Have you ever been somewhere that wasn’t quite as you expected or didn’t fully satisfied your expectations? For me, this was the unfortunate truth of my trip to Spain.
In 2006, my parents and I stayed in Torrevieja, a seaside city not too far from Alicante on the east coast of Spain. My mother’s friend had recently immigrated to the area and we saw this as a perfect opportunity for a chance to travel, accompanied by the intimacy of living with a host family. However, this was perhaps where the problem began. Undoubtedly, the scenery was attractive and the weather well welcomed for the season (dresses in November? I can dig it) but this was where the story ended. You see in my eyes, Torrevieja wasn’t really Spain but an example of immigration gone wrong.
My mother’s friend was one of many Brits who had moved to the region for the sun, sand and savings. This however, did not come without consequences on the local population. During an afternoon of shopping, I walked into a book store and immediately became confused as to where I was. Drowsy from the humidity, had I somehow stumbled into a portal and returned home to England? This is what the book titles certainly suggested as they stared back me in my native tongue. I investigated further and still found no Spanish written books. My mind raced: come to think of it, I hadn’t heard much Spanish either. The Brits had taken over and eroded the culture into one as fragmented as the cracked Mediterranean soil beneath my feet.
Now it might seem rich, this critique of immigration coming from an immigrant herself but there are different ways in which newcomers can affect the stability of a culture. Depending on the degree of integration and respect that said immigrants have for their new home, they can either build the foundations stronger and contribute to society at large or sow the seeds of its destruction. Home ties should never be forgot – I of all people thoroughly agree, but if you pack your entire culture in a suitcase, its begs the question ‘why move at all?’.
I was almost glad to leave Torrevieja, sad for its loss and embarrassed by my own identity. How many other sun-kissed locations have fallen victim to a similar fate? How many more will arise in the wake of globalization? I may not keep the fondest memories of Spain but I have not given up hope. Next time, I’ll visit major cities like Madrid or Barcelona and search for the lost culture that I had once hoped to see, smell, hear, taste and touch.