A Herald Bearing the Hope of Transnationalism

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alhambra3_2168406bI am led beyond the point of echoing tourist fingers, gaping awestruck at the finite honeycomb fixtures marking the doorway to celestial cavities that place God on the minds of even the most devout agnostic. Counter-thrusting arcades, columns arcing their long Moorish necks in the delicate shape of a horseshoe, characterize the spacious interiors of the Alhambra, a palace and fortress complex located in Granada, Andalusia. It is nothing if not the prized token of the cultural mélange that defines the controversial history of Spain with its Muslim, Jewish, and Christian roots that are so deeply intertwined in a soil soaked in blood and sunshine. If I can even begin to attempt to describe this massive architectural entity, I must liken it to some monolithic stone fashioned from organic matter where geometry presides in the impossible forms of stalactites and mathematically perfect patterns making indelible marks on the memory of its long enduring presence. As I walked through it’s many chambers, I first embodied the mind of the powerful Sultana. I envisioned myself walking down the lavishly decorated corridors with my lady servants and meditating in my own private inner courtyard garden, natural perfumes of jasmine, violet, lavender, myrtle, and mint diffusing through the air while I knelt in peaceful contemplation by the long rectangular reflecting pool. And then there was the throne room. Levitated circles of heaven are ensnared in the ceiling, the architects imprisoning the potential kinetic energy of the universe that to this day swirls in eddies like celestial oceans teeming behind walls that quiver in ecstatic motion. I was speechless. And yet, I could see the age behind its timelessness; the stone itself felt cold to the touch, like bone marrow when the color of its life giving blood has been sucked dry, leaving faint scars of henna red, indigo, saffron yellows, and the lush emerald of children’s fairytales.Alhambra Arc

The original structure was built around the 12th century by the emirs and later restored by Yusuf I and Muhammad V during the 14th century. However, in 1492, the Reyes Católicos conquered Granada and subsequently imposed their Catholic influence over the region. Charles V, the Holy Roman Emperor, later added his own palace to the original Alhambra within the Nasrid fortifications in 1527, leaving tiny remnants of a Christianized gentrification like coats of arms engraved amid the abstract Muslim designs. After that, the majesty of the old Sultans was largely forgotten. As the years passed, squatters occasionally used the exhausted and partially demolished skeleton for shelter until its rediscovery in the 19th century. By then, though, the space had fallen into a devastating state of disrepair.

Placing my hands against a pillar, I have felt the energy and history of this colossal space of antiquity. I feel compelled to claim it as distinctly female given its capacity to encompass the symbolism implicit in the Islamic veil that defends most ardently the abundant wealth of its inner beauty. If you observe closely you will notice that she breathes out in sighs, knowing full well her body is that of mummification. Above all I have felt the pain in her preserved existence that is now only memory – centuries of transnational ingestion, strife, and transition. And yet, there is something else. Despite a history of lesions violently grafted inside her womb, she still stands as one of the greatest emblems and present defenders of a Muslim culture that is now welcomed back to Spain after centuries of turmoil following the horror that was the Spanish inquisition. Alhambra, though existing in a ghostly state, asserts herself still as a modern day herald bearing the transnational hope for a world without barricades and animosity toward any one culture, ethnicity, or faith group.

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