work. It was very surreal learning about Franco and his regime.

Proctor en Segovia experiential arts study abroadMia's working on her representation of esgrafiado (see Alcázar photo above) in the Metal Arts afternoon activity!

The room opens up into a lower chamber lined with beautifully hand-crafted tapestries and paintings; multiple types of statues towered above the people below. At the heart of the monument is a dome with various detailed scenes of angels flying and resting above us. Right down lay Jesus on a cross, surrounded by rows of seats. On every corner, marble aqua faded blue statues, each a different form, stood, adding more decorative details to the exhibit. The only now marked grave is Primo de Rivera, but visitors can notice the newly placed stones, replacing Franco's tomb.

Proctor en Segovia learns about Spanish food culture and tapasMaking gnocchi with Proctor en Segovia host mom, Lujan!




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