Olympics: Spain and the height of cultural insensitivity

This is a full page advertisement that has been running here in Spain. It’s an advert for the courier company that has sponsored the Spanish Basketball Federation to the Olympics. The photo is the Spanish basketball team, in full Olympic kit, pulling their eyes back.

Of course it has created an uproar in the international media for being offensive to the Chinese. However, people involved in the making of the ad as well as the national team, don’t see what the fuss is about as it was done with good intention; ask any Spaniard how they feel about this and they will chuckle.

Having lived in Spain for over two years now, nor the advert nor the Spanish reaction to this is surprising to me. It is common in Spain to hear people call Africans and African/Americans “negros” (blacks); if you behave badly, you could be told that you are behaving like a “morro” (Moroccan). Although these comments are of racist origin, I have to say that I don’t find the country racist at all. In fact, I find Spain is most welcoming and accepting when it comes to people of different race and culture. Things like this are not taken seriously here but the Spanish don’t understand the consequences of such acts outside their own country.

All that said, I do think that this advert is unacceptable and embarrassing for Spain to project on an international scale. When the Spaniards say they didn’t mean to offend or that it was just an “affectionate wink”, as much as I truly believe them, it was a colossal mistake.