My first impression of Spain was brown. As we were eating breakfast on the plane, I opened my window, peered out, and saw an nothing but a vast expanse of reddish-brown dirt. There were a few (brown) trees and buildings, but unlike in the US, there was no green grass or fields or trees visible. The brown coloration continued as the plane neared the city, and I began to notice predominantly brown buildings and villas in the countryside covered in reddish-brown of Spanish tile roofs. As I entered the city center in a taxi the color palate remained the same as the buildings moved closed together, and the brown cobbled streets wound together in a complex network of alleys and roads even less organized than that of the Boston suburbs.
In America, we often associate the color brown with old, unpleasant or dirty things, or at the very least the color can be associated with dullness (like the color drab which as an adjective literally means “lacking interest” ). But here in Madrid, the brown-ness is what makes the city beautiful. The tan buildings have a lively undertone of yellow or orange that reflects the vitality of the occupants capped with cheerful red tiled roofs. The stone streets remain exactly how I imagine they were 100 years ago. The ample sunshine gives the tan skin and dark brown hair of the typical madrileño a bright glow as if they just stepped off a fashion runway rather than the subway.
I can’t count how many times I’ve heard the American students in my program remark “it’s just so pretty here” or “I just can’t believe everything here is so beautiful.” Over the past week, I’ve gained a new appreciation for a color I once disliked. On first sight I may have been a little disappointed that the country wasn’t more green, but in the past week I’ve begun to appreciate how the shades of brown meld together to create the bustling backdrop for a city full of friends greeting each other, grand statues on every corner, and meandering sidewalks lined with cafes. Madrid, you are brown. Madrid, you are beautiful.