En un lugar de la mancha…


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it’s hard to see but Rocinante and Rucio are actually saying “de cuyo nombre no quiso acordarse…”

I’m fortunate enough to be hanging out in Spain for a few weeks this summer in order to work on some projects that require archival and library visits, and, even luckier for me, it just so happens to be the 400th anniversary of Cervantes’ death, which means that everything is all Cervantes, all the time!

Last weekend I spent a day in Alcalá de Henares, the birthplace of Cervantes (the outside of which is being obscured by the above posters announcing a special exhibition “Cervantes (Don Quijote) Forges: un diálogo a través de los siglos” (“Cervantes (Don Quijote) Forges: a dialogue across centuries). Forges is a graphic artist who has used Quijote and Sancho in his work for many years. The exhibition gives us a humorous look into the lives of Quijote and Sancho, particularly the innermost thoughts of Sancho as he follows Quijote around on, well, quixotic adventures. It also puts Quijote in 21st century scenarios and gives his companions, particularly Sancho, some modern touches:

forges 8 forges 4

Here we see Sancho, with a modern “rappers hat” and the racing greyhound of Alonso Quijano, complete with fitbit and beat-style headphones.

forges 7

And here, Sancho warning against getting too involved with the windmills because “they continue to get voted in”… an allusion to modern-day Spanish politics, one assumes.

 The house itself is a two-story structure that features a sitting/guest-receiving room, the “surgery” of Cervantes’ father, a kitchen/dining room, sitting room for the women of the house and inner patio, all on the first floor; and the temporary exhibition space, and two bedrooms (one for women/children and the other for the man of the house, with a writing space).

baciaHis father’s surgery, complete with bacía or shaving bowl—much like the one that Quijote adopts as a helmet—sitting on the patient’s chair. Since the professions of surgeon and barber were often one and the same, it is not unusual that he would have had such an instrument… but one must assume that the museum did not place it there accidentally!

estrado instruccion mujer cris

The estrado de damas or women’s sitting room, a tradition that, according to the museum, comes from Muslim traditions. Women sat on cushions on the carpeted area and performed daily tasks. Of course, no woman’s life would have been complete at the time without a copy of Juan Luis Vive’s Instrucción de la mujer cristiana, which can be seen on the little desk in the picture on the right.

Of course, Cervantes is not relegated to his houses this year (nor really any year in Spain), but his presence is definitely felt in the streets right now.  All around Madrid you can find well-chosen quotes in the place of advertisements. Here are just two that I have happened upon while making my way to and from various archives:

cervantismos 1 cervantismos2

My rough translations:on the left: if they don’t want me to speak or write, cut out my tongue, and cut off my hands, and even then I would put my mouth in the the entrails of the earth and I’d shout however well I could; and on the right: Because one of the effects of fear is to upset the senses and make things appear to be that which they are not…

I can’t really top that, so I’ll just leave it here, with one final picture of me, hanging out with Quijote and Sancho.

quijote y yo

Ok, more Quijote than Sancho… I think Sancho was eating and he really didn’t look like he wanted to share…