My wife and I recently took a trip (lived) in Spain. My first thoughts about this were very open. I was so excited to try new foods, be around a totally different culture and probably speak and learn different dialects of Spanish that I wasn't familiar with. It was all that and more!
After an eight hour flight, an hour spent at Barcelona's airport and a 45 minute car ride, we finally made it. I tried keeping my eyes open to see the Mediterranean on my left and the endless mountains to my right. Knowing that I had a full month here did not relax me at all, I had to see everything.
For the first couple of nights we stayed in Roda de Bara. It was a small town just outside of Barcelona. A place that if you left your toothpaste back in Atlanta you could get some but if you left your AirMax.............. good luck with that. Everybody knew everybody. The restaurant scene was kept very local, no huge chains of shops or pharmacies and what I loved most were the prices! Go get you a bag of groceries and you'll end up spending about ten euros for three or four bags (unheard of in the states). We also got to catch up with part of wife's family here. We got to go through baby pictures, sing old songs from back home (Uruguay) and watch Tio bust a couple of dance moves to Gente de Zona. We would be back for more but we ate like we were never leaving.
Our next journey would take us four hours on a train to get to. One thing I learned on this part of the trip was that no questions are worse than dumb questions (make sure you have a universal charger when you leave the states). We passed through Valencia, many other main cities and every commercial that you ever saw when you were a kid about the olympics and travel was just outside the train windows.
Torre Vieja and Alicante would be our next stop. My eyes would see the salty mountains, flamingos and the historical Colonial ships. We headed straight in to the middle of downtown Torre Vieja. I have to admit, it was a little nerve racking how tight the streets were and it seemed like there were no set traffic laws. There were people everywhere and life was a little quicker here than Roda. Here I was able to live as a normal everyday pedestrian (I ain't with that tourist stuff). We stayed in my cousin-in-law's apartment in downtown for a night, just outside the city another and visited some local food spots while we were here. This was a city that I look back on that I did not get a good enough amount of photos in, but there is always next time.
We said our temporary goodbyes to the city for the next week and hello to a six hour car ride through about ten to eleven cities along the east coast, the first one being Grenada. After three hours of driving we would stop here and tour the famous grounds of Alhambra. I had heard about this place in the couple of times that I chose to pay attention in class, the couple. While we walked I became a wikipedia fanatic about the churches, kingdoms, culture and overall history. One main thing that this place drew me back to was the many times I heard the term "Morro" used in a very negative way while walking the streets of the cities. Everything would make sense in this city and a truth would be revealed here that no matter where you go in the world, racism will forever be alive. Much like the natives of America, the Morroccan people are being shoved out, plagues were distributed among them and they are hated and despised by the majority of white-spaniards to this day. Like the majority of Blacks in America they are oppressed, judged and placed by the amount of melanin in their skin. Before they can see a face, their applications are denied at jobs and more problems are given to them at immigration offices because of their names. Like the majority of Hispanics in America, when given jobs they are not to be seen. In the back of kitchens, payed under the table and putting their hands to the work that the majority of white men would never touch. It was great seeing the history of their kingdoms and religion but very sad to view the continuation of a diseased pattern that continues to curse every country around the world.
After touring through Grenada we traveled for three more hours to settle in the cities of San Fernando and Cadiz. Here we were able to again live like an everyday citizen. We rode through the city streets in one of Spain's oldest car models, at the moment I cannot remember the name. The architecture here was slightly different than the previous cities. San Fernando was a hidden jewel from the typical American tourist mindset. So much history had taken place here as well. Multiple statues and monuments filled the streets and the middle of roundabouts throughout this beautiful ciudad. It was here that I learned that you do not ask for a coffee without leche or azucar, the stank face was very common for a request such as this. Churros were made differently than the one's that I had know from my fellow Mexican supermarkets back home. I had also never seen so many people, young and old, in wheel chairs and crutches. It blew my mind that every 50-60th person you'd see walking in the streets, there would be one that wasn't able. Like I said before, the architecture and layout of the cities were beautiful and wonderfully envisioned by their makers, but cobble stoned streets to the knees seemed to wear and tear their own people down. What I thought was Spain's latest fashion style (dresses, skirts and suits with New Balance and Nike) was really just protection from years to come.
At the end of the week we traveled to a city right on the edge Spain named Tarifa (the surfer city). Here I was able to look across the Straight of Girbaltar over to the edge of Africa. This was an amazing experience! At around 5:23pm my camera and phone had died so this is where I truly learned that some things were meant for the eye to see and to just enjoy the surroundings. Though I wished I was able to snap this moment, I was perfectly fine with locking arms with my wife as that cold breeze made us cuddle closer. One thing that stuck in my mind afterward was that there was a war going on for land in the middle of all of this. It's amazing how one people's beautiful site can be another people's biggest tragedy.
We said so long to the cities and hello again to Torre Vieja and Alicante after riding through the mountains and phanominal sunsets upon neighborhoods that we would hopefully see next time. The next week was full of true hospitality. I took a break from shooting for about a week and just kicked it with the fam. We ate about five times a day and had snacks in between those meals. we heard stories of my wife's childhood, ate together as a family, people fought, and brothers and sisters got to be brothers and sisters. Everything was good and we felt so at home. Here was one of the biggest challenges for me. My Spanish has been picked up word by word, person by person and dialect to dialect over the past years. The longing and hopes that I had to speak clearly and fluently were quickly shut down. It was here that what I learned, I wasn't so much put to the test but I just continued in learning. There was definitely a ton of frustration going on mentally with me as I struggled to fetch words from the back of my mind. It was also quite humbling to speak to a six year old and have him correct you every other sentence. As White Americans, we have this sinful tendency to feel as if we don't need to learn anything outside of our race, culture or language that we were exposed to, almost like it's the only thing we have ever needed to survive. Getting to the opposing understanding of this mentality goes beyond anything that you could ever experience or try to relate to, something so far beyond the humans reach, but that's a totally different conversation. Fighting my dangerous American mind that could so quickly disregard a language for a noise and dive into my phone as an escape for the moment is something that the majority of us won't admit to because we don't know that we are doing it. I challenge you all to fight through the awkwardness that you THINK that you feel with other races, long for the words to speak not just another language but to the people that speak it and lastly, celebrate our diversity as a people, we do not have differences, they are not different, we are all the same.
In the last few weeks we were here, we traveled to about three more cities to finish the journey. Barcelona and Tarragona being the last two. I was able to research the Independence of Catalonia while traveling their towns. As I was shooting in the streets, I noticed flags everywhere that were similar to Puerto Rico and Spain's flag. I was not aware of the views behind the colors and design but quickly began asking questions and reading up about it. I have to be honest, I am still a little confused about some of their policies, but in walking the streets, listening to the totally different language (Catalunya) and just simply living among the people I caught a brief understanding.
There were many more things and places that we were able to adventure through. I have always been a firm believer in imagination and would love for you all to view this gallery and leave it up to just that. Wonder about certain things that you see, ask questions to yourselves about landmarks, research monuments, streets and architecture that you have never laid eyes on. But the mostly, be uncomfortable sometimes, be somewhere that you don't understand, experience something beyond what you think that you know.