Interview 2: Karima Abad

Our second interviewee is Karima, she is 18 years old and she was born in Barcelona, although her family moved here from Morocco 27 years ago. Karima attended secondary obligatory and post obligatory education in Barcelona and made an undergraduate course in the care of dependent people. She speaks Spanish, Catalan and Tamazight (a Moroccan dialect from her parents’ birthplace). She explained her views about Morocco, Spain and Catalonia, and how sometimes it is better to live in a society without labels.

How is your relation with Morocco, have you visited it before? Or do you have family or friends there?

I am closely linked to Morocco even though I am not from there (I wasn’t born there). I have family and friends that are living there. So, we visit them every now and then since we have a house in Nador.

Why did your parents come here? Is there any reason why they chose Catalonia instead of any other part of Spain? Would you be able to live anywhere else in Spain?

Mostly, because of work, 27 years ago my father went to France because some friends told him that there was work there. After that, he went to Holland (which is where my grandparents live), then to Reus because my uncle told him so, and finally to Barcelona. There is no apparent reason, it could have been anywhere. No, I would not go anywhere but Catalonia now because I feel I belong here, since I was born and raised here.

What culture do you think is closer to you? And why? Do you celebrate any spanish traditional holiday such as Christmas or Easter holidays, etc.?

Moroccan culture is closer to me because of our way of life, our traditional food, our customs and because I am an Islam practitioner.

No I do not, it would be a contradiction to my religion, because Christmas is the celebration of the birth of God’s son, and in Islam the God (Allah) does not have neither son nor associates. It happens the same with the Easter holidays that represent the rebirth of Jesus. Because of Christians seeing Jesus as a God and Muslims as a prophet, if I celebrated these holidays I would be contradicting Islam.

Do you feel Spanish, Moroccan or both?

I do not feel more one than the other, both cultures define me. I am Moroccan because my family is Moroccan, I follow Moroccan customs and traditions, but I am also Spanish because I was born here, I speak the language and my friends are from here. I feel both cultures define me.

I think that even if I live in Spain my roots are Moroccan because they represent my origins, my parents, my grandparents and I feel I could not let it aside, it is something that I have inside of me.

Do you feel homed in Spain/Catalonia?  

Usually yes, since it is a society in which almost everybody accepts you for what you are, whatever country you come from. It may be partially because I am not ashamed of my roots or of having a different religion from Spanish society. I am who I am and people must accept it.

 

Would you go to live to Morocco? What do you think you would feel there?

No I would not, it is here where I was born, and where I have lived, although coming back to Morocco would make me feel illusion, nostalgia, something new. However, my life is here, my family is here and I think I wouldn’t be able to let go of that to live there.

What is the most shocking issue or custom you have found difficult to accept of Spain?

Nothing, since I have not felt compelled to live in a certain way or to adapt to anything in special. I have my way of life and people accept is just like I accept theirs.

 

How does your family see living here? Is your vision different from theirs? Do you live a different life here than in Morocco?

We accept it, and share it. Otherwise, we would not have lived here for 20 years. We understand that we are living in a country where the majority of people do not share our beliefs and customs, and that we have to respect that and integrate within the Spanish society. One thing is not incompatible with the other.

It is true that the life here is different than the one we would be living in Morocco, but it is just like the one we would be living in China or America because every country has their customs and culture. We accept the culture of this country and celebrate it, but I have my religion, my beliefs and my roots. I live in accordance to Moroccan culture and Islam.

Did you notice any change in your parents’ mentality before and after arriving here?

No since I was born here and I do not know how they were before. However, I don’t think that living here has influenced their beliefs or their way of thinking. If at all, maybe it has influenced our lifestyle (although we don’t celebrate Christian holidays, they are the official holidays here, for example).

Do you think living here has influenced your religious beliefs? If so, how?

No, living here has nothing to do with Islam. I have my religion and my traditions, and I follow them as if I lived in Morocco.

Are there any religious aspects you feel you are obliged to do? Would you do it without your parents’ pressure?

No, if I am an Islam practitioner, I’m supposed to obey and follow the whole of it, without being obliged, not because my parents say it, but because I want to. My family does not compel me to do anything, I have the right to decide what I do, I am willing to do what my religion tells me because I like Islam and I would do it without anyone asking me to do so. For example, I decided that despite living in Spain I wanted to wear the veil, because it is part of the islamic tradition, not because I feel pressured or obliged to wear it.

Do you think Spain or Catalonia is a society that discriminates foreigners?

Not in general, although there are some cases in which one feels displaced. Because of some people’s look, or swear words. There are many people that curse you because you wear the veil, or they try to put you in a pinch at critical moments. In the end, it looks like a foreigner does not have any right to talk about this society, not even the ones who, like me, have been born here. Just because my appearance is different from theirs and they can see that I come from another culture, people may put me in a certain stereotype, and that is very wrong.

Have you experienced any episode of racism?

Many times, unfortunately it is something recurrent, even in a society like ours. Perhaps, before wearing the veil it was not so evident but since I began to wear it, many people have looked at me as if they were going to kill me, making disconcerting gestures and even disgusting faces. I think this is because there are many people that do not see beyond a veil or dark skin. In my case, it does not matter because thanks to those people I am stronger every day. Moreover, I am trying to prove that your religion or culture does not really matter, those things cannot define you as good or bad. What is important is the actions that you do, what you think and how you act. That reminds me, why is it that every time a foreigner enters a shop, the owner always follows him/her because of fear that they might steal something? Why is it? Are foreigners the only ones that steal?

Have you or your family developed any kind of resentment towards Spanish people to live here?

No, I think that there are different people, and some people (because life happens) might treat others badly whatever their culture or race. For example, I think that there are people that act wrongly but I am not going to think that everybody that is like them is also bad… It is dangerous to generalize.

 

Do you think that Spanish people perceive a certain stereotype of Moroccan people?

I think so, unfortunately, in this country (and in any) there are many people who underestimate Moroccan people, just like any other that comes from an underdeveloped country. Many people may think that we are lazy or that we have come here to ‘steal their jobs’, but that is offensive and wrong. As I have said before, it is very dangerous to generalize, you cannot classify a whole country of people under one or two labels.

What language do you speak with your family? Do you mix languages?

With my parents I speak Tamazight (the dialect of Nador) and sometimes we mix it with Spanish, and with my brothers we mix Spanish and Tamazight. You know, sometimes it is easier to express an idea or a concept in Spanish than in Tamazight, so we just use the Spanish word and then keep talking in Tamazight.

How many siblings do you have?

I have 3 brothers and a sister, I am the younger one.

What facilities / advantages have you had when learning Spanish and Catalan?

Because I was born here, it is something innate for me. Sometimes, I feel I know better Spanish than my mother tongue, since there are some words that even now I have problems to pronounce, because Tamazight is quite a difficult language to write and to pronounce, for me, even more than Spanish sometimes. About Catalan… I understand it and I can use it, but I am more used to speaking is Spanish with my friends and people I know from here.

Does it represent any difference for you to be living in Catalonia instead of any other place in Spain?

No, but I would not change it. It is hard to explain… As I said, when my parents came here it could as well have been anywhere else in Spain, but now that I have lived here for so many years, I consider this place part of who I am, I have my family here, my friends here, my work here… I am too used to this city to go and live anywhere else.