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The Global Connection

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From the end of the Spanish Civil War in 1936 until 1975, Spain was controlled by the dictator Francisco Franco. During Franco’s governance, Spain was largely isolated from the modern world. This past school year I spent four and a half months as an exchange student in Spain. I lived with a host family and attended high school in Logroño, a small city in north-central Spain. On my first day of school, a teacher went out of her way to assure me that Spain was not far behind the rest of Europe and had come a long way in the last couple years. This idea became real to me after seeing many American and “non-Spanish” cultural pieces, such as music and movies. Among the things that amazed me most while I was there was how much of the music I heard was from the United States or sung in English.

On the public bus, to and from school, there were video screens playing commercials, movie previews, and music videos. Many of the music videos were for songs that had been popular in the United States before I left. I saw videos for songs by the Black Eyed Peas, Red Hot Chili Peppers, and Justin Timberlake. On the radio it seemed that two out of every five songs were in English. Even a group from Madrid, called Dover, sang in English. I was surprised that music sung in English was so popular because most people in Spain do not speak English well enough to understand it when sung.

Two of my host father’s favorite bands were Simon and Garfunkle and ABBA. He couldn’t understand more than several words in their songs, but for him the sound and the mood of the music were what made it appealing. This demonstrated to me that people around the world are becoming increasingly connected despite cultural and language differences. The types of popular music I noticed while I was in Spain reflect and demonstrate the globalization of ideas and cultural elements such as music, movie, and fashion tastes.

Despite the widespread fear that globalization will destroy local diversity, I found that the widespread popularity of music sung in English in Spain helped me to connect with my friends and host family and, ironically, enabled me to learn more about their music and culture. Even though my Spanish was not proficient enough to express many ideas, and my friends and host family’s English not much better than my Spanish, we were able to exchange music and discuss the artists we liked. Upon discovering what American bands my host sister, Ana, enjoyed, I could share with her more American bands with a similar sound. At the same time, she was eager to share her favorite Hispanic bands. Our swapping of and comparisons between American music and Hispanic music expanded to other cultural elements such as dance, literature, houses, clothes, and life style. I found that “pop American” culture in Spain did not diminish their culture but helped strengthen it.

Partway through my stay in Spain, Ana’s best friend, Tamara, was diagnosed with anorexia and admitted into a hospital. After Tamara left, Ana and I began gathering things to send to her in the hopes of brightening her time away from home. Among the things we decided to send, was the lyrics to “Your Song” by Elton John. Tamara’s favorite movie, at the time, was Moulin Rouge and “Your Song” was one of her favorites in the movie. I happened to have the song on my computer, and Ana and I listened to it countless times, trying to write down all the lyrics. Ana laughed at me because I couldn’t understand all the words even though they were in English. I tried to explain that was not uncommon to be unsure of all the words in a song (such as when you listen to Bruce Springsteen or Dave Mathew’s Band), and she informed me that that never happened when songs were song in Spanish – she could always understand every word. In the end, we remembered the wonders of the worldwide web and looked up the lyrics.

Later on in the semester, Ana walked in the room we shared while I was in the middle of trying to remember the salsa and swing I had learned while I was in the US. She was surprised that I knew salsa, but quickly determined that I needed better salsa music and that I needed to be cured of my “ugly American dance hands.” She looked through her CDs and pulled out Shakira and David Bisbol. As we listened to her CDs, Ana proceeded to show me how to do basic flamenco hands. ¡Mira! She would command and slowly move her hands in different directions, having her fingers and wrist bend gracefully. She was quite adamant that before we went to a dance club, I needed to learn how to move my hands more gracefully. It took me most of my stay in Spain to perfect my hands to a level that didn’t make Ana laugh every time I danced. By sharing and comparing different aspects of our cultures we enjoyed, Ana and I took part in the spreading (globalizing) of our cultures. This enabled each of us to learn more about each other’s cultures which led to a positive understanding and strengthened our friendship.





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