I imagine that a Californian vote for secession would be the closest situation in the United States that could parallel the Catalonian independence movement. However, cultural ties in Spain run deep, more so than any regional allegiances in the United States. Although the United States is a much larger nation, the differences among regions in Spain are by far more complex than differences among states in the United States. In the United States, accents and population demographics differ by region. In Spain, the entire culture, even essential elements such as language, may be entirely different depending on where you are. The more I learn of the recent referendum in Catalonia, the more I realize I cannot begin to understand it by imagining an American comparison. From riot police to empty soccer stadiums, there are symbols everywhere of how strongly Spaniards feel about an entire region leaving their union.
London is alive. Like all metropolitan powerhouses, its streets host a unique cacophony of noises and a special blend of aromas. London is alive, and life is atomized into nine million moving parts that, together, make up one of the most culturally diverse cities in the world. I landed into the midst of this diversity a month ago, but I’ve quickly discovered that London’s supposed multiculturalism hides a different truth.
The favelas in Brazil are violent to the naked eye; it was initially a worry when I decided to embark on my study-abroad journey. Due to the rates of crime and drug violence, my family and friends told me to stay away from these areas. When I arrived in July, I heard the same story, “90 percent of the people that live in favelas are hard-working, but it is that remaining 10 percent that makes it unstable.” Heeding the warnings of Brazilians and internationals, I stayed away from the favelas, even those that are considered pacificadas (peaceful), where there tends to be a stronger police presence, less violence, and greater tourism. The favelas stretch up the mountainsides, meaning they are always within sight, making us acknowledge their presence.
When you say “Middle Eastern woman,” most people picture a woman wearing a hijab or other headscarf (keep in mind that these aren’t all the same thing), long pants, and a loose long-sleeved shirt or dress. This might seem oppressive or conservative to many—something women wear if they don’t have any choice. From my experience in Jordan, this is inaccurate. Ninety-two percent of the country is Muslim, and most Muslim women cover their heads, so women in hijabs are a common sight in Amman. However, this certainly doesn’t mean that clothing choices are boring. Young people are often more daring in clothing, wearing bright colors and tight clothes. Most Jordanian women have beautiful makeup, and many wear heels—impressive, since the sidewalks in Amman are liable to abruptly turn into rubble as you walk along the street.
Oftentimes, when one lives within a large city, it is easy to get lost in its hustle and bustle, to be absorbed in the urban beast. Urban areas are their own worlds, composed of a culture and a system often wholly separate from the rest of the country. These centers of culture, finance, and politics seem self-contained. Everything needed to sustain their population seems to be abundant within their boundaries. However, in these conglomerations of glass, concrete, and steel, it may be difficult to see past the urbanity and modernity and spot glimpses of any kind of religious tradition.
The term “leapfrogging,” like “sustainable development” or “social corporate responsibility,” is a frequently tossed-around buzzword these days. Tech companies or international aid organizations use the word leapfrogging to describe the phenomenon of a community or country, usually impoverished and in the Global South, departing from the more traditional path of technological growth and instead advancing from a less developed society straight to the newest and most innovative means of communication, business, or agriculture.
For Jewish students on Georgetown’s campus, there is an elephant in the room.
The past few weeks at Georgetown, multiple swastikas have appeared on dorm room buildings, in elevators, and around campus. Even from thousands of miles away in Prague, as a Jewish Georgetown student, I’ve still viscerally felt the frustration, outrage, and heartbreak over the anti-Semitic vandalism on Georgetown’s campus.
If there is one thing that I’ve learned about traveling, it’s that no country will ever align with your expectations. Sometimes it will exceed them, seldom will it fall short of them, but most often the reality of a new culture will divert entirely from the image in your mind, like a fork in the road, or a massive U-turn sign.
Startled, I take too long to remember the translation—passport. I scramble to grab my ID for the airport employee shouting the vague directions. I become increasingly nervous when I realize the group of women in front of me are balancing a number of documents in their hands. The employee stops at their group, scans the papers, and directs them to another line. I hear a man in the adjacent queue being told he does not have the right documents to enter the country. As the employee approaches me, my anxiety peaks. Do I have the right papers? Was I supposed to bring anything specific to prove I’m a student? Will I be refused entry?
The Mapuche people are Chile’s most prominent indigenous group. The Mapuche are famous as the only group to successfully fight and halt the invasion of the Spaniards into their territory in the 1800s. “Mapuche” directly translates to "people of the earth," “mapu” meaning earth and “che” meaning people. The Mapuche person has utmost respect for the earth, nature, and for his or her community. Unfortunately, colonizers and the Chilean state have targeted these people for decades, seeking to use Mapuche land for capitalist ventures. Logging industries and the Chilean state have appropriated millions of acres of Mapuche land, leading to the deterioration of Mapuche culture, language, and livelihood.