De Madrid al Cielo: From Madrid to the Sky
Why Spain? Why Madrid?
As a student coming from a South American country, a Spanish speaking country, I got asked these questions a lot. Why choose a country so similar to yours to do your semester abroad? Clearly, Spain and Colombia share the same language, but they also practice the same religion and even dance to the same music. It was hard for me to answer before getting here, why Madrid? I have friends that went to Shanghai, Poland, Australia. Why not travel to a country where people spoke Portuguese or used yen as their currency?
And now, two months after arriving here, it’s easy to answer: Because of the sky.
When I started studying communications, I did my first interview with a Spanish woman who used to live in my neighborhood. I was curious to know what she missed about her hometown. “What I miss most about Madrid is the sky”, she answered. I didn’t understand her words until now, three years after that interview.
In Madrid, you can always see the sky. It’s not quite like any other sky. It’s a complex sky that mixes cobalt, Egyptian and every other shade of blue. Even when it’s cold, the sky is fascinating, the clouds decorate it with delicate strokes or intricate designs.
In fact, the skies that artist Diego Velasquez painted are well-known and are thought to be inspired by Madrid. He used to say that light in the Spanish capital was transparent; it’s not intense and it doesn’t saturate. You can stare at the sky for as long as you want. At sunset, the whole city turns orange and pink.
From the moment you step into this city you’ll read the phrase “De Madrid al cielo” which literally translates to “from Madrid to the sky”. I’ve come to understand that this phrase means different things to different people. For some, “De Madrid al cielo” is a movie from 1952, for others is a campaign from the City Hall. Some people believe you go from Madrid straight to heaven when the souls of the dead ascend to the sky at Cerro Garabitas. Others think the phrase comes from a piece of Luis Quiñones de Benavente called “Baile de invierno y verano”, which reads:
Pues el invierno y el verano,
en Madrid solo son buenos,
desde la cuna a Madrid,
y desde Madrid al Cielo.
(Because winter and summer,/in Madrid they are only good/from the crib to Madrid,/and from Madrid to the sky.)
For me, it not what’s above Madrid, but what we find in here. Its a place where you conquer the sky. There’s space to be whoever you want and do a bit of everything.
On Sundays, you get to stroll through Paseo del Prado and have a picnic at Retiro Park. And that slow pace is an everyday thing between 2 and 4 pm, when Madrileños take their nap. After siesta comes fiesta, because Madrid is also a party capital. But it’s a city that oozes culture too. When you go to el Triangulo del Arte–an imaginary triangle made by the Reina Sofia, Thyssen-Bornemisza and Prado Museum–you realize that nowhere in the world are there so many masterpieces so close to each other.
Madrid is a city where everyone fits. In Chueca the LGTB community celebrates pride, and in Lavapies people from other places have found a home, making it the most multicultural neighborhood you’ve seen. Las Letras is perfect for those in love with literature, and Salamanca is the place for luxe. Malasaña is the home of artists and La Latina the home of foodies.
Madrid is a place where you conquer the sky, no matter who you are or where you come from. I know for certain that whenever I am asked why I chose this city or what I miss most about it, I will answer: el cielo.