Spain LREC Winter 2018 By MIDN 2/C Candace Gordon

On the 19th of December, 2018, Midshipmen 1/C Fabiola Duran Juache, 1/C Jace Erlanson, and 2/C Candace Gordon boarded a plane to Spain with LCDR Martínez Ibáñez, Spanish exchange Officer, for an adventure that would be treasured for a lifetime.

The three Midshipmen did not know what to expect and could only think of the most generic and widely known “Facts about Spain”; bull-runs, soccer, and Rota as the main components of Spain prior to the trip. LCDR Martínez Ibáñez showed the three Midshipmen that those three aspects of Spain merely scratch the surface of what this country has to offer.

As this trip took place during Winter Break, the Midshipmen chose to give up their leave and holiday celebrations with their respective families in order to experience the holiday season in the way traditionally celebrated by Spanish natives. However, the holiday activities were not the only thing that would spark the interest of these Midshipmen.

The group began their journey in Jerez, Spain. Jerez is located in a southern region in Spain known as Andalusia.

While in Jerez, the Midshipmen and LCDR Martínez Ibáñez visited Cádiz, an ancient port city.

The Midshipmen also had the chance to be led around the Naval Base in Rota, Spain. The stop at the Naval base was very informative. The group was able to interact with Americans who were stationed in Rota and Spanish natives who were also stationed at the joint Naval Base.

The next stop of the adventure was in Sevilla. Sevilla is the capital of the Andalusia region of Spain. This was the first encounter the group had with the seemingly-overwhelming amount of history that Spain possesses.

Here, the Midshipmen visited the Sevilla Cathedral, the Plaza de España, and many more of the impressive landmarks that Sevilla is home to. At each of the landmarks, LCDR Martínez Ibáñez and the designated historian of the trip, 1/C Fabiola Duran Juache, would give a background story on the structure and were eager to answer the plethora of questions that the rest of the group had.

After Sevilla, the Midshipmen headed east for Cartagena. Along the way, 1/C Jace Erlanson, logistics officer of the trip, scheduled a stop in Ronda. Ronda is a city atop a mountain located in the Málaga region of Spain.

Here the Midshipmen were able to see the Puente Nuevo, a massive and historic bridge with a guard tower overlooking the surroundings with a 360 degrees view.

Once they arrived to Cartagena, the Midshipmen were able to see what a more urbanized region was like.

Fabiola, Jace, and Candace spent their Christmas Eve and Day in this region. They were able to experience a typical Spanish Christmas dinner with the family of LCDR Martínez Ibáñez who graciously took the Midshipmen in and fed them until they were blue in the face.

Along with the dinner, the Midshipmen were also able to partake in the festivities that went on through the night. Throughout the night, LCDR Martínez Ibáñez, and his family, were telling the Midshipmen about many of the Christmas traditions that were unique to the Spanish culture.

They also showed interest in wanting to learn the American Christmas traditions, so the family asked the Midshipmen to describe their own family traditions. The Midshipmen were also able to visit the Submarine Base that is located in Cartagena and a local beach.

After Cartagena, the group hit the road and headed north to Madrid, the capital of Spain. However, on the way there, they took a detour to the beautiful city of Toledo.

Here, they got the chance to explore the region and learn about the historical landmarks such as the Toledo Cathedral, the Alcázar of Toledo, Puerta de Bisagra, and Puerta del Sol. The history of some of these landmarks dates back to the 3rd century.

The minute the group arrived to Madrid, they noticed it was nothing like the other regions they had visited. It was a much bigger city with less hills and nature scenery, and more modern.

The Midshipmen visited the Air Forces of Madrid Facility, the Office of Defense Cooperation, and the Naval Museum, where they learned about the relationships of Spain with other countries from the past until now.

They also got to explore the Royal Cathedral, the Royal Palace, the largest Plaza de Toros in Spain, Plaza Mayor, the Market of San Miguel, Puerta de Alcalá, and the Puerta del Sol. It was clear to see that this city is full of life and energy all the time and there is always something to do.

The Midshipmen were impressed by the sense of fashion and style they saw in the people of Madrid. They knew they had to try it at least once while they were there, so they ventured out to a nearby ZARA to find an outfit of their own.

The Midshipmen’s adventure ended with their last stop in Pontevedra, located in the northwest region of Galicia. It was at this stop that they got to celebrate New Year’s Eve and Day with LCDR Martinez Ibañez’s friends and their families. They instantly treated them as if they were part of their own families. In Spain they have a tradition that consists of eating 12 grapes at midnight, as dictated by the bells of the clock located at the Puerta del Sol, for good luck. Candace, Fabiola, and Jace got the chance to partake in this tradicion, and truly enjoyed it.

During their time in this city, they also had the opportunity to visit the Spanish Naval Academy. LCDR Martinez Ibañez was excited to show the Midshipmen his alma mater and tell them stories of his years as a Midshipman.

On their last day in Spain, LCDR Martinez Ibañez took the Midshipmen to Santiago de Compostela, the capital of Galicia. The Santiago de Compostela Cathedral is believed to be the burial site of St. James, a biblical apostol. The Midshipmen got to learn about the pilgrimage route, which is commonly known as “el Camino de Santiago.” They also go to tour the hotel that was once used to host all of the pilgrims that walked el Camino de Santiago.

This was a unique and eye-opening experience for the three Midshipmen.They were exposed to the culture and typical dishes of each region they visited, practiced their Spanish, learned the history of Spain, and saw how closely the United States Armed Forces work with them.

As future officers, they now understand the importance of learning and understanding other countries, their traditions, cultures, languages, and values. The knowledge gained from this trip is extremely invaluable and will serve them well in their Navy careers.

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