My Hometown Top Travel

Covid cramped Spain’s style, but warmed its people

A bicyclist in Madrid, just before the coronavirus lockdown. (Sara Serrano/YJI)

MADRID – For most of my life, I’ve had a tough time defining the word home. Is home a house where you live? A feeling? A person?

In my 16 years I have lived in four different countries, each one with different cultures, beliefs, ideas and views.

Despite this, I have done my best to not become a chameleon, and keep my original personality, culture and beliefs.

When I think of home today, I think of Quito, Ecuador, where I was born and where all my extended family lives. It is where I can imagine countless lemon ice pops in the summer heat, and warm tea on cold windy days. Where I know that even if I stand out a little, I will always be accepted, loved and included.

Currently, I live in Madrid, Spain with my mom, dad and sister. We moved for the beginning of the school year a little over a year ago.

To be honest, it was nerve racking. It always is – the new school, new home, new people, new culture. Not only this, but I’m in high school, which of course comes with all of the self-discovery and self-understanding that can be hard when you are trying to adapt to new people and ideas.

I love taking pictures and I really think that by having lived in different places, I tend to notice things in cities that most do not, which makes for interesting and fun captures.

A scene at Lake Madrid last summer. (Sara Serrano/YJI)

During the pandemic when leaving my house was almost impossible, I still saw how people unite.

It is a scary time for all, but I have seen now more than ever the power of kindness.

Spanish people tend to be really cold and straightforward. This came as a shock to me because I’ve lived in multiple affectionate and even overly-kind cultures.

Despite this, it’s been amazing to see how many took down their cold front in order to be extra kind-hearted and careful about their interactions with others.

For a time, we were clapping for all of the health workers at 8 p.m. every single night which gives me goosebumps just to think about.

I absolutely loved how even though we were more physically separated than ever, we had never been closer in our values and priorities.

Despite this, the pandemic has of course brought challenging and hard times for everyone.

A pedestrian in Madrid last summer, before masks were commonly worn. (Sara Serrano/YJI)

If you have ever been to Madrid, then you know that it is an eating and living culture. One of the first days here, I heard, “Spanish people do not live to work, they work to live,” which is absolutely true.

On a regular day, it can be 11 p.m. and thousands of bars will still be filled with people and their friends telling stories and eating tapas while having a drink.

Going out at night for a walk at the end of summer days was my favorite thing to do, because despite the hour, I loved how everything was still alive.

A couple of weeks before the coronavirus changed everything, my family and I went to see a performance by the Cirque du Soleil. It ended at around 1:30 a.m., and after we got off the metro to walk home, I was truly impressed by the number of people who were still out past midnight.

That’s why the pandemic is so tragic. Not only are thousands of people without jobs and really struggling, but a huge part of the Spanish culture is completely gone.

Although I know that staying inside is the right thing to do in order to protect everyone, I can’t help but feel sad.

I know that this will pass eventually. By staying home and staying inside, we can guarantee that it will be in the shortest time, and in the safest way possible.

Until then, I hope you are all doing great and staying safe.

Sara Serrano is a Junior Reporter with Youth Journalism International.

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