I’m Sienna Brown and I’m constantly on a mission to inspire and be inspired. I professionally dabble in quite a few things but all of my projects are focused on inspiring others to live a life that they love. I’m the founder of Las Morenas de España, a revolutionary site for millennial expats and travelers. I’m also a photographer, creative consultant and writer. Originally from NYC, I’ve been based in Murcia, Spain for just over a year now and couldn’t be happier.
What inspired you to move to Spain?
I lived in Spain for the first time in 2012 for around six months. Afterwards, I went back to NY to finish undergrad where I worked in communications + marketing for a year. I loved my job and being surrounded by family and friends but felt that something was missing. That something just so happened to be Spain and so I found a way to move back during the fall of 2014. I’ve been living in Murcia for just over a year, working and creating a life that I can truly say I love.
How was your interest in photography sparked? How does photography influence the way you see the world around you?
My interest in photography sparked around 10 years ago when I took my first (and only) photography class and it was focused on film photography. There’s something so beautiful being able to capture that one moment in time, whether it’s ‘perfect’ or not. It’s about appreciating what you have in front of you and finding beauty in the mundane. I remember falling in love while developing film and watching a memory come to life right before your eyes. Since then, I haven’t looked back. Now, I shoot mostly in digital but the aesthetics of film photography are always close to my heart.
Photography influences the way that I see the world around me because I find the beauty in everything. The way light seeps through the curtains as the sun is rising, how a stranger looks when they are alone but thinking about something or someone they love, the list goes on. There’s so much to appreciate about the world we live in and photography helps me see that in a really special way.
What is your favorite approach to photography? Do you generally strike up a conversation with your subjects or just candidly capture the moment?
I love having conversations with the people that I photograph, getting to know them and then being able to capture their true essence. The photographs that I love the most aren’t always the overly posed one, but when they are being their true selves. This is one of my favorite quotes that reflects how I feel about capturing moments.
How would you describe the various cultures that exist within Spain?
I think it’s so interesting to compare the different cultures in the different regions around the country. People are really proud of where they come from, so Spaniards will say that their culture (from whatever region) is the best. I think a lot of it has to do with the weather. People in the north tend to be a bit more to themselves, while in the south you can always find people in the street and ready to start up a conversation. I think the culture depends on where you go; whether a smaller town or a city filled with tourists you’ll always find something endearing about the local culture.
Where do you go to enjoy Murcia and socialize? Where would you recommend travelers hoping to connect with locals go?
For me, one of the things that I love to do the most is go to the local cafes to socialize. Whether it’s with the baristas or other people working on, whatever it may be, I’ve met a lot of great people that way. Another suggestion for those hoping to connect with locals is to go and socialize in Plaza de la Merced in the center of the city. There’s a few places where you can casually sit outside and get a cheap beer but what I really love about it is that the tables are close together so you can often get to meet new people who are sitting nearby. You’ll get to meet so many different people that way.
What would you say are some of the most unique juxtapositions that exist within the city?
One of the most unique juxtapositions about this city is the vibes that it brings. It’s a decent sized city (the 7th largest in Spain) but it also has a welcoming feel of a small town. You’re able to walk down the street and see multiple people you know but there is always something different to explore everyday. I also think something else that is so unique about Murcia is the fact that you can live within the center of the city but within 20 minutes, you’re surrounded by breathtaking nature; mountains, open fields… drive a little more and you’ve reached the ocean. The immediate surroundings are so beautiful.
Can you share some recommendations of the best places for visitors to experience Spain?
Best foods to try and great local cafes/restaurants:
Best foods to try. Seafood, seafood, seafood. It’s so fresh and delicious and there are so many different varieties to what you can have.
I’m a café junkie so some great local cafes in a few different cities are:
Madrid — Mur Café, Harina Café
Murcia — Socolá Café, Felicidad Café
Barcelona — Nomad Coffee, Café La Central
Activities to do and cities/places to explore:
Go to a hole in the wall restaurant, somewhere where you see no one speaking English and pull up a seat at the bar.
Take a hike to the top of a mountain (big or small) and appreciate the overhead view of a city.
Eat the bread and cheese and drink the coffee. If you’re here for a short amount of time, don’t be on a diet. The food in Spain is too good to limit yourself
Neighborhoods, galleries, and museums to explore:
Independent Galleries by Calle de Monte Esquiza
Best markets and neighborhoods for local shopping:
Malasaña in Madrid is definitely one of the best neighborhoods for local shopping. It thrives on an artisanal, Brooklyn type feel that will have you wanting to come back for more.
What are 3 of your favorite places to photograph throughout Spain? Why?
My three favorite places to photograph throughout Spain would have to be Madrid, Pais Vasco and anywhere on the coast of Spain. Madrid for its modernity, there is so much in that city from the fashion to the culture to the hustling vibes that make me feel like I’m in New York again. Pais Vasco for its diverse landscape and unique cityscapes. Finally, anywhere coastal in the country because I’m in love with the sea. The feeling of being able to get lost in the tranquil Mediterranean and feel as if the entire world is yours.
What would surprise most people about Spain? What would you like people to know about Spain that the media rarely shows?
I think something that surprises most people is how welcoming Spaniards can be. I’ve met so many individuals who are willing to help you on the street, have a random conversation and sometimes even invite you to their home. There is a strong emphasis here on enjoying life, appreciating the people around you and slow living. People often joke about Spaniards being lazy with the siesta and all of that jazz but the way of life here is really different. You don’t live to work all of the time but you work to maintain a sustainable lifestyle. It isn’t based out of laziness but it’s based out of a true appreciation for the people and things around you.
What advice would you give for those who are interested in visiting?
The advice I’d give for anyone wanting to come to Spain would be, to come with an open mind and don’t let negative stories hinder you from experiencing the country for yourself. There are so many positive and beautiful things in this country that can only be truly appreciated if you experience it for yourself and immerse yourself in local life. It’s much more than flamenco and bullfights, trust me.
What’s next for you?
A lot of things are currently in the works that I’m pretty excited about. I’ve been dedicated to really growing Las Morenas de España and igniting positive change through that space, allowing others to see the diversity of what life is really like living in Spain. There has also been a few personal projects in the works that I can’t share much about yet but I’m thrilled about what this upcoming year will bring!
Images Courtesy of Sienna Brown
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