What's Life Like as a Black American in Spain?
This is probably the most common question we get at LMDES: What’s it like to be Black in Spain. My answer changes the longer I live here, which is slowly approaching a decade. I’m going to get real with you all here: being Black anywhere is a challenge; however, if I’m going to live as a foreigner or an immigrant, I’d rather it be in a country that I wasn’t born in.
Does that make sense? Of course I’m different in Spain! I’m not Spanish. I cannot for the life of me, justify how I feel and am treated in the United States when in theory, I am a full-fledged citizen.
I choose to live in Spain. With any choice comes a certain degree of compromise.
Back to the question at hand: what’s it like to be Black in Spain?
I know it’s taboo to answer a question with a question, but: what kind of Black?
I recognize that I am a Black American woman from an English-speaking Western country with an advanced degree. My experience is not the norm. I have palpable privilege.
African Immigrants face different struggles than Afro-Spanish people born in the country. Black men also deal with a whole different set of difficulties. I can only speak from my experience, and to be honest, it’s quite comfortable.
I’ve seen that your economic background, and country of origin have much more of an impact on daily life than anything else. Although I’m met with initial hesitation at times because my name is foreign, and I don’t look Spanish I feel safe here. I don’t ever feel like my life is in danger. I feel more curiosity than judgement. Yes, people stare, and ask questions, and you even have the occasional person who tries to touch my hair. But in my overall experience, it’s out of genuine interest not malice.
That is not to say that Spain doesn’t have a long, and complicated history with Brown and Black people. They do. Would I have a different story to tell if I were undocumented? Yes. Would my experience vary if I were a Black man? No doubt. Would I be treated differently if my passport weren’t blue and gold? Absolutely. I’d never appropriate another group’s struggle, and while I feel solidarity for my other Black and Brown sisters and brothers, I’ll be the first to recognize my privilege.
What’s it like being Black in Spain? For me...
It’s safe. It’s boring at times. It’s my normal. I pay my taxes, go to the grocery store, travel freely, and take public transport. Although there are certain deeply-ingrained Spanish traits that I don’t understand (like getting in line for the bus) I feel very much at home here, and that’s all I can ask for.
Have questions? Let’s talk about it. Leave a comment below,
Danni, Community + Content Director at Las Morenas de España, is a twenty-something, Chicago native currently residing in Madrid. Lover of language, words, and travel, she's managed to combine all of her passions through her work. In her free time, you can find her exploring the winding streets of Madrid, hunting down good flight deals, planning her next adventure and writing & researching for LMDES. Danni loves spicy food, natural hair, music and of course, her wonderful husband. If you need to find her, she’s the girl with huge hair and her face buried in her Kindle.