Culture Café: Hola Spain!

We are happy to tell you about our third Culture Café that took place on March, 14th! Thank you to all students who contributed to it. That evening we learnt a lot about Spanish customs, traditions, food and siesta.

Culture Kaleidoscope is spinning and twirling. This time we are ready to tell you about another extremely colourful and sparkling image that we have seen through it - Spanish culture!

Yellow sun, red clothing, green olive trees and lots of art masterpieces that are known and admired all around the world. During a small quiz prepared by Alejandro and Carmen, the students from Spain who made this spectacular event happen, some paintings of famous artists such as Dali and Velázquez were shown. Although the audience of the Café was truly international and consisted of students from all parts of the world but Australia, the paintings were instantly recognised!

Since a long time Spain has been open to various forms of creativity. Nowadays this feature is presented in many contemporary art fairs and festivals that take place in the Spanish major cities - Madrid and Barcelona. Embracing expressiveness and joyfulness are the concepts that are somehow innate for the Spanish culture. Just take a look at the variety of national festivities and you will not need any further explanation.

One of the first examples that come to mind are linked with the traditional practices involving bulls and toreros. Apart from bullfighting, now prohibited in some parts of Spain, there is one more event that attracts thousands of people every year and makes the population of Pamplona rocket from the average of 200,000 inhabitants to about 3 million - the Running of the Bulls. The event starts in the morning with lots of people gathering around the streets that are encircled by special wooden fences and monitored by the police and volunteers ('naranjitos'). These people make sure everyone who enters the area of the coming bull running is over the age of 18, takes part in the event at one’s own will and is not drunk. Obviously, this event provokes many debates and even results in mass protests. Although being controversial, the thrill of running away from a fierce animal or simply observing it from a safe viewpoint cannot be denied. There are several art masterpieces that use the bull running and the city itself as the source of inspiration. The first one is the Monumento el Encierro that was constructed in 1994 by Rafael Huerta Celaya and portrays an example of the most dramatic episodes that may happen during the running. The second masterpiece that was inspired by the city of Pamplona and its traditions is Hemingway’s novel The Sun Also Rises


La Tomatina is the second festival that simply has no analogues in the world. Once a year the Valencian city of Buñol turns into a true battlefield! But instead of making war, people have fun, throw tomatoes at each other and celebrate the joy of life. You may wonder who cleans the streets afterwards and so did we, asking our seemingly provocative question during the presentation. The provocation failed, as it turned out that the streets are cleaned solely with the help of nature forces, e.g. rain.

However, not everything in the garden is rosy and the Spanish people seem to be very vulnerable to flaws that accompany these events. In summer 2016 thousands of them organised street protests against sexual abuse that happened in Pamplona during the bull running. 

Thus, the Spanish expressiveness has the power to unite people in collective request for safety and justice. Another example of how Spaniards can turn traditional celebrations not only into a static cultural event but a platform for declaring civil interests is the Valencian enormous parade called ‘Les Fallas”. The ceremony commemorates Saint Joseph and the main attraction of it are enormous sculptures that are burnt at night, once having been drugged through city streets. Besides making huge puppets of famous historical and cartoon characters, the Spanish also create those that resemble politicians who were convicted of corruption and other violations.


Spanish culture can hardly be boring to explore, as it seems to mix passion and emotions, joy and happiness, graciousness and thoughtfulness… And the Spanish personality is the one you will instantly recognise and wish to get to know more. Hopefully, this Culture Café has offered us this possibility, as Carmen, our hostess, performed flamenco right in front of us. Being a professional actress, she presented several dance combinations and also gave explanations about what some moves historically mean. Everyone was completely amazed to see this skilfull performance and we want to say special thanks to Carmen!

We are happy to say that there will be more Culture Cafés soon! Follow ESN HSE Moscow Facebook page not to miss upcoming announcements. What will the next destination be? You can find it out right now!

 Prepared by Ekaterina Mazur, ESN HSE Moscow.