Story by Mackenzie Nichols
SALAMANCA – Look up. Look to the left, to the right. Look under awnings, on store signs, on the ropes that corral people in museums, even on people’s flesh.
Just about everywhere in Salamanca, it’s easy to spot the pervasive red lettering that brands this city, tying its past to its present with a unique and unmistakable red gothic font.
Known now as simply “Salamanca,” the lettering originated inside the ancient University of Salamanca, where rights of passage were fiercely honored among Spain’s male intellectual elite. Here, inside the stone walls that formed the country’s oldest university, boys who arrived to study subjects such as law, theology, economics and medicine left as men only when they earned the Vitor, a symbol designed around a large “V” for “victory” that would be written onto a wall along with the student’s name and date of graduation.
If that’s not intriguing enough, consider this: The writing was painted on with bull’s blood – both because a bull, then and now, represents power and dominance in Spain, and also because the dark red liquid stained the porous sandstone walls enough so that the symbols endured. Students and teachers would use blood from the corridas, or bullfights, and local meat shops – plentiful here because Salamanca has more bull farms than any other region in Spain.