This weekend, my sister,Yabielis, came to visit me in Madrid! As a Skidmore alumna, she had done the Tufts-Skidmore in Spain program seven years ago. Ironically, I stay with the same host mom that my sister once stayed with, and our host mom is one of the sweetest people ever. For this week-long trip, my host mom, Francisca, agreed to also host my sister. It has been such a lovely experience to see the two rekindle and to seeYabi also catch up with my host sister.
As if things could not get any better, my aunt and two cousins have also been staying in Madrid for the past week. My host mom decided it would be a fun idea to make lunch for my family and have everyone come over and spend time together. My aunt and cousins took the Renfe from Colmenar Viejo (the outskirts of the center of Madrid) and came to eat some Spanish tortillas and paella. It was rather interesting and heartwarming to see both my family from home and my family from Spain intermingle and get along so well. I also missed being around so many Dominicans gathered around one table, getting loud just to have a simple conversation.
After the lunch, which concluded with a two-hour conversation, my aunt, cousins, sister, and I headed to Sol and wandered aimlessly around Madrid. By nighttime, we ended in Sala BarCo, a club that has “AfroJam” music every Monday night from 23:30h until 2:00h. The music was vibrant and lively, and everyone was so loose and free with how they danced. My aunt seemed to be having the best time ever, and so did the rest of my family. “AfroJam Madrid” is a weekly open mic night, so people would walk in with their instruments and simply get on stage to join in on the impromptu performances.
There was a bass player, an electric guitarist, a phenomenal keyboardist, a drummer, and a singer. Two saxophonists would randomly get on the stage and join when they felt compelled to, and the sound in the room was overwhelmingly good. My family loves to hear me sing, and so they asked me enough times that convinced me to ask the keyboardist if he knew any songs by Lauryn Hill. Just like that, the band began playing the beat to “Doo-Wop,” and up on the stage I went.
I channeled my inner Lauryn Hill and began rapping the verses to the song, and more people knew the song than I had imagined. Every time I looked to my right, there were four smiling faces nearly on the stage with me, chanting me on. To my left was nothing by flashlights from video recordings, and all I could hear was myself, the musicians, and very faintly, my aunt’s voice saying, “That’s my girl!” This was by far one of my warmest experiences in Madrid and also my least expected. I recognize that I am so privileged to be studying abroad but to also have a family able to visit me and spend time with me—especially around the holidays. If you’re ever in Madrid on a Monday night with nothing to do, consider stopping by Sala BarCo. I was asked to come back, so you might even see me there!
Nicole—or Nico for short—is an Afro-Latina from the Bronx, NY who dabbles in poetry, prose, photography, and vocalism. She has published two books to date, both written in English and Spanish. She is currently attending Skidmore College with hopes to obtain two bachelor’s degrees for Spanish and Linguistics. Her ultimate goal is to someday open a school for deaf children in the Dominican Republic. She uses her writing to discuss taboo topics, like what it means to be a woman of color today’s world and how that shapes her perception.