Last week, one of the professors that teach at the program, Dr.Esther Mayoko Ortega, and one of the student mentors, Silvia Morgades, held a workshop called “Madrid for People of Color.” This workshop directly followed a budgeting presentation given by Dr. Susan Sánchez Casal, the director of the program. Both the presentation and the workshop were very informative and provided useful information, even for someone who had spent the previous semester in Madrid. Similar to last semester, the budgeting presentation was filled with questions on where a student could eat great food for a cheap price and which places we may be out of our budgets.
“Madrid for People of Color” was a very necessary workshop that spoke to what it is like for a person of color to live in Madrid. The workshop was not exclusive to people of color, despite being centered around people of color. The two main highlights of the workshop were the “safe” and “unsafe” spaces for people of color within Madrid. Often times, when someone asks a non-POC which places should be avoided in Madrid, fingers will be pointed toward highly policed neighborhoods. It is by no coincidence that these highly policed neighborhoods are almost always predominantly diverse neighborhoods. Thus, places where non-POC may feel unsafe could very well be places whereI feel the most at home because these are the places where people resemble me most.
When I got to Madrid, some of the neighborhoods I was cautioned to avoid included Puente de Vallecas and Lavapiés. However, after speaking with Mayoko about this last semester and after going to see for myself, these turned out to be some of my favorite places in Madrid. Mayoko and Silvia designed an interactive map that includes various places throughout Madrid that may remind a POC of home. The map had icons specific for each type of place and consisted of everything from hair salons to restaurants to night clubs. It is still a work in progress, though, and the goal is for the map to soon become something every student can contribute to. It makes it easier to find and share these spaces that make us feel simply at home amidst the culture shock many of us go through here.
I think this workshop was a great way to highlight Black History Month, and I am appreciative of the fact that the initiative will continue throughout the semester. Tools like the interactive map that is being created are so essential for students of color that come to this program to find their own home within the city. When I first arrived at Madrid, I found myself asking my host family where I could find hair products because the shampoos that work for my hair were not in the stores that sold other shampoos. I asked my professor, Mayoko, where I could find restaurants to eat at because I was not accustomed to Spanish food yet and I missed my home. I asked my program director, Susan, where I could find a church that was welcoming and could be what I looked for in a community. What may seem as simple as a map is something that would have answered most, if not all, of my questions while simultaneously giving me a plethora of options to choose from. Needless to say, I am very enthusiastic about what will become of it.
Nicole Richards (Nico), student blogger primavera 2020