Saint Louis was incredibly beautiful, but with the beauty comes sorrow. Saint Louis is the old French capital of Senegal before their independence in 1960, and Leopold Senghor became the first president of Senegal. Because of this, crossing the bridge onto the island feels like crossing over into an entirely different country. Feeling like I was taking a step into colonial era France filled me with a wave of emotions. My initial reaction was — as I’m sure was shared with the others — was how incredibly beautiful it was. But it doesn’t take much looking around to see the dark history rooted in the city. France colonized Senegal during the peak of the enslavement of African people. Everywhere you look, there are old slave houses built as the foundation of bright, colorful, French colonial buildings. It’s hard not to think of the horrible acts committed in these buildings and how much hate the local people must feel about the French. But that isn’t the case. When you take a closer look at these slave houses, you see that they’ve been turned into boutiques, restaurants, gift shops, museums, and so much more. On top of that you see Senegalese and French people living together in harmony. Now, there are two ways to look at this. On one hand, you can say that these people are being forced to live and work in the places that their ancestors were brutalized not all that long ago. but on the other hand, you could say that they are empowering themselves by taking back and repurposing the places that brought them so much pain and suffering. Whether one is more accurate than the other, or something else entirely, is so subjective that we may never know. But I can’t wait to learn more.