Spain's First Black Member Of Parliament And The 'New Politics' : Parallels Rita Bosaho is a nurse turned politician, born in Equatorial Guinea but raised by a white foster family in Spain. "I hope I can empower minorities," she says.
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Spain's First Black Member Of Parliament And The 'New Politics'

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Spain's First Black Member Of Parliament And The 'New Politics'

Spain's First Black Member Of Parliament And The 'New Politics'

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RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

In Spain, there are more than 600 members of Parliament. For centuries, not one has ever been a person of color - until now. Reporter Lauren Frayer introduces us to modern Spain's first black member of Parliament, a nurse born in Africa.

LAUREN FRAYER, BYLINE: As Spanish lawmakers meet to discuss the migration crisis in Europe, all eyes are on one woman. She's the only national politician whose skin is the same color as many migrants to Spain. And she made a similar journey from Africa.

RITA BOSAHO: (Speaking Spanish).

FRAYER: "I was born in Equatorial Guinea when it was a Spanish colony," explains Rita Bosaho. "My parents died when I was very young, and I came to live with a foster family in Spain."

She was the only black child in a white foster family and in all of her schools. Compared to the rest of Europe, Spain is relatively homogenous. It's traditionally sent immigrants abroad rather than receiving them, especially back in the 1970s, when Bosaho was growing up.

BOSAHO: (Speaking Spanish).

FRAYER: "When I was little, I learned to read from a storybook about white explorers and black cannibals in Africa," she says. "I grew up being scared of where I come from."

She says her foster family taught her equality. She became a nurse and a social activist. And when Spain's new left-wing party, Podemos, came calling, she agreed to go into politics and won a seat in Spain's Parliament late last year, the first person of color - male or female - ever to do so in modern history.

BOSAHO: (Speaking Spanish).

FRAYER: "I feel humbled and proud and hope I can empower minorities," she says. "There are lots of people who don't understand that I am Spanish. They say I'm black and think those two things can't go together."

But Spaniards are changing. More than 10 percent are immigrants, though most are white from Latin America or Eastern Europe. Arab and African migrants typically want to go to more prosperous Northern Europe. Madrid's City Hall is nevertheless draped in a refugees welcome banner. And there is no major far-right anti-immigrant political movement here. This month's cover of Vogue magazine in Spain features a black model and the words black is beautiful.

Waiting on a train platform as she shuttles between meetings, I asked Bosaho if she gets recognized, and, as if on cue, two strangers approach to congratulate her.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMEN: (Speaking Spanish).

FRAYER: It turns out she has some serious fans.

DANNI ROSEMAN: I would love to have a Rita T-shirt.

FRAYER: Danni Roseman is an African-American who's lived in Spain for five years. She's the community content director for Las Morenas de Espana - The Brown Girls of Spain - a forum for women of color.

ROSEMAN: I'm proud of her, and I feel a closeness with her that I don't feel with any other Spanish politician ever. And I root for her. And before Rita, I'll be honest, I wasn't really paying attention to the political scene as much.

FRAYER: Bosaho's left-wing party, Podemos, is criticized for promising dignity to unemployed protesters but not yet backing that up with policy. Bosaho has yet to author any legislation, but she's changed the typical profile of those who do.

AITANA CHRISTENSEN RIBERA: Like, it's always, like, a man that it's, like - you know, the typical white man that is there and - you know? And now you have her - like, that's the new politics.

FRAYER: Eighteen-year-old Aitana Christensen Ribera got to meet Bosaho when the lawmaker visited her high school. During a Q-and-A session, another student, Rahma Mohamed, an immigrant from northwest Africa, took the microphone and asked her MP a personal question.

RAHMA MOHAMED: (Speaking Spanish).

FRAYER: "People in Spain see me differently," she says. "And I worry they value me differently. How can I convince people I'm Spanish just like them?"

BOSAHO: (Speaking Spanish).

FRAYER: "You and I were exactly the same," Bosaho told the girl, smiling. "We're minorities. We're paying our taxes. And we have voices. I think I can help." For NPR News, I'm Lauren Frayer in Alicante, Spain.

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