Before I moved to Spain, I had read a lot about the history of Spain, its people, and its position in Europe. While some places in Europe are, quite frankly, less fascinating in terms of their history, Spain has always stood out to me for its extremely diverse culture. Perhaps part of that is because where my parents originally come from is also quite mixed, and much more complicated than people imagine. The same can be said of Spain: it can’t be summed up in one word, or sentence.
While I knew Spain had various regions, cultural influences, and different ancestral lines, I was taken aback at how different people and cities in Spain really are. The north of Spain almost looks like it’s Ireland, whereas the south looks like it could be the north of Africa. It really depends on where you go. The same can be said of its people; there’s no one type of “Spaniard” despite stereotypes of brunettes with brown eyes and tanned skin.
Granada – a city in the south – is tremendous for its rich history. I’ve been lucky enough to visit the city twice. The Alhambra, which is a “Moorish” (Muslim) castle there, is still extremely well-kept. It’s a UNESCO World Heritage site, meaning it’s been recognized as a place that is of cultural significance. It’s true that Spain does recognize its past – as a country that’s been very influenced by its once-Muslim rulers – but Alhambra makes Spain a country that is even more important to the world for its own self-awareness. In a world where a lot of people are anti-Muslim due to various inaccuracies, this means that Alhambra has an even greater significance. The castle stands as a reminder that despite historical violence, conflict, and clashes, there is still room for an appreciation of something different.
Although it isn’t really my place to expect the same level of tolerance and acceptance in all countries or of all people, it serves as a reminder that these places, and monuments, are extra special.