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In Tarragona, a charming port city just south of Barcelona, is Sirenas Mediterranean Academy – a real-life school for aspiring mermaids.
Before founding Sirenas Mediterranean Academy, Susana Seuma worked as a manager at a computer business. It was after injuring her leg in a car accident that she decided to change careers and pursue a somewhat unorthodox childhood dream. Her partner and co-founder of the academy, Alejandro Rodriguez, tells Culture Trip that Susana – a passionate swimmer with a lifelong love of the sea – took to the water to aid her recovery following the accident. “One day I said to her, ‘you are a mermaid, all the time in the water’. She told me that being a mermaid was a dream for her.”
It turned out she wasn’t the only one dreaming of a maritime lifestyle. Since the couple opened Sirenas Mediterranean Academy in 2014, their unique aquatic classes have been flooded with students of all ages wanting to learning the ropes and secure their official mermaid certificate.
Though most students are girls and young women, Susana and Alejandro have helped all kinds of people live out their dreams of morphing into a mythical sea creature. “We’ve had a 73-year-old gentleman become a Triton, and a 70-year-old woman become a Mermaid,” says Alejandro. “Just as Susana fulfilled her personal dream, many people have too, thanks to the academy. Not only children, but adults.”
Before learning to swim, students are taught the history of mermaids and tritons, and the significance of mermaid mythology to Mediterranean culture. “Tarraco (Tarragona) was an ancient Roman city,” Alejandro says of his hometown. “The culture of Tarragona is totally Mediterranean. Mermaids – or sirens for us – are magical beings that come from mythology. For Mediterranean people, that mythology is part of our culture. Romans adopted most of the gods from Greek mythology, and that culture reached Tarragona.”
After immersing themselves in the history of merpeople, budding sea sirens are taught a variety of swimming styles and techniques in order to adapt to their new tails and manoeuvre their bodies under water. “To become a mermaid or triton is to breathe,” Alejandro notes. “When diving in the water, you do an apnoea exercise. Muscles attached to breathing become more elastic and mobile, helping the body to have a superior oxygen supply. Exercise in the water reduces stress and anxiety, builds strength and stimulates endorphins, which also helps you improve your physical appearance.”
When classes are successfully completed, students undergo a special mermaid baptism and receive an official mermaid certificate.
Susana and Alejandro are equally passionate about working to preserve marine life and use the Academy to undertake environmental work in Tarragona. Among other activities, the duo facilitate annual beach clean-ups, head up educational courses and deliver talks on ecology and the environment in schools and student centers. Plus, all would-be mermaids learn about the importance of taking care of their natural surroundings. “For Sirenas Mediterranean Academy, education and respect for the environment is one of our core values,” says Alejandro.
Graduating from a mermaid academy is undeniably a unique, immersive way to live out your childhood dreams, but what is it about being a mermaid that holds such appeal for both children and adults?
“The mermaid is the perfect being, because they can swim in the water like a dolphin,” says Alejandro. “This is what we want our students to experience.”
With the couple expanding their mermaid classes to Barcelona and Tenerife, it’s clear that the concept has made quite the splash.