Thursday, August 30, 2012

A Word about the Six Flags of Texas

In the description in this blog’s header, it says, “This twentysomething Texan goes to the land of the first flag that flew over his state.” Now, for those unfamiliar with all things Texas, the last phrase in the description alludes to the six flags of Texas, a brief outline of Texas history in which we list off the six nations that have governed the land occupied by the State of Texas from the time of Columbus onward. It’s a familiar trope in Texas but not well known outside. Therefore, let me explain.

Flag of the Crown of Castile, Spain
Source: Wikipedia
The first flag that flew over Texas was the flag of Spain. (Hence, the clever description linking myself, a Texan, and my place of residence for the next year.) For three centuries, the Kingdom of Spain counted Texas as part of its empire, but lost it in 1821 when Mexico gained its independence.

Flag of the Kingdom of France
Source: Wikipedia
The second flag belongs to the Kingdom of France. Although it lasted five short years (1685-1690), the failed French attempt to establish a colony along the coast inspired Spain to begin colonizing Texas.

Flag of Mexico
Source: Wikipedia
Mexico flew its flag next, from its own independence in 1821 until the Texas Revolution in 1836. In this era, Americans from the U.S. began to settle in Texas, bringing African slaves with them. This frustrated the Mexican government, which had outlawed slavery.

Flag of Texas
Source: Wikipedia
The fourth flag is that of the Republic of Texas, which the state uses as its flag today. Many of my fellow Texans make much of this time period, but I think it says a lot that, as soon as Anglo settlers gained independence from Mexico, they applied for U.S. statehood. Still, this country lasted from 1836 until admission to the union in 1845 with territory that now forms part of Colorado, Kansas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Wyoming.

Flag of the US
Source: Wikipedia
The fifth (and current) flag belongs to the United States. Apart from a brief intermission in the Civil War, the American flag has flown since 1845 with minor updates to reflect the growing number of states that form the Union. It has remained unchanged since 1960.

Flag of the Confederacy
Source: Wikipedia
The final flag that flew over Texas was the banner of the Confederacy. In the lowest point in American history, eleven states seceded from the U.S. in order to preserve slavery after Abraham Lincoln was elected president, and war broke out. From 1861 to 1865, the Confederate States of America de facto controlled the American South, although it was never recognized as a nation by the U.S. or any other country.

There you have it, 500 years of Texas history. I hope this sufficiently explains this little bit of Texana if you, my reader, are not a Texan.

Soon, your author will leave the Great State of Texas (ahem) for Spain.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Bought the Transatlantic Plane Tickets

Since my visa came in the mail a few days ago, I bought my airplane tickets to Spain yesterday. I was originally planning to take advantage of Iberia’s Special Student Offer (which also applies to language assistants), but as I was about to pay for my tickets, I realized they didn’t accept my credit card company—which means a loss of cash back rewards. So, I hopped over to US Airways’ website (where they do accept my credit card) and found a ticket that was $85 cheaper: $1,000, all fees and taxes included.

US to Spain transatlantic plane flight
My flight, kudos to Great Circle Mapper

I’ll leave the US in late September with a short layover in Philadelphia (gotta love US Airways hubs!) before the long overnighter to Madrid. If I have any luck at all, I might get a few hours of sleep.

Let the packing begin!

Friday, August 24, 2012

My Spanish Visa Arrived—It’s Officially Official Now!

US passport with Spanish student visa
My student visa (visado de estudios).
I opened up the mailbox this afternoon and was initially surprised to see a letter-sized USPS Priority Mail cardboard envelope inside; I couldn’t remember ordering anything that shape recently. But when I saw the address in my handwriting on the front, I realized that the Consulate of Spain in Houston had approved my application for a student visa and had sent it back glued in my passport! Hooray!

The days of waiting on Spain to get their act together are now over. (I’m gonna eat those words pretty soon here, though, I’m sure…) From finally getting off the waitlist in early July, to getting my school placement in late July, to applying for my visa in early August and receiving it now, in late August, I can now officially officially say I am going to Spain. What a relief!

I had applied in person at the consular office in Houston on August 2 and the visa says my application was approved on August 13. Ten days after that, it showed up at home.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

17 English Names for Spanish Places

People often have their own, peculiar names for foreign cities and countries that don’t speak the same language that they do; for example, what we call Germany, the Germans call Deutschland; London is known to the French as Londres; and in Mandarin Chinese, the U.S. sounds like the word for “beautiful country.” Spanish place-names in the English language are no different, although the ones that have been changed were usually historically significant.

Catalan and Spanish bilingual road signs in Spain
Bilingual corpus by Börkur Sigurbjörnsson on Flickr

Here are 17 of the most common Spanish places that have different names in English. (Just so you know, on this blog, I’m going to use the Spanish names (the ones on the left) instead of the English ones, except for the Balearic and Canary Islands.)

Andalucía >> Andalusia
This autonomous community is found in the south of the country. “Andalusia” comes from the Arabic al-ʼAndalus. (Compare French, Andalousie, German, Andalusien, and Italian, Andalusìa.)

Aragón >> Aragon
This autonomous community is found in the north central part of the country.

Castilla >> Castile
This historical region of Spain is shared among the present-day autonomous communities of Cantabria, Castilla y León, Castilla-La Mancha, Madrid, and La Rioja. The English form is probably due to French influence, “Castille.

Cataluña/Catalunya >> Catalonia
This autonomous community is found in the northeast of the country. “Catalonia” is the Latin name.

Córdoba >> Cordova
This city was the capital of Moorish Spain for centuries, and now is one of the biggest cities in Andalucía. It is perhaps just by chance of history that the English name ended up with a V rather than a B; Catalan, Italian, and Portuguese all spell it with a V. However, Spanish-speakers don’t make a distinction between Bs and Vs, so I guess the matter is moot.

La Coruña/A Coruña >> Corunna
This city is a provincial capital in the autonomous community of Galicia. Wikipedia says that it was also known as “The Groyne” in English (from the French, “La Corogne”). Thankfully, that name has fallen out of use.

Duero >> Douro
This river begins in northern Spain and empties into the Atlantic Ocean in Portugal. “Douro” is the Portuguese name.

España >> Spain
The country itself. The name is, again, due to French (actually Anglo-Norman) influence, “Espaigne.”

Ibiza/Eivissa >> Iviza
One of the southern Balearic Islands. “Iviza,” a rare form of the name, is probably influenced by the Catalan, “Eivissa.”

Islas Baleares/Illes Balears >> Balearic Islands
These Mediterranean islands are to the east of Spain. “Balearic” comes from the Latin “Balearis.”

Islas Canarias >> Canary Islands
These African islands are to the southwest of Spain. “Canary” comes from the Latin “Canaria” via the French “Canarie.”

Mallorca >> Majorca
One of the central Balearic Islands. “Majorca” comes from the Latin, “Maiorica.”

Menorca >> Minorca
One of the northern Balearic Islands. “Minorca” comes from the Latin, “Minorica.”

Navarra/Navarroa >> Navarre
This autonomous community is found in the northeast of the country. “Navarre” is the French name.

Sevilla >> Seville
This is the capital of Andalucía. “Seville” comes from the French, “Séville.”

Tajo >> Tagus
This river begins in central Spain and empties into the Atlantic Ocean in Portugal. “Tagus” is the Latin name.

Vizkaya/Bizkaia >> Biscay
This is one of the three provinces of the Basque Country. “Biscay” comes from the French, “Biscaye.”

Zaragoza >> Saragossa
This is the capital of Aragón. The name “Saragossa” is due to French influence, “Saragosse.”

Now, wasn’t that fun?

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

How to Apply for a Student Visa for Spain at the Houston Consulate


For Spain’s North American Language and Culture Assistant program, you work 12 hours a week as a teacher’s assistant in English-speaking classrooms. If this sounds like something you’d be interested in doing, check out my post on how to apply for the program. However, once you’re accepted, you’ll have to apply for a student visa, rather than a work visa, in order to work in Spain as a language assistant. The government technically classifies the program as “continuing education” and you officially receive a “grant” each month…whatever. At least the visa process is simpler!

Spanish student visa from the Houston consulate
My student visa for the 2012-2013 school year
In this post I’ll explain how to apply for a student visa through the Consulate of Spain in Houston. This information applies only to those served by the Spanish consulate in Houston; i.e., residents of Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and, of course, Texas.

The Houston consulate’s website offers how-to-apply PDFs for the generic student visa as well as specialized guidelines if you are an auxiliar de conversación. Since those required documents guidelines are hard to follow, I’ve put together an easy-to-read checklist below to help you out.

As I am not an immigration lawyer, please make sure to do your own research first and only use this blog post as a helpful guide during the application process, especially since requirements can change at any moment and processing fees may be raised without notice. As a general rule, bring multiple color copies of everything on this list…plus a stapler, just in case.

Two (2) application forms

Here’s the link for the application. Select “studies” for “20. Principal purpose of the journey,” “More than two” for “22. Number of entries requested,” and put your school’s information in “23. Applicant’s address in Spain” and “28. Data of the educational establishment or research centre in case of applying for a student or research visa.”

Two (2) passport-sized photos stapled or glued to forms

I went to CVS and got a sheet of six pictures made for $11.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Villanueva del Arzobispo Is Theatrical, Evidently

A week ago I was browsing YouTube in hopes of finding an amateur, iPhone-recorded video of the Spanish town of Villanueva del Arzobispo, the place I’m going to be a language assistant in next school year. I was floored when I came across this video with professional, aerial cinematography and a Gustav Holst soundtrack:


Here’s what the narrator is saying in Spanish…
     Villanueva del Arzobispo.
     Una de las llaves de la comarca de Las Villas.
     Un bello escenario entre las cuencas altas de los ríos Guadalquivir y Guadalimar.
     Cerca ya de las estribaciones de la Sierra de las Villas, y de Cazorla, Villanueva del Arzobispo fue fundada por Don Pedro Tenorio, Arzobispo de Toledo.
     Su primitivo casco urbano, al que parecen llegar los vecinos aires Manchegos, aparece dominado por la Iglesia de San Andrés, edificada sobre una antigua fortaleza.
     Villanueva del Arzobispo, una histórica encrucijada entre las tierras altas de Jaén y los campos de la Mancha.
…and in English:
     Villanueva del Arzobispo.
     One of the keys of the county of Las Villas.
     A beautiful setting between the upper valleys of the Guadalquivir and Guadalimar rivers.
     Close to the foothills of the Sierra de las Villas and the Sierra de Cazorla, Villanueva del Arzobispo was founded by Don Pedro Tenorio, Archbishop of Toledo.
     Its original town center, through which the neighboring breezes of La Mancha seem to blow, is dominated by the Church of San Andrés, built over an ancient fort.
     Villanueva del Arzobispo, a historic crossroads between the highlands of Jaén and the fields of La Mancha.
Y’all don’t know how excited I was when I saw this short video—it makes what I assumed to be the Middle of Nowhere into a somewhat famous location!


But back in the real world, while I still don’t have high hopes this is going to be the hidden gem of southern Spain, I am feeling more optimistic about calling Villanueva home for nine months.
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