Travel Log 9: Exploring Stereotypes

Coming to Spain I could not think of any stereotypes of the culture nor did I know entirely what specificities Spanish culture has. I was much more worried about what being an American abroad would entail. I knew that I would be coming during a time in my country that has not been blessed with calm times but instead marred with danger, prejudice and overall a lower level of acceptance of others. I left home hearing how people in Europe are not overall fond of Americans or tourists in general. I had heard stories of muggings and other dangers that as an American I had the potential to face more than others. Overall, I was not frightened but I knew I would have to be more aware than I normally am in America. However, as Slimbach suggests, “The transformative potential of global learning requires that we not waste our sorrows,” but instead turn them into learning experiences (Slimbach 163).

I chose to follow Slimbach in his wisdom and challenged myself to claim my American identity as many fellow students told strangers they were Canadian or British. Mostly, people want to talk about Trump or want me to explain how he became president. I have a few lines I say and then move the conversation onto them as usually, I would like to learn about where they are from, whether it be Spain or another country.

There are many stereotypes about Americans: we are lazy, we are fat, we only eat fried food, we don’t appreciate art, we are loud, we are rude and we are rich. The list could go on for days but in common interaction, people don’t seem to shocked when I don’t exactly fit this picture. Of course, because people realize that everyone is different even within one country. Someone from Catalunya will be a drastically different person from someone who grew up in Andalucia or Basque country. Three separate areas, one country obviously people will be different and in this case, they even speak different languages. Within Spain there are stereotypes. Within Catalunya there is a movement coming from the local governments to make the Catalan language more prominent pushing Spanish out. During the 70s and 80s, there was a large migration of Castilian immigrants into Barcelona and surrounding cities. Since these people were new to the area they were only able to get low wage factory or other menial jobs. This equated to the misconception that Spanish was a language only used by the working class; therefore, putting a social hierarchy in place with Catalan at the top of the lingual food chain. This is still felt, however, not as strongly. People of Catalunya would describe someone as Catalan simply if they can speak Catalan. It does not matter where you have come from as long as you speak their language they will accept you as one of their own. So in this campaign, there are many pictures of immigrants from other parts of Spain, Europe and especially Morocco or other African countries and the line on the poster reads, “Please speak Catalan to me” which then helps immigrants integrate into the culture of Catalunya. Before this campaign, most people would just speak Spanish or another language to mediate the barrier but now if you ask to speak in Catalan most people will oblige you since you are showing you want to learn and then become truly Catalan.

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