Interview with Prudencio

This is the real interview with Prudencio. It follows the several questions that the previous interview arose. They are questions of past, present and future. Here is the interview:

ELENA: Let’s see, Prudencio…
PRUDENCIO: Hello.
ELENA: Where are your parents from?
PRUDENCIO: My parents are from Mali; they were born in the Democratic Republic of Mali, in a rural town of Mali, in the demarcation of Kayes, in the Northwest of Mali.
ELENA: And why did your father leave the country?
PRUDENCIO: To earn a living.
ELENA: Yes, but there must be something more… I mean, what made you father decide to move?
PRUDENCIO: [Pause.] You see, according to what he told me, he wanted to leave… Firstly, to earn a living. Secondly, to help his relatives, specially his father, and this is a thing that all the Africans share: we always must help our parents, and it is almost mandatory to leave.
ELENA: I didn’t know this… And how many times did he try to enter France?
PRUDENCIO: Eight.
ELENA: This is a lot, indeed…
PRUDENCIO: Yes… and he managed to enter Spain…
ELENA: And why do you think he couldn’t enter France?
PRUDENCIO: It was for visa problems, for legal problems… Because… if you have to go to France, you need a visa and in France they have to accept it or not. And since he didn’t have any relatives there, of course, they make it very difficult. Or you can ask for the refugee visa, but he hadn’t asked for any; he had asked for a regular one, and if you ask what earnings you have to survive in France, he could not justify it…
ELENA: And don’t you think it is strange that, being from Mali, which is connected to France. For history… You know that Mali was a French colony…
PRUDENCIO: Yes.
ELENA: … Don’t you think it is strange that, ironically, your father decided to go to France?
PRUDENCIO: Of course, man, of course, all the Malians are there, from all the francophone countries they are in France…
ELENA: And is it for any reason in particular that he went to France, or because he just thought that it was…
PRUDENCIO: No, because there were many friends there, many distant relatives were there. And sure, if you went there you could always find some group with the same language that could support you and you also knew French.
ELENA: And how did your family end up in Spain?
PRUDENCIO: They tried, but they couldn’t enter France, they went to Senegal, and they wanted to enter Spain in order be able to enter France. But when they entered Spain, they stayed in Barcelona and had a first job in an ironmonger’s shop in Lleida.
ELENA: And in this ironmonger’s, how did they manage to get a job? How did they manage it being “illegal” people?
PRUDENCIO: In those times there were a lot of jobs and people wanted… mmm… Look, yes, he went to an ironmonger’s, met a man, a boss who was called like me, and finally he got a contract, yes. Knowing that he was illegal, and since in those times they needed labour, it was very easy to get the job. And thanks to that ironmonger’s he got the papers; they gave him a residence permit with work.
ELENA: And how was the job at the beginning? Was it easy, hard…? Your father’s working experience… How was it?
PRUDENCIO: Ah, at the beginning they exploited him a lot. Yes, and many hours of work, but he was glad with the money he received… But there were almost 24 hours a day!
ELENA: Uff… And now let’s talk about you… Have you ever visited your parents’ country, Mali?
PRUDENCIO: Yes.
ELENA: And how was the experience?
PRUDENCIO: Totally an adventure. It is another country, something totally different from here.
ELENA: And did you feel welcomed there? How did they receive you?
PRUDENCIO: Obviously, they received me very excited, because they had never met me and they had never seen me. As I was born abroad, it had been a lot of time since my relatives were last there… Father and mother, I mean… And in the end they have received me very well. As an immigrant, they have received me. They are more… welcoming. You will never be alone and you will never starve.
ELENA: But, of course, it is what you say: It was a different world… You were born here. You know the communities from here… It is the opposite.
PRUDENCIO: Yes, but even Africa is very different. The very region is quite different: village, savannah, city, town… Sure, you have to adapt. Even those who are from the village, if they go to the city, they cannot live there. And if they go to the savannah, neither can they survive, it is very difficult for them. This is so plural… All in a same country…
ELENA: And how much time did you stay there?
PRUDENCIO: I stayed there for two months, in 2012-2013, I don’t remember very well, between those years before going to the other country; I stayed there five months.
ELENA: And why so much time?
PRUDENCIO: At first, because of the papers, the preparation for going to the other country, the visa, and everything… In those five months I did manage to adapt. Not completely, evidently.
ELENA: And what happened there after you left?
PRUDENCIO: Mother and sister got the visa to Canada and could go there. My parents had the idea that I was on holidays, just making a visit, being integrated, learning the customs, more or less, from there.
ELENA: And then what? Did you have to come back?
PRUDENCIO: Evidently, we all left together. We went to Canada and then I came here again.
ELENA: Ok… but I know you talked about a fake passport…
PRUDENCIO: I don’t have a fake passport… not “fake”, because in order to get a passport you have to be in a register of foreign siblings of Mali, and since I wasn’t there, we gave more money to the policeman and he made my passport. The passport is legal for travelling, but not for owning it… but they cannot take it from me because they gave it to me. It is not fake by itself, materially. Just the way it was acquired.
ELENA: And after leaving Mali, what did you do? Did you come back home or did you go to live with someone?
PRUDENCIO: [Pause.] I went to live all alone; a friend of mine gave me a shop unit…
ELENA: And what about the Gambians?
PRUDENCIO: Some Gambians took me their home back then because I was underage.
ELENA: And how was that experience of living with the Gambians?
PRUDENCIO: Hmmm…
ELENA: I was expecting some anecdote, something… some memory you have from living with them.
PRUDENCIO: Well… they are doing all they can to earn a life… Their brother took the Gambians’ father. He declared his brothers as sons, and they came here as sons, but in fact they are brothers.
ELENA: This is very curious…
PRUDENCIO: And with Spanish nationality… and they didn’t speak Spanish.
ELENA: And what happened exactly? Why did you go to Canada?
PRUDENCIO: Well, my family… Yes, my family chose to take a visa, especially because of my sisters and my mother. They did try, eh? The objective was to leave the place because there was a moment in which there was a coup d’état. There was a lot of instability and many people left the village to go to the city. My family did not have any place to go. My mother did not trust the situation because my sisters were born abroad, they didn’t have a future. And… that people that helped them, those tourists… They organized the paperwork for the visa knowing that it would not be accepted because they had chosen the last option. However, at the end it was accepted. They gave money to my father, because he was here, to take a plane. They could go to Canada because the issue of protection. As Canada is a really open country, especially with the protection of women and underage girls who have come from abroad, they had a lot more priority.
ELENA: And what is this thing about these tourists…?
PRUDENCIO: They were tourists that were… mmm… that were filming and taking photographs in villages. They weren’t tourists with money…
ELENA: Of NGOs?
PRUDENCIO: No, no. Absolutely no. They were totally… for personal reasons, they came there… filming… photographing. And of course, as they met my sisters, with a high occidental level… the tourists had a really high empathy. They asked them many questions… and my sisters told them their life… Of course, “she” had seen that the girls from there either had to leave or they would meet the consequences suffered by the other girls of the place.
ELENA: They went to Canada… But did you go with them?
PRUDENCIO: Firstly, I came to Spain to begin my job/study with my father, who was here but not living with me. In the end, they left Mali, “them”. And I think it happened on July, that I decided to go to Mali again with my father. And… We coincided there two or three days maximum. Exactly two days. Because it was a compulsory period to make the registers, the data… Especially because of safety, because they had to identify us. Because if we didn’t do these things… Perhaps to go to see my family… could be impossible.
ELENA: But you stayed in Canada a lot of time…
PRUDENCIO: Yes… a really good season to adapt myself to Canada… No, but in the end, the refugee program is good.
ELENA: Was this program for all your family?
PRUDENCIO: Yes, yes. Because they are up to take complete families more often. The objective that they have now is familiar regrouping.
ELENA: And… in the end you decided to return to Spain.
PRUDENCIO: Yes… with the hope of returning to Canada, to continue my experience… to finish what more or less I wanted to do… to continue working and studying. My objective is to radically change my life. Now I‘m doing the continuation and later there will be a day in which I will end it. And I will do… go… to Canada. I will return to live there… and finish the studies I began there.
ELENA: So… you’re planning not to stay here in the future… Do you know if you’ll stay in Spain permanently?
PRUDENCIO: No, I will probably not stay permanently in Spain. Probably, eh? At the moment I’m sure about it. I see that eventually I will leave.
ELENA: Why?
PRUDENCIO: I don’t know… I liked Canada, I fell in love with Canada but… I have advantages here too. Because I can also go to Canada and begin from zero… but here I have things and I’m not the refugee… Of course I can continue here… and I can decide by myself, I have also the permission to go there without any problem. Later, I can have a new life and a new future. Because I really like the job I have here and I would like that this job were somehow related to Canada.
ELENA: And what is your job?
PRUDENCIO: I’m the children coordinator of a school in the Raval.
ELENA: A lot of work, isn’t it?
PRUDENCIO: Ah, yes. A lot.
ELENA: We will now begin with the second part of the interview, which is shorter than the first one. It’s a question about acceptation of your family in Spain.
PRUDENCIO: Aaah… eh?
ELENA: About if they felt like they were accepted here. Do you think that the Spanish institutions give sufficient support to the immigrant people?
PRUDENCIO: No.
ELENA: Why?
PRUDENCIO: No. Because my mother stayed here and she was really isolated and always working with junk. I have never seen anyone or anything that supported women. Evidently, as I’m working with children and it is related to a difficult neighbourhood, I know a lot of families… I don’t see anyone that wants to look at those women that are married, of immigrant origin and that from where they have really strict laws so could be in a vulnerable situation. There is nobody, nobody. There are especially women that know the language but they are illiterate… and they only have the mission of taking care of their sons, and of course… I think they don’t look at these things. And some husbands have maaaany… like three women… they can marry four times. And this happens in Spain. And they don’t give the opportunity to those women to develop and feel like they are equals. Because if not, this thing will pass from parents to sons. And now we are in a really difficult period, because if the sons are born here and have the ideology of this place, but their parents have the ideology from abroad… It is the spot where there is more conflict and violence. And I don’t see ANYTHING, the Spanish institutions are not doing anything to stop it.
ELENA: Can you affirm that you are treated in the same way as in Canada?
PRUDENCIO: No. No.
ELENA: How is it in Canada?
PRUDENCIO: In Canada, the objective is… to integrate the family. Every member of the family. And specially to identify the risk spots. Because there come people from Pakistan, Arabs and some Muslim countries, where they have the women oppressed. And Canada gives support or forces the women to do a number of things, forces their husbands to do a number of things. Therefore, the women can feel integrated and full of knowledge about their liberties. And it is a forced way to enter in the familiar focus. In this way, they can evade ethnic and religious conflicts.
ELENA: Of course, you know all about this topic due to your job… Do you think that the role of the social worker is useful?
PRUDENCIO: Mmm… no. No. It gives resources that are useful. They are of really good quality but I think that there is a need of working with… more objectivity, eh? And also, with the women’s issue, a sector of the women. If we want that women enter in the labour market. Especially foreign women… who are more dependable of their husbands. They want to give an independency to the foreigner women that it is not given here.
ELENA: And do you feel accepted here? Is there someone that in some concrete moment had prejudices towards you?
PRUDENCIO: No. Initially, in the school zone, never. Of course, when I enter to the school sometimes with new children they say “oh, un negrito”. It’s an impact but then they get used to it. But with another people I have talked to… it is complicated. Especially when searching for jobs, more or less qualified, it is really difficult to have them. If I want, for example, to work in a job a bit qualified… it will be more likely to be as manpower, hard work, in the field or… in restaurants, as cleaner. But in a job related to administration… it is hard.
ELENA: But even when hearing you it can be easily seen that you are from here. You talk really well and you don’t have any accent.
PRUDENCIO: Yes, of course. But the first glance impresses.
ELENA: Do you sometimes feel represented in a book or a film?
PRUDENCIO: No. Sincerely, I don’t read, and I don’t like to watch movies.
ELENA: And how do you feel? Do you feel identified as a Canadian, Spanish or Malian?
PRUDENCIO: Unfortunately (well, fortunately for me) I feel Canadian. Why? Evidently there in Canada when always… Let’s be specific because this question is a bit difficult. Here you are always considered as a foreigner. It is quite complicated to…
ELENA: But then don’t you feel Spanish?
PRUDENCIO: Let’s see, my heart is Spanish. I know I am from here but I see that…
ELENA: Then you feel Spanish!
PRUDENCIO: Yes, but from outside nobody recognizes me as a Spanish. It is like when at the beginning, when you have to sign a document, they tell you: “Can you give me your NIE?”, when the NIE is a document for foreigners; this means something. So then, which is your nationality? Which is your country? Which is your language? All of this is not taken for granted in you, evidently. Sure, it is a problem of society because here it hasn’t been a long time since they have started to have massive immigration.
ELENA: Ok, but if we compare it to the whites, there are still few black people.
PRUDENCIO: What?
ELENA: That there are still few black people here.
PRUDENCIO: Yes, but…
ELENA: Look at England for example. There are many more of them…
PRUDENCIO: Yes, but there they are considered English.
ELENA: Yes…
PRUDENCIO: But here… I think that as time passes and with this new coming generation, with many children at school… At the end all this generation will be…
ELENA: Because one thing is how you would like to feel and another is what you really feel. Because you were born here…
PRUDENCIO: Yes, I feel like Catalan-Spanish. It is also that I don’t have an identity of my own.
ELENA: You are a citizen of the world.
PRUDENCIO: Yes, but evidently I am not from Mali, eh? I am not from Mali but I like to have a link with Mali, eh?
ELENA: But, don’t you feel Malian?
PRUDENCIO: No, but I like to have a link with there…
ELENA: Next question. It is about your future: Do you have some plan for the future, something you would like to do at a long term?
PRUDENCIO: Yes…
ELENA: You say that you want to leave because according to you, you have said that you wanted to do here what you have in order to start a new life there.
PRUDENCIO: You have understood it more or less well but I’ll specify. My long-term project is to go to Canada and … I have two long-term projects: First of all, to go to Canada to finish the degree and do a program about social integration in education. Something from there as there are groups of ethnicities, for example, there are people from Mexican origin, Latin Americans or people that don’t have medical attention or people that, because in Canada the school is state assisted, there are some people who have difficulties to access; we also give support, I want to provide support for those people. And if we look at the other side, I would like to go to this “poor developed” countries like Philippines, Indonesia, to do a very important social work, focused on the people, to prepare the people, to try to eliminate illiteracy from a group of people, to recognize their rights, to help them to be able to defend themselves and be able to give a series of arguments, very…
ELENA: Everything is very focused to people. There is nothing related to materialism or things like that.
PRUDENCIO: No.
ELENA: Then, did you mention a degree in Canada?
PRUDENCIO: Yes, unfortunately I’ve started a degree of Medicine/Psychiatry that I’m not quite good at for now but… I’ve advanced a lot but I don’t… I do like it a lot but not to work exactly on it and exclusively on illnesses or something. I feel more like working into social. All the knowledge I’m getting… I would like to apply it but in a different way of treatment, not like therapy in a hospital.
ELENA: And how did you get there? How did you manage to have a degree? Well, doing it. But what have you done? A Higher Educational Course?
PRUDENCIO: Evidently I did the primary education very late, at sixth grade. After that I did the ESO and I started the vocational secondary school (grau mitjà) and then the higher educational school (grau superior).
ELENA: And what did you study at the vocational secondary school?
PRUDENCIO: Pharmacy.
ELENA: And in the higher educational school?
PRUDENCIO: Pre-primary education.
ELENA: Ah, ok. Then from there you…
PRUDENCIO: Yes, I went, they co validated me, I lost a series of places and I chose the first I saw there. Psychiatry was just per chance and I entered and I did I did… and in the end it was like: I like it, the knowledge, its application, how to help a group of communities, depressions and similar issues… but I would like to apply it to the social level.
ELENA: If you had to name all the difficulties you have found in your way, which words would you choose?
PRUDENCIO: Words?
ELENA: For example, loneliness.
PRUDENCIO: Wait, quite difficult, eh?
ELENA: Prejudices, racism…
PRUDENCIO: Ah, I don’t know…
ELENA: Some difficulties you must have faced here.
PRUDENCIO: Everywhere, sure, all my life.
ELENA: For that. For example, could it be racism? Because you have indeed said before that people, just with seeing you, just for your physical appearance, believe that you are not from here. When you really are.
PRUDENCIO: I think this would be a confusion of identity.
ELENA: Why this?
PRUDENCIO: Because in the end you don’t know where to go and in the end you don’t know how to represent yourself in front of a goal. It is that this difficulty of… the word is “confusion of identity” and this confusion makes you chase some goals that you don’t like or that don’t fit you. Because also the Africans tell you that you have to go always very far, you have to get the university degree but if you stay in the higher educational school and do social integration, and in the end you like it, why do you have to go so far?
ELENA: But this is not only in Africa, this also happens here.
PRUDENCIO: For Africa this is very marked because in the end you have to marry, to have some children. Evidently you have to do all of this, all.
ELENA: But there are many from your village, for example, that would never have the ESO.
PRUDENCIO: Sure for this, but once you have the doors open, you have left and you’re studying… They give you a lot of pressure. And then here it is like if you are here you deserve to work in the fields or as a garbage man… a series of things.
ELENA: This here?
PRUDENCIO: Because the society cannot believe it, because we are always poor and that… we are poor and we don’t have time to move forward and it is like (with a nonchalant tone) “eh, these people are not going to go so far.”
ELENA: But this is racism.
PRUDENCIO: I think it is a difficulty of identity and… Especially difficulty of identity and courage.
ELENA: Well, now the last question. What would you say to the people that are listening to this interview or that will read it? About this topic, this situation, about people who is in the same situation as you…
PRUDENCIO: That they must continue going forward because they can achieve their dreams.
ELENA: As you have done.
PRUDENCIO: They have to trust in themselves. Evidently they always have to look for themselves. If they are people that come from those “funny” origins they must look for themselves, they don’t have to listen to what the family says, to what the culture says, to whatever that says what they have to do. There are always some patterns that mark you and in the end they screw up your life and make you lose a lot of time. First you must go to the main things: if you have to work, work and have your needs covered, and if you want to study, study, but don’t lose your time with the patterns marked by a series of cultures that tell you that you have to get married, have children, take care of the family, pay the family – because sometimes there are people who get married in Africa and have such a series of family responsibilities that in the end they cannot reach their dreams. And in the end they just migrate to only work almost like a slave, that your sons are there, your wife is there… that you have to be throwing your money away. That is, that you are working for them, you are not working for something you want to do in your family. I think I’ll say this. If you have come here to work and have a job, work and achieve your goals and if you want to study, study, but don’t listen to these patterns that people mark you.
ELENA: Good advice. Would you like to say something more?
PRUDENCIO: No.
ELENA: Ok, thank you very much, Prude.
PRUDENCIO: I’ve found this interview very interesting.