The difficulty of being in a foreign country, not speaking the language, being a woman and being black: Meet global traveler Paula Augot

black women of brazil

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Note from BW of Brazil: I can personally attest to knowing what’s it’s like to be treated as some sort of criminal while traveling. It’s simply another facet of doing anything “while black”. The unfortunate thing about my experience was that it was returning from Brazil to United States, the country that I’m actually from. It was sometime between 2002 and 2004 when I arrived in Chicago’s O’Hare airport from São Paulo. The woman who checked my passport seemed to be determined to find some type of illegal activity on my part, after all, it was probably my fourth of fifth trip to Brazil, and being a black man, that was certainly suspicious behavior. This woman opened all of my suitcases, the carefully sealed box of 50 vinyl albums I had bought in Salvador, Bahia and popped the tape out of my camcorder, after all, I could be hiding drugs in there, right?

This woman annoyingly asked about 50 questions about why I kept going to Brazil. All of this as a white couple with perhaps three times my luggage stacked on a cart whizzed by with no questions asked. Dealing with unnecessary harassment almost caused me to missed my flight to Detroit. Matter of fact, when I got the gate of my flight, the seating lounge was already empty and attendant, on arrival called me by name without even asking (because I was the only who hadn’t boarded the flight). Naw, we definitely don’t get any different treatment due to skin color…That’s a myth….right? An experience I’ll never forget…as an American citizen…

Anyway, I first introduced you to world traveler Paula Augot on a previous piece about, you guessed it, a black travel agency formed exactly because of the challenges of “traveling while black”. Check out a few of her experiences and don’t let anything deter you from traveling.There’s a whole world out there!

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Racism and Xenophobia: we need to talk about being a black woman who travels alone

by Nathalia Marques

Dear reader,

Never has one spoken so much about women traveling alone. There are reports about it in the mainstream media and debates being conducted. However, it is possible to observe that the issue is not being discussed as it should.

The debate should be deepened, with themes about gender and race, but this is not what is happening. In addition, this month I decided to allow my space here in female finances to deepen the discussion about traveling alone. For this reason, I invited the traveler Paula Augot to talk about what it’s like to be a black woman traveler.

Good reading!

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I, woman and black, traveling alone

By Paula Augot*; Photos courtesy of the No Mundo da Paula blog

Lately we have talked a lot about women travelers. For my happiness, women traveling alone have been common in the media. However, little is said about black women who travels or black women traveling alone. Put together the difficulty of being in a foreign country with the fact of not speaking the language, being a woman and being black. Welcome to my reality!

I started traveling alone more or less like everyone else. I went to a few and most common places and culture next to ours. When I started traveling through countries a little less traveled, I ran into some not so nice surprises.

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When I reveal the racism and bad experiences of trips that I’ve had had, I often hear two reactions. There are people that look at me and say: “I went there and didn’t have any problems.” Usually I refute with: “Because you are white!” There are also people who understand, see my report as awareness and begin to see how privileged they are.

I love to read travel blogs, in addition to being a travel blogger myself. Of course I read many blogs of women travelers, but there’s a bit of a lack of representation in these blogs. Let me give an example: when I went to Japan, I died of fear of having problems. After all, I have read countless times that the Japanese were racists, but I couldn’t find any report on black travel blogs.

Then, as I went through this and felt the need to have more information, I imagined that other pessoas negras (black people) have the same curiosity and run into the same absence of reports. From there I started to write about what it’s like to be a dark traveler in some countries outside of the common itinerary. I started writing about what it’s like to be a tourist in Japan and Russia.

Do you know the hassles that all travelers go through? I’ve been through them, but some were more than hassles. They were racist acts that clearly would not happen if I were a white traveler.

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It was in Finland that I experienced two racist attacks during the trip. It was one of the moments that I most felt fear in my life. I thought that would become more a statistic of hate crimes. But I’ve already received looks, debauchery and people have already made it clear that I was not welcome there.

Fear and mistrust everyone always has, but I cannot let this fear paralyze me. There is nothing wrong with me, but the low number of black people traveling is glaring.

Fortunately, my life as black women and traveler is not only sad stories. I have traveled to countries where I was totally invisible and that the color of my skin didn’t make any difference. I could come and go with ease.

Representativeness matters!

There are also countries where be black helped me a lot, I revealed on my blog some reports about it. In particular two places marked me: Cuba and Turkey. In Cuba, it was incredible to be able to blend in almost entirely with the local population. People thought I was Cuban and when they saw that I was a tourist they said that we had the same color.

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I felt that they were happy with the representativeness, you know? The Cubans are accustomed to dealing with white tourists, but this time was different. I was a person like them, there in a privileged position. Cuba was a journey of identification and very special to me.

The gringa

Another amazing experience I had was in Turkey, Istanbul to be exact. Because of being extremely different in places, I was super well treated, since I was clearly a tourist and tourists buy!

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Sellers if competed to see what store I would enter, people came to talk to me in the streets, smiled at me. Everyone wanted to know where I was from and complimented my hair. I was called by the name of every black American celebrity. Not by chance, Istanbul is my favorite city in the world.

At the end of last year, I had the opportunity to once again go to Istanbul, this time accompanied by my brother, who in addition to everything else, is rasta. My brother became the star of the city, being even called for taking selfies with people. For once, the tourists and people in an upper position was we!

*Nathalia Marques is a journalist of formation and passages through various media outlets, but it was as a reporter for tourism where she’s found her passion. She is also a feminist and in 2015 decided to mix journalism, travel and female empowerment to create the M pelo Mundo site, information and travel tips for women.

*Paula is baiana and lives in Hong Kong. She’s already called cities such as Paris and London home. Today, she ventures through Asia while traveling the world. She is the author of the blog “No Mundo da Paula” (In The World of Paula).

SourceFinanças Femininas

About Marques Travae 2900 Articles
Marques Travae. For more on the creator and editor of BLACK WOMEN OF BRAZIL, see the interview here.

2 Comments

  1. Great article!! I have to say most of those European countries are extremely racist. I wasn’t surprised about the country of Finland they have a disdain towards black people. However, keep traveling and enjoy your life. Peace!!

  2. I don’t think I would ever visit Italy again. It’s one of those places I felt like someone could pin something on you and get away with it. I am more interested in travelling to Africa and Melanesia these days.

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