Archives of the Indies

Although every Indian now seems to know about the bull run of Pamplona, the football clubs of Madrid and Barcelona, and Bunyol’s festival of La Tomatina, until a few years ago a random person in a Mumbai train would not be able to say anything definite about Spain. The historical connection between India and Spain being so meagre, it is odd to come across a beautiful Renaissance building in Seville called the General Archives of the Indies. It took me a moment to realize that the Indies in question lie across the Atlantic.

We never entered to gawp at the eight kilometers of shelves which hold 80 million pages dating from the 16th century CE to the end of the Spanish empire in the 19th century CE. I doubt that access is permitted to this treasure trove of recent history. However, some of the documents of general interest are on display.

The Family drew my attention away from the cathedral to this building right outside. Apparently it was first built as a market hall for Seville, to draw merchants out from the cathedral, where they had conducted their business till then. King Philip II of Spain got his favourite architect, Juan de Herreira, to design this building. The clean uncluttered lines look beautifully modern.

The horse carriage that you see in this photo will be visible on any day I guess, standing in that particular patch of shadow. This spot is one of the "stations" where tourists can hire a carriage. Why is Seville full of these antiquated and expensive things? They seem to have something to do with the April Fair in this region.

Pleasant times in Plaza Mayor

Plaza Mayor today is a fun place: a large enclosed pedestrian square lined with cafes, restaurants and shops. We strolled through the surrounding arcades, window shopping, before we decided to eat at one of the restaurants around the plaza. The plaza was alive with people in the warm summer evening, as you can see in the video below. There was nothing to remind us of the public executions, beatifications, bullfights, or the burning of heretics by the Inquisition.

If you read the history of the plaza, you see an emperor’s desire to remake the city into a grand capital by removing what must have been a congested marketplace at the crossing of the roads to Atocha and Toledo. Juan de Herrera drew up the plans under Philip II but construction started only in 1617, during the reign of his son. This is why the equestrian statue of Philip III stands in the middle of the square, as it has, intermittently, over the last couple of centuries. The present look of the square dates from after the fires of 1790s, and is due to the appropriately named Juan de Villanueva. I did not take photos of the frescoes made in 1992 on the northern facade to celebrate Madrid’s year as Eucrope’s cultural capital.