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Above: Palacio Real de Espana, Madrid

 

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Madrid Wants you!

Madrid te Quiere - Madrid Wants you!

By: Professor José E. Cruz - Summer 2016

Excitement, admiration and infinite curiosity. This is what our students feel when they are in Madrid, Spain. In Madrid, just about every building, plaza, church and street corner raises a question. When was that building built? Why does it have a French name? Is that a church or a museum? Why are there so many beautiful paintings in churches? Lavapiés means "feet washer;" why is that the name of a neighborhood? Why does City Hall have a banner that reads: REFUGEES WELCOME?

In Madrid, UAlbany students explore complex issues; the focus of our program is immigration and urban social movements. Students also consider ancillary questions ranging from the nature of democratic governance to the evolution of the built environment.

Usually, a week into our stay I ask my students: What is the feature of Madrid that has struck you the most since arrival? The typical answer is: "I cannot believe how quickly Madrid managed to change into a modern, vibrant democratic city after so many years of backwardness and dictatorship."

The wonders of Spain in general, and Madrid, in particular, are many. The civil society is liberal, multicultural and cosmopolitan and the political society is a mix of conservatism and moderation. Madrileños take politics seriously and political participation is constant, along many dimensions and classes of people; their critical sense about politics is sharp.

The month-long Comparative Study of Urban Politics and Migration in Madrid is co-administered by Rockefeller College and the Office of Education Abroad at the Center for International Education and Global Strategy at the University at Albany. This academic and cultural immersion program combines classroom instruction, field trips to three cities outside Madrid, guest speakers, meetings and conversations with politicians, activists, academics, and community groups, participant-observation in selected plazas and neighborhoods, as well as visits to five major museums where some of the world's best art collections in the world can be found. We are now working to add an internship component to the program that may be available in 2017.

In 2015, cities and regions held elections that turned Spain from a two- into a four-party system. Program participants in 2015 witnessed that historical moment. This year, we observed an electoral campaign where candidates debated whether to continue on a neoliberal path or to renew a commitment to a social democratic model of governance. Last year at the Thyssen Museum we saw a major exhibition of the XVI century Spanish painter Francisco de Zurbarán; this year, El Prado featured a major show on the great Renaissance painter El Bosco. Picasso's Guernica is permanently on display at Reina Sofía Museum and looking at this painting is always an electrifying experience.

Last year Madrid celebrated 10 years of legal gay marriage; that's 10 years ahead of the United States. By now the celebration is a mix of social mobilization and commerce, but there is also Critical Gay Pride—a parallel commemoration that emphasizes the unending struggle against homophobia. Also in 2015, there were local and national marches and rallies against immigrant detention centers and the law of public order, known as Ley Mordaza, for its criminalization of free speech.

UAlbany's Madrid Summer offers an opportunity you don't want to miss. You don't have to speak or read Spanish to be part of this program. If you are proficient in Spanish, all the better. Either way, you will have a grand time.

To learn more about UAlbany’s 130+ opportunities worldwide including semester, summer, winter, and spring break options, please visit the new website for UAlbany Education Abroad.

 

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