The Seville's Arenal, an alive theatre.

The Arenal neighborhood wasn’t always as we see today, in fact during the 18th and 19th century the neighborhood hadn’t even the half elegance that it has nowadays.

We are talking about the houses outside the walls that welcome all these travelers that stopped in the Seville’s Port. The entrance of American bussiness and Europe's exotism.

Maybe now it isn't easy to believe, but it should be like a true swarm of ships' mast and sheds, especially busy during the arrival of India's fleets. We have a lot of images to give evidence of it.

Until the 18th century the India’s Port bring together with its goods travellers from every part of the world, attracted by the Catholic Kings monopoly and the curiosity that the occidental Babilonia created. The Arenal’s neighborhood was a show with its curtains always open: “Mother of orphans and coat of sinners”, over this scene the sevillian personality was born. It was so much so that many Spanish Golden Age writers such as Lope de Vega or Miguel de Cervantes, got fascinated by the city's surroundings, above all in the Arenal neighborhood.  

But what's made this old neighborhood outside the wall so attractive to literature? We’ll do a reminder:

  • The busy port setting of the Arenal during the 16th century was itself a call for those adventurers that wanted to know more about the New World, the energy and the economic potential of this city lived by America's monopoly business. Besides, in these times getting an opportunity to travel to the New World was an opportunity to run away from the wrongs committed before.
  • The Atarazanas (shipyard) was the place where coopers, carters, shipbuilders and basketmakers did their daily work, a place where a lot of trades joined and the activity never stopped. 
  • The Arenal’s brothel, ubicated outside the walls. It wasn’t the only brothel in the town but was the most visited and more controversial. Surrounded by a wall to control the entrance and exit of people, whose gate entrance was called “the knock”. Near its walls were placed the taberns where the sailors went, also crowded. This brothel was unique in its conditions, it didn’t allow taberns inside its walls, so it obligated visitors to go out to drink or eat, a way to control the activity. Besides, had a restricted schedule and festivity days, although many times the wall was hops over and the restrictions weren’t respected. Even the prostitutes needed permission to work in it and must meet some conditions and pass the medical checks. About the brothel and its surroundings, we talk more on our America’s tour.
  • The “Baratillo”, was a trinkets market full of clothes and a variety of trifles for sailors that emerged during the 15th century. A place where thiefs, rogues, adventurers and shippers meet over the sandbank that Guadalquivir makes. This primitive market was responsible to give the current Arenal the “Baratillo’s Brotherhood”, because thanks to this flea market the houses were added to the wall and finally created this suburb, with a lot of buildings that with time will be temples of important Brotherhoods.

As you can see the Arenal had a lot of elements to make possible these scenes to inspire big writers of the Golden Age, and also novel and theatre writers from all Europe.

Of Lope de Vega, “the Seville’s Arenal” it’s maybe the most popular play and probably the piece that could be a documentary of him about this neighborhood of the city. As he said “ there are thieves persecuted by bailiffs, all types of crimes and rogues, but its accent is not stranger but playful. Is like the Arenal don't let the blood reach the river”. Lope depicted this neighborhood like an Occidental Babilonia. In his verses we can see writed pictures of this ambient: “On that Arenal appears a mulata which comes walking very tired from Feria Street; Turkish galleys slaves that speak a poor Spanish, the galleys bodyguard and a water seller that sell water with anisette”. But it’s not only this title of Lope de Vega which got inspiration in Seville: The gallant slave; Dangers of the absence; The prize of good speaking; Prison without guilt; The nightingale of Seville; The witness against himself; The victory of honor.

Miguel de Cervantes: Between 1587 and 1597 he was living in Seville and he went all over the villages and streets of it. Was accused of extorting part of the money he picked up household by household, because he worked as tax collector. As we can see, the writers in the past also needed more jobs to survive… It’s incredible to think that he was the author of the book with the most translations in the world, right? In the Royal Jail is where he got the first idea of “Don Quixote”, as he told at the beginning of the novel. But specially is where “Rinconete and Cortadillo” had its first written form. Was in this place where Cervantes learned the sevillian argot and lifestyle of the moment.

As the professor of American History, Ramón M.Serrera said “Andalusia had the orientalism charm, something that got crazy to travellers, musicians, romantics… The Opera was a proof of this spirit. Besides, Seville is a city that raises a lot of realities, but also a lot of myths. The myths sometimes had more of reality than the real people or real facts. Here arrived a traveller and asked where was the Figaro Barbershop”.