As people of color living in America, we may find ourselves constantly checking our surroundings. In search of people who look like us, speak like us, those who will embrace us. For the places that are safe, the places where we can express all of our identities at once. When you’re in a new country, these people and places may be especially difficult to find. Instead, your mind focuses on interpreting the body language, words and actions of others towards you to understand how you are seen in this new place. Trying to find insight of the stereotypes and meanings your identities carry here. And just maybe, once you have that figured out, you can begin to navigate and adjust to your surroundings.
But in Poble Sec, a neighborhood in Barcelona, I found the most comfort, security and peace as a Middle Eastern and Muslim woman studying abroad. Poble-Sec is a multi-ethnic community with many residents of Pakistani, Bangladeshi, Ecuadorean and Dominican backgrounds. A tight-knit and beautiful community, not just because the residents co-exist with one another, but because they celebrate and cherish each others’ cultures and practices.
Finding my culture and religion, reminders of home and parts of my identity, so proudly expressed in the customs of Poble-Sec, was something I didn’t expect to find so far away from home, and became so dear to me. Because of the unique familiarity and familial nature of the community, I was quickly able to become acquainted and explore the city with ease.
I felt welcomed by the community members. When exploring the community, going to restaurants and grocery stores, I was asked where I was from. Not in the way some Americans may ask when trying to know what ethnicity you are, the “where are you really from” question. But out of curiousity from my ok level of Spanish and prominent Middle Eastern appearance. When I would share that I am Middle Eastern and speak Arabic, the community members would excitedly share the Arabic phrases that they knew with me and ask what I was doing in Spain. What made my heart so warm was that each time I visited these places, I was remembered and greeted like I was a friend; our conversations shared an abundance of joy and care.
Through these moments and conversations, not only was I excitedly able to share my identity, but had the opportunity to learn about the different cultures and lived experiences from others. From residents who would play Dominican music and crowd the streets to dance with their friends and family, to the many ethnic restaurants on Avinguda del Paral-lel and the familial presence at Placa Sortida, Poble Sec shares an abundance of cultural wealth that makes anyone feel welcomed to participate in and learn from. The opportunity to live in such a wonderful community has truly been the highlight of my study abroad experience.
Open Late Cafés