Yesterday, I posted a tweet where I described an incredulous experience I had in Cartagena, Colombia. While I was there on a solo vacation, I was made aware of the intersection of Blackness, citizenship, womanhood, and tourism. Traveling while Black is a phenomenon that has been written about on social media extensively. I’ve been inspired by Travel Noire’s Instagram feed for years. I embarked on my second solo trip to celebrate my 27th birthday. I went paragliding, salsa dancing, and visited the first city for free Black people in South America. Overall, Colombia is an incredible country filled with friendly people, deliciously fresh seafood and beautiful beaches. However, the power dynamics were stark and impossible to ignore.
I am unlike other travel bloggers. I received my first passport in 2013. My first major international trip was emigrating to the US in 1996. So, my travel experiences are considerably different than the average college-educated, middle-class Black millennial. Traveling by choice is a luxury. The majority of migration worldwide can be attributed to war, natural disasters, and failed economic policies like NAFTA. Now, solo female travel is a passion of mine. I am planning to travel extensively in 2020, and I can’t help but think about how fortunate I am to embark on these experiences.
Recently, I stumbled upon a blog post about a Black woman’s experience traveling across Asia for over a year. In this post, Renée describes surveillance, criminalization, and overpolicing endured by the Black female body while abroad. Traveling as a solo Black woman induced negative assumptions, random searches, and questioning in both Costa Rica and Colombia. I’ve read blog posts by Black women traveling to places like Dubai and Spain where they’ve experienced solicitation by men who assumed they were trafficked sex workers. In case you didn’t know, the many Caribbean and African women are trafficked into sex slavery across Europe and the Middle East. They are lured there under the guise of employment, education, and opportunity. The Black female body is exploited, abused and dehumanized in every corner of the globe.
US citizenship privilege is real. Being able to travel without having to send proof of employment, financial verification, and a return ticket is a luxury. As a US citizen woman, I will never be forced to carry a pregnancy to full-term, so that I can gain citizenship here. I am often treated better than Black women who live in the African diaspora (including Colombia) because of my citizenship privilege. I am perceived to be wealthier, softer and less accessible than Black women living in those countries. As I wrote in my tweet, Colombian men began doting on me to ensure I remained as safe and comfortable as possible in their country. I was viewed as an economic asset. However, the Afro-Colombian women who’ve toiled and built this country during slavery were seen as disposable and unworthy.
Tourism and colonization are inextricably linked. We cannot discuss travel without unpacking its white supremacist capitalist patriarchal legacy. I am always mindful of how political travel is. I travel to learn about the African diaspora, to exercise autonomy and to explore without fear. I look forward to the adventures I will be writing about on GabarIskuFilan. I will always deliver honest, candid and truthful content based on my lived experiences. Please support my work by sharing, commenting and subscribing to the first Somali feminist solo female travel blog. Thank you for reading!