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Walking on the Diverse Side of Madrid

June 2, 2016

ISEP student Dantae H. is a part of ISEP Voices Spring 2016. She is a Spanish language and literature major from Roanoke College, and is currently studying abroad at Universidad Alfonso X el Sabio in Spain. 

When I decided to study abroad in Europe, I had to take into consideration that I don’t fit the “typical” American image that the world has been accustomed to. While pondering thoughts of being discriminated against because of my ethnicity, I realized that my identity is not to be feared but to be glorified when faced with certain circumstances. Being a minority in Madrid helped me discover the true beauty of having a racially diverse community. Not only did I rediscover my own self worth and identity, but I stumbled across the cultural diffusion of a small neighborhood in Madrid, called Lavapies.

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This beautifully situated neighborhood is a cultural melting pot of people from different racial backgrounds, continents, countries and religions. Walking through the streets of Lavapies, I can feel the pure essence of diversity, with the authentic smell of foods from across the world, and traditional clothing with a touch of Spanish flair. Being from a multiracial background, this neighborhood is like a home away from home, taking you from an unbalanced state to a seemingly soothing one.

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How can these people of all different varieties exist in such utopia? I often ponder this question while sitting on a bench observing this cultural infusion of the neighborhood. I am living in a small urban area of Madrid called Villanueva de la Canada, where I stick out like a sore thumb. The situation puts my faith, resilience and identity to test. Standing out is hard when living in a foreign country, but me being from Jamaica makes it even more challenging. It’s not everyday a person from Madrid meets someone who was born and raised in Jamaica. I get bombarded with questions about my culture because I don’t fit the ideal character of a “Jamaican.” I do not have dreads, I speak without using the word “mon” after every sentence and to everyone’s surprise, I do not participate in certain stereotypical beliefs of my culture or what the world believes being Jamaican is.

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Lavapies, the gem of a neighborhood, became my comfort zone and happy place when I seemed to be losing touch with the people around me and unable to identify with certain cultural norms. What we consider to be "human nature" is a direct reflection of our culturally inclined world. By working with different cultures and experiencing different backgrounds, your eyes can be opened to distinctive life lessons and discovering your own contribution to making a positive impact where diversity lacks.

Each person views the world through their own lens, based on their experiences in life. As I have observed Lavapies for the past few months, I realized how important it is to interact with each other, and learn our commonalities rather than just existing in our own bubbles. We can learn so much about our own personal growth and identity by seeing the world from different perspectives, languages and cultural diffusion. With that in mind, I leave you with these words from Albert Einstein, “Somebody who only reads newspapers and at best books of contemporary authors looks to me like an extremely nearsighted person who scorns eyeglasses. He is completely dependent on the prejudices and fashions of his times, since he never gets to see or hear anything else.”


Follow along with Dantae on Instagram @picante as she explores Spain.

Want to see more from our ISEP bloggers? Learn more about our ISEP Voices Spring 2016 group.

Want to see more? Check out all of your study abroad options on the ISEP website.

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