The slender North African man's eyes dart back and forth as he scours the area surrounding the cafe in Sevilla, southern Spain. He heads inside, slowly approaching the bar. He leans across to get the server's attention, a five-euro note in hand; she ignores him and walks toward another customer. Minutes pass. An elderly couple standing next to the North African mumble and shuffle away. The veins in his neck begin to bulge.
He doesn't make a sound. The waitress eventually heads his way and snatches his money from his hand. She returns with a glass of water, which she slams on the bar. He looks her in the eye and thanks her; she doesn't return his gaze.
As he returns to his table outside and recoups his bag, the young man notices a Guardia Civil officer walk by. Momentarily, he freezes. The policeman eyes him up and down. He moves on.
"Always," the young man mutters in fluent Spanish. "Always the same. It's always this way."
In fact, Spain wasn't always this way -- simmering with racial tensions. A country perhaps best known for its (largely mythical) siestas, sun, sea, and sand, Spain was also for centuries the model of multiculturalism that any modern society would wish to emulate. Following the Moorish invasion of the Iberian peninsula in 711, Spain survived for more than seven centuries as a home to Muslims, Christians, and Jews. All three religions were welcome, sometimes under the same roof (the Great Mosque of Cordoba was built on a Visigoth site believed to have previously been a Roman temple; in 1236 King Ferdinand III ordered the mosque transformed into a cathedral, keeping the Islamic elements intact). The state's common interest in these different groups lay in the fact that they all paid taxes to the Spanish government. In 1492, however, the tide turned. The Spanish army defeated the moors at Granada, restoring a Christian rule that would also expel Jews and gypsies who refused to convert, and eventually, even many of those who did.