Traveling While Black: Barcelona

I absolutely love to travel. In my pretend life I’d love to be a black female version of Anthony Bourdain, except with more focus on shopping instead of food 😉 .  But as a female I can’t just pick up and go. I don’t have a camera crew with me and although certain places sound awesome, when planning a trip I don’t just look at what sites there are to see but what the culture is like towards women and African Americans. I’m not into spending my money in a city in which they will go around calling me the N word, nor a town where I fear for my safety.

Regardless of anything, traveling the world as a black female is markedly different than as a white male. If you thought we faced racism and stereotyping in our own country imagine what

a country that is not as diverse or not raised in our history must think of us. How one sided would a person think if their only experience with black people are what shows and news were exported to their country?

I’ve been traveling overseas, off and on, for almost twenty years (since I was two, yeah two years old) and my experience has changed over time and depending on the countries. I am fairly certain that there is a link between the media’s images of black women and how I am treated.

I will be doing a series of posts dedicated to my experiences traveling overseas as a black woman and would love to hear if others experience things differently or the same regardless of race and gender.

First up:

Barcelona, Spain- my first time experiencing out in your face racism. I loved my time in this country (the shopping, the history, the food) but the racism I experienced will always mar my memories of this place. I hope its better there now. But at the time that I went, the 90s, there weren’t a lot of exports of black people in the media. Further some European countries that saw an influx of African immigrants did not appreciate it and extended that negative attitude towards tourist of the African diaspora. It boggles my mind how people can just treat others they don’t know poorly.

I came to Spain as part of a group of students and we lived in the homes of the locals. I am not sure my Spanish teacher told the couple we were staying with that we were black. She shouldn’t have had to but sadly, these things matter. The couple did seemed surprised to find we were black and showed quickly that they were not comfortable with us there. We never had dinner with them, instead they served us after they ate. And the food was not good (some of the meat was bleeding okay?). Deciding that we didn’t deserve that, my roommate and I just ate out every night for dinner. They told my teacher we were messy (I was not and the clothes on the floor they claimed were ours were sometimes theirs). We ended up spending the last night in a hotel so we could have one good night there. On our way out we gave the family flowers and a thanks because we were raised right. In response they just asked us for the key to the house.

In contrast my other classmates were fortunate enough to stay in good homes so I won’t blame the whole country. It is just sad that we were off the start treated like second class citizens without having done anything wrong. There were other events (being called a monkey, having some club goers throw ice at us in the club) that really tarnish my memories of the place.

In that same time, I also experienced local males (adults) being overtly flirtatious with us, to the point of harassment in some cases. I was a teenager so this was scary. I still blame this on the export of rap videos which, at the time, featured an array of scantily clad black women. If that’s all you see of black culture well, if you’re closed minded enough, you act on that.

In sum, would I steer black people away from visiting Barcelona? No way. It was a nice time and most of the people were friendly. It’s just interesting to note  that even a time of rest and relaxation can be uprooted by people who feel entitled to mistreat you based solely on your race.

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