10 Things I Like and Dislike about Spain
There is Spanish idiom that states that “most of time, we need to go abroad in order to appreciate honestly what we got at home”. It’s obviously true and quite clear, but I did not really took that into consideration until I did my Year Out as part of the Erasmus Programme to England, once I was an adult.
The first thing was to realize that I had quite a hard time when I had to introduce myself. To the question: “Where are you from” I could not decide between Spain and the original countries of my parents. That meant that Spain had become my home little by little and I wasn’t aware of it. Through the early childhood to the beginning of University, I had seen myself as ‘ a guy from Central Africa’. That’s what they use to call me, so I also accepted that, I guess. But suddenly things changed.
1) Spanish people are Welcoming. That’s almost a fact to me. In general, I was warmly receive when I first arrived at school, the neighbourhood and at High School. To every single friend’s family I visited, I saw Hospitality. I still have direct contact with my Primary school manager and teacher through Facebook. And with certain teacher of High School too. True be said, we were then the few Black families in my city in the 90’s. Things changed from the early XXI century to this decade.
2) straightforward and passionate comments. Within their warmth, people I met are also outspoken and sharp. They won’t hesitate to make controversial comments about Moors ( Moros), Negros, or Gypsies. Many people would say that’s being racist, but their consider to be using their sense of humor and using only ‘traditional and cultural’ expressions that deep down into his millenary history. For instance, you’ve got clearly offensive statements such as: “ Quiero un negro que me abanique” ( something like: I want a black to fan me) ; Trabajar como un negro, meaning ‘to work as a negro’, Hacer/ ser un trabajo de chinos, literally: To do a Chinese people’s job, to work really hard. I experienced some of these expressions with hard feelings, but also heard such expressions about Spanish women, homosexuals or even people from any single region, used as common knowledge to refer to each other. Still, it doesn’t make it more acceptable. You think that it’s a way to take things not that seriously and have some sense of humour. I also feel so at times…
3) Pacific people. I can count with my hands the several times I got insulted of harassed because of my origin or skin colour. When I was about 17 I remember being spit out by some coward young guys running over a motorbike and saying offensive words about my race. The people walking on the street and I were so shocked. Obviously, they would not dare confronting me face to face so easily. Or just few months ago, I was coming from my teaching job and I was insulted by a middle age woman as she was passing by me side: “Not only he comes here, but he also takes advantage of the Health system for free”. I needed some seconds to reach to such an unfair comment. I turned back and shouted: ” You better calm down and deal with it. I have a job.” And this leads me to me next point, Immigration view.
4) Although everyone with a small clue about history knows that Spanish people had to emigrate specially to Europe and Latin America during the Franco’s Dictatorship (1939-78), some Spaniard who suffer from selective history amnesia have forgotten about their migrant history. Or they would that unlike African migrants that arrive illegally to their harbours and borders, they always emigrated holding a proper passport and regular documents. What a big lie! I recently watch a documentary about Spanish housekeepers women in Paris telling their stories. Europe just opened for Spain and Portugal after they entered the European Union in 1986. Before that things were quite different.
6) Spanish Welfare System: Education, Health and Justice. These three services are at free access in this country, if you are officially poor. Primary and Secondary education are free, as well as university if you prove to come from low-income family. Same was the case for Health, but the current Spanish Government of President Mariano Rajoy just passed a law preventing undocumented migrants and other people to receive medical assistance, except if in case of Emergency. This means that Emergency’s areas of big hospital are becoming a separated service for poor immigrants. Something similar happened with Justice access. It remains partly free. Workers have to pay in order to stand for their rights before the courts, something that is nearly impossible if you are in dole and have no money… Through the last decades, some people blamed the immigrants to be accumulating and decreasing the quality of public services as these. But, they nothing about those who helped boosting the economy and paid taxes as members of the real estate’s bubble …
7) That’s why that stupid woman felt in her right to say what she told me… but I personally earn my living and I pay for my studies as anyone else. She might suffer misrepresentation. Although latest 2012 census showed that immigrants make 14% of the overall population (half of them from UE, and more than 1/4 from Latin America), people think that they are 24%. Those who watched more that TV and search for real information and unbiased reports do know the reality about this.
8) Spain has welcomed and help more than 6 millions immigrants in the recent 10 years. Its people accepted quite well the demographic transformation. Things are still to get better, but most of us did receive NGO and Public help settle, and specially, children could go to school and have the chance to build their future, and some women could finally be independent and work without their husbands’ permission. Of course, that’s my view.
9) Spain is the second country in the world after the US that more international adoptions carried out. The children often come from Russia, Chine, Colombia, Ecuador or Ethiopia. I’m not totally okay with these practices, but these new parents show us that they do not care to give a life to a child come from the corner of the world. Plus, they help Spain being more tolerant about its multiracial children.
10) Corruption and bribery. This is what I hate the most about Africa. I can’t stand corruption. And this is becoming more and more familiar to people here in Spain. Specially amongst politicians and economic powers. Even within the Spanish Royal Family: search of Iñaki Urdangarin and see what I mean…
And that is all for today.
The next day I will be talking about Black Spanish population here or Afro-Spanish famous people here. Thanks for reading.