Learning from Chimamanda’s experience in the US

I am a big fan of Chimamanda’s books since I started with Half of a Yellow Sun, some years ago. I then move back through her bibliography and have been learning both about Nigeria and the US  with her. I like several things from her books that sometimes lack from Francophone writers: simplicity and clarity of style, something very important to widen your audience to non-native English speakers; and second, maybe her biggest talent, the ability to observe and describe daily situations in a reflexive, factual yet hilarious way. Here are some quotes from her book I am reading currently The Thing Around Your Neck.

 She [the protagonist] could not complain about not having shoes when the person she was talking to had no legs.

Then he told you how the neighbors said, a few months after he moved into his house, that the squirrels had started to disappear. They had heard that Africans ate all kinds of wild animals.

I must confess that at the point I read the second citation I broke into stertorous laughs. I laughed so much that I wanted to cry. This sense of humour, plus her ability to connect with many of its readers amongst the African diaspora, by explaining experiences we go through daily or some situations we all know someone who went through them, all this while teaching us about Nigerian life, History and society, which is so African in many ways and so familiar even for those like me who haven’t spent many years on that soil… And, apart from connecting me with my African side, she is incredibly interesting on the way she describes America. With so many experiences. The complexities of some many lives often reduced to two facts: the quest for legal immigration (read the chapter about the American Embassy on this same book The Thing…), and the poverty struggle. Plus, she has many videos online talking about so many issues on Nigeria, Africa, the US and so, that she has become kind of parts of my life. Strange things today, right? Not only can we read about our authors, we can follow them on tv interview, attend to their conferences and public readings…Some even send emails and add them on facebook. I am not there… yet.

Anyway, my point is that I relate to her American stories because I feel like in the same situation. True that I came already with a job, but still I like to reading her analysis about relationships between Africans and Americans (be they black, white or latino, so far I have not read about Asian-Americans and Africans. And to be honest, I would like to read something about that.); and I have started to read more and more about my African descents American cousins. Of course I feel and know that we have many things in common, and I can relate not only for that millennial origin, but also for knowing what’s like growing black in a white dominant environment.

Many people people think that each time you raise this type of issues you want to talk about racism, and sometimes they are right. But most of the time, it’s just to make them aware of the many aspects of society in which you realise that you are not represented and not taken into account. Some of the most obvious and most influencial aspects are Mass media platforms, TV, RADIO, CINEMA, THEATHER, NEWSPAPERS. It’s obvious to anyone with some little critical spirit to realise that the portraiture of people like you (if any) is not possitive; that the heroes, Historical characters, influencial people in society, popular politicians, artits, etc. Sometimes it’s just that there aren’t any people like you in certain fields; other times the one you see play a role you can’t relate with. They are just stereotypes of what your people are, and often not very possitive. Growing within the blatant minority at many structural levels makes many things harder that it seems. Basic things such as educational achievements, security and active citizenship, ability to access country’s wealth, political engagement and power, and of course, healthy selfsteem.

To acknowledge these carences may create great sense of anger and frustration, especially when people around you seem unable to understand your reasons. But I always say that the irony of live make rich people of richer countries unaware of their fellow citizens on the working class, but these at the same time are unaware of their fellow working class colleagues in poorer countries. You can spend a lifetime trying to make them understand the privileges they inherited, but they won’t see it. Most won’t. It’s just part of the system they were born in. They feel entitled to them. If you get angry and claim what you think is your place, then you get labelled aggressive, criminal and other nicer words.

But I think there many other ways of improving things. Begining with the selfsteem. I definitely believe that every African descent person should live once in a life in Africa. I mean, live, not believe. I know this from my own experience. Your value of yourself changes and you stop being a vulnerable minority. This is useful for many healthy and pragmatic reasons. You will also get to acknowledge the good aspects of your homecountry. Travelling around the world also gives a bigger picture of how things work, pros and cons of live in another corners, learning that every place has its own issues and that you can always choose the place that suits you best. And the one you know the better is still home. I believe in freedom of movement. Especially for these cases. European Americans have very close ties with their continent of origin for these same reasons. Not only practical, but mostly emotional and cultural, and this does not make them any less Americans. This is the bless of this country, I believe. Its ability to emotions and feelings in anypart of the world. Its diversity reflects the diversity of the planet, and this is definitely and advantage, in my opinion. 

I have observed that Identity problems are more often present in the offsprings of Africans or immigrants in general who do not have a balanced sense of belonging within their two cultures. We don’t need to choose, just as between man and dad. We are both. For this move, I would urge African countries to do something useful for once and allow doble nationality for their descendants overseas. This will soften circumstances and unite people who can truely learn from each other. I also strongly advocate for  more cultural and civic ties within the two continents, by the help of international programs, professional cooperation and emotional ties between these two communities. More international couples and cultural events would definitely help, as well as common goals on matters such as educational achievements, security and political reinforcement at a global scale. For instance, most of the Africans that arrive to the US are graduate students who come to further their studies and/or work. These could definiteley collaborate in a national program to improve educational outcomes on local communitie,while the later help us integrate into the American society. The African American universities may build major exchange programs with African universities to promote mutual contact and learning. This applies also with Latin American countries with visible African descent population such as Cuba, Colombia, Guatemala, Honduras, Perú, Ecuador, Uruguay, Paraguay, and Brazil. This is the kind of things I would do. Create international and intranational meeting points and produce common goals and work for it. I would be glad to participate in programs that would help increase the number of African Americans  and Hispanics who access higher education, for examples. I been reading about and I think it needs a community-based response to sort it out. Just my naive opinion.


Donald Trump and the rise of the American tribalism

It’s been almost 3 months since I arrived to the US, and despite I still don’t fully understand the national problems and try not to get too involved, but there is no way to let this man get unnoticed. Donald Trump is everywhere. The last time I listened to the radio he was saying that he would build a huge wall at the US-Mexican borders and cancel the Constitution that gives direct citizenship to babies born in the US, so that children of Latin American parents would  not entitled to the hold American nationality — a law that favoured him and all the European and people from worldwide who were born to foreign parents in this countries for centuries, with the exception of black Americans, whose ancestors were brought here as slaves and were denied many civil rights not so long ago.

Then I started investigating a bit and discovered that himself is a descendant of a German ancestor who moved here and opened a cathouse /brothel as a way of living. I also learned that he, himself has been married to several women, immigrants from Eastern Europe, something that makes me think that this is not about being strict and rigorous on immigration policies, but it’s an ethnic issue. It’s hard to understand, in my opinion, that someone from a country made by immigrants from around the world can have such feelings regarding newcomers. This is not Europe.

But, since I am here I got to understand the importance that race plays in the country. I don’t remember how many times I have been required to identifying my ethnicity-race while filling out an official form. We don’t have this in Spain. And, honestly, it bothers me because of two reasons:

  1. It reminds me of the bird certificates and other important documents of certain African nations. I absolutely hated it, because in my opinion, it separates the people of the same country and fosters tribalism, hatred and discrimination in many aspects of life amongst the some people, fellow-citizens. Many African countries have been blamed for this, logically, and we all know the possible outcomes of such a shocking policy of identifying its citizens by their ethnicity. What happened in Rwanda? I have always blamed Belgium for introducing these ID containing  tribe labels, that ulterior governments maintained for sectarian reasons.
  2. Also, because the criteria on race are just nonsense. I mean, isn’t it totally illogical to force someone with biological origins in many countries to choose a race?  What are mixed-race people supposed to do? I begin to understand that label of ‘people of colour’, even if I find it unnecessary to specify any colour at all. People are just people, right? And then, also, what race is a Latino? People who speak Spanish or Portuguese? (I do, my Spanish friends do, portuguese speakers around the world, from Brazil to Angola…, are we Latinos?). People who are mixed-race? People with origins in Latin American no matter what race are there ? Even if there are white Argentinians, Chileans, Uruguayan or Mexicans who are direct descendants of European as well as the European-Americans in this country? What if there are as black as I am, from Haiti, Cuba, Colombia, or Nicaragua? Shouldn’t we fall under the same category then? I mean, this is something I would think useless and offensive. I remember Michael Jackson saying, ” I don’t wanna spend my life being a colour” or similar. Totally agree.

To be honest, so far I have always checked the category Black/ African-American. Despite I don’t know if I am right or not. Is this category only for American citizens for centuries who happen to be black? Is it for every black person regardless of their origin, be it Central Africa or Cuba? Should I check the Latino case because I come from Spain and it is considered as a Latino country, as I have heard over here? What a mess. What is all this for? Anyway. Funny enough, I have noticed in my university staff system that my personal information is subjected to change, as if you would change your residence address or your nationality. How is it possible? Can I check white European the next time I change my mind?

But, going back to the matter, with all this Trump headlines, I begin to understand. While I recognise that stats are useful for the State  to serve its citizens, to use as a proof when blatant case of discrimination are raised, or when addressing a particular problem for which we need to focus on a certain demographic spot (such as Education), I also believe that It’s a matter of tribalism. Of profound and intrinsic tribalism. A primitive fight for power.

Many Americans need this to be aware that white European-Americans remain the majority and keep all the structural powers that this entails. I’ve read about some complaining that population is increasingly formed by people who come from other countries in Asia, Africa, and especially Latin America, which seems to be most fastly growing ethnic group in the US. And this seems to bother these supposed ‘true’ Americans who feel racially threatened and who see their demographic power decrease.

Of course, there are many records on how the American Administration has being favouring European immigration to the US, while restraining that from the rest of the world, especially Latin America, I and think they still do so. One proof is how easily I got here, even if I happen to be also African, but there are many agreements that indirectly promote this. On the other side, ‘it’s almost impossible to move here from African countries, especially those inhabited by Blacks in general. There is a whole racial strategy in here, but it seems that so far it’s not working so well as many Europeans just don’t feel like immigrating to the US even if they have more possibilities to do so. Now there are also more and more agreements with countries such as Australia or New Zealand. But, well, this is just my  theory.

I think that this is just a display of the white supremacist feelings in an extravagant way. And the most interesting part here is that, this time, it’s hidden under the category of, ” Oh, let’s fight against illegal immigration”, which is more acceptable from an average citizen point of view; and most interestingly, this time the target victim is not the black American citizen, who is also invited to hate Latinos in general, and Mexicans in particular. This racial broom is the not so hidden reason under which they want to deprived latino children from their citizenships. Does this nationality give automatic rights to people living illegally in the US? Haven’t I read about families being divided and parents being deported despite their children were Americans? So why this attack against babies? It’s just a matter of racial power, pure tribalism. You make sure your tribe remains the dominant and most powerful race. And taking into account that the so-called African-Americans and Asian-Americans do not suppose a threat to this demographic dominance, that’s why these people are the target. We need hate someone. It doesn’t really matter if they entered legally, in my opinion he would not be so popular if he targeted illegal white immigrants from, say, Ireland (I know there are many) or Germany, or even Sweden. Because these people would be part of the white European-American tribe, therefore  there are more entitled to be here, according to them. The ku Klux klan should be happy that a presidential candidate is actually promoting the white supremacist agenda, even if it’s targeted to black Americans in particular.

This is very sad, but so familiar. I personally hate tribalism so hard because I have seen the consequences of this abomination. Because people feel attacked in their deep down sense of being. They feel attacked on what they are, something that is not in their hand to change and that determines many aspects on their lifelong opportunities to success. In some African countries, the power remains in the hands of the President, his family and acquaintances and the rest of members of his tribe/clan. The average citizen is hence totally under-protected by their government, and discriminated in matter of job access, civil and political rights and social and economic access to the countries’ wealth. This can only leed to profound injuries and wounds on people’s heart, because they realize this injustice right away. When I work hard and fulfill all the official requirements and only the same people get the job, of course I get upset, and this happens everywhere in earth because of corruption. But when this happens systematically, it’s a huge problem.

I am not for providing this information on official forms, as well as  I don’t agree with saying your country of origin (except for specific circumstances), your gender or even your full name. As I see it, being aware that we are all consciously and unconsciously biased, we should keep important things out of this subjectivity. I have always supported anonymous exams, and whenever I submit a CV, and try to add only the information relevant to the job, such as competences, education and experience. Nothing else. Just to avoid these things that are largely happening and are so tempting. We are all biased and prefer to give preference to people we feel part of ‘our’ social/ethnic/whatever group, that’s why we should take all the measure to set clear priorities for everybody. Everywhere. Things clear, no regrets and no discriminations in any case.

Sorry for the long rant.

New step: USA. Am I a new immigrant?

Dear friends, after almost one year, here I am again. A lot of things have been going on since my last post in December 2014.

First, I finished my master’s in Madrid, found a temporary job as an English teacher and got to work at the Ministry of Health of my adopted country. Could never have imagined! It was short, but I am sure they did like my classes and had good impression of my work.

After that, I accepted my new challenge. It was back in March, while working at one of the African Film festival I have collaborated with along these last 3 years, I received a call from my alma mater university telling me that I was selected for a job-scholarship to teach Spanish at an American University! Wao! It seemed that I was going to make it after all. I had applied for the same programme one year ago, but was shortlisted and ended up the first in the waiting list. So, yeah. If you have read earlier post, you might remember that this is something I had always wanted to do, as a way to improve my English and also cause, we translators love travelling and enjoying our target language within context! I was not allowed to do it before because I did not have the Spanish citizenship, and therefore couldn’t apply for similar programs sponsored by the Spanish Government, even if did fulfill the requirements and all… But finally, life shows me as always, that if you really want something and work for it, you end up finding the way. Even us, those who were born to poor parents in poorer countries, us children of immigrants who dangerously migrated to earn a better living.

So, after the paperwork and saving some 2000 dollars + some help from my family, I took the flight for Northern USA. And here I am. For the first time, I am fully aware that life is giving me good rewards for the efforts my family and I have made these last decades. Apart from being able to send most of the cousins who live back in Central Africa to school, I can save some money for myself. I want to save some 10 thousand euros to open a chain of African restaurants in the biggest cities of Spain… among other dreams.

But, there is a but. I have travelled to richer countries so far, either as a student (in the UK) or as a tourist (to France, Germany or Italy), but this is the first time in which I feel like I may become an immigrant in a place. I mean, the truth is that despite the English language industry boom right now in Spain- which would guarantee me at least that I won´t end up starving, especially after the master in Education-, there is a huge unemployment rate in the country (over 25%). A social tragedy that affects mostly young people (< 50%) and underqualified people who used to work in the construction sector (as my father). That’s why I have had to keep on studying ever since I finished my first degree in 2010. I took another degree, took a working gap year from college and went back again to take a master. I can’t know if I would have found something this year in a high school there or not.

On the other, fully of this reality, and also because they believe I don’t have the same opportunities in Spain in spite of my education, my family has been throwing the idea of staying in the USA on the table. Not as an illegal migrant, of course not, hopefully there is not need for that. But, they want me to find my way and make a good living in the USA. They kinda have that idea that everything is better here, or at least much better than in Spain. The truth is that I don´t know what will be my next step. One thing has stricken me here. At the University in which I work, there are many professors and professionals from all over the world. Something really difficult to find in Spanish universities, where there is a sickening spread of endogamy and clear corruption in job appointments. And also, I had no problems coming to teach Spanish here, although it wasn´t my mother tongue (but really works as such) and I do not hold a Spanish passport. Even border’s agents were very kind and welcoming to me. It’s not like that in the most of Spanish airport regarding Africans. Was it because I come from an European country? Or because I come as a graduate professional to work? Does this make me any different from other migrants who did not have the opportunity to study two degrees? I guess it’s a different story. I´ve heard similar harsh on Mexicans and other Latin American citizens. Such is the world right now.

But yeah, I will stop beating around the bush and say that I am so happy and conscious of my life path right now. I am fully open to what life has ready for me to go for it.

And, finally, I must confess, that for the first time I am having a second thought about going back to my home country and try to improve things getting myself into politics. I know it’s dangerous and a temptation to corruption, but really, this world wandering opens my eyes. For the first time since a long time, I feel like a proper immigrant. I mean, this time I came by my one feet, there is always some African nostalgia in me. I don´t know why. I am a rebel heart. During recent years there has been like a spark of revolution within the African youth, championed by the Senegalese movement “Y’En a Marre”, which spread to Burkina Faso and other francophone countries. I have been following the moves and achievements and I feel like there is a historic moment about to happen and I want to be part of it. Dictatorships and kleptocracy are, I think, the biggest one to blame regarding current state of misery in our countries. Politician who apply heartlessly the neoliberal measures of the IMF and the WB, who favor free trade capitalism widely when other countries subsidize their companies and farmers, they build enormous burocracy and complex systems to hide their blatant corruption and unlawful enrichment… meanwhile, their people are emigrating, dying in the sea and wandering around the world. Most of the time, in very different conditions that I do. And I feel profound sorrow for my people. Sorrow that low and middle class have to rent and sell their goods to send their children abroad, as a prospective breastfeeder for the whole family. Such was the case of my family. Both my father and mother came from poor families, who once had a profession and could save enough money to migrate, did not have a second thought. I wasn`t even aware of what was going on. Today and thank them and I cry at the same time for this faith many people are forced to admit. So, yes. There is a little something burning within my heart. But I want to be well prepared and have something to contribute with. I am so happy that the candle was lighten within the continent first, that it didn´t come from outside. Let’s work for a better future. My next specific goal is to have the next university graduate among my family. On the road!

Good luck and strength, dear friends. May your wishes be accomplished.

¡Feliz Navidad y Año nuevo, amigos! (Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!)

Dear readers,

As you can read through this blog, I am now happily living in Madrid, coming from northern regions of Spain. I write this post only to wish you a wonderful year 2015, hope your expectations will be fulfilled and that love and health will keep your bodies and your souls warm and ravishing.

As for myself, I just hope I will be able to successfully finish this master I am taking. Well, actually it is now a must because I was granted a scholarship by the Spanish Government to be able to take this compulsory master free of charges, for it’s a professional sector considered as a national priority (Teachers of Secondary Education), especially those meant to teach English, as it is my case.

Concerning this, I would like to discuss about two aspects.

One: Can we measure language proficiency? Really? I mean, there are many factors affecting our ability to speak and being gobally fluent in a foreign language that I just find it hard and always incomplete. We are required to prove a level of C1, according to the Common European Framework of Reference, that’s to say, the equivalent to the Cambridge Certificate in Advanced English, or, obviously a university degree in English Studies and Literature or Translation of English.

The problem is that the average level is low in most of those degrees in English, and obviously even more for those who studied different subjects and had to prove a C1 level. I am a mix of both circumstances: I hold a Cambridge certificate proving to have at least a C1 level and I studied Translation of English and, especially, French. I honestly believe that my knowledge of English should be much higher and I am determined to get a bilingual level in order to properly teach. However, I am sure that it ‘s not even a criterion to pass the competitive exam to secure a job as a state worker-teacher. Contents include History of the UK and US and its literatures and politics; some units on the Commonwealth, in Linguistics, and finally about the Spanish culture and Educational system and laws of Education. Obviously, proficiency in the Spanish language is mandatory, even more than in English (unfortunately for my Irish, Russian, UK and US classmates).

Two. I am officially a middle- class person in Spain (really?). That means that I am not entitled to receive any extra allowance meant to support students from poor families while they study. Not anymore. For some years, things were the opposite for me. You may think that it’s a good news because our family incomes have increased, but it’s actually because the profound social and economic crunch has scrolled down the poverty standards. Currently, they consider that a family of 4 members (as its my case) live within the national income average if they earn 12.000 euros/year (yes, 12 thousands!).  In other words: 3000€/per capita and 250/month. Truth be said, the number of applicants for these scholarships have dramatically risen, and so were the requirements to be eligible. Things are getting really fucked up over here people. I don’t know either to feel sad or happy for this new status … Well. I am still unemployed and studying at age 26. You judge.

To be fair, I can’t really complain. For I was given a tuition fee waiver, so I can save around 2000 euros for other issues such as my bills and my accommodation fees in the expensive Madrid. And, although I still need to get a job to gather enough money to survive during the rest of the academic course, at least I feel confident about it. I can always teach English French or English to gain pocket and leisure money. I am grateful because the basics are covered and my personal savings will allow me to cover the rest of it. But, what about those who can’t????? The job market is unaffordable and quite awful today for many people. You need to have a strong qualification and privileged personal network to make it… or just be brilliant and lucky.

I have another good news. I have recently learned  that I can apply to be state teacher after my masters even with my current African nationality because I am considered a family of an European (Spanish) citizen. It seems that now that my family is formed by 4 nationalities (2 European/2 Africans) we are given more rights.

Anyway, I still think that I need to live in an English-speaking country for at least a couple of years to feel confident to teach English at a good level. And I am actually looking for opportunities abroad to teach French or Spanish or to translate. So if you know or hear of something, let me know. (I don’t mind, South Africa, Kenya, India, or the USA … as long as I can teach and learn) It would be of great help for me and for my future students, wherever I end up living.

Until then… Have a wonderful beginning of year 2015. Love and hope from Spain.

And last but not least, I have learned that more thousands of African immigrants have died while crossing into the Spanish border this year. The influx has risen. Meanwhile, African authorities stay speechless and doing nothing visible to me. We need to do something to stop these selfish people, we need to organize inside and outside our countries of origin to force them to improve, to move forward. Pressure! This makes me really sad. It’s horrifying that all those people can just keep on smiling and filling their pockets and bank accounts in Switzerland while allowing this to happen.

One of these people has arrived to my house this month. He crossed the border and was sent to our city because he said he had relatives there. He is family of my father- in- law and one more victim of these governments that force their people to leave as the only option… We need to do something. We are all affected by this. If they tell them not to come that way, risking their lives, they won’t listen because it much worsed to stay at home arms crossed watching the polititians in their lives if luxury and travelling. What do you think. What should we do? Where shall we start from? Hope. Hope. And strength.

The figures of the year 2014 Thanks to my 4 500 visitors! I didn’t know my words were flying that high…

Los duendes de las estadísticas de WordPress.com prepararon un informe sobre el año 2014 de este blog.

Aquí hay un extracto:

Un tren subterráneo de la ciudad de Nueva York transporta 1.200 personas. Este blog fue visto alrededor de 4.500 veces en 2014. Si fuera un tren de NY, le tomaría cerca de 4 viajes transportar tantas personas.

Haz click para ver el reporte completo.

Madrid: New city, more opportunities?

Hi there, dear friends!

It has been ages since the last time I shared words with you. Yes, I know. I should write more…

How are you doing over there? Well, I’m sure you are doing really good. On my side, I cannot complain. The last time I told you about my doubts on whether to pursue my Masters in International studies or to get a Postgraduate in Secondary Education. Well, after a year working occasionally as a freelance translator and as a shop assistant in my small northern city in order to save enough money, I have eventually moved to Madrid. I am doing the second option, so you will soon have a certified teacher (hopefully in July 2015). After that I plan to move to an English-speaking country to improve my English proficiency.

Meanwhile, I keep on working as a spontaneous translator. But that’s not what I was looking for. I need a proper and steady job. I have sent hundreds of CV throughout this last year, since I graduated in July 2013. I have been unlucky, even for jobs I was overqualified for. I am quite an optimistic guy, I admit I have been lucky until now. I always got my goals in school, and then at University. I knew my fate depended on me. If I studied I would pass. However, I have become suspicious recently. Life is not that much on my hand. There is that feeling that I got my CV rejected because of non rational reasons, that feeling that I will have to pave a harder pathway to reach my goals. If you know what I mean. But it’s just a feeling and I am determined to find my way sooner or later. Even if I have to leave the country.

So, with this bitter feeling in my mouth, I decided to move to the capital city of Madrid to search for new job opportunities. Meanwhile, I take the masters 3 days a week and give some French lessons at a Language Academy. I keep on sending CVs and trying to be hopeful. I need your good vibes, people. If you heard of someting worthy…

By the way, there are lots of black people in Madrid. I have met 2 African-Americans friends, and I cannot avoid thinking about the new book by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, the much awarded Nigerian writer. (Yes, I did not say black Americans, because I am starting to understand the complexity of the topic… so I respect their feelings.)

See you soon.

Hi there, people!

I am happy to let you know that I am alive, yeah. Life has not treated me very well lately, but I am alive and happy. Imagen

After I graduated and came back home, I have been looking for a proper job as a professional translator and/or journalist. I had around 5 job interviews to work in Spain, and other 3-4 for India and China. I was offered a job as a journalist in Madrid, but very low-paid, so I refused. The same reason why I also refused to work in India, even if accomodation and living costs were included. 

Meanwhile, I’ve been work in shop close to my house, the same place I used to work to pay my university tuition fees. In one word, a work for which I am ovequalified. I got a bit depressed, but life keeps rolling, so I’ve got to stand up and walk. 



So far, I have decided to apply for a Master’s course in Madrid or Barcelona the next year. Still not sure wether to choose a get the Qualified Teacher Status, to enroll in a Marketing degree as  my bachelor in communication allows me to, specialise in Medical/ Literary translation or to study Internation Relations in order to work at an international corporate level. Still not sure… 


What do you think, guys? Too hard. I need some advice. 


The issue of the African citizenship

Dear Friends,

Life has shown me that my fate is within my hands and the pathway I choose to take. I hope you are doing well and you will keep on working hard without cease in order to achieve your vital goals and spread good vibes around you.

Well, today I would like to talk about something common to other people of African origins in wealthier countries: citizenship and what it implies.

As you may think, I hold an African citizenship – the one my father passed to me. Since I have lived in Spain for much more than 10 years, I could (and can) change my original citizenship to get the Spanish one. This is not mandatory, of course. Until now, I‘ve been living as a permanent resident here. Anyway, this means that I have almost all the rights with very few exceptions.

But not small exceptions: As a student, I had the same rights of movement, scholarships, grading, living, etc., but as a professional, there is a clear positive discrimination on the behalf of European citizens. For example, last year, in order to improve my language skill and have some time to think about my professional career, I wanted to apply for a year-long Teaching Assistantship abroad, but was not entitled to due to my nationality. Also, I cannot vote, be a teacher in a state-owned/funded school, work for the Administrative apparatus, nor other publicly ruled institutions here or in the EU. I can only work for private companies, and only those that do not require a Spanish passport for international jobs. So, yes, this is serious. Of course I can also work as a freelance professional, certainly.

To be fair, I do not blame the Spanish authorities here, they are simply protecting their interests. I do not feel completely discriminated against, as I can change my nationality and have full access to all these things if I want.

However, the truth is that I was okay this way. Being an African citizen and holding a long term residency in Europe was quite right for me. It reflects both parts of me, and also, I don’t feel completely Spanish, or only African. Dual citizenship would be perfect, but none of my tree prospective countries would provides this, for now. And, some people would say that I just want to accumulate everything, and they may be right. But I think that it will ease some realities that will increase more and more as Africans move and the world moves.

Moreover, I have the feeling that if I leave my current citizenship for a European one, I will be rejecting part of myself. For many people it is not a big deal, though. It’s a practical matter. I disagree. It‘s much more than a practical process. iT has important political implications as weel. On both sides. Spanish citizenship would offer me free access to a whole continent’s labor market, yes. But, yet I will still be African, and black. And I outline this because I am aware that race is still an issue in Europe and worldwide. 

And also, I really care about my continent of birth. I was born there and have my people there. If I was sure that I would have a normal job there, I would go. I mean, we all know that life can be hard there, I see people leaving each year. But I don’t really see immigration as a solution. Only in few cases. Tourism is something completely different.

But, who will remain there to make it a better place if we all abandon? Who will respect us abroad, if we leave our original land in the world in the hands of many corrupt politicians and there acquaintances? What kind of message will we send to our children and grandshildren? 

I support freedom of movement, but there is not such a freedom when people have to emigrate for economic and political reasons. The feeling of being a third class citizen in a foreign country is not comfortable for anybody, and this is how many African migrants may feel today. I feel like renouncing to the nationality life gave to me is like abandoning my duty to contribute to the continent. And this may be innocent, as it sounds like I think of myself as a savior, but I really think that we should all contribute to stop this tragedy that keeps stealing innocent lives of our people along the borders.

Our future is in our hands and hearts. History teaches us that we can change our circumstances and soften our burdens; we should learn from others and apply.

This being said, it is also true that African citizen do not give me many advantages now.  With my current nationality I can’t go to more than 20 countries over the world.  I need visas even to visit other African countries (another proof of useless leaders). Also, If I go back home, I would restart as if I were a foreigner and deal with the whole political system that makes me sick. Honestly. I can’t stand knowing that my representatives are selling the country to fill their pockets and saving the profits in foreign banks while people are suffering to get basic needs covered. And you may say that corruption is everywhere… yes, but the kind of corruption I saw last time I went back home was a daily and normalized thing, present in every aspect of daily life.

Another reason is that Spanish civil servant is very powerful and they apply pressure in order to decrease competition on the labor market. It’s logical, in a certain way.

For example, Spain is currently in need of well- qualified English teachers, but they prefer to hire national people with an ‘Intermediate level’ rather than native ones, because civil servants would and do actually complain, as they did last in year in Madrid. I understand that people want to work, but do we have to sacrifice education quality for this? How is this country going to improve? There should be another way. It seems like everything needs to be subsidized by the state. This protectionism applies to many other economic fields.

I don’t really know what to do. And also, being a homosexual doesn’t help to imagine a good future in Africa. I have read some terrible news about this for years. Sometimes I just believe that life was so generous to me by putting me ‘in safety’ in a country where this is a not a curse or a crime. But, again, how can I blame anybody if I don’t fight for the things I believe. How can we really change something from outside? Wouldn’t they say we are ‘Un-Africans’? That we want to apply Western standards in Africa?

Honestly, I don’t want to impose western laws anywhere, I know this is a cultural view that needs time to change or not. External pressure does not really help on this. The only think I need is a neutral place where I don’t feel like a ‘criminal’ only on the grounds of my inner thoughts and personality.  I believe and know that I did not choose to be black or gay or straight. I don’t think I should be applauded for this, but nor do I think I should be judged as a criminal and ‘un-natural’ sinner. Nature cannot create unnatural beings. As I see, If God had wanted me otherwise, I would have created me otherwise. Well, even this is only another aspect to be taken into account. I dream bigger.

I just want the opportunity to contribute to change things for the better. Even if this means I have to sacrifice personal interests for a while. History is made on sacrifices and struggles. And we Africans are raised on the importance of the collective achievements. As a philosopher said, I am because we are.

To cut a long story short, I guess I hesitate to give up because I did not choose to move out, I was moved by my parents. And we cannot really renounce to something we never had, can we? I may need that opportunity to experience what I renounce, or not.

What would you do if you were in my shoes?

Paris, Lampedusa, Nelson Mandela and the ability to forgive the unforgiveable

Dear friends, firstly I whish you all Mery Christmas – or happy holidays for those who do not believe. 

Secondly, you may wonder the link between the three topics of the title, but yes, there is at lest one. 

But let’s start from the beginning. Paris. Yes, after my summer job, I gave myself a small family tour and visited my people living in Paris and Italy. I spent almost a week there, and remember some impressions which may be unexpected coming from me, but that’s what I felt. 


I don’t know about the exact demographic figures, but there were lots of black people in Paris, really. Francophone Africans complain a lot about French influences and history in Africa, but the truth is that nowadays many African have found a better life in their country, which has become their country. I saw people from African descents working in every kind of jobs, engineers, recepcionists, policemen, doctors, nurses, bus drivers, etc. I also noticed that there were almost no white people in the suburbs areas, and that the Gare du Nord  undergound station was basically the starting point to travel to Africa. I was told that, as I saw black neigbourhoods, there were also Arabic and Chinese or Latino areas. I also experienced the feeling of frustration when I realised that banlieues where like other world, without order or law, a place where people sold grilled corns on the road and skipped paying the metro ticket. Just to nane a few misbehaving situations I saw. And this was not a black issue, but an issue about a precise area where people of foreign origins lived. People worked together, but did not live together, I felt quite strange about that. I definitely do not support acting against law nor racial segregation. 

I could also felt the black offspring’s pride, I saw very daring fashion styles, young people walking with their heads up and confident about themselves. People who felt at home, transmitting that inner courage to face the world. I like seeing people with good self-steem, but was it gemuine confidence? Hope so.

Anyway, France has got it history within, it is obvious that they first to Africa, and now Africa has come to France. Despite the offensive words against their black minister Christiane Taubira.


Then I went on to Italy. I must admit that I had bad prejudices about that country. I had only heard about racist issues concerning the football player star Balotelli or the newly arrived minister Celice Kengye. I had also learned that the whole population were mean towards black people living amongst them. I still don’t have a response about this. I opened my mind and went on, and to be honest, I felt wellcomed. It’s true that in Bergamo I was accompanied by a Spanish friend or his Italian friends, who showed me around. But from Bergamo to Torino, I was alone and found a lot of black peopleon my way. Especially Cameroonians and Senegalese guys. I learned that most of them came as students. I also saw many of them working along the street as in Spain. I loved Venice and fell welcomed in every single moment, which challenged my pre-asumptions about the country, but after all I was a tourist. It’s always different to spend money than to earn it in a foreign country. Yet, my uncle did told me that daily life was difficult. There were an explicit racism, especially towards blacks and Romanies or gypsies. Almost at the end of my stay, I watched the news of the tragedy of Lampedusa. Over 300 people died and the pictures were heartbreaking. Incredibly sad. The majority came from Somalia. I went back home with that dreadful impression.

I remember that Italian authorities stated national mourning days. Lots of volonteers went to give a hand and save the victims from the sunken boat. Yes, this is the way some of our people risk their lives to search for a better life in Europe nowadays! People are condenmed to live in poverty of corrupt countries, unless they are rich and grant holder students, they are denied to get a visa, free movement is almost impossible. These deadly pictures happen in Spain, in Italy, Greece…

Europeans were never asked a visa to travel to African nations, yet they refuse free movement of Africans today. I heard lots of good words about changing this shamefull laws, even from the Pope from Argentina. Some voices criticised European governments, but I criticise African authorities. I did not heard of  official mourning days by the African Union or any other authority from our countries of origin. Non of them offered to take the corpses back home and give them a traditional funeral. This shows us where the problem lies. Not only we are denied some basic rights as the freedom of movement, but we are also meaningless to our politicians. Doble shame. It seems like we only depend on our own fate, no institutional assistance other than foreign charity. And since we are poor, we will keep on accepting this charity.

This leads me to the death of Nelson Mandela. Few months ago I was lectured about the Apartheid system, the incredibly miserable atrocities commited by the afrikaners on local black majority, with tolerance of international powers such as the USA, UK or France. I saw pictures about the Shaperville massacre, so striking. And then I realised how generous black South Africans were and still are. If something similar had happened in other country, the white minority would have been eliminated after recovering political power. That’s why Nelson Mandela was so great. Because he embodied this generosity, and taught the world that we, black people, could forgive the unforgiveable. Victims could live and work with their former torturers… but not only that, he also managed to make sure that economic power remained in former hands. He was very much criticised for this. But, looking trough modern African history, looking at the fates of Patrick Lumumba, Thomas Sankara, Mamadou Dia… Those who dared to dream of a proper change of the status quo…They were killed. Did Mandela really have other choice than to foster the rainbow nation? I think that, from many perspectives: no. Militarily and economically, he was in a weaker position. He was just clever enough to make it happen without greater violence and giving dignity both to black population and white South Africans. 

I felt very bad about his death. Because I think he was a great man, but overall because I think his transition remained unfinished. Poverty is still overwhelmingly present within black communities. The difference is that unlike many of us, they seem to trust their country and do not emigrate desperately.

I always wonder why we use terms like “African Americans”, but not about European -Africans. How do they feel about themselves? I guess a mix of guilt and pride. I read somewhere these days that white South Africans were more in love of Madiba than black ones. May be because he did not ask them to forgive their once torturers or share their money with poorer citizens? Who knows…

By coincidence, last  October I participated in the African Film Festival of Cordoba, and guess what… the only few people I met from South Africa were 2 white women and an Indian-descent girl. And nobody made a big deal about them being non-black and calling themselves Africans. Nor were they labelled “European- African”, it was obvious that they had European features somewhere. One of them, a cimena expert teaching African cinema in London, wore a typical African dress in the closing night and looked wonderfully happy and without any kind of complex. 

Only then, I suddenly understood why this man was called the ‘Father of the nation’. He made millions of white grand children feel at home. We still have a long way ahead to find a white European leader who will made us feel at home in Europe. After decades of migration, we are just a non stable minority is Europe, risking our lives only to get here, and afterwards, we have to deal with people like Marine Le Pen in France.


PS: What do you think? If you were a black South African, how would you feel about your white fellow citizens? And if you are from S. Africa, please give your feedback. 

Happy New Year to all. May life you a bit of your dreams during this year 2014. I myself am dealing with a kind of transition, from student life to professional life. Transitions are never easy to handle, as history teaches us. Those in weaker position always have to give more than they receive… in order to reach peace. Or not. 


The syndrome of Martin Trayvon or how to feel self-dangerous for other.

I have recently observed  with outrage the tragic story of Trayvon Martin, a teenager of 17 killed by a volunteer security guard in the US. The teenager happened to be black American or African-American (I don’t really see the importance to call people Africans only because they inherited some of their forefathers features, that is, being black.); and the killer, Zimmerman, happened to be mixed race latino and white or European American (same applies for this term). According to what I read – and I read a lot, believe me— the security guard found Martin to be suspicious because of his black skin colour, his wandering pace around the rich area and the, above all, because of his hood over his head. So, he called the police. They told him to stay on his feet and wait for them to come. But, no. He decided that it was his job to be a heroe policeman and followed the young man. After all, he had a lethal weapon. He carried a gun with him. They ended up fighting and Martin was shot dead. And of course, Zimmerman stated self-defense. We all know which was the verdict. Sad. And no black member in the jury, speechless.


However, aside this terrible story, I have drawn a few conclusions.


1)    The Black struggle for total equality is not even near to end in the USA. The fight from slavery to nowadays legal equality is something I think I will never understand completely. We sometimes may think that we, as black people in the world, understand each other and can feel what our fellows have being through. I already feel sad when I remember that my African forefathers were colonised, killed and suffered genocide in their  homeland by foreign intruders , while millions of their children were taken as slaves to the Americas. I can even imagined how I would feel if I knew my granddad was seen as a underhuman not even a century ego, in the country I live in. We are asked to forgive, to forget about the past and to be almost saints in our daily behaviour.


2)   I have heard and seen documentaries about the huge amount of black Americans that live in US prisons. I once heard that almost half black population in this country spend some time of their existence in jail. This made me cry, I confess. The documentary, on Al Jazheera was about racial bias in Justice application. My flat-mate, who is a white American, told me that the reason was poverty. If you have no money, you cannot pay a proper lawyer to stand for you. This a anti-human neoliberal system. At the end of the day, people die because they have no money to pay a Health insurance, they do not get higher education for the same reason. They stay at home and go to jail for the same reason. In this sense, here in Europe, the Welfare state is more universal.


3) Referring to money. I live in a northern city in Spain where I meet a lot of American students who take summer courses of Spanish at local University. I rarely see black Americans. Actually, I can only remember 3 black girls this summer. And believe me, I work in a very visited shop, where I basically attend foreign customers because I can communicate with them.


4) Last but not least, the president Obama’ speech was really striking for me. As it refered to that daily subtle and long track discrimination that many black people endure. He said he had also felt observed while entering to a supermarket, while walking along the streets and so on and so forth. The permanent feeling of being regarded as a criminal on the only basis of your look. Yes, I also feel this at times.


5) I read the story of an African American comedian talking about the moment in which he shares an elevator with a white woman and feels in the need to make her feel safe. The need to prove that he is not a dangerous threat. Yes, It’s a long story that seems not have an end.


And dear readers, what saddens me more about this is that some people backed and endorsed Zimmerman right to see danger in a black teenager walking through his neighbour. Because, statistics show that…

But I’m happy that the Obama dared to raised that subtle and terrible discrimination toward black people in the US to public. Bu as I said, many people won’t never understand it if they don’t suffer it in their bones. Empathy has limits. The same, I am afraid, I won’t ever fully understand how my fellow black Americans feels about their situation in their country. But know that you have all my profound support from Spain. Life is done to be enjoyed. Let’s do it fully no matters what they feel about us.


I know it’s hard to believe you can be more than a prospective criminal when you are told, by many kinds of nuanced messages, that you are and you have no choice. For this we need to be stronger than the majority, at the beginning it seems that it is to prove something, but at the end, it’s a question of surviving a having our future in our hands (and our pockets).