Being Black in Madrid: Candidate Blog
¡Hola! My name is Asia and I interned in Madrid this past summer for two months. If you would like to know a little background about me, check out my previous blog.
I posted a poll on my Instagram about my experience in Madrid. I’ve received a ton of questions, so I thought I’d write this blog answering them with hopes to clear up any doubts one might have about Spain. The most common questions I received mostly fell under two categories, racism and hair. Thus, I’d like to give some helpful tips as well as debunk some misconceptions about Spain.
*Disclaimer* I don’t represent all black people all over the world, this is just my personal experience and opinions. Please still do your research.
Asia at a rooftop bar (left) and in front of El Palacio Real (right) in Madrid, Spain.
Racism in Spain vs. the US
Racism is extremely common in the US especially coming from the South. With the traumatizing events that occurred last year surrounding race, it’s only natural for a black person to be curious about their safety when traveling abroad. In Madrid, it was like a breath of fresh air because I didn’t experience any extreme racism. There had not been a time where I felt my life was in danger since living there. Overall, it is safe there physically. Of course, you will come across microaggressions every now and then, but never to the point of ruining your trip.
As you make international friends, the topic of race will get brought up frequently. In the states, race is somewhat an eggshell topic people tend to avoid or even deny its existence. However, I find that in Spain, it is a genuine curiosity. They value your story and opinion, which is something I personally find refreshing. On the other hand, I also understand how this topic of discussion can be triggering to some black people. If that’s the case, I recommend politely declining to respond.
If I’m ever treated differently, it’s never because I’m black. The only time I really get a side-eye is when people are surprised that I don’t speak Spanish fluently. Here in Spain, I’m not “black”, I’m just an American.
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Hair: Tips & Tricks, Do's & Don'ts
This is by far the most common question I get from women when I was abroad. Whether you are natural or prefer wigs, these tips should come in handy.
If you prefer wearing braids/twists in Madrid, they have black beauty salons here and depending on the style it can run about 75-250 Euros. I was pleasantly surprised they had quite a few beauty supplies, so if you wanted to buy braiding hair, or any hair products, they have them there.
If you’re natural or relaxed, I recommend bringing a good amount of products, at least a month’s worth. Leave in conditioner, edge control, custards, or eco styler, can get expensive. Especially from brands like Mielle, Aunt Jackie’s, Shea Moisure, or Carol’s Daughter, I highly recommend you bring those products with you. For shampoo and conditioner, they have the common brands like Pantine, Tresemme, and Garnier. I personally use Aussie for my shampoo, conditioner, and deep conditioner. However, they don’t have the same Aussie line for curly hair here, so I had to be frugal with the products I brought. Also keep in mind it’s very dry here. Depending on where you come from and your hair porosity, the climate makes an impact on how the products respond to your hair.
Wigs and Weave
In my opinion, this is the most cost friendly because you don’t spend too much money on products. The most you will spend is probably on heat styling tools like blow dryers or flat irons. Because of the difference in outlets and voltage, I recommend you buy them in Madrid. Because wearing wigs isn’t too common here, they don’t have the best quality hair so I urge you to bring the bundles or wigs with you.
Exploring Barcelona on a weekend trip!
Don’t be afraid of rocking your natural tresses here in Madrid. At first, I was insecure about wearing my natural hair because I didn’t know how people would respond. I didn’t want to cause any unwanted attention. However, I was flattered to find out how people here love my natural hair. In the end, rock whatever makes you feel the most comfortable.
Overall, Madrid is completely safe physically and emotionally for black people. I highly encourage anyone, black or nonblack, to visit here. Studying and working abroad has changed my life for the better. Thank you, Adelante for providing me such an incredible experience. I encourage everyone to apply!
2021 Teaching English Intern in Madrid, Spain
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