Bienvenidos everybody—I arrived in Spain about a week ago, and I’ve already had so many unique experiences! Even though this is my first time leaving the United States, I found the landscape much less foreign then expected upon arrival. It could be because the Spanish language reminds me of my home and the family members who would speak their native tongue around me. It could be because globalization has transformed the majority of cities on the planet into carbon copies with small hints of culture hidden and tucked away in their alleyways. Whatever the cause, the culture shock arriving in Spain felt nonexistent. Masks covered foreign smiles, streets were empty due to the covid rules, and travel bans had removed all the international tourists from Madrid. Within the first three days of arriving in Spain, I ended up walking around tens of kilometers, visiting major monuments and viewing the outside of museums.
My favorite aspect of traveling to other cities and states in America was checking out the grocery stores and how different they are from my hometown. Now, while I am in Spain, the difference is astonishing. The aisles in the supermarkets of Madrid are filled with non-refrigerated milk cartons and different brands of canned sardines. Pâté and foie gras are abundant on the shelves, while the cereal and spice aisles are sparse and filled with only one brand. Simply making food in Madrid is probably the most culturally-shocking aspect of my time here so far. Food is important to me, no matter where I am. Being hispanic, I would always have rice with every meal—I assumed the same would be the case in Madrid. Now, as I eat in Madrid, I realize Spanish cuisine is loaded with potato-rich recipes and varieties of bread that accompany every soup and tapa. To me, the food seems foreign and so far quite delicious, although there is no doubt I have fallen in some tourist traps, and received subpar madrileno meals. I cannot mark Spanish cuisine as a negative experience due to these tourist traps, so I am giving Madrid its chance. There is no doubt I will gain weight at the end of this trip, but hopefully the amount of walking I do around this city will stunt the deterioration of my summer body.
The vast amount of medieval, renaissance, and modern architecture that is scattered around the city is one of the biggest signs for me that I am truly in a European city rich in history. Growing up in South Florida, the history of my area is not that old, and the remnants of its past are usually covered up by renovations and gentrified buildings. To be in a city that is proud of its history, flaunting its decorated past with tall castles and museums, is simply astonishing. I can’t believe how much I’ve seen in just a week, and I can’t wait for the following weeks to be just as great and awe-inspiring as this one.
I leave you with this picture that I took from one of my walks throughout the city. I hope it instills the same feeling of wonder and amazement for Madrid’s history as it does for me.