Seville, Spain

Saturday, December 22, 1928

Last night I was taking a walk when a man asked me if I were American. He, his wife and daughter and I went in a café and had some coffee.  Cabello Pedro Larrión del Arco, it turned out, is a professor of history here and in Madrid. He evidently has been doing much research here in Seville about the city, etc. and also knows his stuff in several languages, painting, art, and history. [Because Hall didn’t mention it, here’s a little Carmen.]

This morning I visited the inside of the cathedral. It is a mammoth place and is elaborately done. The striking Tomb of Columbus was interesting to me. Four large figures in the robes of the church and coats of arms on their breasts carry the coffin on their shoulders. The cathedral has much wealth. The Columbus library is also interesting, having some old prints, etc.

At three I met del Arco and he showed me about the maze of streets. First some fine mosaics in the court of a countess. Then the home of the Duke of Alba, one of the richest men in the world. He spends most of his time in the U.S., though. His place is a beauty. Pretty courts, gardens, etc. You would never dream of seeing such a place in the neighborhood, but such surprises are common. We visited a school for bullfighters, saw the old Roman walls 2,200 years old, an old tower where the kings used to keep their gold until the place was robbed in the XIV century. The section where all the bullfighters live and St. Lawrence Church where is the famous figure of The Good Christ carrying the cross. This Christ is supposed to have great powers and the church has become the richest in Spain, about 300,000,000 pesetas. It is an unimpressive place, though. On the walls are wax models of arms, legs, etc. put there by people who have had those limbs cured of ailments. All this time I was learning loads more. For instance, some 3,000 bulls are killed in Spain a year and about 5 toreadors. The pretty chapel in the Duke’s place was one of the two places of the Inquisition in Seville where that practice was the worst in Spain. Centuries ago the churches used to act as banks and hold people’s money for them for a payment of some 3% or 4% charges. Thus the power drifted into the hands of the church. But in 1852 the government appraised all church property in Spain at 100,00,000 pesetas, took it all away from the church, and paid them about 43,000,000 p.a. year interest. This has recently been increased to 90,000,000 on which the church must support its bishops, some 60 cathedrals, etc.

Bullfighters are sent to an elementary school where they practice on regular bulls. Then they go to a higher school after which they make their appearance in sort of a local arena. From here they go to the Royal Arena. A good toreador makes about 10,000 a fight and has near 100 fights a year, about 1,000,00 pesetas or $160,000. Some make much more. Also saw a small place where they hold cock fights here.

The biggest lottery of the year came off today, the winners getting into the thousands of pesetas. The lottery is run on a nationwide-scale basis and comes off every ten days. The people go for it. There are lots of beggars in Spain. It seems as though a long time ago to get rid of beggars they permitted gambling, taking money made from this to give the beggars. However, the workingmen immediately gambled away their wages so the law had to be repealed and begging permitted again. At present there is no shortage of work in Spain, but wages are very low—about 10 or 12 pesetas a day—and a family can hardly be supported on that.

Another interesting custom is the “student’s glass.” This consists of a little milk or wine in a glass to which is added water and sugar. When you get a drink, this extra bit is always given free. The custom originated way back in the time of Henry V (?). He noticed that only foreigners were enrolled in the university at Salamanca. Inquiring the reason, he was told it was too expensive for the Spanish to afford to go there. To help reduce the price of living, he ruled that in cafés, etc. the first drink will be paid for regularly, but the second shall be free. This custom has been handed down and exists today.

I am staying over here Sunday to see a bullfight and will go to Gibraltar Monday. Met an American boy, Jimmie Tingle, at the professor’s today and the three of us are going out to see some Spanish dancing, etc. tonight. The professor is the author of a couple of Spanish grammars for Americans and has promised me copies.

The professor got things mixed up, as usual, and Tingle didn’t come. We went to a show to see some Spanish dancing. A rather small place built like a theater but with tables around so you could drink while looking on. The show runs all night and each performance takes about two hours. More of a cheap burlesque in my estimation. The stars are all large and stout, contrary to those in the U.S. There were three or four good Spanish dances, but the rest was mostly Charleston in various forms. Gosh! The way those babes rolled their eyes and put on this goo-goo air! It was funny. The Prof. left to get Tingle and never did show up. Must have forgotten to return or fell asleep. And such late hours as I am keeping—one o’clock now. It is actually true that there are quite a few attractive girls in Seville.  $1.52.

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