Recently, our group went to Santillana del Mar in the north. The trip was fantastic and after hearing about how magnificent and great the northern part of Spain was for months I was excited to see it firsthand. In my mind it definitely lived up to its billing as it was as beguiling a country landscape as I have seen. Everything was green and the undeveloped rolling hills made for a captivating view everyday. I had heard from many people including my home stay family that the north of Spain was very different from the rest of Spain. In my opinion this definitely held true as the landscape and architecture of the buildings made it look like we could be in Tuscany or in France. Even the culture and people seemed different as I had a difficult time understanding the Basque accent, which I was unaccustomed to hearing.
The trip to Santillana del Mar allowed me to see the long anticipated North of Spain but also made me realize the diversity and significant variation between Spain’s different regions. When thinking about this issue I thought immediately of what is familiar. In comparison to the United States, Spain has as much or greater regional diversity but is obviously a much smaller country. The United States maintains similarly distinct culturally and socially different regions i.e. the South, the North, the Midwest, and the West, within those regions there are, to an extent, further culturally distinct areas but generally it is divided amongst these regions. In comparison, Spain has cultural, social, and even to a certain extent political divisions that are much more distinct and diverse amongst its regions. I have not been to every part of Spain but after visiting Santillana del Mar in the North I have gone to Cadiz in the South, Barcelona in the West, and obviously live in the center region of Madrid. The differences between each are seemingly profound, in comparison to the U.S., and all together fascinating to me as Spain is a much smaller country with a smaller population.
One of the most profound differences is in the language between the regions. I knew coming over that there existed accents, similar to the U.S., between the regions. For example, someone from a northern city like Boston would probably sound very different than from someone from a southern city like Charleston. However, the differences in language in Spain are, in my opinion, much deeper. In Madrid, I was just getting accustomed to hearing the vosotros form of verbs when I went to Cadiz. In Cadiz I do not recall ever hearing the vosotros form of verbs and later discovered from a friend who I had met in the South of Spain that people in the south utilize the vosotros to a significantly lesser extent than in Madrid. Apparently, according to this person, it is mostly in the Madrid region where the vosotros is utilized. In the West the language difference could not be more apparent as Barcelona maintains an entirely different second official language in Catalan. While it is similar and sounds comparable seeing an “x” in the word chocolate made realize how different Catalan can be from Spanish. While in the North, I did run into too many authentic Spanish northerners but the ones I did have the chance to meet spoke seemingly a very distinct Spanish. The combination of my remedial Spanish and the entirely different accent and pronunciation of words made it probably the most difficult to understand of all the Spanish I have encountered.
In my travels through Spain the regional cultural diversity has been one of the most interesting aspects of my trip. In retrospect, I had little knowledge of the kind of distinct heterogeneous areas of Spain. It has been fascinating to document the differences as I encounter and bump into them through my travels.