/ /

Life Without Barack

In mid-July, I flipped the bird to New York City and decided to spend some time in Spain for a much needed getaway to refocus, remix and spend sometime with my better-half. Aside from trying to keep up with the language (my Spanish is decent, but here the accent is lisp-heavy and folks blend Catalan making for a totally new tongue), getting used to the time difference and euro vs. dollar sticker shock, so far so good. The food is fresh, the people are friendly and pace is easy—but until yesterday I realized, I was missing something.

Last night my friends and I took a late night walk through Valencia to have dinner, among us was artist Nacho Magro ak ESCIF who showed us two mural pieces while on his way. He’s the hotness, thank me later. Looking at his work, along with the work of various other artists on the street, I realized the source of that nagging feeling that started the previous week while I was capturing the street art I saw in Madrid, simply, I missed seeing Barack.  Outside of appearing on the nightly newscasts, Barack is nowhere to be found in the streets. While I can’t speak for Barcelona, it seems that Obama’s face is not made for the streets of Spain. While I shouldn’t expect to see him everywhere in the world (how American of me!), I was a little curious to see how his image would be remixed here. But like most folks outside of the US, la gente en Espana are more concerned about what he is going to do rather that what he looks like.

In Cuba, especially in Havana, instead of corporate advertisements, you will see images of the leaders of the revolution everywhere. Che Guevara, a younger Fidel Castro and Camilo Cienfuegos greet you when you leave your home, on your way to work, and even in the bar where you grab your evening cerveza. Alongside them, there are messages of resistance, support for socialism and solidarity, and a reminder that the United States is not exactly your friend. It is no wonder that when talking to my friends and acquaintances there, while they may not be the biggest fans of the government structure, there is a deep respect for community, solidarity and self-reliance. Flip that with the United States and our new leader. In addition to the news, the internet, the radio and television, Barack has infiltrated the streets in cities throughout the country. Whether is a sticker on a light-post, or a full-fledged mural on the side of a building, you can’t escape Mr. “Yes We Can”. The poster created by Obey/Shepard Fairey (shown with his work at left) is the organic leader of the Obama-laden street art movement and helped to create what I observe as the “new art-propaganda” of the US. Much like Cuba, and pre-Cold War Russia, messages of Hope, Yes We Can, Progress and A New America have taken over the major metropolis and entered into our collective psyche. Personally, my honeymoon with Obama is over and I am growing impatient with the pace of the administration, yet I still hold onto my reasons for electing and supporting his presidency. After all, its the first of four years and with the economy kicking us around, its a surprise that artist can even afford the paint.

Being away from Barack is refreshing. My Obama conversations with Madrileños and Valencianos tend to center around the future. The general concern is a genuine one, since American policies are a major factor in international governments. For me, my daily concern with Michelle Obama’s fashion choices and Obama’s taste in jeans are gone. His kids are cute, Bo is a doll and I admit that I have a weird power-crush on Rahm Emmanuel. But currently, I have no health insurance. There is a daily fear of breaking my arm or twisting my ankle that I now realize has been a contributing factor as to why I haven’t indulged in my stiletto fetish in ages. So now, I find myself following Obama’s healthcare plans with an obsession that once reserved just for gallery openings and sales at Bergdorfs. Seeing him everywhere is lovely, but the dreams illustrated in the streets aren’t real yet. So while I love Barack and miss him in la calle, this break is just what I needed .

Kisses from Spain!

JBaker

image source: Flickr: SliceofNYC

Last 5 posts by Shannon Washington