“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.”
― Mark Twain, The Innocents Abroad/Roughing It
This quote stands out to me more and more each day abroad. After a month here, I am now consciously aware of myself when observing, questioning, commenting and judging the Spanish and Spain in general. This happens from the time I wake up in the morning to the moment I’m asleep. Take a morning from two weeks ago as an example: the sun shone through my small, caged window in my single room in a second floor apartment building. It was 8am, and there was already a protest happening. “Pepe, blah blah, pepe!” was being shouted through a megaphone and alarms were set off in between.
Any other American would have jumped out of bed to see what was going on, except no, I stayed in bed and cursed the political movement going on outside. This chanting and noise even overpowered the screams of children from the school next door… and it is all too common. The Spanish political activists have not gone unnoticed in Spain, and even the world. Though not in Catalonia where even more protests have been staged, the capital of Madrid has seen its fair share of each party jockeying for their voice during an unstable time in Spain’s modern history. The succession votes have split families apart, young voters turning towards emerging parties while older Spanish voters are watching a two-party system, The People’s Party (PP) and the Socialist Party (PSOE) become diverse.
I watched the events unfold in Catalonia from my television, on social media and in the news as I studied in Pittsburgh and anticipated my spring studies in Madrid. I formed opinions, as well as heard the opinions of my parents and of family friends in the country. After getting here, I have realized how ignorant I was to the events at hand; my marketing professor has spent 2 classes now explaining the events from an unbiased standpoint, with rich economical and social current history spelled out in a simple, yet complex, manner. From home, I had made assumptions and compared the events and politics to those I know in America. These can not be compared, and my narrow-mindedness has been opened after being educated on the current economy, corruption, leadership and more of Spain. Mark Twain’s quote sheds light on this – “wholesome, charitable views of men…” can only come from traveling, education and immersion in the country at hand. Though I neither have nor intend to participate in politics here, I am actively opening my mind to viewpoints as I witness Spain’s current history unfold.