FSDB ESOL students in the Blind and Deaf High Schools celebrated Hispanic Heritage Month (September 15-October 15), an annual national observance. Students had been studying Spain since the beginning of the year, learning about history and geography, bullfighting, Don Quixote, and a few Spanish artists. They were surprised to learn of the Moorish influence that dominated Spain for over seven centuries. These were the Arabs of yesteryear who made significant contributions to Spanish culture, academics, and architecture.
From the 700s till the 1400s, the Moors were the intellectual elite in southern Spain. They were the professors, the astronomers, and the like. They coexisted peacefully with the Christians, who were the craftsmen, and the Jews who were the money lenders and diplomats. They lived in harmony for seven centuries until the Spanish Inquisition took hold in the 1400s. The Spanish took away lands owned by Muslims and Jews and accused them of being heretics, which led to forced conversions, emigrations, and even death. During that time, Spain discovered the "New World" and extended its reach.
The Moorish part of Spain was not erased; however, it remains in cities like Cordoba, Spain, with a well-known mosque that served part of its life as a cathedral. In Granada, Spain, you can find many tea houses along cobblestone streets no wider than a sidewalk. Moroccan mint tea is still served traditionally by raising the teapot high up in the air while pouring into the teacup. Granada is also home to the Alhambra, a Moorish palace with thick stone walls, elaborate arches, quiet pools, and extensive gardens.
Students studied two unique Spanish artists, Salvator Dalí and Antoni Gaudí. Dalí was a surrealist painter, and Gaudí was a modernist architect—they both broke with custom in their respective fields. Deaf High School students did a project inspired by Dalí—they explained the dreams that influenced their Dalí-like drawings. Blind High School students did a project inspired by Gaudí—they made a replica of part of the Alhambra palace to honor one of their students from Iraq, and they covered the palace in mosaics to add a Gaudí touch. Both groups presented their projects on September 30 at the Hispanic Heritage ESOL event.
During the celebration, the students took in a video on Spain, which included bullfighting and the Running of the Bulls. Hordes of people clad in white with short red scarves tied around their necks fled through the streets of Pamplona with angry bulls at their heels. Ernest Hemingway's book, "The Sun Also Rises," contains a section on the Running of the Bulls. People from all over the world visit Pamplona to participate in the spectacle, despite potential injuries and sometimes even death. This annual event is like a rite of passage for young Spanish men.