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Spain’s Identity Crisis
 Jessica Von Wendel

            The massive cathedral looms over the entire square in the center of Cadiz, Spain.  It is a symbol of the Catholic faith that still dominates today.  While the cathedral is impressive, I find my attention wander as I see two men that stick out from the crowd of white American tourists and local Spanish citizens.  These men are standing in front of the Ben and Jerry’s ice cream shop selling necklaces they have draped over their arms.  Their skin is darker than any African Americans I have seen back home.  I wonder where they came from and why they, these Africans, are the only street merchants that I met while in Spain. 

sI observed only dark skinned immigrants on the streets selling knock-off designer belts and coin bags.  They laid out their little square of material to display the few items that they were able to shove into a backpack.  It was ironic to see these Africans selling these knock-off products just outside the doors of real designer stores like Zara and Mango.  Still, some preferred to remain mobile and would wander from person to person with a bag of perfume or jewelry.

             These transnational immigrants are left on the fringes of society and are otherwise ignored.  I didn’t understand how they made their money because I never once saw anyone buy from them.  They are otherwise tolerated and even allowed to walk into any pub and politely wave a box of perfume under the diners’ noses.  Everyone just shakes their heads quietly and the trader eventually moves on. 

            Liliana Suarez-Navaz questions the relationship between these new immigrants and the Spanish who were once seen in the same light by Europe but who have only recently been accepted as “true” Europeans.  In her book Rebordering the Mediterranean: Boundaries and Citizenship in Southern Europe, she explains that “Today [African] Muslims have come to be considered a threat to the recently adopted democratic regime in Spain.”  I didn’t observe any animosity between these two groups, but the fact that these Africans present themselves in the public sphere of the transnational city and stand out distinctly makes it seem hypocritical that the Spanish are simply trying to ignore their existence in hopes of preserving their newly acquired Western identity.     

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