Background on the Setting: Zaragosa, Spain
Located in the Aragon province of Spain, surrounded by mountains, Zaragosa borders the main north-south railway track, the main east-west track, the Imperial Canal of Aragon, and the Ebro River. In 1991, over 800,000 people lived in the city.
More than 50% of the million Spaniards of the province live in Zaragosa, which lies midway between Madrid in the north and Barcelona on the Mediterranean to the south. The city is important to pilgrims, as is Santiago de Compostela. A legend says that Jesus' mother, Mary, was seen on a pillar on the river bank by St. James and that she asked him to build a church on that spot.
The famous Spanish painter, Francisco Goya, has several paintings and drawings in the local Museum of Zaragoza on the Plaza de los Sitos. A local tradition is for men who admire Goya's work to drive to Cartuja de Aula Dei, a Carthusian monastery about 7 miles north of the city, to view almost a dozen of his murals on the lives of Jesus and his mother that have been restored.
Goya's birthplace, a small cottage in Fuendetodos, a village about 16 miles southeast of the city, has also been restored for visitors.
For more on Goya visit the WebMuseum site for a biography with samples of his paintings.
As the map indicates Zaragoza is in northeastern Spain on the the Ebro river; it is the capital of its region, Aragon, and Zaragoza Province. Being urban, the city includes manufacturing and commerce, fostered by its location on the main north-south and east-west rail lines of Spain. The main products of the city are cloth, farm equipment, sugar, concrete, and glass.
Being a European city, Zaragoza has preserved its architecture, especially La Seo Cathedral from the 1300's to 1700's and the El Pilar Cathedral that dates from the 1600s. This cathedral's walls hold frescoes done by different famous Spanish painters. The Castillo de la Aljaferķa was a fortress erected by the Moors who occupied part of Spain until nearly the 16th Century, which later became the home for the king of Aragon. An opulent commerce building, the Lonja (the Exchange) dates from the Renaissance. The University of Zaragoza dates from 1533.
Zaragoza originated from a pre-Christian settlement called Salduba, which the Romans occupied a few decades before Christ. They renamed the village "Caesaraugusta," a name that was corrupted into "Zaragoza." Before the Moors captured Spain, the Visigoths and before them the Suevi, occupied the site. For nearly 400 years, Zaragoza was the capital for the Kingdom of Aragon, until Aragon was united with Castille by the marriage of Ferdinand and Isabella in 1469, the royal couple who financed Columbus.
A later distinction for the city was its resistance to French forces in the first years of the Peninsular War from 1808 to 1814.*
*Application Question: Can you make a connection between this fact about the Peninsular War and the character Jig in the story?
Sources: The locator map for the Aragon region and the description of Zaragosa's relationship to Goya are from the Website http://www.spainonline.com. Other facts about the city are paraphrased from "Saragossa," Microsoft ® Encarta. Copyright © 1994 Microsoft Corporation. Copyright © 1994 Funk & Wagnall's Corporation.
* Is it possible that Hemingway would have known about the valiant defense of Zaragoza? Actually, it's very likely, since he traveled in Spain during the 1920s, such as organizing vacation tours for groups of friends to Pamplona and other places; he lived in Spain and worked there as a war correspondent in the 1930s during the Spanish Civil War. It's possible to read this story, then, seeing Jig as valiantly resisting her besieging lover (or is the American her husband?), taking a stand for the way of life she wants.
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