What’s It Like Being a Jamaican in Spain?

What's It Like Being a Jamaican in Spain?

Have you ever wondered what’s it like being a Jamaican living in Spain? On our “Jamaicans to the World” Facebook Live show, founder Xavier Murphy spoke with Karen Marriott and Ana Strachan Porcar. They are Jamaicans living in Spain.

Xavier: What is it like being Jamaican in Spain? Hi, I’m Xavier Murphy, the founder of And today I talk to Anna Strachan Porcar and Kiki Marriott, who both live in Spain. Hi Anna. Hi Kiki. How are you doing?

Ana: Hi, doing well.

Kiki: Hi, good. Looking forward to this.

Xavier: Good. All right, so the first question I get, let’s get to it. The first question. Where in Jamaica you’re from? I’m going to start with Anna. Where in Jamaica are you from?

Ana: I am from Kingston. Most of my time was spent living in Red Hills.

Xavier: Okay. And Kiki?

Kiki: Well, I’m going to say, St. Andrew and St. Andrew. My Parish and my school.

Xavier: On that note, you’re representing your school and you are my sister because I went to Jamaica College.

Kiki: That’s right.

Xavier: Anna, which school did you go to?

Ana: I went to Ardenne. Fabulous high school.

Xavier: Okay. I can’t say anything against Ardenne. My brother went to Ardenne and so I have connections to both schools.

Ana: Great.

What's It Like Being a Jamaican in Spain?

Xavier: Let’s dive right into it. Tell us your story and how you ended up in Spain. I’m going to start with Kiki. How did you end up in Spain?

Kiki: Okay. I did my first degree at the university in Jamaica, the University of the West Indies. Afterward, I just wasn’t sure what I wanted to do and I applied for scholarships to study a language somewhere. I ended up going to Madrid for five months, which turned into a year. That’s a long story. Madrid wasn’t great for me because there were lots of problems with the whole organization that was giving me the scholarship, which was a part of the Spanish government, unfortunately. I had problems with my accommodation. I had problems getting my course. Yes, I had a lot of problems, but I did last a year in Spain and I learned Spanish and I was sure that I was never coming back to this country. What happened was, I then went off to the UK to do a Master’s Degree. I went to study at the University of Leicester and I did the MA in Mass Communications. On the first day of my course, we were having tea with the Mayor of Leicester with all the international students and the Mayor of Leicester says to me, “Oh, you’re doing Mass Communications, there is a boy from Spain who I’d like to introduce you to.” Well, this ended up being my husband. And I met him. The first time we spoke was in front of the Mayor and then afterwards, I went up to him and I started speaking to him in Spanish on the steps of one of the buildings at the universities, we were going to have dinner. He said to me, “I’m not Spanish, I’m Catalan.” It was kind of like, no, don’t speak to me in Spanish. And I was like, okay. And I said, “But, you know, I thought I would like to practice my Spanish because I just lived a year in Madrid and you know, it’s great. And he said, “No. Well, I’m not here to speak Spanish. I’m here to learn English”. So I said, “Right, you and I are not going to be friends”. So, here we are 26 years later and our 21-year-old twins.

Xavier: I’m going to get to you in a minute Ana.

Ana: I Love her story.

Xavier: I want people to understand that, you touched on a point and we don’t want to dive too deep into it because it can start an actual deeper discussion. Very deep. But I want people to understand there is a couple of regions in Spain and there is the Catalan language I believe. Right? Which is still there. I won’t get into how it’s recognized and how it’s not recognized. I’m gonna leave that alone. But that is what Kiki was talking about. Did I get it right, Kiki?

Kiki: Yes, pretty much. Yes.

Xavier: Okay. All right Ana, tell us your story.

Ana: Well, how did I end up in Spain? I met my husband five years ago in Jamaica at a Soca Party by Rockport Mineral Bath and we went on a date days later. He passed all my tests and so did I. Now we are here because he’s studying a two-year degree program in Barcelona and we decided that it would be a good idea to come back home, especially because of the pandemic and because financially it would serve us well to be with his parents and to save money as he studies. And since we have a newborn, it’s the best time to be with family anyways.

Xavier: Okay. So, I’m going to get a little nosy here now. What brought him to Jamaica?

Ana: Work. He finished his Master’s in Civil Engineering and went to, I forget the, Oh gosh, I forget. It is one of those, Eastern European countries to work for a year. Then he applied for jobs all over the world and got offers in Mexico and Jamaica and decided at the airport to go to Jamaica. We met each other at his three-year anniversary of being in Jamaica. Yes.

What's It Like Being a Jamaican in Spain?

Xavier: You know, and for everyone, right before we started, I met your husband before we started right? I hear you said something to him in Patois and he practically understands.

Ana: Yes. He speaks Jamaican. He’s been there for eight years actually, before we left. It’s seven/eight years before we left.

Xavier: He speaks Patois tu (too)?

Ana: Absolutely. He worked in construction in Jamaica. He has had to speak our language in order to communicate with authority or they would treat him differently if he didn’t know what they were about. So, yes.

Xavier: That’s very interesting. And again, we could go into this language, and Ana, like you say it’s a language. I also believe it’s a language, but then that’s another debate.

Ana: Well, I also think he embraced Jamaican because he’s Catalan and he understands how connected people can be with their language and how much a part of them it is. So he embraced our language and I’m grateful.

Xavier: That a very interesting discussion because, yes, there’s nothing as colorful as the land use. Nothing as, there’s just certain words when you say it, it brings, I don’t know how to say it. It’s like it puts it all together.

Ana: It just put it all together.

Kiki: It makes the heart sing.

Xavier: Exactly. While we are on languages, Kiki, I believe you’re, you’re fluent?

Kiki: In both Spanish and Catalan. Yes.

Xavier: And you Ana?

What's It Like Being a Jamaican in Spain?

Ana: Not at all. I only speak English and Jamaica. I am bilingual, however, I have a long way to go when it comes to Catalan and I’m on the beginner levels Spanish.

Kiki: No, that’s not true. You’re more than beginner level. You understand a lot. Ana

Ana: I do understand a lot more than I can say. That is true.

Xavier: Well, that is the start. They say if you start to dream in the language, you know, you’re there.

Ana: Yes. I look forward to that dream.

Xavier: Kiki, you dream in a language yet?

Kiki: I dream in all languages. It depends on who I’m talking to in the dream. And sometimes I speak, I mean it might depend on what I was listening on the radio before I fell asleep. Language is a funny thing because in our house we have three languages between the four of us, my husband and the children. So generally, I speak to my children in English and they answer me in English. Their father speaks to them in Catalan and they answer him in Catalan, but Xavi and I switched back and forth between English and Catalan. The children switch back and forth between Catalan, English and, Spanish. So people tend to see us like on a bus or a train, If the four of us are sitting together and we’re having conversations and we’re switching all the time, they look at us like we’re crazy people.

Xavier: Because you are all speaking these different things.

Kiki: Yes. If we’re talking about a show that we watched on Netflix in English, then it’s natural that we’re going to speak about it in English. But if we’re talking about Spanish politics then maybe we switched to Spanish, but if we’re talking about something to do with Catalan culture, then it would be Catalan. So, you know, it’s the moment and the subject and whatever.

Xavier: I’m going to talk a little bit, we just got into, you know, people looking at you. Let’s talk about the people in Spain. Tell us about the people that you encounter, you know, are they warm? Or they take a while to warm up? What’s the culture like? You know, the people. Give us a little bit about the people. I’ll start with you, Anna. If you could tell us your experience with the people in where you are, in Spain.

Ana: Well, I have had very good experiences with Spaniards here. I have very few Spanish friends, but when I do travel into the city, into the cafes or the restaurants, I’m always treated with respect. In fact, many of them speak English, so, I have never had a problem communicating. Even in the restaurants when I go to a concert, maybe at Mizzou, if they don’t respond to me in English, they’ve understood my English and then we can communicate.

I have had very good experiences, just seeing things from afar. There was an unfortunate experience with a ‘black Face’. A sort of local small-town celebration, carnival celebration. And I do think that was ignorance. But other than that, the people have been very welcoming, especially in my family. They’ve also been to Jamaica, so they’ve met some of my family and I love Spain from that perspective.

Xavier: Good. Kiki?

Kiki: Well, I mean, I’ve been here now for 26 years and I’ve practically gone native. At the moment I can’t imagine moving from here to go live anywhere else. I love it here. And the people for me, I feel very much at home in Spain. The people are, I would say perhaps in the South of Spain people are more kind of in-your-face, kind of. Catalan people tend to be a bit more reserved, but they are very genuine. So, you know, you’ll meet them and they’ll be a little reserved at first and then you start talking and you get to know people. When they welcome you into their home, it’s like, you’ve made it. When they invite you home for dinner or something, it’s like, you are going to be their friend because they don’t do that easily. I’ve made a lot of friends over the years and they’re good people.

I think it’s a good society for someone from outside, especially here because I’m living in a big city. There are lots of people from all over the world, a lot of respect for different cultures. My children have not encountered– I mean, once I remember there was one boy at school who said something racist to my son and my son didn’t say anything, but his friend went and told the teacher and that boy got suspended for a week. The parents were brought in for a big conversation and what have you. So, I mean, it didn’t bother my son, but it was not tolerated.

Xavier: Right. You know, I visited, and you were my gracious host. We are twins. My wife’s name is Karen. Even though you see Kiki on the screen, her name is Karen. She said, Xavi her husband. Her husband’s name is actually Xavier, like me. So Kiki and I are twins. They got married the same year we got married. But, my visit there, it was, you guys were very gracious. We spent a short time there. I absolutely love where you are in Barcelona. We absolutely love the visit there and would have to come back. Now, the thing we did not really get into when I was there, which I’m going to ask you all about is, you know, we talk about people, now wi haffi talk bout the food (we have to talk about the food). I am going to start with you, Ana. Tell us the one thing you got there and you said, ‘You know what, man, this is absolutel delicious’. If I or someone was to visit, you’ve got to try this. So tell us what.

What's It Like Being a Jamaican in Spain?


Ana: So many things in Barcelona that deserve, “You got to try this”. There’s Jamon, obviously, there’s Paella. There’s Jamon

Xavier: Okay. So you said Jamon, right?

Ana: Right.

Xavier: The first thing that comes to mind now hominy corn.

Ana: No. so sorry.

Xavier: You’ve got to explain what Jamon is because-

Ana: That probably the first thing that came to my mind too but it’s J-a-m-o-n and it’s ham. Spanish ham but it’s cured. It can be cured for months or years and that obviously affects the taste. So, it’s raw but it tastes good. I know we’re not supposed to eat raw meat, but it’s now raw, raw. It’s cured. It’s so good. There is fuet which is also meat. There is Paella, but I have to say I am allergic to shellfish and Spain has such a variety of food from the sea that they do in every way shape and form. The food pretty. The food is so pretty. So, I know it tastes good.

I mean, if you go in a fancy restaurant, they’re never empty. I’m missing out, honestly, because I can’t eat half, not even half, three-quarters of the food but what that can have, I mean, comparison with Spain and food there is none. I love Jamaican food. I miss Jamaican food all the while, but there’s, the food here is just-

Xavier: Good. Good. So Kiki, as a vet here who has been here, you’ve probably gone to a couple of regions.

Kiki: Well definitely-

Ana: Kiki’s husband and Kiki herself are excellent cooks.

Kiki: Especially my husband. His family, they’re all about food and my mother-in-law is an amazing chef, really. Xavi started cooking really, when he left home, because when he was at home, he was never required to cook and he was never invited into the kitchen. It was when he was away at university that he started missing home-cooked meals and he would call the sisters and ask them for recipes. This is way before YouTube. So, that was when he started cooking and he’s just got better and better over the years. Then when I was pregnant, I had very bad morning sickness with the twins So, I stopped cooking for a few months. Then I was breastfeeding and I was exhausted all the time so I kept on not cooking and Xavi just came into his own. He goes to the market every week, sometimes I go with him.

He buys all this wonderful, fresh seafood and he cooks all these amazing dishes. He’s always looking for new recipes so, we’re never repeating dishes. Always new stuff and we love trying out new things. So, I mean, yes. Talk about the Paella, talk about the shellfish, talk about, you know, all those things, but I’m going to tell you that my favorite food and you can, I mean, ask anyone who knows me. I love artichokes. That is one thing that I would miss if I left Spain, because I have not found artichokes, like the ones I’ve found here, in any country except Italy. Let me tell you Italy is a country that knows how to respect an artichoke. We have many different ways of cooking artichokes, but I love them just roasted in the oven. My mother-in-law gave me the recipe, which was just with a little bit of vinegar and oil and some spices and herbs. Guess what? I tweaked her recipe and I added soy sauce.

What's It Like Being a Jamaican in Spain?


Ana: Right.

Xavier: Your secret’s out.

Kiki: But guess what, she has put soy sauce in her artichokes now a few times. I guess what she has in her artichokes now sometimes. There’s also this vegetable called a Calçot, which is actually a special kind of onion that is pulled out of the ground, pulled out of the ground progressively while it’s growing. They’re putting it out little by little, day by day, week by week. What you get is something that looks like a leaf, but it’s not a leaf, it’s an onion. Then you go into the countryside or you come to my roof and you do a big fire and you roast these onions in the fire. Then you have them in a sauce called romesco sauce, which is made with almonds and hazelnuts, tomato, onion, wine, vinegar. What else? Sweet pepper.

It’s absolutely delicious. So you have these hot roasted, long onions, you pull off the skin, your hands get really black. Then you dip it in the sauce and eat it like that. It’s only during the autumn going into the spring so it’s a special kind of party when you do that. Generally, people go out to the country, they go to country restaurants, or if they have like, someone has a home out in the country, they might go there and he’d do that. It’s a whole ritual. And I love that

What's It Like Being a Jamaican in Spain?


Xavier: Great.

Kiki: We live in the center of Barcelona but we do it up on our roof when friends come over.

Xavier: Yes, I saw your garden on your roof.

Kiki: My cactus garden.

Xavier: I’m going to ask you this since we’re on food. What’s the Jamaican food? I know Kiki you are a chef so you probably get around to doing what you need to do but there must be something that you miss. Tell me something that you miss. The Jamaican food you miss.

Kiki: Breadfruit because I can’t get that here. I have friends who come from London that bring bammy for me. I have friends who come from US, come from Jamaica, they bring ackee. But breadfruit, I have one dear, dear friend who a couple of times has crossed the Atlantic without frozen breadfruit and it made it all the way to me.

Xavier: So, there’s no African store that has it.

Kiki: No. They don’t have breadfruit. Believe me. I have been I’ve been 26 years searching for it.

Ana: Oh gosh.

Xavier: What about you Ana?

Ana: I don’t think I’ve been away from home to miss anything too much. Just now I’m trying to cook Christmas cake and I can’t find browning. So I have to make browning from scratch.

Xavier: You have to be burning sugar.

Ana: Yes. That it. We’ve found sorrel, we’ve found the wine and the rum so, just the browning I can’t find.

Xavier: Okay. That’s a good thing there, that you can find most of your ingredients.

Ana: Oh, yes

Kiki: Yes. You can get everything now.

Ana: Really, you can. It’s such an international city, Barcelona. It really is.

Xavier: Good

Ana: But it still has its culture which is great.

Kiki: Yes

Ana: Very Catalan, very Spanish. Has someone outside their borders you can find your niche.

Kiki: Ana and I last year made bammy once, from scratch.

Ana: Yes.

Xavier: How did it turn out?

Kiki: Well. It didn’t look great but it was good.

Ana: We ate it.

Xavier: You just have to make, do with what you have, I guess. You know, there’s a lady that we had featured before, and she was making patties and when she showed the pictures, I’m like, listen, you need to open a patty shop there. I’m like, listen, you need to open a Patty shop. So you never know.

Ana: That’s not a bad idea.

What's It Like Being a Jamaican in Spain?

Boqueria Market

Xavier: I’m going to ask you about the being in Jamaica and there. When somebody realizes that you’re Jamaican, you know, there’s typically either the questions about different things, some stereotypical some not, or the red carpet roll out or it depends, you know? So tell me about one of those experiences where somebody realized you’re Jamaican and what happened. I want to start with you Anna.

Ana: Oh gosh. I only spent eight months here last year and then went back home and now I’ve been here for four months. I actually haven’t interacted because of the pandemic. Then I was pregnant. Gosh, has anyone, you know, no. Just family, friends and then we’ve just gone into where Jamaica is, what our official language is, and then that leads into the language conversation and how we’re fighting for Jamaican to be an official language like English. So that’s the only thing I can reference.

Xavier: All right. Kiki?

Kiki: I would say, you know, in the old days it used to be, when I say old days is because I go way back. Because remember I’ve been here for like 26 years and then I lived that year in Madrid even before that. So, in the early days, it was, ‘Oh, Jamaica, Bob Marley’. Then people would start singing, you know, one love or something like that. But now when you say Jamaica, people give you the Usain Bolt pose, you know. Jamaica is very much a brand now. If you go into Las Ramblas in Barcelona and you walk along and you see the kiosks with all the magazines and newspapers and the tourist souvenirs, you’ll find t-shirts that say Jamaica and Brazil. It’s a brand. It’s just that everybody thinks Jamaica is cool. And I see people in hoodies that say Jamaica all the time.

If I had a Euro for every person that passes by on the street wearing a Jamaican t-shirt or a Jamaican hoodie, I’d be rich. When people hear that you’re from Jamaica sometimes people go, “Oh. What, you’re really from Jamaica?” Like, you know, they think, Oh, maybe she’s from Britain because a lot of British people, like second generation Jamaicans and stuff like that. No, really from Jamaica, off the boat. They just think it’s cool. They just think it’s, there’s like this whole cool vibe about Jamaica, which is why they’re all these young boys wearing hoodies that say Jamaica on them and they’ve never been there. Then they say, “Oh, I really want to go”. You know, they don’t know that much about Jamaica to be honest. But I have to say that, when I, that first year that I lived in Madrid, I was staying in a university residence and it was all people from different parts of the world.

There were a few Spanish people from other regions of Spain. I met people from all over Spain, but not from Madrid because obviously, people from Madrid were living at home and going to the faculty from home. There was one guy from the Canary Islands. Somehow this guy, we had such a great vibe because he kept saying to me, “You’re an isleña and I’m an isleño.” You know, he always said that to me and the other Jamaican girls. I said, but you know, your Spanish, you’re not an Island person. I am like, anyways, you know, we in Jamaica, we have this idea that Jamaica is this massive Island. It is not. So, that was something that struck me much later on after I had been to Sydney and Majorca.

Then, you know, you take off from Sicily and you look down and you see the Island, you know, you’re in the plane and then you see the whole of the Island. I say, “Wow, isn’t it great when you take off and then you can see the whole Island.” Then suddenly it struck me. It’s like, ‘Well Ana when you leave Jamaica you can do that.” Then I taught, when you look at the map — I went home and I’m looking at these Islands that we consider to be really small islands and Jamaica is just a smidgen bigger than them. I realized that Jamaica, because also in terms of cultural importance, because of people like Louis Bennett and Bob Marley, Usain Bolt, and all these people, people have this impression that Jamaica is– First of all, people say to me all the time because I say, well, Jamaica is a poor country.

They go, “No, Jamaica’s not poor.” And I’m like, “Yes, it is.” It’s a poor country. Its a third world country. Then they also have this impression that Jamaica is like, I don’t know, it must be bigger because you couldn’t produce so many athletes and you couldn’t produce a team that went to the world cup with such a tiny population. So yes, I have come to embrace my small Islandness. Then I’ve been on holiday in Majorca and Menorca, which are close to Catalonia and they also speak of variants of Catalan. It’s so funny to me because when I’m there, I’m at the beach in Binibeca. White sand, music, Bob Marley music blaring from the beach bar, and then the waiter comes and speaks to us and he is speaking the Majorca variant of Catalan. Which to me sounds like a Jamaican speaking English. You know this kind of lazy slow– Then I’m like, “My God, I’m an island girl.” And I do come from a small Island. I’ve learned to embrace that about myself.

Xavier: Well, there was so much you put in there, in that part, you know. Don’t, I was like this [Finger over mouth] Don’t tell us that. We believe that the Caribbean is Jamaica. That’s what we believe.

Kiki: Jamaica and company.

Xavier: It’s funny because yes, it’s funny because wherever you, you know, people ask you certain question and you say, “Oh, I’m from the Caribbean.” They only think of Jamaica and they may think of the Bahamas and Haiti, you know, just a couple of places. They’re so much more, so much rich places, so much shared culture, so much different cultures that are there, which is totally amazing. But we’ll save that one for another show. We will be venturing this show with some of the folks that have moved to the Caribbean islands. So folks which kind of move out to Europe and Africa and so on. Which we have moved to the Caribbean also, but I’m going to ask you about music because you kind of touched on music a little bit there. Do you hear Reggae?

Ana: Absolutely. All the time

Kiki: All the time.

Ana: All the time, on the radio all the time.

What's It Like Being a Jamaican in Spain?

Barcelona Street

Kiki: When you go into bars, shops, everywhere. Plus Reggaeton is huge here. Reggaeton, that’s all the young people listen to.

Xavier: It would be interesting to know if they know the history of reggae and where it comes from.

Kiki: Yes they do. I mean, come on, there’s a Catalan single, she does a kind of, what do they call it now, Trap? She calls herself ‘Bad gal’. That’s her stage name ‘Bad Gal’. And I mean, a lot of the musicians here have gone on a pilgrimage to meet Jamaica and have played in studios there and have, you know, spent time learning about reggae from the masters. There is a huge respect for Jamaica and music here. Huge

Xavier: Wow. That’s good to know. Questions, so I’m winding down. My question is this, if there was something or an experience, an attraction, and I know it’s somewhat of a challenge, pandemic, COVID times, and maybe Kiki, you can give us some insight on this being the vet here. But what an experience or something that you would say you must see, you have to see, and you, and I kind of talked a little bit about some of that before, but what’s an experience, and it can be a couple of experiences you must see that it’s just amazing?

Kiki: Okay. The typical tourist things to do are great, you know, go to the La Sagrada Familia which is Gaudi’s huge cathedral in the middle of the city. It’s just beautiful and it blows your mind. There’s so much detail.

Ana: Made me cry.

Kiki: Or if you love football, it’s good to see a match at Camp Nou. I mean, nothing better it’s an amazing stadium. But for me the number one experience that I try and get, everyone who comes here to do is to go and see Castell. Those are the human towers and that is the most Catalan thing that you could do. It’s actually is a sport.

Xavier: So wait, human tower?

Kiki: Human Towers. Yes. It’s an actual sport.

Xavier: Okay just explain.

CastellersKiki: This actually began over a hundred years ago, out in the farming country. They have these traditional dances, like they dance and beat sticks and they do all these traditional things, but they started building towers where humans would kind of get into circles and then they would get on top of each other and stand on each other’s backs and then stand on another level and another level. And so it’s become a tradition that is, I mean, they have an association that’s like FIFA and they have a tournament that runs all year. And so they have like local days. So it coincides usually with the Patron Saints Festival day for each town. You have certain towns that have had their human tower building group. The groups typically have, like, you wouldn’t start a group if you didn’t have like 60 or 70 people, because you need a lot of people to do it. You need people to go up in all those layers and then you need people at the bottom just to hold them all together.

Xavier: How many layers are you talking about?

Kiki: So the world record now is like ten.

Ana: It’s Amazing

Kiki: It’s the most emotional experience to watch them do these castells. It’s amazing.

Xavier: Ana, you have seen it too?

What's It Like Being a Jamaican in Spain?


Ana: I haven’t seen it live but towards the very end a little tiny little girl or boy climbing up these people and you are hoping. You are hoping nothing happens to this little girl or boy. Then she goes to the top and you are like, what?

Kiki: Sometimes they fall. Sometimes the whole thing falls apart and people get hurt. But it is like the most emotional buzz. The thing about the human towers is, it’s something that really unites people because you have to trust people when you’re standing on them and when they’re standing on you. These are big groups of people. You have a whole family that has been doing it for generations, but you also have people that just arrived in Catalonia and want to make friends. The go along to these human towers. They have people of all ages, all sizes, all shapes, all colors, because at the bottom you need big strong guys. Because they’re going to have seven layers of people on their shoulders. Then you have people that just go and stand at the back and press their backs to help them support them.

Xavier: So have you been invited to one of these to-?

Kiki: I’ve been invited, but there’s no way I’m doing that. No way. I have a few friends who have done it in their time and they generally left it because first of all, it takes a big commitment because you have to practice a few times a week, then at weekends you usually have the tournaments. I’ve also had friends who’ve been injured, like, you know, after a dislocated shoulder or two, you’re like, okay, maybe it’s not worth it. But I mean, they really are very good about safety and now the children that go right up to the top have to wear helmets. I won’t tell you why, but-

Xavier: So Ana, you’ve been there like you said. You have been there pre pandemic, so you’re kind of seeing things.

Ana: Yes.

Xavier: So what would you say is something that you totally, it could be an attraction. It could be an experience that you enjoy.

What's It Like Being a Jamaican in Spain?

Sagrada Familia Cathedral

Ana: Well, you mentioned the La Sagrada Familia. It’s really great. I cried the first time I visited. I’ve been to the Opera house because that’s part of my profession, watching these performances and the La Boqueria, it’s a market but there’s so much diversity in products there. It’s a must-see, but also I’ve visited the South of Spain. I went to Granada, Cordova, and Seville. I think those places are worth the visit. You get to understand the history of Spain and how much influence the Moors has had on Spain in the early years. Then go watch a Flamenco fail. Because that also has a variety and the combination of music. So I think the South of Spain is worth your time too.

Kiki: Definitely. Another thing, don’t come to Catalonia and expect to see Flamenco because it’s not from here. If you come to Catalonia come to see Castells.

Xavier: So the Flamenco now what’s the difference in this dance? It a dance, right? Let me make sure I have it right.

Ana: Dance and music.

Xavier: I think I may have seen one, but I have to go back because maybe, I don’t know the difference between which one is which.

Ana: What’s that instrument Kiki that they use?

Kiki: The Castanet.

Ana: The Castanet. It’s such a sensual kind of performance. There’s guitar. There’s, I don’t know this kind of instrument, but it looks like a drum.

Kiki: It’s a box.

What's It Like Being a Jamaican in Spain?

Flamenco Dancer

Ana: What is it Kiki?

Kiki: La caca. It’s a box.

Ana: That. The singing is so earthy and powerful. I am mesmerized by flamenco. I absolutely love the dancing, the heavy footing. It’s like tap on sterilized. And it’s, more than that obviously, but that’s the sound you get when the heel is hitting obviously, and it’s sensual and it’s, it’s a mix of Spanish Romani, African. I love them.

Xavier: Good. I think I’ve seen it, but I have to go back because I did visit Spain, was it last year or the year before? My wife had a trip there for work and I tagged along. I was the bag person. So I tagged along. Again, I’m trying to figure out directions because we did go to Morocco.

Kiki: South.

Xavier: We were the south end. Okay.

Kiki: Yes. That’s the place for Flamenco. Yes.

Xavier: Okay. So then that’s what I saw. It was amazing to me. You had a young boy involved and the ladies were, you know-

Ana: How nice.

Xavier: Yes, yes. So I believe I saw it and it was great. It was really good. They were really into this performance.

Ana: They surely were.

Xavier: You could see the attachment and so on. So great. All right. So winding down. Last question. If someone was thinking of moving to Spain what would be the one piece of advice that you’d give to them? I’m starting with you, Anna, and then we’ll get the vet to-

Ana: Well, I’m in a transition period. So, with my Headspace right now, I would say they should always remember their why. Why they moved to Spain. So when you get melancholy, sometimes you’ve missed your family, you miss home, I don’t know if it is the pandemic but I am here with a newborn and my husband is in full-time school and I’m outside the city of Barcelona and it can get a lot. So just remember your why. But also just go for it, really go for it. You’re in a new country. Just go for it. Involve yourself in as many experiences as possible. Eat, eat, eat some more

What's It Like Being a Jamaican in Spain?

Barcelona Stadium

Xavier: All right. Good advice there. Kiki?

Kiki: Yes. When in Rome, do as the Romans do. I think you have to kind of not go with preconceived notions and embrace what you find. But I think that will put you in good stead for wherever you go in the world. But I found, for example, some people who have moved here because you know, Barcelona is a great city, everybody knows about Barcelona. The Olympics were here. It’s quite a glamorous place to visit. But they come here and then they’re like, “But the people don’t speak Spanish. I don’t want to learn Catalan.” And you say, “Well, why don’t you want to learn Catalan?” “Oh because Spanish is more useful.” And I’m like, “Yes, but you’re here now. Nobody’s saying you can’t use Spanish. In fact, most foreigners who come here and don’t plan to stay here don’t bother to learn Catalan.

But when you do learn Catalan and you go somewhere and you’d speak to people in Catalan, they start a conversation with you, which they wouldn’t have done if you spoke to them in Spanish, because they realize that you have a respect for their culture and they love it. And so it has opened a huge amount of doors for me in many ways, including work-wise and friendships. I just think whenever you go to a new culture, you have to embrace the things that those people love about themselves. So, if speaking another language is what it takes, then feel that. Eating their food, do that.

What's It Like Being a Jamaican in Spain?


Ana: Yes. I agree with you Kiki.

Kiki: There’s so much. The culture here is so rich. There are so many different places in Spain. And you know, so here in Catalonia, you have Catalan culture then in the Basque country, it’s completely different. They speak another language. In Galacia they speak Gallego, which is closer to Portuguese and they have a whole different culture. Even in the way we observe Christmas is very different in all the regions.

Ana: Yes.

Xavier: I did have that final question here but that’s interesting. How do they celebrate Christmas differently?

Kiki: Well, here in Catalonia, to be honest, now, this is the one thing that I still find a little difficult to stomach about Catalon culture. It’s very psychological, and so there is a lot of poop involved in the Christmas celebration.

Ana: Yes. They have a log that poops, presently.

Kiki: I brought the log. This is the log. Okay, this is a tiny version of it, but it’s actually-

Xavier: Hold it up again let me see. Okay, I see it.

Kiki: It’s actually a piece of a tree, but you have to imagine that this is just a little one that you could put on your shelf as a decoration. The real tree trunk is a real tree trunk.

Ana: Real tree trunk.

Kiki: People paint a face on it and they put the hats on it, then they put like a blanket over it and they leave it in-

Ana: To be warmed.

Kiki: They leave it in their main room. Then the children, every night the children bring nuts and fruits and leave it in front of Tio. During the night the Tio eats the nuts and the fruits and the Tio gets fatter and fatter. Then on Christmas Eve, the children get sticks and they beat him up. Okay.

Ana: To get the toys they beat the log.

Kiki: To get the toys and the presents. They have a song that they sing that they sing and it says, poop it out. Poop out the toys and poop out the presents. I’ve never had one in my house. Okay. I bought this, this afternoon for the purpose of this. This is the first time a tio has come into my house. It will not stay here for very long.

What's It Like Being a Jamaican in Spain?

Sagrada Familia Cathedral

Ana: We do have one in our home-

Xavier: Ana, you have one?

Ana: And my son has one to play with.

Kiki: This is another Catalon Tradition. This is the Cropper. The Cropper you have a nativity scene. This is the crapper from the front, this is the crapper from behind.

Ana: That’s poop.

Xavier: Wait. So this is a part of Christmas?

Kiki: It’s a part of Christmas.

Ana: That’s right, putting the nativity scene beside Jesus

Kiki: In your nativity scene. Now when I first saw it, I was just like, “What is that?” and my husband said something like. “It’s because we want people to understand that Christmas is real, and therefore we have to put something like that to represent that at the moment that Jesus was born, somebody was actually taking a crap somewhere. This figure is called the crapper.

Ana: It’s basically, don’t take yourself too seriously.

Kiki: That too and then, you know the scholars in Catalan history will tell you that it has to do with fertility and that it’s supposed to bring good luck to our household. So in every nativity scene in Catalonia, there will be a crapper. And that is the unique thing that we have had in our nativity scene.

Ana: What’s at the Christmas marquee. Kiki.

Kiki: Crappers. Yes. And I’ll tell you one more story. One more story. The year that my children born, there are November babies. So at Christmas, or on Boxing day which here, we celebrate St. Stephen’s day. All the time they came to my house for lunch. So we had like, I don’t know, 18 people here, big upheaval to put tables in the living room, and what have you. Sofa on its end in the corner and all the rest of it. I have been up all basting a turkey, I think, anyway, my mother-in-law arrives.

My mother-in-law is a very elegant uptown lady still put on its end in the car now, all the rest of it. And I’ve been all up all night, these Turkey, I think, anyway, my mother-in-law arrives and my mother-in-law is a very elegant uptown lady. She says, “Kiki, I have a special present for you.” I said. “Really?” she has it all wrapped up in this beautiful box. So I removed the ribbon and everything, I opened the box. And when I opened the box inside the box was a little blue nappy and a little pink nappy. Inside each nappy was a turd, but a very accurately represented turd made of chocolate. And I was just speechless, but that’s Catalan people for you. They think poop is funny.

Ana: Yes. It’s in almost all their jokes.

Xavier: Okay.

Ana: On that crapper, they have celebrity versions.

Kiki: That’s right.

Ana: Prime Ministers, presidents. So you can buy anybody you choose.

Kiki: Bob Marley. You can find a Bob Marley Crapper.

Ana: Yes. Culture.

Xavier: I learned something totally new today. I don’t know how I am going to see what I just saw. I don’t know how I’m going to erase this particular memory, but, yes interesting. on that note I want to say, ladies, thank you very much for telling our viewers, telling your story on Spain and how you got there. I mean really great information. You know, really good information I should say. I typically close out this way. Anyone, do you have any final thoughts? Any final words?

Ana: Well, thank you for having me. I miss Jamaica so much. I miss my family. I miss our language. I miss our code but traveling is important.

Xavier: Yes.

Ana: Spending time outside of the tourist experience is important. We always advocate for that in Jamaica, actually. We don’t know the real Jamaica when they go to a resort and stay. We love when a tourist does their best to speak our language.

Xavier: Right.

Ana: So, it’s the same thing here. Just reciprocate. I told her it does their best to speak our language. Just reciprocate. Traveling is amazing and I’m grateful for the opportunities here. The health care.

Xavier: Thank you. Any closing thoughts?

Kiki: I don’t know, I mean, this is home for me. Obviously I miss Jamaica. I miss my family. I miss my friends, but this is very much home for me. There’s a Catalan musician who is, he’s world-famous. He said, “Home is where your children eat.” And I think we as Jamaicans, we understand that very much because we are people– My father used to say, “Jamaicans, I like salt, them in everything”.

Xavier: They are everywhere.

Ana: And we love the Jamaican community over here as well. I have to say Kiki has been a huge support. I mean, Kiki is an awesome Jamaica. She is an awesome Catamacian now. She is Catalan Jamaican.

What's It Like Being a Jamaican in Spain?

Flamenco Dancer

Kiki: Yes. That was the word that my father coined to talk about my children. I think it’s great when you can draw on different cultures because, you know, I always said to my children, well, you know, you never lived in Jamaica, so you’re not really Jamaican. So my daughter goes around the world telling people I’m European and Caribbean.

Xavier: An identity. So I want to close on this note. How do you say bye-bye and the most informal? I want to be like the most informal way of saying bye-bye. I think in Spanish it’s adios in Spanish, but I want to do Catalan today. You’re going to teach me how to say it informally in Catalan. That’s how we’re going to end.

Ana: Well, I say, ade’u.

Kiki: Ade’u

Xavier: Ade’u? Okay ladies, ade’u

Ana: Adeu

Kiki: Adeu

Photos – Deposit Photo

About the author

Xavier Murphy