Cultures Collide in Spain

By Emily Janik

A Fordham student faces challenges abstaining from pork due to traditional Spanish delicacies. (Emily Janik / The Fordham Ram)

A Fordham student faces challenges abstaining from pork due to traditional Spanish delicacies. (Emily Janik / The Fordham Ram)

Pork and wine have come to be associted with Spanish culture, appearing with many meals throughout the week. These two products, not traditionally consumed by the Islamic community, have taken over a region that used to be predominantly Islamic, causing problems among the immigrant community.

The Alhambra, a historical Moorish citadel, overlooks all of Granada and reminds its citizens of the importance of Islam on Granada’s distinct culture. The region was once ruled by a Muslim dynasty and was a fundamental part of the Islamic world. After the Christians took over in 1492, a year most Americans know well thanks to a certain Italian world explorer, Granada’s culture followed suit. The crown passed a law forcing Muslims to convert to Christianity or leave the country. One way of proving one’s conversion was to be seen eating pork and drinking wine, leading to the popularization of ham and wine in Spanish culture.

Today in Granada, there is not a single restaurant or café that does not sell pork products or serve alcohol. Not only does the Muslim community in Granada have difficulties finding halal food, but business owners are also at risk. Kebab shops are some of the only widespread restaurants where a Muslim living in Granada can find halal food. They are on every corner, but are at risk of going bankrupt because of the lack of pork products.
Dounea Elbroji, FCRH ’17, is currently studying abroad at the University of Granada.

Dounea’s father is from Morocco and she abides by the Islamic tradition of abstaining from pork consump-tion. When speaking to Dounea, I learned that abstaining from eating pork immediately excludes you from enjoying most Spanish tapas, another iconic Andalucian tradition. Tapas are free with a paid-for drink, but for the Muslim community, they are a reminder that although Granada is a crossroads between Judaism, Islam and Christianity, the cuisine is representative of only one.

Because ham is so iconic in Spanish cuisine, it is difficult to go a day without having to say “no thank you.” Dounea told me about her experience living with a host family here in Granada.

“I feel bad for my host family. I feel like my abstention from consuming pork is a burden for them because they have to go out of their way to avoid it,” she said.
Even when Dounea goes out to dinner to try new Spanish foods, there are at most three items on the menu that she can eat. Dounea mentioned that the tapas are a part of Spanish culture that she would like to take part in, but the extensive pork limits her opportunities.

Other Muslims abstain from eating food that has been prepared in the same dishes that has touched pork, eliminating almost every food option in Granada apart from kebab shops.

I don’t know if Granada will ever be able to fully accommodate these dietary restrictions. Luckily, Dounea found a new halal Pad Thai restaurant near the University of Granada, which is a little spark of hope for Muslims living in Spain.

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