Today was my second day in Salamanca, and it was just as lovely as the first! It’s such a small town that I didn’t have much new exploration to do (at least in the downtown area) but I did have plenty of museums to see.
I started off back on the Universidad de Salamanca’s campus, and accidentally had joined a tour group on entering one of the quads until I found my actual destination: the Museum of Salamanca.
Part of a broader set of museums across Castilla y Leon, the Museum of Salamanca is filled with a variety of artwork from the medieval period until modern times. It’s also set in a lovely old home.
The first floor is dedicated to the older works, including a variety of sculptures from the region. Interestingly, there were also a couple very old versions of the Castilla y Leon coat of arms on display.
The roof displayed in the right-hand photo above is from the “Mudéjar” period – i.e., the period during the late middle ages in Iberia when the Moorish / Muslim population was present as part of Al-Andalus. Although most of the Mudéjar influence is found in modern day Andalucia, to the south of Spain, apparently the presence was felt even further north and east than I expected – I was doing research on my next stop (Zaragoza, in Aragon), and apparently much of the architecture is also influenced by the Mudéjar style.
The modern artwork was also great, with some interesting reinterpretations of classic Spanish themes.
After the museum, I spotted another “only-in-Salamanca” item: the rana de Salamanca, aka the frogs in the decor through the design of the University facade.
After that, I stumbled onto what was truly the treat of the day: a private lecture / tour (the lecture moved throughout the whole display he’d provided in the archive building) being given by a professor at the Centro Documental de la Memoria Histórica, aka the Salamanca Historical Archives. He’s an expert in the Spanish Civil War and has amassed a massive collection of primary sources and other artifacts (~5,500 pieces!) from both the Republic and the Franco-ist factions. The discussion was fully in Spanish, so I only understood 80% or so, but it was very comprehensive and lasted nearly an hour.
The primary focus of the conversation was around the use of propaganda – how campaigns were used to shame intellectuals / intellectualism, causing many educated people to flee Spain for Mexico and other more friendly territories; how letter-writing and the national radio were used to provide very specific perspectives on the “news” in order to create confusion and further reduce the narrative around political ideologies; how the same newspaper would publish a completely different take on the exact same set of “facts” depending on which city they were being produced for and the “side” that city was aligned with during the war. Overall, it showcased the classic themes that typically accompany radicalization: limiting education, removing sources of information, providing false information through previously “legitimate” sources, using the media to further ideologies.
The primary sources he’d collected were incredible – hundreds of letters, diary entries, pamphlets, books, and all kinds of propaganda materials (i.e., song-books, newspaper articles, ads, letter writing campaigns, buttons, etc.). There was also a fantastic collection of period items, from a period-style school to a collection of old typewriters and radios. Interestingly, one of the gentlemen on the lecture-style tour was old enough to have remembered going to school just after the Civil War had ended and when Franco was in power. He shared his own experience about how strict the teachings had been.
The absolute coolest part was at the end of the lecture when he gave every single one of us in the group a coin minted during the Spanish Civil War – I was stunned! The coins aren’t particularly valuable, but you can’t get a better souvenir than a historic coin to remember a fascinating lecturer by.
After that, I headed to the final museum that was open today: the Automotive Museum! It has a huge collection of antique cars, all in fantastic collection. It also included a couple small exhibitions on more modern vehicles and some of the local racing cars / motorcycles.
After that, I stopped by a local restaurant for lunch and had the “menu del dia” – essentially a lunch price fix menu. On offer were a couple local specialties, including lentils with chorizo, pork loin, and of course, flan.
After that, it was back to the Airbnb to start packing for my travels onward tomorrow to Zaragoza!