In early February, I received a notification for an Instagram “like” from an account I had never heard of. Upon reading the name, @lasmorenasdeespana, my excitement was immediate as I clicked through to its page. Morena, brown girl, that was me! De España, from Spain, like my father. What was I about to find? I had never been exposed to any other Spaniards of color. I had only ever known the passionate, bold, vibrant Latinos and Afro-Latinos of the Americas.
Their account was beaming bright with beautiful women taking in the historic and scenic sights of Spain. All over the country, sun-kissed chicas twirled in flowing red dresses, danced on cobblestone roads and posed with their café con leche. I wanted to meet them! I wanted to know their stories and feel their energy. I needed to go to Spain like yesterday and I never been, but it was always on my bucket list because of my family’s origins. The more I scrolled the more I found. There was a meet and greet taking place in two weeks. My heart began to race as I mentally ran through all the arrangements needed in order to rsvp to this event. My heart pounded harder as I visited the website for details. It was a sake tasting, very unexpected. I clicked back over to Instagram, hoping I might get lucky enough to receive a reply message from the creators of the account. They did not disappoint and assured me that there were several slots left, but it was expected to sell out. Wow! Ok I had to think fast.
The closer I got to the date, the more nervous I became and yet I knew I made the right decision. My lodging was secured with the kindest couple and their Russian Blue cat in the heart of the city, between Lavapies and La Latina. I knew nothing about everything and I tried to keep it that way. I wanted to hear it all straight from the mouth of the people.
By the time I walked into the crowded Japanese bistro, Shuwa Shuwa, I had already spent more than 36 hours in Madrid. Breathless, I pulled the door open two minutes after the start time. I had tried to pack so much into my second day in town and now I was late for the driving force behind my visit. Everyone turned at once, and again I felt like the oddball… until I saw the smiles and halos of curls and kind eyes. These were not the stoic Europeans I had spent time with all weekend. They were expats from all over the world, joined together by their displacement and bonding through the diaspora over sake.
There were students studying for a year abroad from Savannah, Ga and London, Social Media Content Curators from Los Angeles and many English teachers hailing from many countries. They laughed deeply and shared stories as if they were old friends despite meeting for the first time that night. They laughed over the common knowledge that Spaniards take delight in cursing constantly until red in the face. Even church and the Virgin Mary is not off limits!
“So what brought you to Madrid?”
I turned toward the co-created of @lasmorenasdeespana and said, “she liked my picture.”
The host of the event was a gracious Japanese woman who spoke with beautiful Spaniard accent. She taught us about a sparkling sake perfect for brunch days, strong powerful sake that pairs well with sushi and soft sake that goes with fresh cheese. The sake cocktails fueled more laughter and we continued to learn how much we had in common from so many miles away. The event was not what I expected, but it was far better! I was lucky to be in a room full of people designing their lives on their own terms and not by traditional standards. The icing on the cake were the prizes at the end, which caught me absolutely by surprise when they called my name. Tears flowed from my heart. I embarrassed myself completely, but it didnt matter. (I have been wearing that necklace everyday since.) I owe the people in that room so much praise for being the most amazing welcoming committee for my first visit to a country that I felt so disconnected from, but was always so important to me.