Is Spain a racist country? Not really. Only some nasty bad apples.
Is Spain a xenophobic country? No. It’s actually quite cosmopolitan.
Do we have racist and xenophobic people in this country? Yes, and they are on the rise, sadly.
The question is, why?
Let’s me elaborate a bit more with some daily observations around me.
Since the Spanish credit crunch following the construction bubble, the country has lost half a million people. Thousands of people left for the UK, Germany, France, Argentina, Mexico or even the US, as I could testify from the long lines waiting outside the United States Embassy in Madrid and then what I saw once in the States. There are plenty of Spaniards. Other thousands of Latin American born naturalized American also returned to their country of origin to take advantage of the booming economies of these middle income countries, with countries such as Ecuador launching return programs amongst their communities in Spain and offering jobs. Other thousands, immigrants who could not or decided not to return to their countries moved to other European countries, with or without the Spanish citizenship to ease their mobility. Once in Europe, it can only be easier to move to another one and start almost from scratch. Around me, I saw and knew people in all this range of circumstances. Of course, the majority remained. We had formed our lives here. So during these last 5-8 years, Spain actually reached a 0 % migration balance. With a bit more of outgoers than newcomers.
BUT, immigration did not actually stop. Its balance just reached Zero. In fact, the Chinese, the African and Russian communities, for instance, kept increasing. Syrians, Venezuelans, Colombians arrived. More Moroccans arrived after the Rift riots in Northern Morocco. Same happened with Algerians and Egyptians or Ukrainians.
So, how come nowadays we seem to be living a new wave of unapologetically aggressive xenophobia and blatant racism?
What happened is that populist politicians like Salvini of Italy reached power and public space.
What happened is that so far irrelevant political parties like VOX found the niche to canalize the social resentment for unemployment and growing poverty. They started a campaign of fake news to target immigrants and confront them with the local impoverished Spaniards. They just won 12 seat at the Andalusian Parliament !!!
What happened is that there has been a strong leftist-oriented political and sociological movement in Spain since the Indignados movements that sparked strong anti-establishments movements like the 15 M(arch) Movement, the Feminist movement that have taken the country by storm, with nationwide marches and protest against sexism and violence against women. The peak of this social outcry was the Manada case, a legal process confronting an unconscious teenager under drugs who was allegedly raped and filmed by a group of 5 young men, much older than her, including a Civil guard (military body). They later shared and bragged about the videos in their whatsapp groups. The girl asked for help and called the police as soon as they left, taking her mobile phone with them. Gang rape against a teenager in the middle of a major national festivity like the San Fermines of Pamplona and the patriarchal reasoning of the court led to social condemnation. The verdict said it was not it was not gang raped, because, although under drugs, she might have consented to have sex with them. They were sentenced with sexual violence, which is minor legal offence. Since they had already been under provisional imprisonment, they were released. The feminist and social criticism end up with judges complaining against social pressure, and the backlash of supporting people against what they called the ‘feminazis’ movements.
Another major consequence of this anti-establishment wave was the surge of ‘Cuatripartidismo’ of the system of 4 major political parties, against the traditional two-party led governments that had been alternating in power since the end of the Francoist dictatorship. Ever since, aside from the conservative party Partido Popular (aka PP) and the Socialist Party (aka PSOE), we also have the more radical left party Podemos (We can) and the more radical right Ciudadanos (Citizens). The fragmentation of the Parliament has meant more elections in lesser time, since coalitions were very hard to form. It has also meant that the traditional parties, who were so well seated and confident in local offices around the country for so long, have lost power. It also means that more cases of political corruption have reached public ears, leading to the first successful impeachment against former Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy. Of course, PP and Ciudadanos deputies and political allies cried a Coup d’état, since the replacement was Pedro Sánchez, from the Socialist Party, who led the impeachment procedure in the Congress and won with the support of Podemos and other nationalist parties from Catalonia and the Basque Country.
Meanwhile, it is worth remembering that since the death of Gaddafi of Libya, black African migrants were being victims of slave trade on the African soil and other threats against their integrity in their way up to Europe, in a country with no official government, filled with arms groups and militias that control certain territories. That, and the bribery of Italian authorities, had meant less African migrants reaching the Italian coasts. Hence, the emergence of older paths like the Spanish ones, through the enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla, also on the African soil, bordering Morocco. There has been an increase of people arriving this way, jumping over the fence-wall since 2016, when Rajoy was still in power. But, it wasn’t really a big deal. They acted as usual, some were sent back right away, other were given opportunity to enter to the territory after weeks of arrest and custody while searching for their embassy to issue them a document to flight back home. But most do as much as possible to avoid this. Hide nationality; apply for asylum and refugee status, etc. After some 60 days, they are released and sent to the region of their choice if they have a contact in the country or just because forbid long-term imprisonment for administrative offences… The usual.
BUT, things changed almost simultaneously. Trump’s utterly aggressive stances against Latin American immigrants in the US are wide condemned in here. Same happened with the far-right anti-immigrant statements of Salvini of Italy. Some justify it, but most see it as ugly and populist. This man made immigrants his scapegoat and emotional appeal to reach power.
Well, soon after the presidential power change in Spain, within this sentiment of anger, and social cleavage, Salvini refused the entry of a boat that had rescued 600 African immigrants in the Mediterranean Sea. They were left wandering in the sea for weeks and gain public outcry. Then the new socialist president, in a completely façade movement, decided to announce publicly that he would admit them and give them a 45 days resident permit so that they can apply for asylum of whatever legal means available. It was a media show, with hundreds of people volunteering to help, dozens of interpreters to help, and rise of the anger of the far right. Social media these days were like a football match between the pros and the cons of hosting these people. Some demanded solidarity and historical consciousness. Others said that it was stupid measure that would trigger more black Africans to come illegally, after a so-called ‘efecto llamada’ or ‘Magnet effect’ on “millions” of immigrant who would be maliciously waiting to do the same in Morocco, as the leader of Ciudadanos, Albert Rivera, said.
You can imagine that those who are already pretty pissed off over the lefty social movements of these years, over the change of government, over the rise of feminist movements, all these people found another excuse to attack the government and be even more aggressive against immigrants. The far right movements like VOX, had more field to launch anti-immigrants rhetoric, fake news about these people receiving better treatment than unemployed Spaniards, about immigrants as a whole living out of social benefits, even those of us who have being here legally for years, about this and about that. Some of these fake news that confront the ‘US-Spaniards’ vs the ‘OTHERS-immigrants’ is becoming a normal thing on social networks. Logging in Facebook and following the conversation thread is actually alarming. You would think that the country is full of haters or super humanitarian people.
The social environment is so charged that I even had a violent situation last week regarding this. I went to a job interview for a position much better that my current job. Well, could you believe that we spent half the interview with the interviewer trying to figure out my immigration profile and story? Asking when did arrive in Spain, who with, how, was it hard? And before university where did you study? WFT? 1 What is the connection with this job? 2 I was a fucking kid; that was none of my business!? That was 2 decades ago!? Since we are seeing the migrant cases on TV these days… We are seeing shit! It’s not like I went to school in a boat… And other more intrusive questions regarding family, civil status, private life…
I have friends of every single political party, especially, because I grew up in a conservative region. We are friends because kids don’t care about politics… until we grow up. Then you have a look at their posts and it blows your mind. Even closer friends are somehow susceptible of these rhetoric. When I am in the right mood, I try to remember them that the US vs THEM language is absurd. That we actually live in the same country and I also pay taxes, more than most of them. That I have been working since I was 16, when they started at 25 at best. That Spain too sent out millions of immigrants, a significant number of which did not have the right papers to travel. That European embassies in Africa actually discriminated against poor people and even against obvious refugees in country at war like Cameroon or Congo (DR). I remind them of our school friends who have emigrated to England, Germany, Japan, South Africa, The US, Mexico, Argentina, Peru, Ecuador, Chile, France, Sweden, etc. And their answer is also, Yes, but you are different. I am not talking about people like you. Yes, but it’s not the same. Our friends are educated, to go legally, etc. Sometimes, they actually admit the mistake and go back. Most of the times, I just read the two opposite newspapers I have in my news thread and I make no comment. It just makes me think of how ironic life is. Not so many years ago, Spaniards where emigrating massively. Not so many years ago, they too were under a tyrannical dictatorship that sent them out of their country, massively. The goes for Italy.
I reflect on the silence of African leaders when these shameful tragedies happen. How is it possible that your citizens are been played with like that in the Sea and you be turning a blind eye. How is it that the millions of African citizens living in Europe are not raising our voices to stop this objectification and “instrumentalization” of our bodies and tragedies?
How is it possible that people be talking about ‘these blacks don’t man up to fight their dictators’ when Spain just transitioned into democracy 30 years ago?
How is it possible that we dehumanized people so much that we only see their skin colour and show no empathy to their deaths, regardless of converting the Mediterranean Sea in the biggest grave in the world?
What would happen if all the Europeans who emigrated returned to Europe along with their children? Can’t we see that emigration is a constant cyclical historical event?
Can’t we see that those who arrive from poorer countries are also the victims of the world’s 1% who own the wealth against the remainder 99% Can’t we see that they are victims of exploitation and lawless capitalism turned neoliberalism?
Can’t we see that those dictators are endorsed direct and indirectly by our rulers, with whom they trade not only mineral resources but also the weapons they use to oppress their people when they dare to complain?
Don’t we realize that these politicians don’t really care about people, but they divide in other to rule? If they really were against immigration, they would attack the roots of the problem, not the uncomfortable consequence of it, right?
Don’t we see that being born in a poorer or richer country is not a merit? That the fact that you are unemployed is due the global division of jobs? That Western countries economies are now based on services and technologies design and conception, where Asians countries in factorization and production and industry, while African and Latin American are basically based on the extraction of natural resources and Agriculture?
Don’t we wonder why do so few people hide millions in tax havens while other millions starve and are homeless?
I know it’s hard to stop and think about all these facts and ideas when you have a clash with a foreigner, but think about that at night, when you are about to sleep, right?
Well, friends. This was my update about current topics in Spain. Hope you liked it. I am sorry I am so talkative today 🙂