Looking for Spanish culture
in Western Australia
Maria, happy to find Spanish culture Maria, happy to find Spanish culture

For everyone who wishes to find a piece of Spanish culture in Western Australia, New Norcia is definitely the way to go

I have started to fall in love with this vast, majestic and deeply appealing continent called Australia. I adore its incredible, powerful colours, its uncomparable spaciousness and its sometimes laid-back "no worries" attitude. Nevertheless, I still miss Spain like crazy...

This is my eight month in Perth - far, far away from the delights of my beloved Spain. Far away from 'queso manchego" (a special goat's cheese), my unparalleled 'abuelas' (grandmother's) food and especially from the typical southern Spanish culture: the warm hearted social life with its continuos salutatory kisses and its joyful 'cachondeo' (joking around).

Given these circumstances, what is more reasonable than searching for traces of Spanish culture in my current hometown Perth?

But this proofed to be easier said than done: My desperate attempts to ask each and every waiter (and waitress) in the Chocolateria San Churro (Spanish style cafe), if they by any chance were Spaniards didn't succeed. Neither was the investigation of several related dubious Facebook groups of any avail - I truely was about to give up.

Or alternatively about to start wearing a shirt with the imprint "Proof of Spanish life - desperately wanted" daily.

But then a ray of light broke through my nostalgia and homesickness: an excursion two hours north of Perth finally brought success! I encountered a true bastion of Spanish culture in Western Australia, New Norcia.

This little town revealed itself to be one of the utmost important historical sites in WA. It was founded in 1846 by (yeah, finally) Spanish Benedictine monks and constitutes a splendid monastery settlement 132 kilometres north of Perth. To my amazement, I recognized quite familiar looking buildings, a cluster of ornate Spanish-style buildings set contrasty in the australian bush. Formerly established as an Aboriginal mission, nowadays the working monastery offers participation in prayers and retreats with the monks.

My first step towards discovering the places of interest that the only Australian monastic town has to offer, consisted in visiting the New Norcia Museum and Art Gallery (Great Northern Hwy, www.newnorcia.com). Art treasures and several artefacts dating from the post- Renaissance period are shown there.

After that, a nice little stroll along palm trees lead me to two remarkable buildings, which were constructed in the beginning of the nineteenth century. The sight of the typical Spanish colonial architecture of the St Gertrudes and St Ildephonsus Colleges already eased my nostalgia remarkably.

But the best about my trip to this 'Mini Spain' in the middle of the Australian bush was definitely constituted by the beautiful cathedral in the heart of New Norcia. Erected in 1860, its special appeal for me lied in the surprising contrast between the classical Spanish colonial exterior and the modern wall paintings in the interior.

Further possibilities of exploring the tranquility, beauty and peacefulness of New Norcia include guided town tours, a visit to the grand New Norcia Hotel (Great Northern Highway) or an overnight stay at the Monastery Guesthouse, in gender segregated rooms.

And even though New Norcia didn't atomize the lifeliness I associate with Spain, it still evoked homesick feelings and a deep sense of peace and contemplation within me.

For everyone who wishes to find a piece of Spanish culture in Western Australia, New Norcia is definitely the way to go.

By Maria Elena Knolle Cano

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