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Evolution in Real Time

I’m a hundred feet away from the spot Miguel de Unamuno stood when he uttered his famous censure of Franquismo, “¡Venceréis, pero no convenceréis!” (“You will conquer, but you will not convince!”) The street I’m on has been recently deserted for siesta. The placard on the shop in front of me reads embutidos, so I go in to order a bocadillo de salchichón ibérico, a popular type of sandwich. Inside, I can hear the owner’s kids in the back, blasting a song by Maná. The bocadillo is very simple: just slices of a cured meat similar to salami and olive oil on a baguette. It packs a punch because everything was made very recently in house.

I think that’s when it hits me—everything I’ve come to love about this place suddenly distilled from a couple minutes of observation. Salamanca is not only a mixture of different cultures, but also very palpably a culmination of two-thousand years of rich history. To think that an American, in one of the world’s oldest university towns, can order a sandwich of French origin, listening to Mexican music of Arabic and British inspiration, very near to the places that Cervantes, Columbus, and Unamuno thought, wrote, and lectured, is utterly mind-boggling.

Siesta ends, and people start to fill up the cafés to drink coffee, chat with friends, and people-watch before dinner. The sense of tranquility here is astounding. People here really feel their history and can sense the constant exchange of culture all around them. In this atmosphere, there’s no need to rush: the natural pace of the intellectual current takes people from place to place.

It’s been seventy-seven years since Unamuno predicted a century’s worth of Spanish sociopolitical attitudes, and lots of things have changed. Franquismo has been ousted, Spain has modernized, Europe has been unified economically and socially. Unamuno’s words no longer apply politically, but one thing’s for certain: his eloquence and energy are owed in part to this awe-inspiring city—the very same city that has inspired me and nurtured my curiosity for the past three weeks.

Salamanca, me has vencido y me has convencido. And I think Unamuno would agree.

Joe Kupferberg-LPI Salamanca Summer 2 2013

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