“¡Venga, venga! ¡Ánimo!” the abuelos, madres and niños cheered from the sidelines. I was just some giri (white, non-Spanish person; usually North American) to them – some slow, struggling foreigner – and yet they were rooting for me like I was the winner. I was far from winning anything in that half-marathon, but these people cheered with such energy and passion. Those moments are what I need to remember. In a beautiful way, they don’t fit with my experience here. I encounter negativity and inefficiency, the enemies of my American culture. I encounter disdain for my dress and accent. Then, for 12 miles, there was compassion, concern, and encouragement. Even recently, I was going for a short jog by the river, and I passed a group of friends lounging in the spring sun. One of the girls and I made eye-contact. “¡Venga!” she shouted. I smiled back with a thumbs up. Motivation doesn’t feel very Spanish. For the half-marathon I expected a few people to come out because that is race-culture, which I assumed would transcend the national culture. I was right, but not nearly enough. Lots of people were out, enthusiastically helping and supporting. They believed in me when I didn’t, and that doesn’t happen very often. I tend to swagger around believing that just about anything is possible if we really put our minds to it. In the tempering of this arrogance, who should lift my spirits, but the citizens of the city where I experience my defeatism. They smiled and gave me water. One of the volunteers was on a bike, cycling around, checking on the stragglers (me). His form of encouragement turned the air blue. Even as I ran and knew that the words coming out of his mouth were some of the most vulgar terms I was going to hear this year, I was surprised to feel my spirits lift and I ran a bit farther and longer because of it. Honestly, the only reason I made it as far as I did was because of the sideline rooters. Every “venga” and “ánimo” and “si, se puede” was little push to go on to the next kilometer and then the next. What I find is, it’s easy to remember the pain in my abdomen and my legs and my whole body, but it is better to remember why I went so far, and who carried me there.


2 thoughts on “¡Venga!

  1. I’ve always thought it’s really cool that people encourage strangers like that! I didn’t know people from Salamanca (like me) were mean to foreigners, though… maybe we’re just rude to everyone and not just foreigners 😉 Anyway, I guess the best you can do is ignore them and remember the cool-cheering grandpas 😀

    p.s. I like your blog, I may stick around.

    • Haha. Thanks. Salamantinos can be very kind. They can also be “como la tierra…” ¿sabe este expresión? And, you are right, I don’t think it is pointed at any group in particular. Being foreign is just hard, no matter where you are. 🙂 Glad you like the blog!

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