First meeting with Prudencio, from which we could get a summary of his life and, therefore, develop deeper questions about the issues he tackles. It is set in an informal environment, at the pub, as natural as getting to know one’s friend by hanging out. It shows the warm atmosphere of the conversation, despite the sad facts that are sometimes described. Here is the first contact:
ELENA: First of all, something my group has asked me about, something they wanted to know about you. How do you feel like? Do you feel Spanish, Malian or Canadian?
ELENA: So you already feel Canadian.
ELENA: But you have been there for a small time… well. Also, we want to know about your parents’ situation, and Mali, the Civil War…
PRUDENCIO: My mother and my sisters went to live to Mali in 2010.
ELENA: Wait, I meant the beginning, before you were born… How did your parents come here? I mean, did they have papers?
PRUDENCIO: My father came with an entry visa. And then he got married, and took my mother here as a familiar reunion.
ELENA: But did he marry a woman from here?
PRUDENCIO: No. First he married my mother, then he came here, he got a job. He said “I want to take my wife here” and that’s it. In my mother’s passport it says “October”, so my mother came pregnant. They got lost; she didn’t know any language…
ELENA: And did your parents work on something in Mali?
PRUDENCIO: In the fields… livestock; they worked on agriculture.
ELENA: Ah, very good… At least they had papers…
PRUDENCIO: No, they didn’t.
ELENA: So how did they come?
PRUDENCIO: With a fake visa. You go to the Spanish consulate and say “Come on, give me a visa” and he got one… Spanish, eh? In Africa it is very easy: you pay a lot of money and that’s it, nothing happens… but in the end they were caught. It is 6000 euros.
ELENA: Dear me… And did they come by plane?
PRUDENCIO: My father tried to come up to 7 times. He was deported.
ELENA: But in the end he managed to have what he wanted: he has a good job, a house and a family that has what they need.
PRUDENCIO: Yes, at first he wanted to enter just like everybody. To enter France, of course. It was 1954. He tried, he tried, but in the end he said “Spain”. And he managed at the first attempt, but look…
ELENA: Following what you have said… what was your father’s job here?
PRUDENCIO: Before anything else, in an ironmonger’s. Illegally, of course. And when he got the papers, he worked with the “junk” for many years. He earned a good deal of money. Now he does not, it is a shit. In the past he could earn a good deal. But the silly man got used to it and he didn’t want to work anymore.
ELENA: Your parents also wanted to make you work, but the social worker said no… right? Then, you have commented something about your mother, that she came back to Mali.
PRUDENCIO: Exactly. Let’s see, I will explain it by myself since I am the protagonist. In 2010, my mother came back to Mali because she didn’t want to come here; they all went there. Then there was a big argument. They said: “we don’t have any relative abroad,” then they said “Prudencio, go abroad.”
ELENA: Did they throw you out?
PRUDENCIO: Yes, they expelled me. They got me a fake passport. I took the plane, I arrived here, and I threw the passport. I stay here and I don’t have to leave Europe. First I went to a house of Gambians, of people from Gambia. In 2011 my father came back. In 2013 there was a coup d’état. Some tourists came to the village, and they saw that my sisters could speak another language: Spanish, a language they didn’t understand. They thought my sisters shouldn’t have to stay here, and they recommended my mother to get them a visa. They called my father because of this issue and they said that if my family did that, they would give them money, to my sisters, as always. In three months my sisters had both the visa and the plane paid. We were shocked. Why? Why did we get a visa all of a sudden? This is very important: we said “no, no, no,” and the “visa people” insisted. My sisters were girls and Islamic militias were approaching the village. My mother came back to Africa to stay with the family, to not being separated from them again. My brother’s wife said: “I want one too”, but she was denied, the tourists kept insisting (about the visa) because they wanted my sisters to study, because they knew numbers, and in the end they gave my mother, my older brother and his wife, that is, that my nieces also got a visa. In the end they finally convinced my mother.
ELENA: So, did you have to come back to Mali after high school?
PRUDENCIO: For holidays, and in the end that wasn’t holidays. I wanted to stay here forever. There you are threatened every day, unlike here. My sisters had a certain age, they had to get married, and my mother said no. Those militias are not really Muslim, it is not for the Muslim law, they pass for Muslims.
ELENA: Especially in the Quran, talking of so much violence.
PRUDENCIO: It doesn’t talk about violence, but they use it because they want to. My mother insisted because she didn’t want to leave, still telling my father: “if you go to Canada, the protection system is OK, etc.” My father, glad; my mother, not. She did not believe it because since she came to Spain she has suffered.
ELENA: Oh, really? Why?
PRUDENCIO: She didn’t like it, she wasn’t used to. And until the Jihadist weren’t within our village… well, you won’t like what I’m going to say.
PRUDENCIO: Many girls, who were pregnant, for going to and fro, committed suicide. Suicide in the river, of course. And then my mother said “We should better leave.” My father did all the paperwork, it was difficult and they had to leave through Senegal instead of entering Bamako, because the roads were dangerous. It was a disgrace for my brother’s wife, because she neither wanted to. And she saw that they were three girls to be protected; my brother escaped: either you escape or you join the Jihadists. He went to Senegal to seek for asylum, so she was left all alone. It is not going to happen anything to my mother because she is old. 43 years old.
ELENA: But being 43, you are not old.
PRUDENCIO: In Africa you are. At 50, you are already dead.
ELENA: Dear me… let’s continue. They took you from Africa.
PRUDENCIO: In 2010, two months after: “Get out of here.” Of course, I’m a boy.
ELENA: So you came here, with the fake passport… “Fake” from where?
PRUDENCIO: Fake from Mali. Because otherwise I would have to pay the visa and there’s a control in every road. If they see that the passport is foreigner, they said that it’s not valid and you have to pay 1000 franks.
ELENA: And what did you do when you came back here?
PRUDENCIO: I went to a house of Gambian Negroes. Hey, I didn’t want to go to a child protection centre.
ELENA: So, did you stay with another family?
PRUDENCIO: Yes, they told me to come, as friends, like if I say “Elena, come to my place”. Friends of my father. They were very welcoming; this is why we are like this now… bitter.
ELENA: Then do you feel African or not?
PRUDENCIO: Yes, because I follow an African root, but I don’t feel Malian. I’m European… I’m black and handsome, that’s it. [Laughs]. Jealous, aren’t you?
ELENA: Yes, a little, but look, I’m white… [Laughs] It’s what I have. Then you went with this family…
PRUDENCIO: Illegally. A 17-year-old boy that goes with a family that it’s not his. There wasn’t an official leave from my parents, just a phone call: “Yes, he can come, he can come.”
ELENA: Did you start to study then?
PRUDENCIO: Vocational training. Childhood education technician (Tècnic en educació infantil), middle level. First I went to the Health path (rama de sanidad), but everything in the list was cleaning old butts. And the last option was childhood education. And this is what they gave me, I was very disappointed. The preinscription offered me 6 options, I wanted to do the one on “the teeth”. But no, the 6th option. I studied a year and a half, because I couldn’t enter the LOE, I got the title, I did internship training… and I liked it. At the beginning they f***ed me up, the first day in a kindergarten, all little kids, I didn’t like it at all. The second day I had more autonomy, I liked a bit more. I will never forget that kindergarten. I started to play with the children, when we finished we took the children to their parents with the “titular de guarderia”… and instead of saying hello and goodbye, they started to ask me: “What’s your name? Are you new here? We’ve never seen an African here.” After I finished the internship and I worked as monitor and then as a dining hall instructor (monitor de menjador). All because I listened to that family: “Look, now you have this, get the instructor qualification.” There they really disappointed me. “And now get the principal one!”. The principal qualification did impress me, because since all my family was already at Canada, they told me: “If you want to stay in Spain, at least prove that you are doing something.”
ELENA: But they made you return to Canada likewise…
PRUDENCIO: Yes, they included me in the reunion. I started the principal course all desperate. I got the papers that proved that I was there and they told me that I could stay until I finished. I really wanted to fail, I cheated, and I passed it at the first attempt. In those times I started to have a job. “You have the instructor and principal qualifications, we ignore the principal one… and you take care of the little kids in the dining hall.”
ELENA: Yet they took you to Canada.
PRUDENCIO: Yes, so I could know its culture, its life… It was shocking. “To go to Canada” will be another section; I’m going to tell you about it later. Well, I passed, and I had this job for two months and a half. Just that day I found an “Elena Peris” in the library, in the Escola Drassanes, in the Raval. And in the Fundació Joan Salvador Gavina.
ELENA: So… are you in two schools?
PRUDENCIO: Yes… because the foundation also helped me, eh? It was like a “casal” and in the end they liked me. I was very impressed when the principal told me that the principal qualification, with the Bologne plan, was raised to a Higher Level vocational education of 2 years and, sure, my category was also raised. They don’t make you a teacher, but they do make you responsible of the children’s part. Sincerely, this job made me grow: they pushed me one day and told me “now you are responsible of this, this and this instructor”. Thanks to this, I’ve been responsible. I was frozen. And that’s all, I went to Canada, I came back and I continued.
ELENA: Ok. Let’s talk about Canada.
PRUDENCIO: An autumm’s day, I don’t know which, they told me to visit my family. Sure, I was happy: TO VI-SIT. Not to live, to visit.
ELENA: But you told me that you went to live…
PRUDENCIO: Yes, it was when I was put there. To live: I clapped. Then: “look, no, you will stay there…”. I said yes but I wasn’t convinced. We went to the T2 at the airport, nobody there, we took the plane, we flew… and it was a disgusting thing: it was at night and then the sun rose, I felt like that because once we arrived the night you have passed is again falling over you. More than 24 hours just seeing black! When I arrived to the country, it was all full of snow… in October! We reached the town, Ottawa, when we passed through there I liked. I thought it was like here, I liked its buildings, its people, its spaces… it was like a city I have ever dreamt.
ELENA: Very… natural?
PRUDENCIO: Yes, very natural. But this is in “past tense”. A lot of open spaces, very tidy and very luminous, as if it always were Christmas! I liked the house. My mother, with a very thick coat… I asked my sisters: “Yes, they are studying, yes, fine, and you?” “Well, I’m working.” After some time they told me: “So if you are working there, why don’t you come back?” Hallelujah! “What about going some time there so when you finish you come here and work on your profession?” So very well, I started Psychiatry, since I wanted to “do teeth”.
ELENA: Yes, because both studies are so connected… [Laughs]
PRUDENCIO: It is Health! University, another world. “Come on, here, do all this.” What? People from everywhere in the world, asking me in English, and me being like “je ne parle pas d’Anglais, I’m sorry.” Mexican, German, we were a group. And in the end I also liked it a lot, yes. Evidently, when we did Pharmacology it was like the theory, but when we reached the personal part, the part of treating a person, I liked it a lot. It was like: either I continue or I go to Spain. So sure, one day there was a heavy snowfall so I said: “I better go to Spain,” because I earn money, but I always have the door open to Psychiatry. “You could do it via Internet.” No, I didn’t want to get confused. And that is why I came back, thanks to the job. The Spanish ambassador told me: “You are Spanish, you have the right to come. You don’t have the refugee visa from Spain, you have it from Mali.” Super great! And Spain authorizes me to enter as a full right citizen. The visa problem: although you are Spanish, since your exit visa is from Mali… but no, I’m Spanish. We don’t have a right to loss our nationality, because we did not take the refugee status in Spain.
ELENA: So, when you took the refugee visa, you lose the nationality of the place?
ELENA: So how do you manage to return to your job, after being one year abroad?
PRUDENCIO: I had already said to the principal that I was “visiting” my family. In the world of jobs there is a rule for absence. One leaves, other comes. In my case, I leave, four come. Due to the title issue, because they changed it… Well, any question about Canada?
ELENA: I don’t know, nothing comes to my mind now…
PRUDENCIO: “How were the national holidays?” February was the month when there were more holidays.
ELENA: Well, this project is more about the colonialism in Africa, and how it affects people, this is why it is important to know what happened in Mali and why you had to go to Canada.
PRUDENCIO: You want to leave Africa because colonialism was useless. Everybody wants to leave; otherwise nobody would be a boatperson. Nobody wants to live here, but either there. The solution is: if someone fixes the problem in Africa, there will not be more African immigration.
ELENA: Yeah, but people are very selfish.
PRUDENCIO: Yeah, that is true.
ELENA: [Silence]… Well, I guess I can stop here.
[End of the interview].