Travelversity | A Travel Series | Racism In Spain: Q&A With Claudia Dockery

Travelversity | A Travel Series | Racism In Spain: Q&A With Claudia Dockery

Hey everyone! For this post it’s going to be a special Q&A as part of a new series. I’ve got a travel Youtuber and Blogger I recently came across called Claudia Dockery, who also runs a small travel agency called Eclectric Travel Adventures.Here’s a bit of a backstory on her. Last year Claudia left family and friends to live and work abroad in Spain as a language and culture assistant at an elementary school. Her time was cut as she had to return back home to the US due to the pandemic coming into full swing in Europe. When in Spain she was staying in a small town called L’Alfas Del Pi, which is just outside of Benidorm. Claudia was excited about the prospect of but it didn’t come without their challenges. She spoke about her expectations before arriving, her time teaching school, what’s it’s like being an American in Spain compared to the US and most of all, her experiences dealing with racism whilst living in rural Spain. There’s a lot to unpack here! Keep reading

P.S. The pictures of her time in Spain below are amazing, especially every bit of scenery and landscape. Definitely worth a look!
When you first decided to move to Spain, what were your initial thoughts about the town you were going to live in and Spain as a country?

Claudia: When I originally saw L’Alfas Del Pi on my assignment, I was excited to be placed in a beach town. I was like well, if I didn’t get placed in a big city then at least I’m placed on the water where I can be happy. As I considered where I should actually live, though, after researching the area, I determined that Benidorm’s size gave some advantages. I ultimately decided to live there, because of more access to transportation. Benidorm was the perfect middle point for my roommate and I. She was placed in Polop, Spain and I was placed in L’Alfas del Pi.

Before living abroad in Spain, were you aware of any other black people or people of color who had experienced racial bias, stereotype, ignorance or any form of racism before?

C: I did a lot of research before I left, and found blogs and articles where Black people described experiences of racism, but I wasn’t taking it seriously. I, also, watched some videos of the racism people described in Spain, but, as an African American nothing seemed out of the ordinary. The thing that actually convinced me to go to Spain, the first time, was when an African- American man came to my university and as a speaker for the study abroad program. He spoke of his experience in Spain. I was nervous about what I heard and read online. I went up to him and spoke with him afterwards, and he told me to just embrace the opportunity and go.”You’re going to be Black anywhere you go. Don’t let fear ruin your opportunity.” I signed up to study abroad that summer in Granada the next day.

I did a lot of research before I left, and found blogs and articles where Black people described experiences of racism, but I wasn’t taking it seriously. I, also, watched some videos of the racism people described in Spain, but, as an African American nothing seemed out of the ordinary.

“You’re going to be Black anywhere you go. Don’t let fear ruin your opportunity.”

You mentioned in the school you worked that the kids were making racially ignorant comments, how important was it for you to educate them on racism and to be better? And if so, also encourage your fellow teachers to do the same?

C: I found it very important to give the students an outside perspective that they would not typically get. I was a Language and Culture Assistant and I took the cultural ambassador role very seriously. I wanted to share not only the stereotypical American perspective to my students, usually that of the majority White population, but also cultural experiences of non-White Americans with several generations of history in the United States — some, with ancestors like mine, central to the building of the country and its wealth.
I made a point to add pictures of people of color. I shared with them our holiday of Thanksgiving, but with an emphasis on the Native Americans who were already in the land before the Europeans arrived. When we studied winter holidays, I made a point to not only show them how Americans celebrated Christmas, but also Hanukkah and Kwanzaa as well. I shared Christmas music from all types of artists and genres. I knew that this was probably the first time for most of them that they were meeting someone who looked like me in a leadership role, and I wanted to make a lasting impact on them. I wanted to not only educate the students, but share my culture with the teachers as well. I will say the language barrier made things a little more difficult in that regard. The English teachers would help me sometimes convey some things that I did not have the language for or confidence to try to express because while I excel in listening and understanding the Spanish language, I still was overcoming my fear of speaking.

I wanted to share not only the stereotypical American perspective to my students, usually that of the majority White population, but also cultural experiences of non-White Americans with several generations of history in the United States — some, with ancestors like mine, central to the building of the country and its wealth.

I knew that this was probably the first time for most of them that they were meeting someone who looked like me in a leadership role, and I wanted to make a lasting impact on them. I wanted to not only educate the students, but share my culture with the teachers as well.

It’s also interesting when you were at the hotel checking in that the hotel staff was not being accommodating and instead was snippy and condescending. As soon as you showed them your American passport you noticed their energy and vibe shifted by quite a bit, to something that were of good hospitality. Is that an extremely strong reflection of how much more effort black people have to put It to be treated the way they should?

The thing about that incident was that I never thought about passport privilege before that happened. In the smaller towns, like the ones where my roommate and I worked, it was very obvious that people had not seen a lot of people who looked like me. In the area where I was placed, in fact, people didn’t even meet many Americans. They would always ask me why I was in that area.

Unfortunately, as a Black person, it is a fact of life that we put for more effort to be treated well. Most Black Americans are told our whole lives by our parents some variation of “You must be three times better to be considered equal.” That’s why experiencing that shift in the hotel clerks’ demeanors because I was American was a little surprising each time it happened because often in my own country it’s hard to be seen as simply “American” not “African American.”

Unfortunately, as a Black person, it is a fact of life that we put for more effort to be treated well. Most Black Americans are told our whole lives by our parents some variation of “You must be three times better to be considered equal.” That’s why experiencing that shift in the hotel clerks’ demeanors because I was American was a little surprising each time it happened because often in my own country it’s hard to be seen as simply “American” not “African American.”

There was one time in which you saw a child freely wearing a blackface and you mentioned that If they were in the US they get sent home. How do you feel coming from a country where people lost jobs over a blackface, to now living in a country where you see children parading around with one and doing so without any repercussions?

C: She wasn’t wearing blackface, but she did have a shirt on that had images that were pretty disturbing to me. The image was of four black men blindfolded and clearly conquered. As a descendent of enslaved people, this image was, of course, disturbing to me and reminiscent of images of the kidnapped and captured people who were brought to the USA.
What was particularly disturbing was the thought that students had no other representation of Black people than they saw in these images, or even in celebrations of these people’s defeat, or in the images of people in Blackface. If the students have no other access to Black people or stories about Black people who do not meet that or some other negative narrative, I believe, it perpetuates racism from generation to generation in Spain.

.
Why do you think forms of racist acts such as the blackface is allowed to be prevalent the public in certain countries such as Spain?

C: In college, I actually graduated with a Hispanic studies minor with several classes focused solely on the history of Spain. I genuinely think that a lot of these things come from a lack of exposure to positive imagery and news relating to black people. I also think when the voices of Black people in Spain are silenced and they are not telling their own stories, a very important part of the conversation on Blackface is missing.

As a black/African American woman living in a space where not many of the locals are like you and speak like you. You don’t have the safety net in the form of family and friends nearby to turn to, what were the biggest challenges you faced and how does it feel?

C: The hardest thing was that I lacked the language skills to express myself when someone said something or did something inappropriate or problematic such as when I was followed down the street or through a store. Because I speak English at such a high level, it was frustrating to not be able to express myself in Spanish at that same level. I was blessed to move there with a Black friend from the States, and I truly would not have had the same experience at all if she weren’t with me. Her school was much more welcoming and would include me in events and activities that she was invited to participate in. It was not that I had an issue with being the only Black person in a particular setting, because I’ve been in several situations in my life in the USA where I was the only Black person and that was usually fine, but to have the cultural differences as well as the language barrier it was a lot more difficult. It was hard some days. For example, when I’d lived with a host family the previous summer, I had a built-in family to help me navigate the culture and a more comfortable, protective setting to pose questions or discuss racist encounters I may have had during the day. In general, at my school this year, people were nice, but with the language barrier, it was hard to have deeper relationships that extended beyond the school day.

The hardest thing was that I lacked the language skills to express myself when someone said something or did something inappropriate or problematic such as when I was followed down the street or through a store.

Also, on occasion, there would be things that I would hear the teachers talk about that made me very uncomfortable, like laughing at the few Black children or images. At those times, while I had a lot I wanted to say in response, I did not have the words. I feel if I had been placed in an area with more young people my age, I would’ve also had a different experience. It was very difficult to meet people within my age range and other people that I did meet said the same thing. When I discovered that there were more Black people and more young people in Alicante, it was more comfortable for me to be there, so I started going there more often.

I would hear the teachers talk about that made me very uncomfortable, like laughing at the few Black children or images.

Are there any you would say are exclusive to black women and not necessarily applicable to men?

C: There’s always another aspect as a woman, because people can be very creepy. Older men would always try to get me to talk to them, try to touch me, and sometimes follow me. I did hear that sometimes Black women are assumed to be prostitutes, so with the British tourists, I would pretend I didn’t understand English and keep moving. With the Spaniards, I would pretend I didn’t understand Spanish. I suppose, that was one perk of people not being sure where I was from. I would just say be aware of your surroundings at all times. I don’t think that mace is technically legal there, but I carried it just in case.

I did hear that sometimes Black women are assumed to be prostitutes, so with the British tourists, I would pretend I didn’t understand English and keep moving. With the Spaniards, I would pretend I didn’t understand Spanish.

What advice would you pass on to other black people who have decided to live in Spain or even visit the country?

C: First of all, I would say go. That is something that I regret not saying in my video. The country is very beautiful and you will most likely meet more nice people than mean people. I think a lot of people failed to understand that the things that I talked about were things that I noticed over several months. My first experience in Spain when I spent July 2018 in Andalucia was such a positive experience, and I didn’t, personally, experience anything negative besides being stared at and the seeing conguitos candy, but I know friends who did. It’s all relative, but don’t let ignorant people stop you from having a good time and experiencing the beauties of this world. You deserve to see the world and go where you want to go without fear.

It’s all relative, but don’t let ignorant people stop you from having a good time and experiencing the beauties of this world. You deserve to see the world and go where you want to go without fear.

Another thing, especially if you plan on moving, I would say is bring your own hair products and makeup (foundation, powder, all of it). Even in the high end stores like Corte Ingles they sometimes don’t have all of the shades. Unless you want to make your own hair products out of natural ingredients then pack as many as you can. It’s a hard find there.
What are your thoughts on Spain as a country now having lived there for a good period of time? Has this change the way you view Spain?

C: I loved Spain overall. The public transportation, free healthcare (As an American, that is beautiful to me.), the healthiness of the food, the cost of living, the many holidays, the siestas, the “Work hard. Play hard,” attitude, the nightlife and more. There was so much that I came to appreciate about Spain by living there for that period of time. Now with the pandemic and not knowing when I’ll get to go anywhere, I truly cherish the time I had there.

I loved Spain overall. The public transportation, free healthcare (As an American, that is beautiful to me.), the healthiness of the food, the cost of living, the many holidays, the siestas, the “Work hard. Play hard,” attitude, the nightlife and more. There was so much that I came to appreciate about Spain by living there for that period of time.

As I mentioned earlier, this is hopefully going to be the start of a new Q&A series called Travelversity. I’ve always had deep travel discussions here and there but the conversations are too important to have just as a one off.

Having said that I want Travelversity to not only discusses issues for travellers from marginalised communities (e.g. Black, Asian, Latino, Women, LGBTQ+ etc) whilst travelling but also celebrate their experiences and hopefully amplify their voices. Racism, sexism and inequality in any form are issues I’m really passionate about but some from margnalized communities have also enjoyed their travels so why not talk about them too. I’m also aware we can relive issues on our travels as were travelling to countries that may not be as progressive as we would like them be. As a travel blogger I feel it’s my duty to bring them to light and educate not just others but also myself. Education was one of the main reasons for me starting this blog in the first place.

For the series I’m planning on featuring an interview every month or two on my blog, depending on how busy I get and if I can reach out to enough people. If there’s any suggestions you guys have for the series feel free to comment them below, DM or email me. I’m very excited about this new series and I hope to make a success of it.

Big shoutout to Claudia for giving her free time to do the interview with me. Links to her YouTube channel, business and social links are all below. Make sure you check her out!

Youtube | Claudia Dockery

Twitter | @catchingclaudia

Instagram | Catching Claudia

Business Instagram | @eclectictraveladventuresBlog

Follow:
Johnny

Johnny is a 23-year old solo traveller and travel blogger with a craving to know the world better and make the small world bigger!

Share:

14 Comments

  1. August 6, 2020 / 12:44 pm

    This was such an interesting read! I have only been to a small part of Spain but I am glad I read this post as it opened my eyes to what happens a lot for black men and women. Thank you for this! It’s such a shame that things like this have to happen

    • Johnny
      Author
      August 7, 2020 / 12:24 am

      Hey Gemma it’s a real shame but not a lot of people realise how tense race relations are in certain countries in Western Europe. There’s some overtly racist practices that’s still going on but that’s why more awareness is needed

  2. August 7, 2020 / 5:18 pm

    This was a great interview and it was nice to hear her insight as well. Similarly, hearing negative stories coming from Spain, I have been extremely hesitant about visiting; but I love the quote she shared in the beginning: You’re going to be Black anywhere you go. Don’t let fear ruin your opportunity. This is so true. Can’t be stopped by fear.

  3. August 7, 2020 / 9:05 pm

    Hi, It’s Claudia here. I am so glad that I got to do this interview with Johnny. Here is the video that started it all. I can’t wait to read and hear more stories from this series. https://youtu.be/XlD2njJhSZU

  4. lifestyleseason
    August 8, 2020 / 11:58 am

    Great post! Thank you for sharing this! I really enjoyed reading this!

  5. August 8, 2020 / 8:55 pm

    Thanks for sharing Claudia! it was very informative!

    • Johnny
      Author
      August 10, 2020 / 9:30 am

      👍🏾

    • Johnny
      Author
      August 10, 2020 / 9:30 am

      100% You gotta own yourself and own what you wanna do. Appreciate you reading 🙂

  6. August 10, 2020 / 8:13 am

    It’s so sad that in this age we still don’t accept others as they are. This has to stop!
    Oh Spain is so beautiful. Barcelona is my absolute dream!

    http://www.fashionradi.com

    • Johnny
      Author
      August 10, 2020 / 9:29 am

      It is, I do think mainly if comes from ignorance being perpetuated by a lack of exposure to black people in their environment and a lack of education on what is appropriate and what isn’t. It’s disappointing even more given that Spain, like you say, is such a beautiful country and lots of travellers love going there but I am hopeful that travellers can help change certain narratives

  7. August 10, 2020 / 11:05 am

    What an incredible interview – thank you to both of you for sharing. Gorgeous photos as well. I definitely learned a lot from this and wasn’t aware of the increased racism issue across some West Europe places, so thank you for educating me on that.

  8. August 10, 2020 / 12:34 pm

    I learnt so much from this interview; and it was so interesting to read. Claudia is really great and an inspiration for those who were worried about travelling due to prejudices.

    Paige // Paige Eades

Where's your head at....

%d bloggers like this: