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Studying abroad in the picturesque Basque Country in the spring of has been one of the highlights of my young life.

Bilbao was my first encounter with Spain outside of textbooks and audio tapes in my Spanish classes. The city ignited my long-term love affair with Spain, a fondness that is still going strong. But being black in Spain came with its own challenges. Not too long after I arrived at Universidad de Deusto, I learned that black soccer players were regularly subjected to racist chants at games against Athletic Bilbao.

I looked into this phenomenon and discovered that racist chants were actually common at soccer matches in Spain. A fan once threw a banana at Dani Alves, a Brazilian soccer star who used to play for Barcelona.

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When I went to a Barcelona-Rayo Vallecano game in Madrid two years ago, fans seated not too far from me hurled racist insults at Neymar Jr. Racism in Spain definitely extends far beyond the soccer stadium, but is it something black travelers should be concerned about? In addition to studying in Bilbao, I also spent 10 months teaching English in Madrid.

I moved to Madrid in because all I could think about after leaving Bilbao was going back to Spain.

I could go on and on about the wonders of Spain — the festivals, the lifestyle, the Moorish architecture, Tinto de VeranoRabo de Toro. Beneath the colorful images of Flamenco dancers and valiant matadors, there is hostility, intolerance, and discrimination against black people. I want to paint a complete picture of my experience in Spain to hopefully put those concerned travelers at ease.

Your perception of how racist Spain depends on your country of origin and your upbringing. Context matters a great deal. Before moving to America at age 9, I had no concept of racism.

While the legacy of slavery and colonialism lives on, race is irrelevant in a black nation with no white settlers like Nigeria. What matters is your ethnic group or tribe. Upon moving to America, my parents kept me focused on practical matters, such as getting straight As so I could get into college and go to medical school. I never paid attention to debates around race in America, and my experiences with white Americans in the suburbs of Los Angeles were mostly positive.

The truth about racism in spain: advice for black travelers

What really irks me is blatant discrimination. Most of the racism I experienced was in the form of annoying microaggressions, which I initially ignored. But after experiencing unwarranted hatred day after day, it began to take a toll on my self-esteem.

I want you to take this with a grain of salt. My experience is just that — my experience. My twin sister, Kosiso, our Chinese friend, Zulian, and I walked into the bar and sat down. We waited for the camarero waiter to take our order. He never did.

Some elderly Spanish people walked into the bar and the waiter served them immediately. I thought maybe he did that as an act of deference.

But after close to 10 minutes of chatting and waiting, I looked up and made eye contact with him. He gave me the mother of all dirty stares as if he was disgusted by my mere presence. Then he continued what he was doing. I was taken aback because I had frequented tapas bars around Spain without problems. Occasionally, I would get snarky comments, but I was never flat out refused service. That was the moment when I felt most unwelcome in Spain. First, I was livid. Then I felt sorry for that lowly piece of trash. I wanted to rip that fool to shreds but took the higher ground.

Instead, I graciously left the bar with my two companions. One time, I was sitting at the lunch table with staff and heard them openly mocking my Senegalese twists. I was sitting right across the table! I wanted to fight them so badly, but I also needed a job. Looking back, I regret not speaking up for myself.

Maybe I could have politely said that they were being disrespectful.

At the same time, I wonder if doing so would have made a difference. At the school, I really tried to get along with my co-workers, greeting teachers or staff in the hallways and playgrounds. Some of them would just ignore me. Others went as far as to roll their eyes and walk off. Deep down, though, I did care a little. It was hurtful to be treated like garbage in a country that I thought so highly of. Get full access to unpublished solo travel guides, travel checklists, packing lists, giveaways, and more. Language assistants in Spain often supplement their income by offering private classes to the children of teachers at their school.

Two of my fellow assistants, Fola and James, were respectable black men with college degrees. The third, Jonah, was a white man not much different in temperament to the other two. However, the teachers clamored to work with Jonah.

When he was all booked up, Jonah referred the teachers to Fola and James. They were simply not interested. It was Jonah or bust. I brought up this issue with Fola, who had also worked at the school the year. Apparently, this was a pattern: the teachers always fought over the white language assistants.

To them, minority language assistants were not fit to teach their precious. An alarming of black and minority language assistants I spoke to told me similar stories.

At my school, there was a biracial Cuban teacher, the only non-Spaniard among the permanent staff. A kind and jovial man, he invited all the language assistants to his home for a Cuban dinner with his wife. He also took us on a day trip one weekend. Simply put: he was the only one among the older teachers who gave us the time of day.

The other teachers ostracized him for one reason: his Latino heritage. It was clear from their condescending attitude. They made fun of his accent and his mannerisms.

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They excluded him from teacher functions, like Friday lunches at a nearby bar. I guess it should come as no surprise that some Spaniards think they are superior to those from their former colonies, especially those with melanin in their skin. A considerable of people, both young and old, would not sit next to me on the bus. Someone walks in, sees the seat next to me, looks me up and down, and then scurries to the back of the bus.

You would think I had three eyes! If I got a dollar each time that sort of thing happened, I would be a thousandaire!

In another bus incident, Fola and I boarded a shuttle to drive up to El Escorial, a monastery right outside of Madrid. When we got on, Fola asked the driver if he was going to the monastery just to be sure. I then repeated the question, but he just frowned, shrugged his shoulders, and murmured something under his breath.

This is a hallmark of racism in Spain: being as rude and unhelpful as possible! During Christmas, Los Reyes Magos the three wise men are the star of the show. Forget Papa Noel Santa Claus. Every Christmas, Spanish men in every corner of the country put on blackface to portray Balthazar. My gosh, they were beyond cringe-worthy!

A post shared by El Farandi? Their intentions may be harmless, but blackface is deeply offensive and racist. Full stop.