Madrid Spain has a city population exceeding 3.5 million as of 2014 and 6.5 million in the metropolitan area. Mesquite’s 18,000 citizens is a drop in the bucket compared to the Spanish capital.

Spanish exchange student Inigo Perez-Canavate is excited to be in Mesquite. Photo by Lou Martin.

Spanish exchange student Inigo Perez-Canavate is excited to be in Mesquite. Photo by Lou Martin.

Traveling 5064 miles is what 15 year old Inigo Ortiz-Canavate had to endure to reach his new home for the 2015-2016 school year. Ortiz-Canavate left his parents and older sister to learn about the United States and its customs.

Arriving in New York, Ortiz-Canavate gathered with other exchange students from around the world before embarking on his trip to Nevada and Mesquite to attend Virgin Valley High School. Ortiz-Canavate’s is hosted by Lori Brennan along with Danish exchange student Cristof Glad.

“I came to America to improve my English speaking skills,” said Ortiz-Canavate. “I have spent a great part of my life studying the English language. I like the fact that here you don’t have to travel far for shopping and other things, everything is close. The biggest culture shock is coming from a city like Madrid to the small town of Mesquite. There is not as many museums here compared to Madrid.”

When asked how the curriculum at Virgin Valley high School compares to schools in Madrid he answered, “We have more choices in Spain and the subjects are much harder. It is mandatory to attend school for 10 years. There are 1,300 kids in my school in Madrid and they all wear uniforms.”

Uniforms are common in parochial schools in the U.S. also so that all students look the same regardless of their family wealth. Echoing the comments of young Mr. Glad, Ortiz-Canavate said, “I feel safe here in Mesquite. Everyone seems to know each other.” That’s a good thing.

After the short interview was over, this reporter told Ortiz-Canavate that I too am a Spaniard, as my parents emigrated from Spain in the early 1900.s. Different century, different times. It took Ortiz-Canavate less than a day to go from Madrid to the U.S. and it took my parents almost three months on a ship to circumvent South America to arrive in Hawaii.

He laughed at the thought as I wished him good luck in his travels.