Connecting cultures: transnationalism defined

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Sweat dripped off his face, landing in my Sangria. Stomp. A flamenco dancer landed so hard bits of the white ceiling fell as if it were suddenly snowing in Granada. As the venue’s lights changed from red to green, blue to purple, our gaze remained fixed. It was in witnessing this seven minute performance that I suddenly felt like I understood the language of Spaniards. Any previous barrier I felt seemed to have dissipated by this simple yet intimate invitation into their culture. His body flung across the tourist-lined floor; the other dancers shouted, “Ole”! In the midst of the twirling black and white Spaniard dress, the traditional flamenco call echoed the Muslim mosque.

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When the Spaniards shout ole at the bullfighter or flamenco dancer, they are echoing the Muslim prayer or call of “Allah!” Just as the minaret stands within the churches of Granada, so too this space shows the entangled relationship between Spaniard and Muslim; the cultural enrichment of a transnational past.

IMG_3052Granada was the last stronghold of Spain that remained under Moorish control before the Reconquista in 1492. Boabdil surrendered the city to Queen Isabella with a treaty declaring Muslim’s right to live peacefully in Spain. However, Isabella went against her word and thus began a slew of Jews and Muslims unwillingly converting to Catholicism, leaving the country, or being executed. Reconciling the departure of Muslim and Jewish presence in Spain is still in effect. Only now are Sephardic Jews being granted citizenship in Spain if they possess the formal documents to prove so. When will Muslims of Spanish decent be granted citizenship again? Despite this pressing question, hope is sprinkled throughout the city. Like the intercultural flamenco dance, there exists a harmonious intertwining of cultures in both Granada and Morocco. As an American, how do I fit into this story? I believe I’m meant to teach, to share, and simply tell. And perhaps like snow falling in Granada, misperceptions and mistreatment of Muslims will soon become a rarity.

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