Cultural Pluralism in Spain

Earlier on in my series of blogs, I wrote a story titled, “Cultural Diversity in France”. Well, this blog is dedicated to Cultural Pluralism in Spain. Again, the difference between cultural pluralism and cultural diversity is that a country/culture/nation as a whole expose a demeanor that is not necessarily welcoming — it could be that other cultures that wish to integrate are not welcome, the country does not have interest in learning about another culture, etc. Cultural Pluralism is quite the opposite. This concept is more focused towards a goal of a culture; that goal being to integrate concepts from other cultures, express empathy to the “outsiders”, and show interest in learning about other cultures. This concept sounds a bit more positive, right? Well it is.

I found myself in love with France’s weather, architecture, and activities; but on the flip side I fell in love with Spain’s people, culture, and overall attitude towards visitors (especially Americans). Based on my personal encounters and observations, the Spanish are a much more welcoming culture — they are so interested in what it is like to be American. I ran into a little store to look for souvenirs and during my time there, the girl helping me was absolutely fascinated by the fact that I was from the United States of America. She asked the group I was with, “How much are you staying here? Am I saying that right? What’s the right way?” We told her the correct way was, “How long are you staying here?” and she was thrilled. It was so touching to meet someone face to face whose dream is literally to live in the United States. She told me it would be her dream come true. Tears came to my eyes, as I had yet another moment that I was proud to be an American.

During the course, we learned about another concept: English as Lingua Franca. The definition of this is it’s a functional term referring to the use of English as a common language by speakers of different first languages. I was able to go virtually anywhere in France and Spain and someone around knew at least a little bit of English. Some were fluent. I remember in one of our lectures the group discussed who was more privileged: those who spoke english in addition to a first language, or us Americans who go into these countries essentially only being able to speak english and finding someone to communicate with. Many argued that those who can speak more than one language… But I argued that Americans who primarily speak english can go virtually anywhere and find someone who knows a bit of our language are the privileged ones. That is a privilege — not a right. Sure, being able to speak more than one language is an asset all in itself; but not having to put any effort into learning a country’s language and finding someone who speaks your native language is solely a privilege.

It is not a question that I was a proud, patriotic American before I left the states. Leaving the country and landing on a completely different continent gave me a much greater appreciation from where I come from, my privileges, rights and overall lifestyle. Experiencing everything from differentiations in eating to witnessing drugged children on the side of road as bait for beggars (yes, this is a business in these countries) forced my eyes so far open… I will never be the same.

“The day we stop exploring is the day we commit ourselves to live in a stagnant world, devoid of curiosity, empty of dreams.”

Spain was a place a I needed to go. Their love for the rest of the world was incredibly admirable. They were proud of their culture while simultaneously welcoming others. Seeing kids recycled through a system and drugged to appear lifeless as bait for money hit me harder than a ton of bricks. That walk to the bus put me in tears — what can I do about this? I have never felt so fortunate in my entire life. This country brought me tears of joy, tears of sorrow, and a grand appreciation for the life I was raised in. I have a lump in my throat just writing this, so I apologize if it is a bit disorganized.