In 2016 I spent seven weeks in Valencia, Spain for an internship I found through a travel website. It was my first time in Europe, first time traveling alone, and first of many other things.
That summer was more than a storybook movie. It was my fantasy, a dream turned into a reality. During the week I interned at a Spanish tourism blog translating articles to English and created new content for its sister website. But on the weekends I found myself chasing after Spanish men and whirl-winding through the callejones of Spain’s third largest city.
I fell in love with the country. My Spanish love affair betrayed my Mexican heritage but I couldn’t resist the castellano lisp, the jamón serrano or the never ending days at the Playa Maravillosa.
In my subpar Spanish I flirted with the common Spaniard; fair skin, light eyes, combover haircut, and of course my favorite, bearded. I admit, I played my role as La Latina/ La Morena, but it only made things more exciting. A 5’7″ curvaceous woman with long, thick brown hair and brown eyes was different to their European beauty standard. Hailing from Los Angeles was also a plus.
Since I didn’t have friends in Spain I began using the locals to show me around. In my adventures I found myself meeting a group of five madrileños in their mid-20’s visiting Valencia for the weekend. We met at the port and they included me in their botellón at the beach where we exchanged drinks for information about our countries. Our night began after midnight at the club High Cube and I danced in the tropic heat to Celia Cruz’s La Vida Es Un Carnival. The nightlife was a creature in itself; mystic, nocturnal, and sensuous. In the eight stops it took returning to my apartment in Benimaclet, I saw the sun rise on the horizon.
That weekend they invited me to the rest of their activities. I judged a competition on who had the best English (none of them did), I watched them race in the sand and saw half of them fall flat on their faces, I listened to them speak about their lives back in Madrid, and I shared an afternoon ice cream with them at the beach.
When they left, I felt like I had lost the closest friends I made on the trip.
That summer was a true summer to remember. I left pieces of my heart transiting through Valencia and Madrid to Barcelona and Paris. I was face to face with Diego Velázquez’s ‘Las Meninas’ one weekend then witnessing the most beautiful landscape at Park Güell the next. I lost myself inside The Louvre and was found again in the middle tier of the Eiffel Tower. I dove into the Mediterranean Ocean during the Noche de San Juan and walked passed by the Estadio Mestalla everyday back home from work. The Gran Fira de Valencia marked the end of my summer in Spain, but it was just the beginning of my worldwide travels.