Lexi Lucero from CSU, Stanislaus, captured into words and imagery her travels to Morocco with her fellow study abroad students and staff from the Alicante, Spain program.
Our trip to Morocco during spring break was full of cultural experiences which were somewhat shocking at times for people like me who have never experienced a culture such as this. We were able to visit cities such as Tangier, Assilah, Chefchaouen, and Tetouan during our time there. We took a multiple hour bus ride down to the Spanish city of Tarifa to catch a ferry going into Tangier. When we arrived into Tarifa, the weather conditions forced the port to cancel the ferry rides across the strait of Gibraltar. In response we took the bus to a neighboring city which was allowing ferries to cross the strait. After hours of waiting, and having to make urgent trip changes, the group finally made it into the city of Tangier. Even though the travel process took many hours that would not have happened if we had taken an airplane, traveling to Morocco this way was a part of the experience. For example, we were able to go through the strait of Gibraltar on a ferry, and we were able to experience how geographically close Spain is to Morocco.
Doing this put into perspective how easy it is for Spain to influence different aspects of Morocco. For example, we were able to see in both Tangier and Tetouan how some of the buildings were obviously modeled after Spanish architecture. Another thing that the group was able to experience because of the choice in transportation was the Sub-Saharans on the highway going to the port in Tangier. They are coming from central and southern parts of Africa trying to make it into the Spanish city of Ceuta located in the country of Morocco. They live in the forests
surrounding the city, and wait on the highway hoping for someone to bring them into the city. If they successfully make it into the Spanish city, then they are officially considered to be in European territory, and Spain is unable to kick them out because they possess basic human rights.
On the second day after arriving in Morocco, we visited the American Legacy where we met with the professor Kahina Haynes and a few Moroccan students. During this time we discussed different topics regarding issues that tend to spark controversy. A topic that we spent a lot of time discussing was the idea of Religion and Politics and whether or not they should be intertwined. In America, the people want there to be a separation between church and state, and this is incorporated into our constitution. I found it interesting, however; that the Moroccan women students did not agree that there should be a separation between the two. They believed that politics has to also be combined with religion because without religion, there cannot be ethical politics. They practiced the religion of Islam, and to them Islam is a religion which focuses on love, peace, and tranquility. They believe that in order for politics to be just and ethical, it needs to have a strong religious basis.
During our time in Morocco we visited two different organizations both with a common goal. The DARNA organization, as well as the Organization for the blind, both focus on the empowerment of the people they help and support. The DARNA organization is an organization which helps women learn to read and write as well as earn a paycheck from creating items to be sold in the shop. This encourages the women who are a part of this program to become empowered by their new sense of independence. As for the Association for the blind, they do similar work. They help the blind people in the Chefchaouen area of Morocco who are willing to work for a living rather than live on the streets, or become ignored by society. At this organization they train these people how to make various goods such as tapestries and sweaters, which are then sold inside of the organizations shop. The money made is then returned back to the members of the program. Both of these two organizations stress the fact that they are not a charity case, and their main goals are to help these people become successful, and feel a new sense of empowerment that they otherwise would not feel.
The last place we were able to visit in Morocco was called The Moroccan Organization for Human Rights located in Tetouan. Their main goal includes raising awareness of individual human rights as well as societies collective, social, economic, cultural, and environmental rights. In the meeting with the organization, they emphasized their desire for slow progress within the country of Morocco dealing with human rights. They wanted to make reforms with stability, or in other words changes to society at a slow enough pace to ensure that the people of the country will not rebel. During 2011, reforms which led to rebellion, swept through various places in the Middle East, and North Africa. Morocco was able to avoid this, and now the country wants to continue to make changes to the government while still keeping the peace. There are currently 16 branches of this organization, all with the same goal to protect and promote the human rights of the Moroccan people.
Overall, I very much so enjoyed our trip to Morocco. It was by far my most informative trip, and I really enjoyed being able to experience a culture which is very foreign from what I am accustomed to. Each of the cities were so different, and being able to participate in the various activities fulfilled the trip.
– Lexi Lucero from CSU, Stanislaus