Que es Flamenco?

¿Que es Flamenco?” translates to “What is Flamenco?” To the people living in Andalucia, the southern autonomous community of Spain, Flamenco is everything. Flamenco is a genre of music that includes singing, dancing, guitar playing, and many other styles. Although America is called a melting pot today, Spain can be thought of as a melting pot as well since it has been influenced by Greeks, Romans, and Phoenicians. These power houses constructed Spain as we know it today. Flamenco specifically adopted some characteristics of Arabic as well in the music.

During my time so far in Cadiz, I have had the opportunity to watch live concerts (Part 12), learn to dance Flamenco, and talk about some of the history with locals here. Like any other expression of art, Flamenco isn’t something everyone does here, but it is something everyone shows appreciation for. Try talking at a concert while someone is belting out a piece, and you will definitely be hushed by the crowd! I have grown to appreciate the passion performers convey; its incomparable to any artists I’ve seen in the United States.

Although just skimming the surface for now and will be learning more about Flamenco during my time here, I got the chance to hear a break down about how Flamenco it all flows together. Today, two local performers spoke generally about it all. To summarize , here are some facts I learned today along with my own observations:

  1. Flamenco to Andalucia is like Jazz to America. Its an expression of how the artist’s feels. This can be the sorrows felt during their hardships throughout their life, like a break up or living in poverty. It can also be a way of story telling with a more upbeat and happy vibe.
  2. Flamenco dancing is not easy to do. During my first class, I felt like I had two left feet and could not coordinate my arms. Although I went in and danced with confidence, it definitely did not look good. Also, it didn’t help that I had no idea what the dance commands were in Spanish so I blindly followed along in the mirror. I enjoyed myself in the end which is all that matters :).
  3. Flamenco must be done with soul and passion. Google “Flamenco” and you will see many artists whether singing, dancing, or playing an instrument using great expression while performing. Look closely at the change in facial expression or the strength and tone in the voice.
  4. As I mentioned before, its not something everyone in Andalucia does. Flamenco is not something that can be learned, but something innate.
  5. Clapping isn’t just clapping. There are ways that one shapes their hands to change the sound and arms must be held up about shoulder height. Two ways I’ve learned is the cupping of both hands to make a deeper sound, while fingers to a slightly cupped palm makes a higher sound. Clapping is used to keep the rhythm whether it is or is not accompanied by an instrument.

    Here I am (right) trying to practice the clapping rhythm with a classmate

    Our amazing Flamenco teachers showing us how to clap on beat

Here is a clip of an activity we did with our Flamenco teachers

While in Cadiz, I have the privilege of studying at the University of Cadiz where class isn’t just learning how to speak the language, but also learning about Cadiz and Spanish culture as a whole. One class we were able to discuss one of the most well known guitarist, Paco de Lucia. He changed the game when it came to playing Flamenco. His skill set was incomparable and his stage presence left people in awe. Paco de Lucia crossed into other genres like classical music. I could go on, but you just have to see for yourself how amazing this man truly is (click here). Another artist I have to mention is Cameron de La Isla who is a well known Flamenco singer. I may be giving biased reviews due to the fact they both are Cadiz natives, but they truly have unique talents. Here is both Cameron and Lucia working together.

Although I am half-way through the program, I am so happy with all that I’ve learned so far and I look forward to what’s ahead. Cadiz is such a lively city thats full of vibrant culture and welcoming people. Its no surprise why its called “The Smiling City”. Every day I can’t help but smile and know I’m experiencing a completely different lifestyle in a historical town  learning another language.

A Dream I Never Want to Wake From

Ever have a dream that you could do anything? A dream where you could go anywhere in the world and see all the differences to that of the life you’re living now? Any place that speaks a different language, eats different food and goes about their day-to-day?

That’s what Spain is like. A whole beautiful mess of culture, language, food and opportunity all new to me . Though things are still all new and my heart is beating a mile per minute due to the excitement of it all, I still can’t get over how amazing this place truly is. There is a term we hear a lot before we embark on our journeys abroad and that is ‘culture shock’ and honestly I didn’t truly understand the meaning behind the word until I arrived here. Home, is so foreign in nature to the home that is Spain and I wouldn’t have it any other way because it is a wonderful type of different. From the start, there was no delay in the flow of information from the families, teachers, community, people and other students. Although, I do not have a lot of personal experience with speaking spanish, and I was slightly nervous to go to a country where I didn’t know the primary language, I have found that there are many people who will jump at the opportunity to assist me in understanding and learning the language.

My experience here is a little less than typical, because instead of taking a traditional class I am taking an internship and working at a local food pantry. It is a truly eye-opening experience. I get to see a different side of Spain then most students, but I consider myself lucky to be exposed to the whole Spain rather than just the glamorous parts. There is no hiding the fact that there are troubles everywhere in the world, and I feel personally inspired to get to see the hardships that many face in the place that they call home and how they choose to manage those hardships.

Beyond that, there are many parts about Spain that are absolutely beautiful. The architecture is so antique and historic, and the city just breaths history. From the old Naval Fort to the Cathedral and the historic statues around the city like that of Lucio Junio Moderato Columela– Principe de los escritores de agricultural. There is something to learn about at every corner and never a dull moment with music running well into the night, artists and players on the street performing for the masses, and plenty of shops full of food, clothing, etc. to explore.

The food too is something completely different than from back home, even normal things are made differently here. Hotdogs are normally much smaller here and a couple go into a bun. There are chocolate dipped donuts that are frozen to harden the chocolate, instead of glazed with chocolate. Rice, beans, and fish are extremely popular and are found in many dishes or mixed with many other foods. However, the weirdest for me so far has been the change in etiquette with eating, such as eating fries cooked in oil with a fork instead of just using your hands; which honestly is a great idea instead of getting your hands dirty. There are still foods that are in both Spain and back home, such as Oreos and Chips-A-Hoy cookies, Pepsi and Coca-cola drinks, and surprisingly Tic-Tacs and 5 Gum; so it is nice to have a taste of home every now and again while being immersed in all the new.

Of course, there is also always the beaches; something that Spain is extremely well known for. The beaches are nothing like that of those back home, the water is warm and brighter blue compared to the cold and dark waters of Hampton Beach back in Massachusetts. The sand is also much softer beneath my feet than that of the beaches I have traveled to back home. I cannot deny that it is a wonderful thing to be no more than a five minute walk from the beach, and to have so much time to go and enjoy it.

Though i thought coming to Spain would be more troublesome than good, and that there would be little purpose for me to learn another language. I am now more than happy that I came than I ever thought I’d be. From the people I’ve meet to the places I’ve seen, Traveling to Spain has been one of the best decisions in my life, and it’s only my second day.


Join students as they travel to one of the oldest seaside cities in western Europe to learn and practice Spanish . Students will be immersed in the Spanish language during parts one and two of this intensive program, with plenty of opportunity to experience and interact with the rich cultural of Cadiz, Spain.

Group picture from a previous Study Abroad trip to Cadiz.