Migration – The Stitch that Holds the Fabric of Cultural Diversity Together.

Recently, I found myself traveling to one of my favorite American cities, San Antonio, Texas. While I have had the pleasure of visiting San Antonio and the myriad of other cities in the region many times before, it was during this visit that I saw this beautiful city much differently.

Boasting a population of 1.5 million people, San Antonio has much to be proud of, this thriving metropolis that just brushes the southern edge of Texas Hill Country is the seventh most populous city in the US and second in Texas. Founded in 1718 as a Spanish Colony and Mission, the fabric of this city was and still is created from many different nationalities, cultures and languages.

And it is here, where the story really begins. You see, the immigrants and migrants that helped build this city so long ago have left an indelible mark for us. Visitors can see this influence in the naming of streets, food, architecture and much more. But guess, what? Immigrants and migrants alike are still helping to shape the city today and on any given day, you will hear many different languages and be exposed to many different cultures. From street markets to taquerias to bakeries, the vibe of San Antonio is decidedly influenced by the many generations of many different people from different places that call this city home. While walking through the Central Market in San Antonio I recalled what one of my geography professors once said about the phrase melting pot as it refers to immigration/migration and a people becoming the “same”. He said, thinking about the US (or any other place for that matter) as a melting pot was all wrong. Rather, we are more like a stew pot. You see in a stew, all of the individual ingredients work together, in concert to create and complete the dish.

Right now, in many parts of the world there seems to be a war on immigration. It is important to remember that the majority of those immigrating are doing so to find better opportunities. Is the potential there for bad people to come into a country through immigration, sure. But, there is also the potential that I will win the lottery, or be struck by lightening. My ask is this, remember that rarely is anyone from where they are, but that at one time, all of us were immigrants or migrants, going from one place to another, usually in search of a better opportunity. I too, will be migrating one day. As many of you know, it is the dream of my wife and I to live abroad in Costa Rica and points beyond. We choose to do this because we recognize that there is a richness in diversity. There is value in other cultures. There is life beyond the norm of where we are from.

The push and pull for one to migrate is powerful and the reasons can be financial, cultural, social, or simply for love. All of us come from somewhere and are going someplace.

Tapas…a love story.

Madrid is a city that provides the traveler every opportunity to immerse themselves in the culture. From paella to tapas and Flamenco to street markets, the opportunity to fall in love with this beautiful city and its people is abundant. Oh the things you will discover when you allow yourself to get lost on the side streets and off beaten paths of Madrid. The city will open up and share with the traveler her secrets and beauty.

It has been two days since arriving in Madrid. The jet lag is subsiding, and our bodies are becoming accustomed to a much different eating schedule.  It is 10:30 pm and we are scheduled to meet a couple who has agreed to show us around the city, and give us the tapas experience that only locals can provide.

Tapas are quintessential Madrid and the tapas bars in this city are too numerous to count. We begin in an area within walking distance of the famous public square, Puerta del Sol. Like many cities, there are those places that cater to the visitor, and then there are those that are favored by the local. It is in these local bars that we were fortunate to find ourselves sharing plates of olives, jamon serrano, anchovies, gulas, shrimp, morcilla, and tortilla de patatas. Of course, we washed all of this wonderful food down with glasses of local beers.

How do small, shareable plates of food that are consumed late into the evening translate into an experience worth writing about? It is in the word shareable. During our time in Spain, we shared tapas with strangers who have now become friends. In so doing, we have made our world a smaller and friendlier place. You see, during those nights we didn’t just share food and drink. We shared with each other our cultures, languages, and even a few jokes. I truly believe that if you want to get to know a place and remove cultural barriers, simply begin by sharing a meal with someone. Now when we return to Spain, we will return knowing that we can reach out and connect with our new found friends for another round of tapas.

So you are ready to travel to Madrid and eat your way across the city. Los Gatos, Cervezas La Fabrica, and La Dolores are all great places to get started. All of these are located minutes from each other and make for a great evening of tapas and beer. Lastly, throw out your hesitations, and simply order what looks good, chances are it will be delicious. Salud to you all, and if you make it there, drop me a comment or a picture of you on your tapas crawl.

“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.”

Mark Twain