Yesterday, when I arrived at the Royal Palace to work in their archive I knew that something was amuck. No tourists were allowed to visit the palace and the banners of each province of Spain were hung from the windows. Apart from the few scholars like myself, the plaza was empty. As I was leaving through the library exit, (a special exit for the workers and students) all of the press companies were milling about, nervously trying to be the first one through the door to cover all of the action. They stared with such envy and dismay that I would be leaving the palace, when it was the only place they wanted to go.
With such a commotion, both from people gathering around the Palace and its decoration, I decided that I must figure out exactly what was going on. It turns out that the Palace was the seat of the official abdication of Juan Carlos I and the nomination of Felipe VI as his successor. Clearly all of the hullabaloo was for good cause. Once the formalities ended, they were able to announce the proceeding celebrations for the crowning of the new King Felipe VI.
There was no time wasted in crowning the new King, which happened earlier this morning at the Congress. I did not witness this portion of the event, but rather was waiting in the Plaza de Cibeles, overlooking the Ayuntamiento building waiting for his arrival during the procession that followed these actions. I am looking through different accounts of the event, and the guardian records that he aims for a “renewed monarchy for new times” by addressing his role as adviser to the people. (http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/jun/19/spain-king-felipe-vi-promises-renewed-monarchy-sworn-in)
My version of today’s events is rather different from the publicized story. I left morning practice after weights to try to see the action in person because in my opinion this only happens once in a lifetime (Also I do not have a monarchy and so that adds to the thrill of the display). I quickly noticed how many of the houses on my block pulled out their Spanish flags to commemorate the morning’s festivities.
I walked through the park to arrive at Cibeles and believed that there would be so many people that I would not be able to find a good place to capture the event because I was only an hour early. After making it past the Plaza de Alcalá and looking onto my destination, I realized that I would not have that much difficulty finding a good spot. Especially since many of the people kept moving along towards the Plaza de Orient, where the King and Queen would come out to greet all of their subjects. I assumed that it would be too crowded there, and personally do not like the feeling of being trapped in crowds, and had such a good view in the Plaza de Cibeles that I did not attempt to venture further along the parade route.
My location could not have been better. The view as my photos will attest was fantastic, and even better I had stellar company to pass the hour and a half before the parade passed us by (These things never run on time!). We were next to three press conference members who were officially documenting the event and had some seriously high tech cameras and were constantly complaining about the poor lighting because of the position of the sun. Personally, I rather like how my photos turned out, but then again I don’t rely on these photos for my salary. I was also fortunate to get to know Alan, from Mississippi, who truly wanted to understand Spain. Although just starting language classes he has the gift that many learning a new language lack, which was no inhibition. He did not hesitate to talk in Spanish with the reporters or with anyone else in the group, which made it much more enjoyable for all of us. There were not many more people for the first hour, making me wonder if we would ever fill the Plaza. Sure enough, roughly twenty minutes before King Felipe VI came down the street, the people streamed in. A couple of people behind me had been watching on the TV and were knew about all of the hold ups and backlogs and wanted to avoid too much time in the sun.
I expected everyone to be rather festive when the King rode by, or maybe that is just the impression that I have of greeting the monarch based on the glimpses we receive of the British reception of their Queen. Instead, there were very few shouts and clamoring as rode by. A few, viva el rey pierced the air, but in general it was a very somber atmosphere. This reflects the fact that I could not find any Spaniards to join me in the celebration. Most were apathetic, which as one roommate said was in part that today already was a national holiday, but I believe has a deeper root, in that most people find this monarchial system remote and no longer an effective means of government. All of the demonstrations that I have seen throughout these two years reaffirm these sentiments and people no longer know how to demonstrate their disaffection, except by being physically absent. It is a complex dynamic, one that just as soon as I think I understand, completely changes, leaving me lost as to the pulse of the country.
Needless to say, for an American abroad, it is not every day that you get to see a monarch ride through the streets, and I am thankful that I was able to share the morning with my new friends.