Córdoba fieldtrip, March 2019

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While the UK was being battered by high winds and drenched with rain by storm Gareth, a group of staff and students from the University of Gloucestershire were enjoying a sun-drenched week in Córdoba, southern Spain. The group, including RPE staff and students, were not there just for the weather. Or the food and drink. Though they did help. We were there to explore aspects of the history and culture of the Andalusian region, especially the ways in which successive religious traditions have shaped the land and its people.

To be Spanish, as one of our guides told us, is to be Catholic. And yet, he continued, that is also to obscure the variety and contradictions which are central to the heritage and identity of Spain. The stunning Mesquita in Córdoba – a Catholic Cathedral built in the middle of a Mosque – illustrates the complexity of such heritage and identity. Students explored the Mesquita, the Alcazars in Seville and Córdoba, and many more ancient and more contemporary articulations of Spanish culture. (Has Córdoba’s nightlife recovered from their enthusiastic participation?) They asked question of what it means for Spain to have the heritage it enjoys. And that raised questions about our own identities as a group of diverse Brits.

We left in rain and wind, returned in rain and wind. The time in Córdoba was a space in which to enjoy some unseasonal sun. It was also an opportunity to build friendships and ask perplexing questions about how the past shapes who we are.

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