Its been a while since my last post but I havent forgot about all my wonderful readers and this time I wanted to do a special post! After taking over the CIEE instagram for a weekend, I started to recieve more personal messages about life in Spain as someone who identifies as being an African American woman or queen, your choice ;) . Questions about being of color in general actually, even if you dont identify the same as I do. First, let me just say that I'm so happy you all feel comfortable asking me questions about your concerns. I hope that sharing my insights will help you not only gain more knowledge to be more prepared as an Auxiliar in Spain, but that it also helps you grow stronger as person and alleviate any fears. Please understand that no matter what box someone puts you in, its ultimately up to you to shine your light and I believe in your light! Lets get to it.
Overall experience 4/5- There's always room for improvement right!
Commonly asked questions:
* How many people of color are at your school? I am actually the only person of color in my school, including the students. I noticed it right away because I tend to fall into this group a lot. A spec of cocoa amongst everyone else. I stopped seeing this as a negative thing though. Im happy to be placed where I am, and everyone treats me with the upmost respect. I look at this as an opportunity for my students to be exposed to more teachers of color and hopefully they seek to ask questions that may break down any stereotypes they may have about our culture although there seems to be none as they are so young, innocent and pure. Love it.
Special Notes: 1. Some of my students and the principal have asked to touch my hair before when I decided to rock my Senegalese twist which some people find very offensive. 2. Just a warning that around Christmas they have the 3 wise men come to the school and they will use "Black face" instead of an actual person of color which seems very odd and a little offensive as well. If you feel uncomfortable I encourage you to speak up to your school coordinator. People in Spain tend to be a little tone deaf so you may have to speak up.
* What are some challenges that you face in your community or at school? I'm happy to report that I havent had a bad experience yet with anyone in my community but it can be very hard to find certain things you may need as an African American woman. One of my main concerns was my hair and if anyone would have what I needed. YES, they have some bomb products out here but I do have to travel a little further to get them since I live outside the center.
* Have you encountered common stereotypes or other cultural views related to your identity? I havent with my own experience but I did notice that before arriving to Spain there were a few posts on the group messages about certain areas to avoid and most of them were more urban communities which I didnt like.
Special Notes: Dont believe eveything you hear or read. This is how small ethnic communities stay poor. The hype to stay away from certain areas and shop at high end retail stores in the center is all propaganda and takes away the circulation of money in these underserved areas. These areas are safe and they have so much to offer in terms of shops, restaurants, alimentacións culture and entertainment. Dont judge a book by the cover someone else who didnt even read the book created. Be safe wherever you go and have fun while doing it.
* Have you been able to connect with other foreign teachers or locals who share aspects of your identity? Yes, I've met a handful of amazing other women and people of color through the CIEE program but unfortunately there are few of us which I believe the program is working on.
Special Notes: There are facebook and meetup groups that you can be apart of as well that will connect you to others. This can be for BIPOC, ethnicity, religion, nationality, general common interests like sports and the list goes on. Use these groups to your advantage. You'll have more fun during your time here if you do. I went to a park meetup and had a great time. :)
Also note that Spainards stare in general so it probably doesnt mean anything if you catch someone looking at you long. Plus, being a person of color, someone is always in your business haha. Just live your best life.
Would you recommend going to Spain? YES and YES again. I am having the best time. I would be silly to say that uncomfortable encounters dont exist, and I've heard from friends of mine that have experienced these situations but all I can do is speak for me. I say yes. Travel without fear. You'll be welcomed here.
Hope to see you soon
- The Social Swan