Picture this. Pushing my child on the pushchair along the High Street of one of the busiest, most vibrant tourist cities in England, on a sunny Sunday afternoon. I am walking along with a crowd of visitors looking at monuments, late on our way to have lunch. Miscalculated the distance and ended up crashing on a woman’s foot, her immediate anger erupting into racist verbal abuse.
‘Why don’t you go back to your effing country?’
Several days later, I am still reeling from the impact. I have looked at myself in the mirror for almost thirteen years now, to see nothing but a hybrid. Born and raised in Spain, many of the quirks of my personality fit better in England: my ability to wait in queues, my need for order, being an introvert. Wife of and mother to British citizens, my passport will never say how much this country has given me and how much it means to me.
And yet, every winter I wait impatiently for spring and for life to resume. I will always want to talk to people I don’t know. I will always miss the effortless way in which people from my other hometown pronounce the vowels. But it will take me almost fifteen years to realise so.
You cannot change the future, you cannot change the past, and you are here to stay. And I would never refer to this town by anything other than my adoptive hometown.
Her words made me feel lonely, unappreciated, an outsider that I knew I wasn’t.
‘This is my country now.’
And my instinctive response made me feel proud and secure in the love of my two countries, because life is all about embracing your contradictions.