España is for Students

How Studying in Spain Taught Me More About My Own Country

Jenia Cunningham is a student at Mount Mary University. She was an ISA Featured Blogger and studied abroad with ISA in Seville, Spain.

When you travel almost 10 hours by plane away from your own country, the last thing you think is that you’re going to learn more about where you came from. However, in my time here, the more I’ve learned about Spain and its culture the more I discovered about the existing connections to my own twin island republic of Trinidad and Tobago.

The view I wake up to everyday (this is right behind my house).

Growing up I always knew the basics : Trinidad was rediscovered by Christopher Columbus who was sent by the queen of Spain (Isabel).  In the 15th century, we became a Spanish colony. Years after in 1797, we were then conquered by the British. However, today, my country exists as harmonious blend of people that share a culture influenced not only by the Amerindians, or Indigenous Peoples, and the Europeans, but also the Africans, East Indians, Chinese, and the Syrian- Lebanese.

During Christmas time especially it’s easy to make cultural connections to our European influence. For example, during Christmas, we listen to a special genre of music called parang. Parang songs are essentially hymns explaining the nativity story, and it is typically sung in Spanish.

Never before did I actually question the true origin of parang, but then I came to Sevilla. This semester at my Spanish university, I am taking a course in the history of flamenco. Flamenco is an art that has become a symbol not only for Andalusian culture but for Spanish culture and identity. Surprisingly enough, learning more about flamenco is helping me to discover legacies of Spanish culture within my own country, Trinidad.

You can see striking similarities between parang and flamenco. One is in the traje del flamenco (the outfits they wear), and the outfits parranderas/parranderros (persons who sing parang) wear.

This is my intercambio Marta and her best friend from Madrid at the Feria.

Since I love parang, and have been able to sing traditional parang songs, I can also hear similarities with the guitar and the vocal techniques used in flamenco.

It was lovely to see all the colors.

This cultural connection between flamenco and parang drives me to think about how truly intertwined human beings are and how complex our life paths are that they constantly intersect and impact others.

The lights at Feria were so pretty!

It helps me realize that even though I’m very far away from home, the people here are not that different. I’m learning that if you open your eyes, no matter  where you go, you can find parts of yourself in others.

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