INTERVIEWED BY SAKURA YONEYAMA
This month, I was lucky enough to interview Sofia Pastrana, a close friend of mine in Madrid. When I first moved to Madrid, Sofia was one of the first people to reach out to me and extend a warm hand of friendship. Because of her, I now have friends in Spain that love me, and I enjoy going to school. Additionally, she changed my perspective on Latin culture. I was able to become a part of Spanish culture with her, and the habits she had without thinking told me more about the culture. I decided to interview her and ask about her life, because I always heard glimpses of it, but never learned the full story. I wanted to know more about her, and I can definitely say I did. This interview gave me a new perspective on not just culture, but also life.
Q1: Could you describe your moving history to me? I was born in Bogota, Colombia, and when I was around 4, I moved to Caracas, Venezuela. I was there until I was around 6 yrs old. I then lived in Chicago for a few months (4-6 months), a semester. I then moved to Montreal, Canada when I was around 6 or 7. (the same year as Chicago). I lived there until I was around 10 years old. After I came to Madrid and I lived here until I moved to Paris, France when I was 12. And I stayed there for 2 years and I came here (Madrid, Spain) when I was 15.
Q2: What was it like living in these different countries? I would say that overall the culture is very different, especially the lifestyle. In Venezuela, I had to go out with a bodyguard the whole time and we (my family and I) couldn't go alone to even ride our bikes outside. But then when we moved to Canada, which is the total opposite, I was able to walk an hour alone to go to my tennis class.
The languages were also very different. I think it opened up my mind, I was able to learn French, and I learned better English.
Q3: Do you feel as if you have a transnational identity?
Yes, I feel like I have definitely taken something from each culture.
In Canada, I learned to love snow and I learned to be a more international person. That's where I actually started seeing other parts of the world. When I came to Spain, I was able to see the "Hispanic" part of the world in another place and I was like "woah." And Paris. I now listen to french music.
I'm still Colombian but I have a "world citizen identity".
Q4: What were the hardest parts about moving around so much?
Definitely leaving friends and family. I had family in Canada and Colombia. And when I moved, I had to find my own "family" and friends, and it was very hard. Saying bye to them was very hard.
Q5: Can you describe Colombia for me? What was it like, personally, and from a global perspective?
It's a country where people… it's a poor country. I'm gonna start with that. It's sad but it's true. It's a country where you can see a lot of social injustice. There's a lot of poverty and it's very sad. It's also a dangerous country, some people don't like going there because of that.
But in my opinion, it's very unique. There's no place like it. The views are incredible. The people have an amazing attitude. It's so varied: you go to the south, you're gonna find a lot of music, different foods, a lot of the people there are lively. And then you go to the north, where Colombia connects to Brazil, and the food is different, the people there have different gestures.
It's a country where you learn so much. It's hard to describe, it's a feeling.
Q6: What place did you like moving to the most?
I loved every place. Each experience was so different and amazing. In Venezuela, I had a great childhood. Canada was also so nice. France also was very pretty, it’s so different than anywhere I've been. I used to think "Paris, wow", but Spain has made me feel the most at home. Not only because of the language but because the people here are very similar to those of Colombia. I would like to say that my favorite place to live is Colombia, but it's not. We don’t have the same opportunities. Everything this country (Spain) has to give, it’s just amazing. Woah, I don't want to get emotional here.
Q7: Were there times when you felt left out from your friends/family because of moving around so much? Was it hard to fit in at times?
Definitely. As you get older, it gets harder. When I moved from Spain to Paris, I tried to find a new way to be positive, but it took me a lot of time to make friends. My older brother, for example, made friends in no time, because of his personality; he's a very social person. My dad would be at work all the time, and my little brother Sammy, was still my little brother, but he had his own life too. And it's hard to reach out even though people around you are going through the same thing. My family would say "that it takes time", and I understand that, but it was still very difficult.
Q8: Did you face any stereotypes/racism/prejudice?
Definitely. I mean I didn't experience outright racism, but there were times when I was called or assumed to be a drug dealer, they just assumed I would carry drugs. Because that’s what people think about Colombians. But my brother did have a problem, there was a boy that would keep on saying he was a drug dealer. But because we were going to international schools, everyone was from everywhere else. So everyone would have their stereotype and would make that stereotype their strength. Like you know, what if I was a drug dealer!
You learn to be proud of your culture even if there are people who don’t know anything about it. You have to learn to ignore that and listen to the positive stuff.
Q9: Do you miss all of the countries you've lived in?
A million times yes. I miss everything, all the time, everywhere.
I don’t miss the places that much, but I miss the people and the memories. Like my family, if they were able to come here, I would miss them less. But it's more about the memories, and the emotions those places hold.
Q10: What part of you is something that will never change? In other words, what have you learned from moving around so much?
I want to say who I am, but that’s not it. It's more than that. I think it's how I appreciate life. This is because I've seen a lot and I've seen suffering people who can't have food for one day or even a month. And I've seen people that are suffering because they can't find the things they want. I think that because I understand every part of society, maybe I can’t relate to them, but I can empathize. It's the way I can take this and put it in my daily life. Like, let's say I'm meeting someone new, I will take what I know and try to learn more about them. The way I interpret stuff is all dependent on how I appreciate life and the different aspects of it. Life is s*** then you die. But by understanding what everyone goes through, you can figure life out, and keep on going. It's just about the people you surround yourself with. Me being able to appreciate life and everything, it’s super important.
After my interview with Sofia, I felt like I learned so much more about not just her, but culture and growing up as a whole. Learning about her experiences and how they were often similar to mine helped me realize that in many ways, multicultural teenagers are the same. I hope to learn more about not only Spanish culture, but also Colombian culture!