Last Saturday, we went to Córdoba. For those of you that don’t know, Córdoba is located about an hour to the North-East of Sevilla, and like Sevilla, is heavily influenced by Hispanic-Muslim architecture and culture. The city is small, but very beautiful. The center of Córdoba is hidden behind a massive stonewall, draped in moss and worn by time. Our adventure to the Mezquita (the famous mosque-cathedral with yellow and red arches) took us through the narrow streets, and we came across a sign for el Museo de Inquisición (Inquisition Museum). It only cost 2 euro, and there were suits of armor in the corridor, so we all decided to go and check it out.
We walked into the first room and I began to read the plaques affixed to the walls. They were translated into four languages, and situated next to authentic devices from the Inquisition. The more I read, the more horrified I became. I saw metal masks, the “rack,” a chair made of nails…I didn’t make it past the first room. I couldn’t.
As I read the plaques, and saw the machines that were used to inflict such awful torture on thousands of people, I was overwhelmed. I practically ran to the exit, and waited there for the rest of my friends to follow.
Sometimes I just don’t understand: how can people, who I believe to be good, who are capable of such amazing things, be so terrible? I would argue that the answer isn’t as simple as it seems. I guess a lot of it depends on your point of view–a pessimist would not be surprised that the Inquisition happened and an optimist would be horrified. (You can guess what I am.) So what should we believe? Are humans bad? Or are they good? The sad reality of today is that our world is not incredibly different than the world of the past. People are still driven by dangerous fanaticism and insatiable hatred.
Yet, times have changed. Our world is dynamic, beautiful and filled with innovative people who want cooperation and peace. There may still be those awful things, but we are not living in the antiquated world of the 15th century.
I don’t know if people are fundamentally good or bad. I don’t know what we should do to solve the “world’s problems.” But I do know that people are capable of kindness and greatness, and that we should never give up hope for a brighter future.
I guess I’m glad that I went to the museum. It was horrifying, but it is a piece of not only Spain’s history, but of the world’s history, and it is important to confront and contemplate it.
Shannon Fineran ’15 is a sophomore currently studying in Seville, Spain, where she has learned to embrace the age-old traditions of the siesta and chocolate. When she isn’t adventuring through the tangled streets of the city, you can probably find her sitting at a café, enjoying life as the Spaniards do.