Tiles in Spain

Tiles are popular in Venezuela. This is at least partially due to our Spanish influences, but possibly it is also because tiles are cool to the touch and keeping cool is a priority in countries with warm weather.

One of my first encounters with Spanish tiles was in La Casa de la Señora Lucy. La Señora Lucy was Catalana an she was not only my mother’s closest friend but she was also my brother’s godmother. Back in the day and still today, being a godmother is a title of great importance in Venezuela. In the year 1952, Lucy moved from Barcelona to the same apartment building where my mother, grandmother and uncle lived. She lived with her husband and two children in an apartment that was heavily tiled.

A couple of months ago, we scored direct flights from Oakland to Barcelona for less than $400 (thank you Scott!). It was one of those deals that you can’t overthink, so we scheduled a 10 day trip to visit our Spanish friends.

First, we went to Bilboa. I didn’t know that Basque country had such a different cultural identity than the rest of Spain! So much so, that our basque friend corrected me when I referred to the Spanish language as “Español” instead of calling it “Castellano“. There were no Spanish tiles in Basque Country, but there were sturdy farm houses traditionally built with rocks and clay. We spent a couple of days admiring the cohesiveness of the architecture, off-roading in the mountains and eating croissants & coffee for 2 euros instead of the 12 dollars that we would have paid for them at home.

We arrived in Córdoba at six in the morning and it was already almost 80 degrees. Despite the heat, the Andalusia region was incredibly beautiful. Visiting La Mezquita was one of the highlights of the trip. This amazing tourist attraction was definitely worth the 10 euros that we tried to avoid paying when we followed our friend’s advice and pretended to be locals with free admission tickets. Besides the architecture, the cool thing about La Mezquita is its eclectic combination of Muslim and Catholic styles.

In the year 784 Muslin Rulers ordered the construction of a Great Mosque in the place of a Christian basilica, then a few things happened and about 500 years later, Córdoba returned to Christian ruling and the building was converted into a Roman church (thanks to wikipedia for validating my memory). I loved walking around the aesthetically pleasing results of this cultural stew, drinking beers in order to survive the heat.

Spanish culture is very different from one region to another. Córdoba, for example is heavily influenced by the Arab world. You can see the arabic impact even in the metallic tones and glazed finish of their tiles. The tiles that we saw in restaurants and homes in Barcelona (Catalunya region), usually didn’t have the oxidized metals that give tiles that luster touch in Córdoba.

Aziz Ansari might think that there is nothing more boring than tiles. I was too, surprised by my fascination by them specially after watching Pino’s boring tile-talk (#tiletalk) in Episode 9 of Master of None. But what makes Spanish tiles interesting is not the quality of their finish or the vibrancy of their colors, but the diversity of their origin.

From the dry basque cider that only certified servers are allowed to pour at a bar, to the marvelous tiles in park Güell in Barcelona, in Spain you can experience exciting results of cultural multiplicity.

Disclaimer! The first photo is from Portugal, not Spain 🙂 All other photos were taken by either Nicholas Lacampagne, a passerby or by me.

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