Not sure what program is right for you? Click Here
CIEE

© 2011. All Rights Reserved.

Study Abroad in

Back to Program Back to Blog Home

« Becoming a Big Sister in Spain | Main | Excursiones con CIEE »

04/05/2013

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.

The CIEE Advanced Liberal Arts program sent reading materials prior to my departure that also helped prepare me for my stay in Sevilla. The materials warned that terms like "morena" and "negrita" were not usually meant as an insult, and therefore I should not feel as though I was being insulted when these terms were used to describe me.  They recommended that I should not over-react in situations where people make comments on my race.  In my time abroad (from Ghana to Spain) I have come to find Americans to be quite sensitive when race comes into question.  We are overly-obsessed with political correctness, and this obsession may serve as a border instead of a bridge between relating with Spaniards.  Simply mentioning someone’s race does not make a person racist, and this is a lesson I feel many Americans will have a difficult time learning here in Sevilla.  In my time here, I have come to see Sevillans as a rather direct people.  Physical characteristics are noted and commented on, and it is not to be rude, it is just to state a fact.  If you're getting fat from all the croquetas and tartas de queso you're eating, your host mom will call you gordito/a; if you're the only American in the classroom your professor will call you out; and if you're black you are "moreno/a" or "negro/a.”  It's simply a fact.  The problem arises when you either a) misunderstand someone while they are using these physically descriptive terms or b) someone uses the terms to make a negative comment about the person or people it describes. 

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.


Comments

Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

i am a jamaican student Who wishes to study in spain and i would like to know if i will be accepted by the spanish and if i will make friends easily?

i would also like to know if there are many black people in spain?

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Working...
Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been posted. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.

Working...

Post a comment