South America on parade: Journey with the History Guru to England and Spain

Posted on Jan 30, 2012 in category


The Reina Sofia Museum is famous for Picasso’s ‘Guernica’ painting (no photos allowed!) that depicts the German and Italian bombing of the Basque Republican town of Guernica, Spain in 1937 during the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939). This awesome showpiece is presented along with Picasso’s preparatory sketches on the surrounding walls; thus, presenting an evolving piece of art.

See: Guernica

What many people may not appreciate are several photographic displays on the same calamitous event in Spain’s history that are also located in the art museum.

For an interesting photos of the Civil War’s see:

Spanish Civil War

Three quarters of the town of Guernica was fire bombed with the bombing lasting for several hours. Guernica, like Hiroshima in Japan, is now a town with a Peace Museum and also a strong belief that it’s a symbol for world peace and the futility of war.



Another great Spanish artist is exhibited here – Salvador Dali (1929)


Even the external lifts exude artistic flair


Alexander Calder’s ‘Carmen’ (1974) – a monumental mobile

Walking along the Paseo del Prado, we enjoyed the spectacular spray of Neptune’s Fountain. A marble fountain begun in 1780 by King Carlos III it was not completed until 6 years later. It seems an anomaly with the heavy traffic of Madrid flowing all around it.


Neptune looking from his chariot at modern chariot congestion

Sunday afternoon in El Retiro Park is a family affair. Once the exclusive recreation sanctuary of the Spanish royal family, Retiro Park is now a big Sunday family picnic venue. There were jazz bands, puppeteers and clowns all busking for the people as well as boating in a pond that has adjacent to it an ostentatious, half-moon shaped, colonnaded monument to Alfonso XII (started in 1902 but finished 20 years later).


Twenty sculptors worked on this project dedicated to King Alfonso XII


Puppeteers in El Retiro Park

Puerta del Sol was once part of the fortifications of eastern Madrid. Now a major plaza it has a 2 tonne bronze sculpture of Madrid’s symbol: "El Oso y El Madroño", a bear standing on its hindquarters eating berries from a Madroño tree.


Some say the bear represents the Church and the tree the people – Church and State in harmony??

Spain’s imperial ‘New World’ history was for all to see in a lively and long street procession of performers from what seemed like every South and Central American country.

clip_image016 clip_image018 clip_image020

A colourful parade of Central and South American performers

A visit to the Museo del Prado is like Alice finding herself in artistic Wonderland. Over 50 Velázquez paintings and 140 Goya paintings are part of the Prado collection. Charles III constructed the building in 1785 but it only functioned as a public art museum from 1819. Unfortunately, photographs were not allowed in the Prado. Copyright cringe!

For a 3 hours tour of the Prado’s main art works see:

In 1808 Napoleon invaded Spain installing his brother, Joseph Bonaparte, on the Spanish throne. Rebellions arose culminating in two famous rebellions that Goya 6 years later depicted in his two commissioned paintings: ‘The 2nd of May 1808 in Madrid: the Charge of the Mamelukes’ and the ‘The 3rd of May 1808 in Madrid: the Executions on Principe Pio Hill’.

3 May 1808

Interestingly, Goya collaborated with the new Napoleonic regime by painting their portraits. He even received and accepted the Royal Order of Spain for his contribution in 1811. A scientific research method called ‘scanning macro X-ray fluorescence spectrometry’ has revealed that an earlier painting exists behind Goya’s famous ‘Portrait of Don Ramón Satué’- a French general. Literally, a cover-up job!


Also, Siri Hustvedt (2005) recently discovered a phantom self-portrait of Goya in ‘3rd of May 1808’ painting (bottom left hand corner).

For a brief history of Goya see:

Caixa Forum is a cultural centre on the Paseo del Prado. The late 19th century building was a former electric power station that now provides 2,000 square metres for exhibition rooms, a spacious auditorium for 322 people, conservation workshops, storage area for works of art and a media library. Another example of a successful restoration of an industrial building, the Caixa Forum is renowned for the high quality of its exhibitions. Today was no exception – ‘Teotihuacan, City of the Gods’.

Teotihuacan, ‘the place of the gods or the place where gods are made’, was the largest city built on the American continent prior to the Spanish conquest with total surface area of 20 square kilometres. 200,000 people lived in this vast metropolis over 800 years. The heyday of this Nahuatl (Aztec) civilisation was between the 2nd and 7th. centuries A.D.

Teotihuacan was declared a World Heritage site by UNESCO in 1987 and is situated 45 kilometres from Mexico City. Main monuments include: ‘Pyramid of the Sun’, ‘Pyramid of the Moon’, ‘Avenue of the Dead’ and the ‘Temple of Quetzalcoatl’.


Jaguar of Xalla (complex ‘palace’ north of Pyramid of the Sun), Teotihuacan A.D.400

The jaguar is a symbol of power, war and fertility


Feathered serpent from ‘Temple of Quetzalcoatl’- 365 heads decorate this temple

For an article describing a recent discovery of a tunnel and possible underground burial chamber beneath the ‘Temple of Quetzalcoatl’ see:

For a wild ride on a virtual view of Teotihuacan see:


| Back to Top | Share

blog comments powered by Disqus