Well, I have been in Des Moines all summer, and I am more than ready to return to my home in Cabra. I think I needed a little dose of America to remind me just how well I am living on the other side of the world. Last year around this time I was nervous, anxious, worried, and excited because I wasn’t sure what my life in Cabra would be like. This year I am calm and ready to go because I know that I am going back to a village that I love and that loves me back. Over the summer I have taken the time to read various blogs by other expatriates, and I have found many that depict Spain as a racist place, with little regard for diversity. While I cannot invalidate anyone’s own personal experience I can say that mine has not been similar.
Based on perceptions of small town America it was only natural that before I went to Cabra I worried about how I would be accepted as an outsider in a small town ; Not only as an outsider but as a black outsider. I had previously read that the Spanish people are slow to open up, slow to welcome you into their group of friends, and even slower to invite you into their homes. Having heard this, I was quite uneasy about moving to Cabra. I was in tears the morning that I had to leave Mari Carmen’s house in Granada to head to Cabra.
What I found in Cabra was the polar opposite of all things that I had read. Every person that I encountered was excited to meet me and went above and beyond to ensure that I felt loved and taken care of. The parents of students at my school expressed to me the value in their students not only having an American teacher but also a black teacher. People were excited that their kids were being exposed to something different from their norm. You see in Cabra there isn’t much racial diversity. I am one of four black women in a town of 20,000 people. I will say, that perhaps I am looked upon a bit differently because it is very clear based on my “look “ that I am not African. African’s are viewed differently (in a more negative light) because many of them enter Spain illegally and sell bootlegged products on the street.
I was quickly welcomed into everyone’s group of friends, into everyone’s homes, and made to feel like I belonged. In some of the blog posts that I read from other expatriates they speak of being harassed physically and verbally. They speak of not being welcomed by their coworkers. They speak of having obscenities yelled at them as they walk down the streets. Well fortunately for me the only thing yelled at me as I walk down the streets of Cabra is “Hello teacher!”
No place is perfect, and of course bigotry exists all over the world, but I also want people to know that Spain is filled with just as many great, open-minded people. After all, I found an entire town that opened their minds and hearts to me.
April Sauls is a 25 year old DeMoines native. Having studied Spanish and Political Science at Iowa State University, she has decided to move to Spain over a year ago. She's been living in Cabra (Cordoba), Spain working as an English teacher.