|German Spanish Day - Ich bin ein Berlines
"Spanish-German Migration Patterns: New Trends of Cultural Exchange"
(Berlin, ICD House; July 30th, 2014)
On the 30th of July, held parallel to the Symposium in Cultural Diplomacy in Germany 2014, a selection of Spanish interns at the Institute for Cultural Diplomacy hosted an eventful evening displaying the vibrant culture, history and customs of Spain and her people, held in the Arts and Culture House at the ICD. It was a lively night that not only brought together the Spanish community in Berlin but, more importantly, brought to Germany a taste of what Spain has to offer in their cultural exportation and contribution to the world and the community of Berlin. The evening provided an insight into the people, places and customs of Spain to the many participants at the Conference, and gave them the opportunity to understand what it means to be Spanish in these turbulent times and how Spanish people come to understand their identity in a period of new transformational trends to European identity. The event brought together dignitaries, scholars and artists for an interactive panel discussion promoting the "Marca España"; leaving their vibrant imprint for the audience to take away, in what was to be a successful Conference highlighting the cultural and artistic attributes of Spain and its people.
The face of Europe is changing rapidly. With policies and initiatives promoting the exchange of culture and people, the continent is witnessing a new era characterized by open borders and the acceptance of multiculturalism as a new norm, carving a new makeup of European identity and reshaping previous attitudes to fit these contemporary transformations. No other example demonstrates better this cultural transfiguration than the Spanish and their colorful presence in the city of Berlin, which is becoming a new home for many, and a central hub importing the vibrant customs and peoples entering its borders. In this line of thought, many key issues were touched in the event, such as the reasons that push Spanish to migrate and the imprint they leave in Berlin while they are here, as well as the importance of cultural exchange and the difficulties that come together with the migration phenomena.
Those who attended the event included Ignacio Sánchez de Lerín, Deputy Head of Mission of the Embassy of Spain in Berlin, opening the event with a lecture not only on what Spain is, but rather in his words, “how we want you to see us.” He noted the difficulties in synthesizing Spain in one distinct category since it embodies a multitude of perceptions and ideas that cannot be clearly defined nor understood. “We want to become attractive again,” he stressed, “so nobody thinks of crisis when they think of Spain.” He outlined the steps that his government is undertaking in remaking and reshaping Spanish identity in all sectors, from the economic to the cultural, in order to show again Spanish achievements in all spheres related to its contribution. Through transforming old, traditional sectors anew and promoting the nation and its attribute under a light that reflects its sophistication and refinement, Spain, he hopes, will once again demonstrate to the rest of the world its positive features, rather than what has been conceived in recent years. And it is the government that is accompanying these new efforts, by building an office within the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which gathers together information, preparing and spreading it out, for what we understand as "Marca España". He stressed that it is not solely the work of ambassadors or government officials that are responsible for this new initiative but, in particular, every Spaniard, “for every Spaniard is an ambassador.”
Following his opening remarks, a panel discussion continuing with the theme of Nation Branding and Spanish identity assembled an array or artists, entrepreneurs and scholars, that included: Germán Luis Buceta (President of Friends of Spain e.V. - www.friendsofspain.de/es), Santiago Gómez Rojas (Founder of Spanisches Filmfest - www.sffberlin.de), María Miguel (Founder of Cultourberlin www.cultourberlin.com) and Gonzalo Vélez (Cofounder of Holaberlin - www.holaberlin.com). Together they debated different issues concerning their migration experience and their integration process in Germany. Their very different professional backgrounds offered the participants bright and contrasted points of view about the topics raised, enriching the panel discussion. The evening concluded with a special reception that combined live music by Pedro Vera and a very special art exhibition by Sonia Camacho (www.soniacamacho.com) and Pablo Mercado (www.pablomercado.es). Dinner and drinks were provided to those who attended thanks to the sponsors San Miguel, Spanische-Quelle (www.spanische-quelle.de), and Freixenet, who not only presented the best of Spain, but a real taste of the country too. The catering was provided by Spanische-Quelle, with chef Miguel Toca (www.spaingourmetshop.com), serving up typical Spanish dishes such as paella and jamón serrano. Dinner was followed up by everyone’s favorite Spanish drink, sangria, which was prepared personally by the Spanish interns themselves, and served with San Miguel, which provided the guests a taste of Spanish own crafted beer. Many in attendance were amazed by the richness of Spanish culture. “It was bare good; next level sangria and paella,” commented Houssam Alissa, an English intern at the ICD.
The event focused in breaking the stereotypes currently associated with the Spanish community both at home and abroad. It highlighted the cultural exchange, demonstrated by the people in the room, tearing down the confines that exist between Spain and Germany and, in turn, rebuilding new bridges that facilitate the ongoing dialogue and conversation, displaying that the two have more in common than once assumed. It testifies to the ways Nation Branding in this current era rebrands countries images abroad and how Spain, under this context, exports its own image following the economic crisis that hit many at home. Florian Rugina, an intern at the ICD, commented that the evening “broke the conventional stereotypes about Spaniards,” adding that, “at the same time I recognized the challenges that Spanish people face, for example, when they immigrate to other European Countries such as Germany.” The performance that took place after the panel discussion by the hands of Pedro Vera struck a cord for many in attendance, who experienced the lively and spirited variety of Spanish arts, ranging from the rhythms that had the attendees up from their seats, to the sculptures, paintings and photographs that exposed Spanish identity through an abstract, appealing exhibition.
The evening brought to light many of the complex issues that expat communities face abroad and, particularly, how the Spanish community sees itself in an era of immeasurable changes, not only for its people, but also for how the world perceives them. It balanced carefully the line of seriousness required for tackling issues related to identity and the circumstances affecting Spaniards in the 21st century. Nevertheless, it also managed to present the beauty and attractiveness of Spanish culture through the people who came together to arrange this event. The event raised the question of the importance of country branding and of the different initiatives promoting the "Marca España", and made all participants think about the importance of their personal role of country ambassadors abroad. A Spanish evening of bright debate, cultural immersion, and culinary experiences.