Coming into my study abroad experience, it would be a lie to say that I had no stereotypes about Spanish people. Although I wanted to come in with the most open mind possible, I did still have stereotypes that I wanted to find out for myself if they were valid. Studying abroad had made me completely reconsider all of these stereotypes. Many of the things that I thought about Spanish people, those from Barcelona in general, are false. First and most importantly, I thought everyone in Spain spoke Spanish, this was completely untrue considering Barcelona is in the Catalonia region, where they speak Catalan. They understand Spanish as well but when walking on the streets and attempting to understand others conversations, I rarely do because they speak to each other in Catalan. Also, I thought that bull fighting was extremely popular in Barcelona. Since being here though, I have found out that bull-fighting is not even legal in Barcelona at all. The bull-fighting rings present in Barcelona have been converted to other things now, one is mall and one is a monument. Also, having spoken to many of the locals about it, they seem to be unanimously against bull-fighting and are happy to have seen it leave Barcelona and have hopes for it to leave the rest of Spain as well. I also came into this experience with a stereotype for how Spanish people looked. I assumed they all had dark hair, dark eyes, and dark features. This is also incorrect as I have discovered that like Americans, Spanish people are also very diverse.
Having gotten closer to some of my professors here, I decided to discuss stereotypes of Americans with my professor Toni, who I had also had an earlier conversation with for this class. Toni told me that because he is a study abroad professor, his friends often ask him many crazy questions about Americans, and that Americans seem to intrigue his friends a lot. He told me that his friends often ask him if Americans wear sandals and shorts all year long. I found this stereotype of us extremely funny. I can also see why this stereotype came about because right now it is almost November and the temperatures in Barcelona are still in the low 70s. However, the Spanish people have begun to dress in their winter clothes. They wear jackets and scarves and hats while we still think its warm and nice outside so we do still wear sandals and shorts some days. We even are planning a beach trip this week! One stereotype that I was pretty upset by was when Toni told me that his friends have also asked him if all American students bring guns to school. I was shocked by this. But, as I sat back and began to think, I can at least understand the question. The Spanish people watch the news and hear about tragic school shootings in America and about horrors that happen rather than all of the good things and positive impacts that American students make as well. The news tends to focus on the negative things that American students do rather than the positives so the Spanish people are not getting the full story. This is definitely a stereotype that emerged to “fill a vacuum of knowledge” as Adel says because the Spanish people do not know the full story about American students and are not given all sides of them like all the positive impacts we make as well such as community service, clubs, raising money for various different organizations, donating clothing, food, and money, and so many more. Because they are not given the full, complex story about us, they take the small information they have and make assumptions and stereotypes based on that which is nothing we can blame them for because it is the same thing that everyone does.
The picture that I chose to post is the American stereotype of all Spanish people being flamenco dancers and bull fighters. This stereotype can be both offensive and rude to the Spanish people. To label one entire group of people as one thing puts them down as a culture and makes them less than what they are. Spanish people have so much beautiful and rich culture behind them and flamenco dancing and bull fighting is a part of that that is treasured by them, and by us as tourists. We need to appreciate this but not make this their entire being.