Let’s move on!

 

Hello dear bloggers! I’m back over one month after. I’ve got good news for you, well, at least for me. This week I have finished my second bachelor’s degree. In some weeks, after I receive my diploma, I will be officially a translator and interpreter. This is wonderful because I really love the second part, interpreting is a very stressing activity which hooks you up very easily. My dream would be to interpret for the African Union, but I need to add more languages in my curriculum, such as Portuguese and German o Chinese. And, need some contacts! So guys, we got a new goal for the upcoming years!

In the meanwhile I’ve got to start searching for a job. It’s really tough to see your mum working so hard and not being able to help her with the charges. She thought after so many years of studying I would be already a successful professional living the Spanish/European dream. But the credit crunch opposed her plans, and sometimes I feel as if I deceived her by not finding a proper job after finishing my first degree. So, let’s see what Spain can offer us. I know that being a black African professional is still unthinkable for many Spanish people and immigrants living here, especially in the small cities and regions. But, I am ready for this.

I remember that this morning my aunt told me by phone how astonished she was when she saw a black man working at our local bank branch. The fact that she was so surprised speaks for itself. I tried to calm her down, saying that this is absolutely normal, but in my inner side I know that it isn’t. Spanish society is still unaccustomed to see African working on something else apart from the construction sector, domestic jobs and taking care of elderly people.

People are surprised every time I say I work as a teacher. Also, I remember when I was doing my internship at Spanish National TV and I was shooting a video piece of our local mayor. Suddenly the current Vice-Prime Minister arrived to the building and the mayor wanted her to be on the video, so we were waiting. It was funny to see her face when she entered the office and saw a black camera operator, she almost freaked out. But the mayor told her who I was.

But I also have to say that, except very few cases, people react well, or at least they try not to be very openly unpleasant. After the surprise, they react positively –apparently.

But, as I was saying, I’m very happy in these days. In a couple of hours I’m moving back home after a whole year living in another region, and working so badly to pay my bills and university fees. Finally I’m free, at least for a couple of weeks.

But today I’m also a bit sad because I think, once again, that living with European people is very hard for me at times. Sometimes I think it’s impossible. We are just so different in many ways. I have always shared flats with Spanish students, and after living with more than 10 different people, I can just say that we have shared things because I was raised here so I can understand the way they live and think, but not the other way around.

And it’s quite funny because young people think of themselves as very open-minded and ‘tolerant’. The think I hate the most is the selfishness, the inability to feel or to think beyond one’s individual interest. I really think that there are few thinks that we African can teach them. I don’t know. I was raised on sacrifice, solidarity and family. Maybe I’m just in the wrong place.

Well, people. Have a nice day.

 

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Why are we failing in Educating our children?

Education as a crucial starting point

According to an official report by the Spanish Ministry of Education, the educational gap between students from immigrant families and those from native ones is gradually higher while we go up through the Education system. Most of the so-called “New Spaniards” joint the system at the Secondary level and hardly reach the Post-secondary level, which is not compulsory and is the previous step that gives access to Higher Education, that is to say, University level. Therefore, the proportion of students of African descents (both African and Latin American) decreases deeply in Post-Obligatory levels (students over sixteen years old) and, when it’s quite easy to find Primary and Secondary schools with more than 15% of students of foreign parents, you would hardly find a 10% at University level. I will tell you my personal experience. Some news about this.  Over 50% does not reach High-school. And over 80% gives up after that.

From 2000 to 2010, the number of students from immigrant backgrounds raised incredibly, as a result of the Spanish Economic Bubble in the Tourism and Construction sections. More immigrants came and so did their children, which were obliged to attend school if they were aged less than 16.  So, in my Primary school we were 6 foreign students, 2 from Africa and 4 from Latin American, among which 4 of us were blacks. This is in the late 90’s.  In 2004, before I graduate from Secondary school, there were more than 20% of foreign students and only few of us succeed to access the next level, the Spanish Bachillerato, and kind of Highschool or Baccalaureate. After that, we could decide either to stay at home, looking for a job in the Construction boom, either to continue with Vocation training or with Highschool. Among the6 who were in my primary school, 3 of us chose the Bachillerato. One girl gave up years before; other two got stuck through the previous courses. Among the 3 guys, we were old friends from childhood well-known by everybody.

Years later, my friend from Colombia succeed to finish his Highschool after abandoning and retaking it twice and finally got into the National Army; the brilliant Dominican black guy stopped studying in the last course of Bachillerato because of a familiar problem, that made him go from getting outstanding grades in a Science branch to failing almost everything and, he finally gave up to receive medical and psychology assistance, her sister told me.  I felt so sad for him, he’s just so smart!

The only one that passed to University and graduated was me, among 6 foreign children that met up in Primary school. In the midway, something terrible should have happened. This said,  I would say than over than ¾ of my Spanish fellow students did pass through the Education System and are currently recently graduated professionals. I’ve got friends that are about to start their professional internship as doctors, some who are working as lawyers, some who are architects or engineers, some teachers and others journalists and translators as I am. Because of the Spanish bankruptcy and the crash of the economic bubble, most of us do not work or are employed in jobs for which we are over-qualified.

But, returning to our topic, the fact is that something happened when after decades of massive immigrant students in the classrooms, I was the only black students in the Faculty of Communication the first 2 years, and we were only 4 out of 70 students of immigrant background students. When I finished, there were 2 or 3 more in the whole Faculty of Social Sciences and Communications. What happened? How is it possible that among more than a hundred of new immigrant students I met during my secondary and Baccalaureate education, only 2 of us reached university? Well, I got some ideas…

1)    When our parents arrived, they were logically more aware of finding a job and reaching an economic stability than anything else. Like in my case, there was no time to help their children study. My mum was actually one of the few exceptions. I couldn’t have passed without her support, even if she hardly read Spanish, she was very helpful.

2)    When our parents arrived, they were informed about the Spanish Education system, in which there private, public and mixed funded schools. As a result, more than 90 % of us went directly to state funded schools and only some of the students who parents had higher education and higher economic incomes could study in the mixed and privately funded schools. To be eligible to a school here, the first criterion is the proximity to the centre, and then other values.  Most immigrants families tend to live next to another, especially in poorer neighbourhoods, because they found more solidarity amongst her fellow-citizens, renting a house is much cheaper, but also because access to richer areas were and still are hard due to racism and classism from some Spaniards. As a result, their children tend to go to the same schools, in which children of foreign parents are more and more numerous.

3)    Many of our parents did not have previous higher education, so they could hardly help us with homework. And so they released our success in the hands of teachers and ourselves. No private tutors were possible in most of the case, as we were poor.

4)    The Education curriculum itself is not bad, but was designed to produce perfect Spanish citizens, from a narrow perspective in which most of us could not find many cultural or historical mentions that included us. I love Spanish Languages and Literature, but would have loved to read books from a broader range of writers from more countries; the same applies for History and Philosophy, with hardly mentioned developing or poor countries. When they talked about Spanish Invasion of Latin American territories, I never read about the other point of view apart from the Spanish imperialistic one… I remember when my History teacher talked about slavery: it was less than 15 minutes and she said, while staring at me: ‘Such was the History, son’. Her words and look showed pity and non-comfortableness. Truth is that, Cultural education is not designed to a global classroom as we have nowadays in this country. I had to wait till high school to be able to learn a bit of Contemporary History, which talked a bit more about the World War I, Imperialism and World history. It’s undeniable that every single country chose which version of History to teach to their citizen, in order to indoctrinate them more easily. But, world is changing, and national classrooms are becoming more and more global classrooms, and it’s important to consider such a change if we want our global students to success.

5)    There is a certain xenophobia and obscure circumstances that push students no to feel comfortable in the Education system, that boosted some of my fellow students to hate school, its teachers and the system. They tend to join together among other guys similar to them, to scape form system in which they felt they didn’t fit. And I think that it’s not only due to the under-presentation in the Academic curricula, but also because there are not many social references for us to look up; and especially because there is message from the media and security apparatus that tends to depict foreign people and young immigrants as criminals, even when they are only teenagers. This is terrible, and it only gets better when you walk with and dress often like white Spanish people.

6)    Most of us felt lost in terms of identity, without a clear knowledge of our ancestors history, no heroes and legendary books to warm our your hearts and nourish our self-esteem, growing in a society in which we were a clear minority and have to positive role models apart of those we see on the American TV and cinema and the media that describe your original country or people of your origins only when related to crimes, drugs and coup d’états.

Unlike some countries with huge amounts of it population coming from other countries, bilingual education is only about to be set up. Most of us could choose French or English as a foreign language, but none of this happened with Arabic or Chinese. Children of immigrants were losing an important part of their original cultures, especially History and native Languages.  

This is becoming to change, but we need to raise awareness among parents to study the Education system in order to avoid Ghetto schools, to make sure that their children do not spend most of their time on the road no doing anything and finally, to manage support to help us succeed academically. I know it won’t be easy, but this situation cannot go further, we need black professionals in this country, in every single field, and for this, we need to show that bigotry has no ground and we are actually qualified young people. Nobody will do this for us. Spanish Education system does not discriminate on the basis of origin or race. When a student of poor family succeeds he normally gets a grant to allow him to undertake Higher education, we must use this opportunity in an appropriate manner.  

PS: Sorry for my English, I hope there aren’t many mistakes. I translate from French and English into Spanish, but normally not the other way back. Sorry for the long ‘rant’.

10 Things I like and dislike about Spain

 

10 Things I Like and Dislike about Spain

 

Hello People!!!!!!

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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.

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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.

Introducing my (self) blog!

Firstly, let me thank you because you actually stopped by,and  because you are reading these lines! Secondly, I beg your sincere pardon for my English. I’m  not a native speaker, and my texts would definitely be of better quality if written in Spanish, but I want to improve my writing skills in this language. English is so important today  for (Spain) me! I will do all my best. I promise. Don’t hesitate to correct any mistake, please.

Image                        streets of Granada. A historical and university-focused city

      In this blog I will be talking about what is like to grow and live in this country as an Afrospanish nowadays. Let me introduce myself. I’m a journalist,  a 24-years-old university student (still) whispering from Spain, where I grew up. I did not come to life here, though, as my mun was in centre Africa in those sunny (I presume) days… That makes a 1.5 generation immigrant, according to a report I once read on the major Spanish Newspapers (ElPaís). They were making the difference between children born abroad but who grew up in here since their early childhood and those who were born here from immigrant pareents. Do you agree with this distinction? 

To be fair, I consider myself a bit Spanish and a bit African (and I did not choose any country for a reason). To me it doesn’t make sense to choose, as I do NOT have to choose between mum and dad. They’re  both part of me, it’s a kind of “un-erasable” characteristic of myself…Almost an analogue situation.

But first I will show you something else…

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                                       Granada’s Arabic inspired city. I love the roofs!

I am African, and this a fact. It’s undeniable for my skin colour, my nationality, but also for my thoughts. And I’m also Spanish, evident to those who really know me, for the language I speak, the culture I studied at school and the environment I live in, and above all, for my thoughts, again. 

But, this a not a blog about identity, although I find it a really interesting and trendy topic. You will get your own view about which part of my identity is more important to my heart by reading the continuing posts.

However, I do have to warn you about something else: I’m a very critical person! So, much of issues here won’t be about sun and fiesta in Spain, it’s much more the other face. However, I profoundly believe that we only criticize what we love and care about. I feel myself as a member of this country as well as of the African diaspora. That’s why I created this blog in order to analyse some issues on life back here. 

This being said, I will also share with you things I love about this country.

I strongly call other Afrospanish people to contribute to this blog. I think it’s really important to gather around as a community, as we have lots if experiences in common. 

Recomiendo fervientemente a vosotros, otros afroespañoles a collaborar, decir lo que pensáis y compartir aquello que nos une. Seguro que es más de lo que esperamos. La unión es importante para visibilizar una realidad! 

And finally, Northen Spain. This precisely the Basque Country ( you might have heard about this area, it’s a long story)

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