Spanish Icons that are not Spanish
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Spanish Icons that are not Actually Spanish

What would you think if I told you there were some Spanish icons whose actual origins were quite far from Spain? They are parts of Spanish culture, gastronomy and even art that have been converted into examples of things that are typically Spanish and even into Spanish clichés. Check out the following examples, we’re sure you’ll be surprised.

-The song “Viva España: Every Spaniard knows this song well, and at one point or another – either as a joke or seriously – has sung this paso doble. But the reality is that it was composed in 1972 by two Belgian musicians, Leo Caerts and Leo Rozenstraten, and its lyrics were originally written in Flemish. The version sung by Manolo Escobar in 1973, is owed to a translation done by a Spanish diplomat.

- El chotis (the Schottische): It’s a curious case that this musical genre and dance from Madrid is actually from Bohemia. But the strangeness doesn’t stop there: when it was popularized in Vienna in the 19th century, the Austrians “sold” it as Scottish music, and it became known as the “Schottisch.” It later became popular throughout Europe, and thanks to a Sicilian emigrant it was brought to Madrid, where it became known as the “German Polka.” The funny thing is, people from that time knew of the music’s Austria-Hungarian origins and adapted the original name, converting it to “chotis.”

-The Spanish National Anthem: also known as the “March of the Grenadiers” like many other anthems, came from a military march. For a long time, the story that it was actually a Prussian composition given by Frederick II to one of King Charles III’s military advisors was circulated. But today, many experts lean towards the theory that affirms the anthem comes from an Avempace composition, a musician from the Al-Andalus era.

- Sangria: Is it possible that Spain’s most famous drink, second only to Jerez (sherry), wasn’t invented by Spaniards? Some say that sangria comes from the French West Indies and started out as a mixture of wine, nutmeg and ice called “sang-gris” the ingredients of which included wine, lemon juice, brown sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg. So how did the drink get to Spain? According to the Spanish dictionary by Father Esteban Torres, edited in 1788 and about which, curiously, there has not been news until now, sangria was the British colonists’ favorite drink. Could it have been brought to Spain by one of the British families who started various wineries in Andalusia in the 19th century?

- Olé: It’s the most well known interjection in the Spanish language and it has been an object of study for a long time. Its origin has inspired many different theories. That being said, all of them put the origin outside Spain’s borders. It is said that it could have come from the invocation of Allah, brought to the Iberian Peninsula by the Muslims – the version accepted by the Royal Spanish Academy – or that it could be an exclamation brought by the Jews and used by the Sephardim in reference to the trick Leah played on Jacob, or that it could even be a distortion of the exclamation “Valhalla!” shouted by the Vikings when they plundered Seville in 844.

- La clara (Shandy): This controversy is about that refreshing mix of beer and soda water (or lemon soda) that every Spaniard has tried at least once. Some say it’s too similar to the German Radler, a drink created in 1922 by the German restaurateur Franz Kugler. But defenders of the drink’s Spanish origins say that Spanish cafés served the drink much before then, and as proof they turn to the famous painting the “Tertulia en el café de Pombo” (“Social Gathering at Café Pombo”), painted in 1920, in which a liter bottle of beer and an old fashioned seltzer bottle are depicted on the table.

How about that? Some Spaniards may feel a little disappointed by this news, but we think it’s simply proof that Spanish icons and culture are international.