I’m happy to introduce the founder of Las Morenas de España, Sienna Brown! She’s the managing director of a pretty amazing website dedicated to helping the black experience in Spain. If you are interested in sharing your own stories, write me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Explain the first opportunity you had to travel + any challenges you faced (familiar, socioeconomic, etc.) What propelled you to want to travel?
I’ve been traveling from a very young age, thanks to my mother’s constant desire to see as much of the world as we possibly could. Many of our trips when I was younger would be in the U.S, but she made sure to always ignite a sense of exploration in everyday life. As I got older, we had more international trips and there’s been no looking back.
My first opportunity to travel abroad was to the Dominican Republic on a weeklong missions trip when I was 15 years old. It changed my world, being able to experience a different culture yet still find similarities with the different people that I was meeting. It was also an opportunity to really embrace a culture with locals, not just through a tourist’s point of view.
What inspired you to start your travel blog?
LMDES was inspired by an overwhelming necessity to change the narrative of life for women of color that are living in Spain. Quite often, people only heard about the bad instances or experiences that people might have had in the country, so they are hesitant in experiencing it for themselves.
The blog was created, not just to highlight travel + expat life in Spain, but it is also meant to be a sense of community that provides helpful resources and modern insights.
Can you recall an instance/challenge you faced as a minority abroad? How did you react + how did it effect you?
I think the strongest memory I had was actually when I was in Morococo last November. I was in conversation with a Moroccan man when he asked, “What are you?”
I’ve heard this question many times before, it’s a normality when living abroad but when I replied American, he didn’t accept that as a viable answer because my skin was brown, so “I was African”. There was a lot of back and forth and by the end of the conversation, I was called racist and he left quite angry. The situation has a really strong effect on me but it also shed light on the way that different individuals will try to define who you are, based on their perceptions of truth. In instances like that, it’s important to stand strong in who you are and what you believe in.
Can you describe a positive moment you had as a minority abroad?
I’ve had so many positive moments as a minority living abroad but I think it always brings me joy when I’m able to shed light of just how diverse Black culture can be. Many people gain their insights from media sources or American movies, so they learn from those portrayals of “what being black is”. I feel good when I can leave a conversation having shared certain truths with a person that they might not have known before.
How has your perspective on the world changed as you’ve traveled more?
With each place that I travel to, my perspective changes and I realize more and more than humans all over the world are in search for their version of happiness. It’s amazing to be able to head any where in the world, get to know complete strangers and leave, having learned more about them, their culture and in turn, myself.
As humans, we tend to connect with people who we identify with. What advice can you give to future travelers like yourself?
As scary as it might sound, take solo trips and take them often. Traveling solo is a life-changing experience and you learn so much about yourself on the journey.
Also, make use of social media and blogs to connect with like-minded individuals. The internet is filled with opportunities to connect with others and to do often, don’t take that for granted. Making those connections can lead to more knowledge, adventure and even friendship!
How can we encourage minorities to travel? Why do you believe it’s important to encourage minorities to travel?
I think it’s so important for minorities to travel for many reasons. One, it allows for us to push our limits to learn and understand about different cultures different from our own. It also gives an opportunity for us to be consciously creating how we are globally represented.
I think the best way to encourage others to travel is by having more representation of ourselves in the media. For us to be showing that yes, minorities are out here traveling, living abroad and thriving while doing so. Seeing others do it, gives an extra boost of confidence to say… okay, I can do this too!