Save it for America.
This post is by Amber Johnson, an International Affairs major and Spanish and Sociocultural Anthropology minor student at George Washington University. During the spring 2013 semester she is participating in the CIEE Advanced Liberal Arts program.
When I arrived in Spain, along with my 2 over-50 pound suitcases and 2 carry-ons, I brought a lot of reservations with me. I was worried about how the Sevillanos would treat me because of my race. I did a lot of "research" online, reading about the perception of black people in Spain, and I spoke with some black students who had traveled to Spain before. A lot of what I read said that there is a lot of animosity directed towards African immigrants because they are viewed by a lot of Spaniards pretty much how Mexicans immigrants are viewed by a lot of Americans. However, I found very little information about the perception of Black Americans in Spain. But now that I have been here in Seville for nearly two months and have had a few incidences, I feel like I have some right to comment on my perspective of the black experience in Seville.
So, when you ask someone where’s the best place to buy a cheap purse or some snacks for that long stretch of time between lunch and dinner and they tell you go to a “chino” it is not racist. It is an obvious fact that most (if not all) of the “chinos” or “alimentaciones” around Sevilla are owned by or have workers of Asian descent, many of which are Chinese, and these stores have lots of products for low prices. Just because Sevillanos are not obsessed with classifying everyone into their distinct racial or ethnic categories does not mean they do not respect other cultures. Instead, I think it means they believe there are much more important things to worry about than boxing people into arbitrarily-defined racial categories that often help to oppress instead of empower the people they define. My recommendation to the American study abroad student in Spain, and more specifically in Sevilla, is to loosen up. Ignore the urge to politicize everything and look at things through the Sevillan perspective. Instead of trying to spread the American perspective on political-correctness, research what issues are affecting Sevillan political culture (such as how the Romany/Gypsy population is treated in the city and what are people’s views on the outright corruption in the Spanish Parliament) and immerse yourself in these issues.