You’ll notice this website’s banner displays some words painted in red on a stone wall. The quote comes from the novel Don Quixote. I took the photo during a visit to Salamanca, Spain, in 2008. (I used to live in Spain.)
“LA LIBERTAD, SANCHO, ES VNO DE LOS MÁS PRECIOSOS DONES QVE A LOS HOMBRES DIERON LOS CIELOS. CON ELLA NO PVEDEN IGVALARSE LOS TESOROS QVE ENCIERRA LA TIERRA NI EL MAR ENCVBRE”
DON QVIJOTE DE LA MANCHA, II, CAP. 58
[“Freedom, Sancho, is one of the most precious gifts that the heavens give to men. It cannot be equaled by the treasures buried in the earth nor covered by the sea.” Don Quixote de la Mancha, Part II, Ch. 58]
Don Quixote utters those words soon after he and his squire, Sancho, manage to politely flee the castle of a duke and duchess who had welcomed them as guests and then amused themselves by playing cruel tricks on them.
Salamanca has been a university town since the 1200s, and since the 1300s, students who receive a doctorate degree paint a symbol called a Victor on a wall of one of the buildings to celebrate. The paint is bull-blood red because Spain has a thing about bulls. Inscriptions in the style of the Victor symbol are also sometimes put up by the city for commemorations.
The full text of this commemoration reads:
SS. MM. LOS REYES ACOMPAÑADOS POR LOS JEFES DE ESTADO Y DE GOBIERNO IBEROAMERICANOS, DESCVBRIERON ESTA PLACA CON MOTIVO DE LA XV CVMBRE IBEROAMERICANA
IV CENTENARIO DE LA PVBLICACION DE “EL QVIJOTE”
EL AYVNTAMIENTO DE LA CIVDAD. 14 DE OCTVBRE DE 2005
[Their Royal Majesties, accompanied by Iberomerican heads of state and government, revealed this plaque on the occasion of the 15th Iberoamerican Summit.
400th anniversary of the publication of “Don Quixote”
The municipal government of the city. October 14, 2005]
That is, the King and Queen of Spain were part of a ceremony to inaugurate the wall-quote as a festive moment during a big international meeting. The city government created the plaque.
Cervantes may have studied at Salamanca University and lived in the city, and he located a number of his works there. While serving in the Spanish military, he was captured in battle by Ottoman corsairs in 1575 and held as a prisoner for almost five years, so he personally knew the value of the precious gift of freedom.