Where to Live in Seville: The Best Neighborhoods in Andalusia’s Capital City

A complete guide on where to live in Seville, Spain. Whether you're visiting or planning a move, this post is a guide to cost, transportation and neighborhood personality.

So, you’ve gotten the visa, packed your bags and moved to Seville. The first order of business (after your cervecita and tapita, of course) is looking for a piso and a place to call home while you’re abroad. While living in the center of Seville can mean a long commute or blowing half of your salary on rent, it is undoubtedly one of the most liveable and lively cities in all of Spain. 

Let’s begin with the basics: Seville is a large city with an urban population of around 700,000. As the capital of Andalucía, it’s home to the regional government and a hub for transportation. Seville also boasts miles of bike lanes, enormous parks and passionate, traditional citizens.

Encompassing the left and right banks of the Guadalquivir River about 50 miles north of the Atlantic, the  river splits the old town from Triana and Los Remedios; further west is the Aljarafe plain. 

Where to Live in Seville Map

To the east lies a number of residential neighborhoods stretching to East Seville, a newer housing development. South of the center are Bami, Reina Mercedes, Heliópolis, Los Bermejales and Bellavista, as well as the buildings erected for the 1929 Iberoamerican Exposition.

Seville’s city center is one of the largest in Europe, encompassing two square miles, and is extremely walkable.

Central Seville neighborhood map

Choosing a neighborhood that’s right for you is imperative for your experience in Seville. After all, you’ll be living as a local and skipping the well-developed tourist beat. Each has its own feel and character, and not every one is right for you and your needs. Ever walk in a neighborhood where you can see yourself – or not? Here’s a guide from an eight-year vet to the most popular neighborhoods in Seville’s city center, from what to expect from housing to not-to-miss bars and barrio celebrations.

But should you choose a place to live before you make the move?

In retrospect, it probably wasn’t smart for me to pay a deposit on a house I’d never seen. I hadn’t met my roommates or staked out the nearest supermarket. While I lived in Triana happily for three years, I’d suggest renting a bed or room in or near the neighborhoods you’re interested in before making a decision about where you want to live for a year. 

If you’re hoping to lock something down before coming here, consider Spotahome. This venture pre-checks all properties, essentially cutting out those awkward conversations with landlords. You can rent entire apartments, or a single room, and have peace of mind so you can focus on exploring your barrio and meeting amigos.

BANNER_SUNSHINE-AND-SIESTAS (1)

Not all neighborhoods in Seville are listed on this post, and I’ve generalized some larger areas, like the Center, Macarena and Nervión. Consider more than just price or location: think about your commute to work, ease of public transportation, noise and the people you’ll live with. After all, a bad living situation can make or break your experience in Spain.

El Centro

photo by Christine Medina, run on Sunshine and Siestas

Seville’s beating heart is the most centric neighborhood, El Centro. Standing high above it is the Giralda tower, the once-minaret that guards the northeast corner of the third-largest Gothic cathedral in the world. This, along with the Alcazar Royal Palace and Archivo de Indias, forms a UNESCO World Heritage Site (whose status was threatened by the controversial Torre Pelli recently).

Life buzzes in these parts, from the public meeting point in Puerta Jerez to Plaza Nueva’s Town Hall, the Triana Bridge to the cathedral.

What’s great: Because you’re in the center, you’re close to all of the wonderful things that Seville has to offer, and you can move around on foot. The shopping, the nightlife and everything in between is never too far off.

What’s not so great: Keep in mind that many apartment rentals clog apartment blocks, and that many properties are offered by inmobiliarias, or real estate agencies. This means you’ll have to forfeit a month’s rent as an agency fee. It’s also difficult to park, the supermarkets are further away, and there seem to be a lack of recycling bins.

Average price: Housing costs tend to reflect the fact that you’re smack in the center of it all, hence the apt name. Because it’s such an extensive area, you can find a shared room for 200€ a month, or you may be forking over closer to 400€. Studios can run up to 500€, and you may sacrifice space and natural sunlight.

Not to miss: having a drink at Hotel Los Seises next to the Cathedral or in Plaza del Salvador, the interior patios of Salvador which was once home to a mosque, the winding Calle de Siete Revueltos, cheap and oversized tapas at Los Coloniales, the fine Museo de Bellas Artes and the art market out front on Sunday mornings, Holy Week processions, having a pastry at La Campana Confiteria, the view from Las Setas.

Santa Cruz

The traditional Jewish neighborhood of Seville borders the historic Center and oozes charm. That is, if you like Disneyland-like charm. The narrow alleyways are now lined with tourist shops, overpriced bars with lamentable food and hardly a native sevillano in sight. For a first-time tourist, it’s breathtaking, with its flamenco music echoing though the cobbled streets. For the rest of us, it’s to be avoided as much as possible.

What’s great: Santa Cruz is one of the oldest neighborhoods in Seville, and its squares and orange trees are beautiful. It’s sandwiched between the Alcázar palace and Jardines de Murillo, and thus close to the Prado de San Sebastián train station.

What’s not so great: Like El Centro, the novelty likely wears off when you realize that many of your neighbors are tourists and that you can’t park your car. If you look for a place a bit further from the sites, you’ll find peace and quiet, though you may have astronomical rent.

Average price: Rents here are typically not cheap. For a studio or one bedroom, expect to pay 450-700€. For a shared apartment, you’ll pay 300 – 400€.

Not to miss: chowing down a pringa sandwich at Las Columnas, Las Cruces festival in May, the Jardines de Murillo and its fountains, free entrance for students to the Alcazar and its gardens, the beautiful Virgen del Candelaria church (one of my favorites in all of Seville), having a beer at La Fesquita surrounded by photos of Christ crucified.

El Arenal

The neighborhood, named for its sandy banks on the Guadalquivir where ships were once contracted, boasts a number of gorgeous chapels, the bullring and the Torre del Oro, as well as the gintoncito crowd sipping on Gin & Tonics at seemingly every hour. Wedged in between the Center and the Guadalquivir River, the houses and apartments here tend to be cramped and overpriced, having belonged to families for years. Still, the neighborhood is lively and the taurino crowd ever-present. 

What’s great: This is the place for you if you’re too lazy to walk elsewhere and are attracted by the nightlife, which is as varied as old man bars and discos.

What’s not so great: Is it bad to say there’s nothing I don’t like?

Average price: For a studio or one bedroom, expect to pay 350-500€. For a shared apartment, you’ll pay 200 – 300€.

Not to miss: the café con leche and tostadas at La Esquina del Arfe, a bullfight at the Maestranza (or at least a view of those trajes de luxes along C/Adriano), the churros lady at the old city gate, the tranquility of Plaza  El Cabildo with its stamp stores and turnstile sweets, the 4,50€ copas at Capone.

Triana

Disclaimer: I’m 100% biased that Triana is the best place to live. Trianeros believe that the district west of the Guadalquivir should be its own mini-nation, and with good reason: everything you could ever need is here.

Once home to the Inquisition Castle (Castillo San Jorge, at the foot of the Triana Bridge) and the poor fisherman and gypsy of Seville, Triana is emblematic of Seville. Quaint homes, tile for miles and churches are Triana’s crown jewels, and it’s become a favorite among foreigners.

What’s great:  While it boasts few historic sites, Triana is all about ambiente – walk around and let it seep in, listening to the quick cadence of the feet tapping in its many flamenco schools. Some of the city’s most beloved bars, shops and even pasos are here, and the view from the river-flanked Calle Betis is gorgeous.

What’s not so great: The homes here are a bit older and a bit more rundown, though Calle Betis has some of Andalucía’s most expensive property values. It’s also difficult to park, especially when you get closer to the river.

Average price: Typically, if you opt for El Tardón or the northern section of the neighborhood, prices are more economical. For a studio or one bedroom, expect to pay 350-400€. For a shared apartment, you’ll pay 250 – 350€. Our mortgage in Barrio del León is less than we’d pay for rent across the street!

Not to miss: Calle Pureza’s temples and hole-in-the-wall bars, slurping down caracoles at Bar Ruperto (or try the fried quail), the Santa Ana festival along Calle Betis in late July, the ceramics shops on Antillano Campos, Las Golodrinas’s punto-pinchi-chipi-champi meal, the afternoon paseo that the trianeros love so dearly, typical markets at Triana and San Gonzalo.

Los Remedios

Triana’s neighbor to the south is Los Remedios, where streets are named for Virgens. While there’s not much nightlife, save trendy gin tonic bars, the barrio is located along the city’s fairgrounds and comes alive in April, two weeks after Easter. If you’re looking for private classes, this neighborhood is where a lot of the money is (so ask up!), and the many schools and families mean there’s no shortage of alumnos.

What’s great: Huge, newer apartments with elevators, two metro stops and proximity to the fairgrounds.

What’s not so great: Los Remedios is home to many families and was built as a housing development, meaning there are few green spaces or quaint squares.

Average price: Remedios is considered posh, with wide avenues and small boutiques. The apartments are enormous and suitable for families, so don’t be surprised if you have three other roommates.

Still, there’s also a university faculty located in this area, so cheaper student housing can be found in the area just south of República Argentina. For a studio or one bedroom, expect to pay 350-500€. For a shared apartment, you’ll pay 200 – 300€.

Not to miss: Asuncion’s pedestrian shopping haven, the VIPS boasting American products on Republica Argentina, Parque de los Principes’s lush knolls, the ambience in the surrounding bars during the Feria, Colette’s French pastries.

Alameda

source: ABC online

My host mother once warned me not to go into the Alameda, convinced I’d be robbed by the neighborhood’s hippies. While dreads and guitars are Alameda staples,  the barrio is, in fact, one of the trendiest and most sought after places. By day, families commune on the plaza’s pavement park and fountains. By night, botellones gather around the hip bars and vegetarian restaurants.

What’s great: The pros are obvious: close to nightlife (and most of the city’s GLBT scene, too) and the center, and well-communicated (especially for the northern part of the city).

What’s not so great: From the center, it’s a nice ten-minute walk. This does, however, lend to litter and noise. 

Average price: For a studio or one bedroom, expect to pay 350-500€. For a shared apartment, you’ll pay 200 – 300€.

Not to miss: Viriato’s gourmet hamburger, the cute shops on nearby Calle Regina, Cafe Central on a Friday night, Teatro Alameda’s offerings, El Jueves morning flea market, the Feria market and its hidden fish restaurant. 

Macarena Sur

source: Dominó por España blog

Ever heard that famous song by Los del Río? Yep, it was named for Seville’s famous life-sized statue of the Virgen Mary, whose basilica and procession in the early hours of Holy Friday draw crowds and shout of “¡GUAPA!” Rent prices here are lower, bars more authentic and fewer tourists. The markets bustle, and the winding roads beneath plant-infested balconies are breathtaking. It’s also not uncommon to see processions or stumble upon a new boutique or pop-up bar. It’s also located just steps away from Alameda and encompasses Feria and San Julián, making it easy to get to the center, Nervión and Santa Justa.

What’s great: Apart from being close to the center and well-connected, Macarena is a barrio de verdad. It’s working class but typical, and the neighborhood is experiencing a bit of gentrification, bringing with it cool shops and restaurants.

What’s not so great: From what I’ve heard, there are some scary and not well-lit areas, and parking is nearly impossible on the small streets.

Average price: Studios and one bedrooms run about 350 – 500€, whereas a bedroom in a shared apartment are about 200 – 350€. 

Not to miss: Plaza de los Botellines, Calle Feria and its market (and the freshest Cruzcampo I’ve encountered!), numerous kebab shops for a late-night snack, the Macarena basilica and old city fortress walls.

Nervión

The city’s business center is located in Nervión, where houses are meant more for families.  Still, Nervión is well-connected to the center, airport and Triana, is sandwiched between the central train stations, and boasts a shopping mall and the Sevilla Fútbol Club stadium. This area also bumps up to La Buhaíra, which is a bit more upscale.

This area is enormous – it stretches essentially from the first to second ring road in the area due east of the center.

What’s great: Many students choose to live here because of its proximity to many university faculties, like business, education and travel. The apartments tend to be newer, larger and come unfurnished if they’re not meant to be housing for young people. Nervión has great shopping and dining and is well-connected to all other neighborhoods of Seville (and still within walking distance of Santa Cruz!).

What’s not so great: Nervión doesn’t have much by way of Gothic architecture or quaint cobblestone streets, though it more than makes up in better digs and connectivity.

Average price: Studios and one bedrooms are not common and expensive (think closer to 500€), and sharing a flat will run you between 275 and 400€.

Not to miss: n’Ice Cream cake and ice cream shop, the Cruzcampo factory, El Cafetal’s live music on weekends, Nervión Plaza Mall and original version films, Parque La Buhaíra’s summer concert series.

new house

I lived in a shared flat in Triana for three years before moving to Cerro de Águila to live rent-free with the Novio. We bought a house in Triana last summer, and while I love having a place to park and going everywhere on foot, I really miss my places in Cerro – my dry cleaner, David at the cervecería, my neighbors. Where you live in Seville is really about making the street your living room!

Where are you planning on living, or live already? What do you like (or not) about it? What is your rent like?

Read more:  Five Strange Things You’ll Find in Your Spanish Flat | I Bought a House! | What They Don’t Tell You About Finding an Apartment in Spain

Nazareno, Nazareno

It’s Viernes de Dolores in the Catholic world, so you know what that means:

My school is full of nazarenos.

 Now, I know what your American brains are thinking, but this can’t be explained by a few letters: the nazarenos are symbolic of the penitent brothers of religious brotherhoods. In Seville and throughout Spain, these brothershoods march throughout their towns for up to 12 hours, accompanying a float adorned with candles, flowers and an image of Christ or the Virgen Mary.

They say the hoods make the sinners nearly unrecognizable to the people who come from around the world to see Seville’s famous line-up (read a few tips on how to survive it if you do come), but I’d still file it under culture shock.

Though it was tiring (they don’t called it Friday of Dolores, or Sorrows, for nothing!), it was fun to play guessing games with the students and practice prepositions on the two-hour long march.

When the faithful returned to their temple, there were pestiños and rosquillas for all. For now, the mantones and floats are stored until next year, and we teachers get a glorious ten-day break from babies and boogers.

Have you ever attended Holy Week processions in Spain? What was your reaction? Any big plans for Semana Santa? This lady is off to Turkey tomorrow!

Ya Huele a Primavera

On a popular talk show on Andalucía’s Canal Sur called La Semana Más Larga, the host Manu Sánchez recently griped about the recortes going on throughout Spain.

But Rajoy just wants us to move right into Summer! he spews, citing the recent “frío esteparian” and the subsequent 70º weather. He’s got a point – springtime in Seville is sweet, filled with tipsy afternoons drinking in sunshine and Cruzcampo, fresh breezes and the intoxicating scent of azahar. But Springtime is also the most short lived season, a brief twinkle in the year, and Rajoy’s insistence in cutting the fat off of all that is good and beautiful about life in Seville is just plain loco.

Manu claims that Spring is for the sevillanos to leave “everything in condition” so that the guiris, who olny come in the summer, can have what’s left over (watch the whole show here a la carte and enjoy Manu’s INCREDIBLE andalú). For this guiri who makes like a sevillano and verenea in a different part of Spain, I enjoy the terracitas and fresh aceite like an respectable andaluz.

Apart from the towering palmeras that line boulevards, Seville is populated with orange trees. During the winter months, the naranjos bask in the sunshine, their dimply skin growing its namesake color until the days start getting longer in late February. The oranges of this sour variety are rarely, if ever, consumed in Seville, and the rumor states that only the oranges grown in the Cartuja Monastery are sweet enough to eat.

By the time March lazily rolls around, the orange trees are shaken, the fruit gathered into thigh-high burlap bags and sent off to the British Isles for bitter marmalade. According to the Novio, the city of Seville began to crate and ship them as a gift to the Queen of England. Though I cannot find evidence to support or kill this long-told legend, the people of England start their days off with the fruit spread over their toast, and I with the scent of the orange blossom flower.

The small yellow bud, called azahar, appears for just a week or ten days’s time, smelling a little bit like fresh laundry, lightly scented perfume or a sunny day after a spring shower. I can’t put my finger on it, but crane my nose in the week leading up to Saint Patrick’s Day to catch a whiff. After seeing the buds began to peek out of the branches, I finally smelt it on Avenida de la Buhaira, riding my bike on a sunny afternoon with my sleeves rolled up.

Finally Springtime, the small glimmer of sevillano time that I am so very fond of.

If Manu’s predictions were anywhere near right, we’d lose the azahar, botellines in a sun-filled plaza on a Sunday afternoon, the sand between my toes somewhere lost in the pinares of Huelva. The passionate processions of Holy Week, gone. The lively sevillanas at the Real, finito. Bullfighting’s biggest names, fuera de la cartelera. Kelly told me my first year here: “Loving Seville in the Fall and Winter is one thing, but you’ll completely swoon come primavera.”

Losing our most treasured season, the one we live for atope in the waning sunlight of twlight, the one we wait for through the nights huddled close to the space heater, would mean a little piece of livelihood taken from the penitent nazarenos, a little less arte in our steps during Feria. Spring is the season I live for more than any other.

Sevillanos: Where do you like to spend your tardecitas? What do you do with the perfect weather and sunny afternoons? Any good tips for finding sunshine and relax? Share them in the comments, por favor!

Seville Bucketlist: One Year Update

On this weekend, one year ago, my friend Canilaydee and I were enjoying a rare Friday off of work. It was Día del Profesorado, which is pretty much a mental health day for teachers in Andalucía that also coincides with Andalusia Day. We came on the same plane over from Spain, so our days in Seville are in the same ballpark. Thus, over caramel macchiatos at Starbucks (the shame!), we decided to make a bucketlist.

One year later, I’m still trying to cross several things off the list. There’s a few I’ve had the chance to do, and other that will have to wait until all of this business of jobs, grad school and freelancing gets a bit more settled. In the past year I’ve:

  • Eat breakfast at the sumptuous Hotel Alfonso XIII (closed for renovations till March 2012)

My friend Lauren of Spanish Sabores and Recetas Americanas got married to her boyfriend Alejandro last June, so we wanted to do something special for her. The first weekend of May we had Monday off, so Kelly, Claudia and I booked her a table at brunch at Seville’s breathtaking Hotel Alfonso XIII. Acting as a bit of a shower, a bit of Sunday morning mayhem, we guzzled champagne and bite-sized breakfast tapas. Sadly, the weather didn’t cooperate and we couldn’t use the pool, but it was a great deal for endless food and drinks in one of Seville’s most beautiful buildings.

If you go: The hotel is closed until next month for renovations, and rooms are quite costly. As an alternative, you could have a coffee in the outdoor patio, a drink in the martini garden (where Cameron Diaz was spotted while filming Knight and Day) , or indulge in the Sunday brunch in the San Fernando restaurant. Prices weren’t available for the new temporada, but it cost us each about 39€, and they allowed us to bring our own cake.

  • Explore Hospital de la Caridad, noted for its collection of sevillano painters like Murillo and Velázquez

On a lazy Saturday morning just before Christmas, I entered the dark halls of the Hospital de la Caridad, a temple just off the banks of the Guadalquivir. The security guard sleepily took my five euro bill and held his arm up towards the heavy wooden door. Inside sat an arcaded patio, empty except for a docent that dozed in the morning sun that creep just behind the adjacent Giralda.

While the convent isn’t much to see, the chapel houses works by the Santa Caridad’s founder, religious painter Miguel Mañanra. The space is covered in scene from Christ’s life and the floor engraved with the names of the original members of la hermandad. While a little too opulent for my taste, the chapel and museum contain works of art that rival the collection in the nearby Fine Arts Museum.

If you go: Try and go on a Sunday for free access; otherwise, the entrance to a simple museum and inner grounds will run you 5€. I personally didn’t think it was worth it. The museum is located just behind the Teatro de la Maestranza just off the river, and can be reached by buses C3, C4, C5, 40 and 41, or just a short walk from the main sights of Avenida de la Constitución. Hours are Monday – Friday 9:30 – 13:30 and 15:30 – 19:30, and Sundays and festivals from 9:00 – 12:30.  

  • Visit museums like Archivo de las Indias, Palacio Lebrija and Artes y Costumbres

One great thing about being a teacher is the ability to be “invited” along to places. When I go on excursions with my students, we get to visit Roman ruins, horse shows and museums for free, so my visit a few weeks ago to the Museo Encuentado in the Museo de Artes y Costumbres Populares was  a real treat.

Two men dressed on period garb stood on the steps leading up to the neo-mudejar building that flanks one side of the Plaza de América, inside María Luisa Park. Using a hollowed-out gourd, they called the kids to attention before breaking us off into groups. Domingo explained the cultural heritage evident in Seville’s long history through the objects in the museum, and I was fascinated at how the museum could come to life for my young learners.

The museum has two floors dedicated to cultural heritage in Seville – artifacts, furniture, azulejos – and provides many dioramas of talleres that are especially pertinent to the area – the gold molding for semana santa floats, wine making, matanzas (if you want to know, click here), etc. I’ve yet to visit the other two, but all in good time…

If you go: The museum is located in the María Luisa Park that is walkable from the historic center, or you could alternately take buses 1, 6, 30, 31, 34, 37 or 38. The entrance cost is low – free for EU members and 1,50€ for all others, and the museum is open Tuesday from 2pm – 8:30pm, Wednesdays to saturday from 9am – 8:30pm and Sundays from 9am – 2:30pm.

  • See the Virgen de la Macarena in her Basilica

In Seville, one could ask if you were sevillista or bético, referencing the two Hispalense soccer teams. In a way, you could also ask if you were more for the Virgen de la Esperanza de Triana or the Virgen de la Esperanza de la Macarena.

When I have friends come to visit and we take a walk around my old barrio of Triana, I always pop into the small chapel on Calle Pureza where my preference, la Trianera, lives, to explain the cultural significance of Holy Week. Still, after four years and four Semana Santas passed, I still hadn’t been to the Basilica de la Macarena.

That was, until December 18th. And quite by accident. And on the worst day of the year to see her. The story is just way too funny and too much of a guiri moment, so click here if you want to read it.

If you go: Macarena’s oppulent home is located in the northern end of the historic center, just off of C/ Bequer. Alternately, you could takes buses C1, C2, C3, C4, C5, 2, 13 or 14 to the entrance of the church, which is free to enter. Standard hours apply, and expect to meet a lot of faithful on feast days and during Semana Santa.

  • Explore the Cementerio San Fernando, resting place of bullfighters and famous sevillanos

Just today, I crossed off another item (in addition to seeing the inside of the parliament palace). Kike lent me his car to cross town to the cemetery, where I was met with a hearse and a long funeral procession. Upon entering the brick and iron gates of San Fernando,  a guard who merely pointed to a sign prohibiting cameras. I tucked Camarón back into my bag and surrendered him to the guard, pleading that he keep it in the office.

I’ve always liked cemeteries for their solace and tranquility. Seville’s massive complex is located in the northern end of the city, and the Alamillo bridge is visible over the mausoleums and walls of graves. The plot is breathtaking – walls of white hold the mortal remains of Seville’s most celebrated bullfighters – like Juan Belmonte and Paquirri – and hijos predilctos, as well as flamenco singers and businessmen, like Osborne.

I was enraptured by the bright blue sky and ability to think clearly for once. The small details left on the graves, from fascists arrows to a plastic statue of a Disney princess to plastic flags and flowers, made life’s pleasures become a reality for me. Even in death, I could imagine what a neighbor treasures in life. In the hour I spent walking through decrepid old family mausoleums and placards that had been shattered and left abandoned, I saw shrines both great and humble. Loved ones of the departed cleaned and swept the gravesites, just like in the opening scene of the Manchego women in Volver. Much more than witnessing a cultural element in flamenco or bullfighting, I was witness to the utmost respect that Andalusians use when caring for the deceased. Well worth the loss of sleep for a bit of perspective.

If you go: San Fernando cemetery is open to the public every day from 8 – 5:30am. Keep in mind that it is a sacred place for Spaniards, so loud noises and photos are strictly prohibited. You can reach the cemetery by public TUSSAM bus #10 from Ponce de León in the center. The stop is located directly across from the entrance.

Other ideas for my Seville or Spain bucketlist? This year I’m traveling to Zaragosa and Murcia, two places I’ve never visited – so only Logroño will be left to conocer! What tops your travel bucketlist for this year? Leave me ideas in the comments after viewing my original blogpost here.

A Dance for Every Heart

I’m going to take the liberty to break from my normal roundup of life in Spain, teaching baby English and enjoying the sunshine (and biting cold) and siestas of Spain for the next few minutes.

Back in college, I rarely pulled all-nighters. Hello, I studied journalism, and few sources were up that late. Every first weekend of February, however, I did stay up for 24 hours without sitting, sleeping or drinking alcohol all in the name of pediatric cancer. This was, of course, after raising $425 or more to get in the door, spending hours at morale meetings, visiting kids at the hospital and connecting with other dancers.

Dance Marathon was, by far, the most important student org I ever belonged to.

Imagine your little sister is diagnosed with cancer. You don’t live near a children’s hospital, the bills are piling up, and you can’t go to school. That’s where Dance Marathons – organized at college campuses, elementary schools and in cities across America – step in. Apart from providing research opportunities and providing better facilities for kids, my alma mater also provides emotional support for the families who are coping with childhood cancer.

The child assigned to me was Kelsey. She served as my contact family for my morale group and my sorority for years during her initial battle with bone cancer, then her secondary leukemia, and the relapse that occurred just a few months ago. At 14, I felt a connection with Kelsey and her family that made me feel like I had another cousin or sister. We wrote each other through email, talked occasionally on the phone and met when she came to Iowa City for check-ups.

After repping Kelsey for two years, she was passed onto another sorority sister, but stayed in the family – literally –  a sister from two pledge classes above me’s father married into Kelsey’s family. When I moved to Spain, we kept in touch through Facebook and the numerous postcards rumored to be kept safe in her bedroom. She went to technical college, took trips to Iowa City to see the Child Life Specialists and pretty much won the affection of everyone around her. She even made it to her 21st birthday and sent me pictures of her first time out with friends.

“You’re so much braver than anyone I know,” she wrote me in an email just before Christmas. “I really have to come visit you in Spain to see why it is you’re still there.” I promised to call her once she was out of surgery for some build-up in fluids around her lungs, an effect of her current treatment. She was supposed to watch the bowl game, as she loved the Hawkeyes like I do, and then be operated on.

The following day, she passed away.

I always said I’d never have to be one of those dancers who had to remember a child through a memorial candle that burns during the 24-hour event, claiming the child is dancing in my heart. As the  DJ gets the crowd going at 7pm CST tomorrow (2am in Spain), Kelsey will be one of the children honored by that candle.

I lost two friends to cancer in 2011, so I’m asking those of you who follow my blog to consider learning about Dance Marathons (there’s one in Chicago), dancing in one, or even donating a few bucks to kids like Kelsey and her family that spend holidays in the hospital and can’t live a normal life like most of us enjoy. If you donate anything, please let me know via personal message or in the comments, and I’ll be sure to send you a postcard from Spain (be honest, it’s For The Kids!!).

Our morale dance in 2006, the year I suited up in red ended with the now well-worn mantra of Iowa’s Dance Marathon: A dream for every child, a dance for every heart. I sure take it to my own little heart, so please consider a small donation to make miracles happen for kids across the Midwest.

Donate now

Mother of God.

I have a lot of “Ooooh Guiri” moments. You know, when I do something SO American, I wonder how I’ve survived four years living outside of the Grand Old Republic. Something along the lines of saying swear words when there are other unknown English speakers around, like drinking in churches at a small town fair (wait, that wasn’t me), like telling a bouncer we didn’t want to go to his bar because it smelled like onions (wait, that wasn’t me either).

En fin, my “Oooh Guiri” moments are like dumb blonde moments.

Today was no exception. Faced with no grading to do, a clean house and a good night’s sleep behind me (grandma!), I chose to  being all Christmas-y. My first stop was to Plaza Nueva and the city’s Nativity Scene.

Housed in the salmon-pink palace that dominates the square, the city’s official belén tells the story of the annunciation, birth of Christ and the adoration of the Magi. Using fancy lighting, adobe-looking villages, figurines and constructing the entire town of Bethlehem, the most important moments of young Christ’s life are immortalized. With the diorama comes the line that wraps around the building up towards Plaza del Salvador.

Christa and I had little to do, so we marched towards the camel-ridden zoco in Encarnación before continuing onto an artisan market in a tucked-away plaza in Macarena. I badly needed cash, so my next stop had to be the Ronda Histórica, a busy road that rings the center of the city. The stream of people in front of the home of Sevilla’s most important virgin (oh, and this song) made me scratch my head, so I took out my money, got in line and stood on tip toe to see how much longer I’d have to wait to see baby Jesus again.

Within ten minutes, I had entered the iron gates in the small patio directly in front of the basilica. As one of Seville’s oldest depictions of the Virgin Mother, she’s the patroness of bullfighters and highly revered in Seville. Her procession on Maudy Thursday draws revelers during the wee hours of the morning as she is paraded from her temple along the Ronda to the Cathedral and back. I stated in my bucketlist that I’d like to see her in her basilica, but I happened to choose her feast day to do it. #Ooohguiri

On the right side of the wide, wooden doors, we queued in a perfectly straight line, while others from the hermandad, the term used to describe the religious brotherhoods, passed through the left side. Nuns filled the courtyard, passing cans of Lemon Fanta to several small children in line. I noticed the Virgin was not above the altar in an exalted place as she usually is in other churches. Brothers shouted, “Senores, colaboren con nosotros en la Loteria de Navidad! Decimos a 25 euros!” The Virgen’s distraught face graced the flimsy strips of paper I’d liken to a 50-50 lottery.

I entered the basilica, shivering as I stepped out of the sun, and made the sign of the cross as my Catholic grandmother taught me. As my confirmation saint is Lucia, I spotted her easily and made a mental recollection to find a donation box as I normally do. Girls with piercings and boys in track suits passed by, tears in their eyes. As I passed the small chapels and got closer to the front, I realized the Virgin was on the ground and people were passing in front of her. I had inadvertently come on December 18th, the Feast Day of Su Santísima Virgen de la Esperanza de la Macarena, and was in line to perform the Besamanos, or hand kissing, of the Virgin.

Moral dilemma: Do I kiss the hand of a wooden and cloth statue who I am sworn to dislike because I much prefer the Virgen de la Esperanza de Triana? Or do I look like an asshole and get out of line?

I chose to stay in, already preparing a speech to give Cait over the phone (I’m pretty sure she has an estampilla of La Macarena in her wallet). As we crept closer, her crown of stars and five red roses, a gift from the bullfighter Joey the Little Chicken Joselito el Gallo, came into view and people began weeping. Green gown flowing behind her up the steps to the altar, she stood just a bit taller than I do, but without real legs, I doubt that was her real height.

When it was my turn, toes touching the plush red carpet, I took my place between two altar boys with hair gelled to perfection. The señora in front of me’s lip quivered as she knelt down, kissed one of the only actual parts of the Virgen (most venerated images only have the face, neck, arms and hands, while the rest if a cloth dummy), finishing by making a sign of the cross and having her husband snap a picture.

I looked her dead in the face. She somehow seemed to have a softer expression than the one I’d seen emblazoned on reliefs, azulejos, keychains and tattoos. Her hand was outstretched, and I could see where people had been kissing her for the last 80 years – the plaster had worn right through to the wood. After the señora took her photo, the altarboy wiped down the hand with a damp cloth, and it was my turn.

I left quickly, nearly calling Cait before I’d even crossed the threshold. I didn’t know how to make sense of the whole thing, especially because I consider this whole Semana Santa thing to be a violation of that commandment that says you shouldn’t worship idols, but I couldn’t stop laughing at my Guiri Moment.

Her response to my giggles? “Oh, Jesus Christ. I mean Mother of Jesus Christ.”

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...