Discussion from La Isla de Santa Clara

“Oh, crap, we’re gonna miss the boat!”

The wise words of Professor Z, that almost rang true, hastily got the eleven of us off of our bums to race—very, very carefully—down the steep cobblestone path towards the boat dock. Really, it was less of a race, and more of a try-not-to-trip-and-fall-but-we-need-to-make-it-off-of-this-island type of thing. As you do. Nevertheless, we made it, and thus ended our day. 

Before we thought we might have to swim home, our class had spent the previous few hours sunbathing on a sloping, grassy hill on La Isla de Santa Clara. We faced the brilliant sun, which for us perfected a concoction of sweat and blindness, and yet there was a sense of bliss among us as we discussed two books we had read previous to the trip.

As an English major, there’s little in this world that is more gratifying to me than a conversation analyzing not only the rich text that lies inside two covers, but also the history, politics, and personality that fed into it. However, discussing The Sun Also Rises by Hemingway while physically being in the region of Spain—Navarra—in which the story takes place has to top it all. Being me, this was my second time reading this book, and being a few years older than I was the first time, I picked up on a lot more, especially within the characters. I think in order to really read Hemingway you need to read his works multiple times, as his use of “iceberg” writing is magnificent, and therefore vague and confusing at any point that you let your brain lag a little. 

In discussing The Sun Also Rises, we learned from Professor Z about a lot of historical context, which segued into talking about the second book, Homeland, by Fernando Aramburu. This book is not only an amazing read, but has incredible insight into the time of the Spanish Civil War when the country was terrorized by Franco’s fascism and also ETA, the Basque terrorist organization that disbanded only two years ago. 

Since San Sebastian is located in the Basque Country, we are fortunate enough to have the Basque culture present just outside the borders of the city; going on day trips, we often see signs that read:

Tourists remember:

This is neither Spain, nor France.


There are also flags seemingly everywhere that symbolize the fight to return Basque prisoners to the Basque Country. For the last so many decades, the Spanish government dispersed ETA prisoners into all parts of Spain and France, including the Canary Islands. This was done to prevent the prisoners from conspiring with each other, but it has taken a drastic toll for the families of the prisoners. 

As we learned from Homeland, the Basque people place an incredible amount of emphasis on “home.” To keep the prisoners a train or even a plane ride away takes away their basic rights to see their family.

Strangely, while having our discussion on La Isla de Santa Clara, I felt very connected to home, 3,500 miles away. The prejudice the Basque people face is, I think, related to the crisis we have going in the U.S. Our government, by trying to enforce a system that maybe we should reevaluate, has taken away one of the most important rights a person can have: to be with their family. And, to be honest, I felt and still feel somewhat fearful that immigrants and their allies will have to fight, scream, and die for as long as the Basque people have in order to be heard and helped. 

That being said, I think it’s encouraging to see that people are unrelenting in their fight as I hope we are across the ocean. Additionally, in learning about the Basque people, I have realized something about the world. I love to travel because I love to learn about different cultures, peoples, and lands. I love to feel connected to all things living. But after travelling to many different countries on multiple continents, developed and developing, my mind has synthesized what I have observed and have been fortunate enough to be a part of.

Akin cultures can exist everywhere in the world, not dependent on location, language, or skin color. Humans suffer in very similar ways, whether through the faults of others or independent causes; and, though the way we handle damage is personal, as societies, it shapes us into one united body. Through suffering also comes the realization of what we actually need for survival. 

Among those is family. Some of the greatest feats that have been performed have been for family and for love. And, while I long for my home with a growing sense of appreciation that seems to occur each time I leave, I am in utter awe at the speed at which my classmates and I have eased into a family-like bond, even though we are only halfway through our trip. It leaves me with the notion that maybe we can have multiple homes, since our hearts can be in so many places with so many people at once. I know, for me, it is possible.