Before deciding to focus on Morocco, we did research about some other countries, and lived some enriching experiences in some of their consulates in Barcelona. Within our initial options we chose countries such as Togo, Senegal, and Chad. In this section, we relate the process of work from the beginning until we definitely established Morocco as the country on which we would focus the portfolio.
To begin with, we did a little research about Togo because it was the country that we wanted to focus on. When we went to the consulate, they were highly surprised, as they asked us if we already knew that Togo was a French colony, not an English one. After that, the secretary explained Togo was a small country and unfortunately there were not many native people living in Barcelona. Thus, we decided to try in Chad’s consulate. In that case, although there are few Chad citizens living in Barcelona as well, when we explained our project to the secretary she immediately thought that the representative console could be a potential candidate for us to interview: Javier Nart. Thus, having agreed to keep in touch, we decided to do some research about the console so as to prepare a consistent interview.
We mainly wanted to focus on his experience living in Chad, since the years he lived there were highly remarkable from a historical point of view. At the same time, we were intrigued by the dichotomies that surrounded his public image; that is, for instance he erroneously received 31,000€ from Fèlix Millet versus the fact that Chad is one of the most corrupted countries in the world, and he has publicly claimed that this situation needs to get better. We spent a lot of time trying to think how to ask him about these problematic issues without making him feel uncomfortable. However, the first time we got in touch with him we were really motivated to fix a date for the interview, so that when the secretary gave us his number Sandra called him. He rapidly agreed to collaborate with us, telling her which days he was going to be in Barcelona so that we could meet, as well as a little bit about his background in relation to the country, that is, among other things, that he lived there until 1975. Although Javier Nart was born in Cantabria, he spent all his childhood living in Bilbao. As he grew up, he started being a war correspondent in places such as Nicaragua, South Yemen, Zimbabwe, Lebanon, Palestine, Camboy, Laos, Iran, Iraq or Chad, among others. Later on, he assessed the Spanish Government about international political issues from 1984 until 1988. Since the late eighties, he has been appearing in television as a fellow member in TV programs such as Crónicas Marcianas (Telecinco) or currently Espejo Público (Antena3). He is now a member of the European Parliament representing the Ciutadans party’s interests. Since we realized that he was in fact the person we got in touch with, we started investigating about his career, reading his book Sálvese quien pueda! Mis historias e histerias de guerra (2003) and we also discovered that he played a crucial part in the so-called Zoé’s Ark controversy. Indeed, he helped to liberate the crew members that were arrested in Chad.
However, after having sent more than three e-mails to Mr Nart, and having phoned Mr Nart’s secretary to confirm the meeting, she kept coming up with the same excuses “Nart is busy working now in Brussels and has no time for interviews”, “Please write to his e-mail address given that I can’t do anything else”.
Before concluding that in fact the interview was not going to be carried out because we never got a concrete answer, we went to Senegal’s embassy in order to get a further subject to interview in addition to Mr Nart. A 33 year-old man called Fode contacted us wanting to collaborate. We thought then, –since we did not completely know for sure about Mr Nart’s interview– that the two interviews could have been linked by the important fact that the former dictator of Chad Hissiène Habré is currently living in Senegal. As far as we investigated, the UN’s International Court of Justice (ICJ) requested Senegal to give Habré his due, because under his rule he created a secret police force called the Documentation and Security Directorate, through which Habré’s opponents were tortured and executed. ICJ estimates that more than 40,000 persons have been killed during his regime.
Thus, we wanted to combine and contrast both experiences –one being more citizen-like and another being more govern-like– in the interview. The interview that we prepared for Mr Nart is presented below.
We have been told that you arrived to the Republic of Chad in charge of the Partido Socialista Popular’s international relations. You decided to join FRONILAT, a Chadian Popular Struggle Front, which truly represented Chadian society’s reality after Tombalbaye’s death. What was exactly that “reality” at the moment of your arrival? How were the rebel factions organized?
In relation to journalism
Which are the main mass media journals and how are they managed? Are they sponsored by the Government? –i.e. being non-objective and politicized, if so, to what extent?– Does international press help the population to understand better the current situation of their country? And also, to what extent it is word-of-mouth determining in order to spread information about politics in the country?
The American photographer Susan Sontag has theorised about the use of war photography with politic purposes. Do you think that image spreading through social networking services must be necessary in order to raise awareness about the reality of Chad?
What is the difference between Tombalbaye’s autocratic mandate and a dictatorship in the country? Taking into account Chad’s political history, is ‘autocratic mandate’ only an euphemism to refer to a dictatorship?
In relation to tribes
During Hissiènee Habré’s regime, what were the advantages of being a member of the daza tribe? To what extent are there remains of that so-called beneficial system nowadays?
Is there any identity feeling that takes precedence within the country, bearing in mind the differences between tribes? Do you believe that reconciliation among them can occur?
As far as we know, according to an interview carried out in 2009, in the official web page Solidaridad en el Chad, you visited Moussoro, Gouro, and Badai and you felt that they treated you “like a comrade”. Which were the tribes you spent more time with? How did you deal with communication? Do you remember any tradition that amazed you to discover?
In relation to the current government
What do you think of Déby’s reform that took place in 2006? Is Chad closer now to reaching a sociopolitical stability than it was during the seventies? Could you please explain to us what are the main problems that block the path to progress in the country?
The non-governmental organization Transparency International (TI) qualifies Chad as one of the highest corrupted countries of the world. As the English web page Irinnews explains, a great part of the impoverished population complains about the unauthorized use of oil production funds. Their reasons are that a much more isolated president is investing those funds in armament to assure his own security. What is your opinion about this issue? Do you imagine that these specific circumstances are probably one of the main causes that lead the country to be in the 5th position among poorest countries in the world?
You spent a lot of time in Chad during the seventies. Nowadays, in 2014, as a Member of the European Parliament and your tight political schedule, how do you combine both activities?
From 2003 to 2010 approximately, Chad has been directly confronted with Sudan. Do you believe that the Chadian population is aware about the real state of the country?
As your personal Facebook account and periodistadigital.com explain, your participation in the Zoé’s Ark case was crucial to liberate the crew members arrested in Chad. Could you please briefly talk about that experience?
Finally, we decided to ask to a childhood friend of Gabriela’s to help us with the interview, since time was running out and it was already November. His roots being found in Morocco, Ismaïl pleasantly accepted to collaborate and explained to us his own migratory experience. After finishing this interview, we considered that having a female point of view on the same questions could be of interest as well, since in his interview Ismaïl had drawn upon concepts related to feminism and the role of Muslim women in society. Thus, we got in touch with L’Associació d’Estudiants Marroquins de Barcelona (AEMB). The secretary contacted us because someone who was willing to collaborate as well. Her name was Karima.
Our first Interviewee is Ismaïl, he is 23 and was born in Kenitra, Morocco. He arrived to Marbella in 2004 when he was 12. His family moved to Barcelona that year and he has lived there for the last 10 years. Ismaïl attended to secondary obligatory and post obligatory education during 6 years in a high school near the neighbourhood of Nou Barris where he started to learn how to speak a new language and live in a new country. He was kind to tell us in detail his personal experience here in Catalonia and his impressions about Morocco and the society and the country he considers his own.
What is your relationship with Morocco? Have you ever lived there or only visited the country occasionally? Do you have contact with friends and/or relatives there?
I have many friends, relatives that live there, especially my two grandmother and that’s it… More contact? Well friends…
But were you born there?
Yes, and I lived there until I was 12 years old.
And do you remember Morocco?
Of course I do, I go there every year! I’m leaving this Thursday…(laughs).
Oh, we didn’t know! You know there are many people that never go back to their native countries after living in Spain for so long…
Oh, I go every year yes.. and you know, it isn’t that far, I can go by car.
Are you planning to stay there?
No. It’s only a holiday trip, I’ll be back in 3 weeks.
So, you are very connected to Morocco.
Yes I like to keep in touch, I have my friends, cousins, well there is also Facebook, and my family. I like to know what’s going on in my city and with the social networks it’s easier.
Some people leave the country and they also forget about it, you clearly don’t.
Well it depends, I think it depends whether you had a nice time in your country or not…I mean, if you have good memories there you are going to want to know more about that place, but if you had a tough time there, I think you won’t be wanting to know anything else about it. But I love it. When I go there in summer it’s even better, I mean is not like there is a big difference, I can’t tell the difference, the people, the social life, it’s the same. I am there with my friends, we go to the beach, partying… everything.
Many people would think of Morocco as a country very different from Spain or any other country in Europe…
No, not at all, well…of course people are more traditional, I think it is also because of the Islam there, so there is certain things that are restricted. For example, you can’t go around kissing a girl and stuff like that, you just can’t. But the rest is more or less the same.
What did you (or your parents) decided to come and live here in Spain? and in Catalonia specifically?
Well, we came first to Marbella because my mother had her sister there, my aunt, and she suggested that there were more opportunities here in Barcelona, because its is a big city, etcétera. So we came.
Would you say it was only for work then?
I wouldn’t say that…My mother worked already on Marbella, we came because it was bigger and moreover…it’s Barcelona (laughs). And we were very used to city life there in my country, and the beach, everything. We just came, it wasn’t my decision of course, but when they I asked me, I said yes.
To which culture do you feel closer, Spanish or Moroccan?
Well, to be honest, I feel very integrated here, culturally, I have always found a job and the places where I have worked they have never treated me like a stranger or anything like that, I can’t complain… I don’t know if I have been lucky but it’s been always like that. I have worked in different places and it’s been always fine, as long as you speak the language it’s ok. And I always try feel integrated with everyone, if they go out or something I’m not like: ‘Oh I can’t… I’m from Morocco… you know’ (laughs). I speak with them, we go out, it’s fine.
And regarding the food, well, there is no change, I eat the same as everyone else except that I don’t eat pork because of my religion.
And with people of your age, do you feel you are restricted in any way? Is there any kind of pressure? When they do some things you don’t…
Not really, not at all.
About the holidays and other festivities, like Christmas and other, do you celebrate them?
To be honest, there are many festivities we don’t celebrate anymore, we celebrate the religious ones, but there are many other national festivities that we don’t. I live in a place where there are not many Moroccan people, at least we don’t know anybody so what we celebrate is only religious and we do it privately, at home with the family. For example the Eid al-Adha (Feast of the Sacrifice) or the Ramadan.
So, you wouldn’t say that you and your family are part of any isolated community here in Spain.
I know there are certain places where Moroccans gather like Glòries and Santa Coloma but honestly I’ve never been into it. Where I lived before there weren’t any Morrocan as well, and I lived 8 years in that neighbourhood. At the beginning most of my friends were Latin American, some of them were Spanish, from the high school.
When you first got to Spain, in the high school you attended, were all of your friends foreigners as well or you mingled with everyone?
When I first got there, I attended one month there and then they sent me to another high school, so I attended to two different high schools, one in the mornings, and the other one in the afternoons.
So in the mornings I learnt Catalan, and Spanish of course, I didn’t spoke any at the beginning, and other students didn’t know me very much, because they only saw me part time, this lasted for a year, and I passed everything! (smiles).
So, was it very difficult to learn Spanish and Catalan?
Look, I started to date a girl, back then I already knew a bit, but with her I learned a lot more (laughs).
Do you feel Spanish or Moroccan?
Moroccan, obviously. When I’m there I don’t feel any change, my friends, everyone treats me the same, I don’t waste much time in my old neighbourhood, I prefer the city now and everything is the same, I still speak the language, I haven’t lost it so..
Do you feel more part of Spain or Catalonia? In which one do you feel more comfortable? Are they both the same?
Well, I think I agree with the Independence of Catalonia, especially in terms of economy, the income that gets in, what goes away… I think that if Catalonia becomes a state, maybe we would be better, like Andorra or Monaco.
And what do you think about the integration programs that La Generalitat carries out? Have they been useful for you (Aules d’acollida) ?
Let’s see, what programs? (laughs). I’ve never been in any of those, maybe the ‘Aules d’acollida’ started just one year after I arrived because they never sent me there. As I said before, I only took Catalan courses in a different high school, maybe after that they opened this new classrooms. In this high school, I was in a mixed class, with Chinese students, Moroccan, everybody, and we did some literature and some language learning, but that’s it, I don’t think it worked as the ‘Aules d’acollida’ that do not necessarily help integration that much.
Have you ever thought about going back to Morocco to live there?
Honestly, I have not. I wouldn’t stay there, now it’s different, I’ve grown up here and the time I’ve spent here left me a mark, it’s different.
But you see there is a certain contradiction there, because you said you feel Moroccan but you don’t want to live there.
Yes, of course I am Moroccan but I have all of my family living here, thats why I don’t even think about that, I have my sisters here and they are married here, my parents live here.. so moving there again would be like being alone. Well I would have some relatives there, but it wouldn’t be the same.
How many sisters do you have?
You don’t want to know! (laughs). Five. The youngest one was born here, she’s 8 years old now. She would tell you ‘I’m Spanish!’ (laughs). And it’s true, she is, she was born here and you are from where you are born, if you grow up somewhere else, that’s another thing, but you are from where you were born.
So, looking forward to the future, if you start a life or get married or anything else, would that be here in Barcelona? or…
In Spain, certainly. I like Barcelona very much and I wouldn’t change it.
Do you feel connected with Catalonia specifically?
Not really, I’ve visited other cities like Zaragoza or Valencia, Málaga as well, they are different, but I think what differentiates them it’s the change from a big city to a smaller one, that’s all, I don’t know. They are similar; I’ve been to Paris, Netherlands, Belgium… etc.
What aspect of the Spanish/Catalan Culture has been more difficult for you to adapt to? Besides language of course.
I think everyone lives their own life here, there is not any certain aspect that is difficult to assimilate, besides, I can’t really tell the difference between here and Morocco… of course there are certain things like… gay couples, it’s different from here, it’s taboo, everyone knows they exist, but it’s banned there, they can’t ‘come out of the closet’ (laughs).
When I went to the beach for the first time when I was a kid I was also impressed to see naked people or girls doing topless, I was like: ‘wow’, that was the thing that shocked me the most as a kid. But the rest is similar, there is the same passion for sports, soccer in particular, and again, people aren’t that different.
How’s your parents’ experience here? Do they feel as comfortable as you? Do they want to come back?
Well I don’t think it’s the same for everybody but my father, for example, doesn’t want to come back, he lost contact with his family and he doesn’t want to come back, but it’s due to family issues. Then there is my mother, she’s got her mother there, my granny, she’s wonderful, so my mom needs to see her and she goes there once or twice a year, but in the end they still want to live here.
What about your sisters?
Yes, for the two youngest I think it would be very complicated to go back… they were very young when they came here. And because of the language of course.
Yes, let me tell you, Moroccan Arabic is a language spoken all over the country and in the streets, but the language spoken in the schools, high schools and similar it’s Arabic. This Arabic language is the one that all Arab countries have in common, so… Moroccan can be written but it is usually oral only, you only speak it on the streets, it’s like a vulgar tongue, it is not form a tiny region, it’s used all over the country, but only on the streets. [referring to Darija dialect]. But Arabic is the language spoken in the classroom, institutions, administration and everything.
What about French?
Well French is very dominant but the Arabic is more used, French is the second language here, it’s similar to English here, but here people does not really care about English, they don’t learn to speak it, there in Morocco they do learn French, they take it more seriously.
So do you think Arabic language is the only thing that keeps your sisters from coming back to Morocco?
I don’t know, I don’t think so… I think it is the most important thing, but not the only thing. We are a family where there isn’t any problem, we get along pretty well, we always want to be close to each other, and for us living outside would mean leave the family behind, and we don’t wanna do that. So, you see, it’s more of a family thing, as long as I have my family I don’t mind living here or in Morocco.
Have you noticed any change in your parent’s mentality when you moved here? Are they different from other families back there in Morocco?
Well I was a kid, I couldn’t really tell if there was a change, of course in Morocco families are more traditional, they really hold on to religion, I would say my parents are more liberal, I don’t know how to tell you but… yes, they are more liberal.
In fact, the mere fact of moving here implies that they had to be ‘open-minded’ right?
Absolutely, you have to try to integrate, you have to take into account what other’s think and the country where you are going so you can know how they live, if you don’t know how they live you can’t be a part of them.
Obviously, you’ve grown up here and you have no problem being part of this culture, but what about your parents? Do they feel discriminated?
Not discriminated, but they don’t speak Spanish very well, that’s the big problem they have. My father worked but… I mean they both have friends, but all of their friends are Moroccan.
And what about Catalan?
How do they feel about living here? Do they complain about their lifestyle, about anything regarding Spanish/Catalan culture?
Not at all, we talk about this all the time, they know that even being outsiders or whatever, they have their rights. If you do everything legally you have no further problem, if you know how legality works and you follow it, you won’t have any problem.
So you have never faced any legal problems? You know not having papers is an issue that affects many immigrants here, have you had any difficulties to be a legal resident here? What do you think about it?
Yes, the truth is I’ve always had my papers in order and if you have that is alright. Police has never stopped me, even if it’s hard to believe, they’ve never stopped me, not late at night or anything else. Sometimes when I’m driving, of course they do, because of the controls, but besides.. they’ve never stopped me.
Well, there was one time, I was in my motorcycle, I believe it was around June… it was May, and I was with a guy that had no papers. We were around Trinitat Vella, you know that neighbourhood is not really good and the Undercover Police stopped us, they followed us first, I don’t know what they were thinking… and they stopped us as if we had done something, they asked some questions, they asked for my papers and then I told them the guy had no papers… they didn’t do anything to him, I told them: ‘He has no papers, really, he hasn’t any.’
So were they nice to you?
They thought we were selling drugs or something, I thought it was normal because we were around that neighbourhood, but yes, they were suspicious about us.
And does that bother you?
Well on the other hand, there are people that do that so it’s normal that the police is suspicious about all of us and does more surveillance on everybody.
So it really does not bother you to be put in that cliche?
No, because it exists, there is many people that sell drugs and when you know they do it.. I know it’s bad that they put you on that group, but it’s their job in the end… I guess. If you have done nothing wrong, you don’t fear anything.
In fact, that time, they didn’t register me or anything, they just asked if I was carrying something, so I joked and I said: ‘What am I gonna be carrying? My phone, I carry my phone’ and that was it, they asked me: ‘Do you have anything else, something like hash or marihuana?’, I said no and that was it.
Do you think that living here has influenced your religious beliefs?
Not really, the truth is that I don’t feel any pressure from my parents or anything to follow the Islam; I do it because I have faith in it. However, it is too long to explain now but Islam is very complex, and it has nothing to do with terrorism. In fact, the word “Islam” means “peace”, and then in the Quran it is said that you don’t have the right to decide over anyone’s life. Terrorism has nothing to do with it, in fact if you kill someone that is a sin, the Quran forbids it. Terrorism is exclusively politics, it is only related to politics, not to religion. If you truly read the Quran you would realize it is wrong, the only thing that it allows you to do is defend yourself if you are going to be hurt, but killing? No, you cannot take somebody’s life. Actually, I don’t like to talk about this very much, but I feel the need to correct this mistaken believes, to ask people not to mix terrorism with religion.
But the problem is that many people do believe that these two concepts are related. Do you think that Islam is stigmatized in this sense?
I’ll answer with an example. You meet someone that is a Muslim, and he does something wrong, he kills someone, and he says “I did it for my religion”. Since you don’t know very much about Islam, you will believe him. Many people have those beliefs because of things like this, there is a lot of ignorance in this sense.
So, you don’t have any external pressure to follow your religion.
No, not at all. As I told you, I do it because I believe in it.
Do you talk with friends or people that you know from Spain about your religion? Or do you consider it something more personal and private?
I think it is personal. However, I also think that religion should not limit or determine the type of people to whom you relate, I mean, you mind your business and the others mind theirs, you may have things in common but religion is very personal. I’m quite liberal in that sense (laughs).
So for you living in an occidental country is compatible with having an oriental culture?
Yes, I mean, religion is something yours to practise, you can follow it, but people who don’t share your beliefs also have to carry on with their lives, you cannot do anything about that.
For example, it is true that there are some ignorant muslims who force their wives to wear the veil even if they are not muslim, but then you have to think of the sentence “Your freedom ends where the other’s starts”. So, the veil, women are not forced to wear it; they wear it because they want to, so no one should force other people to do something that they don’t want to.
That’s very nice, but what about other men that you know that are Muslims like you? Do they share your views?
Uh… (laughs) (silence) Some do, others don’t. Some believe that women should do what they are told… But I don’t see it like that, I have my religion, but I won’t impose it.
So… you would consider the possibility of marrying a Spanish girl, and having a life…
A normal life here, yes, absolutely.
Well, I wasn’t going to say that. It’s not like Islam is not normal. Do you think that in Spain/Catalonia there is discrimination against foreigners?
It’s not the country, it’s certain people. In general, I wouldn’t say so… I don’t think that there is much discrimination here. I think that while you respect their rights and fulfil your duties you shouldn’t have any problem. I mean, you cannot be here and say “no no, in my country we don’t do this”, no, you are not in your country, you are here, you are the one that has to adapt.
But, when you talk about your origins, where you come from, etc. you see that people try to understand or that they laugh at you?
Many people do laugh or mock me, but that’s only because there is a lot of ignorance. I mean, I have come across people that think that Morocco is a desert. But I know that those are a small group of people that just don’t care about what happens outside their country.
Do you have more friends from here or from there?
From here. Well, I mean, from here when I’m here, then when I go to Morocco I have many friends there too (laughs).
And would you say that your friends are open minded?
Yes yes, moreover, when you explain things properly, they understand, and they realize that they thought of it in another way. For example, many of them thought that Islam was a bad thing, or that it wanted to impose violence… But when you talk to them, and you even tell them some sentences from the Quran, they see that their beliefs were based on the actions of some people that act wrongly.
And you know that there is always this debate about sexism in the Muslim culture… Have you been asked about this before?
I have. I was working with a colleague and he told me that my religion promoted sexism, but I tried to explain to him that that is a personal ideology that has nothing to do with religion. For me, these concepts are not related.
So, you would say that the so-called sexism in the Muslim or Arabic cultures is not motivated by religion at all.
No. In fact, all religions were created in a historical period where there was sexism in society, and it’s like it continued to be like that in religion, although it has nothing to do with it. That was another moment, you cannot stick to that, and we have to move forward. However, I think that things have changed a lot for women; they almost have more freedom than men! (laughs)
Have you lived any episode of racism?
Not really, I don’t see that any more in society. Well, sometimes at school… but that was because they were kids, they didn’t know what they were saying, they said things because they heard them in the streets. But I used to defend people like me at school, I got into some fights but I usually won, so they respected me. I have the hope that these people will think differently now, when we grow up we learn more about life, about other cultures, about respect…
And what about your family? Have they felt discriminated in any situation?
Yes, well, I wasn’t there but my mother once was going out of the supermarket and an old couple began to shout at her “go back to your country”.
Really? And what did she do?
Well, she was really shocked. After so many years living here… she couldn’t believe it. But, I mean, they were old people… I think they are a minority, that racist people are a minority nowadays. Moreover, I think that these people they must have lived something… something must have happened to them… like a trauma with a foreigner, and now they think that all of us are like that. It’s a shame that they found the bad people first because then we have no opportunities…
And do you think that some foreign people may develop a feeling of resentment against Spanish people because of episodes such as the one that happened to your mother?
Not really, again, I think that this may happen because you meet one or two people that are racist, and then you think that everyone is like that. Even my mum has not developed this resentment against Spanish people, she knows that what happened to her was an isolated episode, nothing to do with Spanish people in general.
And your parents, do they have Moroccan friends here in Barcelona?
Yes, actually most of their friends are Moroccan, but I think that’s because of the language, because they don’t speak Spanish perfectly, they prefer to associate with people that speak their language.
Do your parents feel nostalgia for their country?
Not really. But that is because Morocco is quite near, so every year we go there on holidays. Actually, when my mother first came here, she didn’t settle down, she was coming and going every now and then because we still have family there, my two grandmothers. Moreover, my parents are old now, my father is 53, and he realizes that his youth has passed now; he’s more concerned about being with his family, his children and his wife.
Do you think that Spanish people perceive a wrong stereotype of Moroccans?
Again, when you meet one person from there you already form a perspective about how everyone from that country is. But it is true that there is a lot of ignorance, more than ignorance, I would say that many people are just not interested in knowing, for example, people say “the moors”, people call that to Pakistanis and they are not. “Moors” are only Arabic people.
How would you feel if you were called that?
Well, it depends on how you say it. If you say it meaning that I am from an Arabic country it’s ok, but if you mean to insult me… Well, I don’t like to take it as an insult, many people get very offended but I don’t, I mean, yes, I am a moor. But you know, it depends, if they say “fucking moor” that is another thing.
And has it ever happened to you?
(Pause) Not really, the truth is that I don’t get insulted so often. Well, sometimes as a joke, yes, but I don’t get offended.
What language do you speak with your parents? Moroccan, Spanish…? Do you mix languages?
With my parents, only Moroccan. But for example, with my eldest sister I speak Spanish and Catalan, and with my other sisters we keep mixing languages a lot. Because sometimes we are speaking Moroccan and then you cannot think of the right word and you say it in Spanish or Catalan. It is normal for us.
What facilities have you had to learn Spanish and Catalan?
It’s been a bit difficult because they are two languages, not just one. When you learn something in Spanish then you realize it is different in Catalan and viceversa. But when you get in touch with people, for example, with my girlfriend I used to speak Spanish, and that was good practice for me, I learnt a lot of things. It is easier with company.
So, you first learned Spanish and then Catalan?
Well, actually, I spoke only Spanish. I knew Catalan and in exams and in school I could use it, but I only spoke Spanish. But then you realize that with a small effort you can also master Catalan, so I also tried to practise it.
And you think that you learned the language because you made an effort to do it or because since you were in Spain and were surrounded by Spanish it was easy for you to learn it?
No, not at all. I was the one who knew that I had to make an effort to learn the language, because it was the only way to integrate and to meet new people. And moreover, for me it is a respectful thing. You are in a foreign country, so you have to learn the foreign language to integrate; you have to live like them. It is an effort to adapt better.
Actually, I went to a kind of “aula d’acollida”, but what it did actually was the opposite thing, it separated me and other foreigners from Spanish people. It is true that there we could focus more on learning the language, but I think that it did more wrong than right.
And you went to school in Morocco. Would you say that the educational system was more serious than here?
(Pause) yes, yes. For example, here kids speak out loud in class, they get up… they shouldn’t, but they do it. There it’s not like that. Here you also treat your teacher more respectfully, you see him as a superior.
1. How would you describe your national identity?
I’m a British national but when people ask me where I’m from they rarely want to know whether I’m from London! So I would also say I’m Zambian despite no longer having a Zambian passport.
2. What is your definition of heritage?
The legacy and history of your parent’s and ancestors.
3. Could you describe your parent’s reasons for immigrating to Britain and give a brief account of their experience?
They were trained pilots in the military and were stationed in a small village in Greece before they came to England. They moved because English was their second language and they learnt British history and read various English novels at school so they were more familiar with England than Greece, also the people in Greece were really racist. My mum felt quite lonely, especially when she found out she was pregnant and my mum’s sister and her family had moved to England a couple years before. So they moved in with them until my mum had me and my twin sister. I think it was easier coming to London because it was slightly less alien but it was difficult having to switch jobs, adjust culturally and have two babies all at the same time!
4. Do you feel that you have a dual nationality, and if so how does that define you as an individual?
I do. I had a Zambian passport before I had a British one and then I had both! I just think of myself as a British Zambian which sounds like a contradiction but it works for me.
5. Do you feel you have a connection to Zambia, or only to Great Britain?
I have a connection to both despite only going to Zambia twice. Zambia is my family, it’s the flavour of the food I eat at home, it’s the way I move my body. Britain is also my family, friends and my boyfriend, being in London makes me unbelievably so happy! I itch when I’m away from the stink and smog. I happily engage in both cultures although I didn’t always. At school they only taught us about slavery and only talked about Africans like they’re all poor, savaged and diseased. I was embarrassed, my name was so African and my skin was so brown I couldn’t escape it but I grew up very quickly and realised that it wasn’t true at all and I embraced being Zambian.
6. For you, does Zambia belong to the limited African stereotype of ‘‘Third World Country’’? What is your reaction to this limited stereotype of Africa?
Yes it does, people always talk about Zambia being a ‘developing country’ so close to the Western model of modernity but not quite. They never realise Zambia didn’t need colonialism in the first place. Zambia and other ‘Third World’ countries can never be like England or France or the US and shouldn’t be, it’s not working.
7. How does your experience as a second generation British citizen compare to that of your parents?
My parents will always be ‘immigrants’ whereas I was born here and I have that. But it still feels like a slap in the face when people talk about negatively about immigrants. I empathise strongly with the concerns of immigrants because I although I don’t know first-hand how hard it is to migrate to another country (especially one so hostile) I know it was hard for my parents.
8. Would you describe Britain as multicultural?
Not Britain as a whole, but some British cities, like London. I go to some places in Britain where I don’t think they’ve ever spoken to a black girl before.
9. What opportunities does Britain offer for you as a young woman that Zambia does not? (Vice-Versa)
I think I’d actually know how to cook properly if I was in Zambia! But Zambia is quite similar to England: girls are encouraged to go to school, to work and also have children and a husband. Although if your skirt is a little too short an old woman might tell you off. The British economy is better and in terms of education and resources I have a lot more access in Britain.
10. Do you have a desire to live in Zambia at any point in your life, or in any other part of the world?
I don’t think I’ve been enough times in my adult life to know. I think just because my parents left it’s never been in my mind to leave England and live there! I definitely want to live somewhere else, even if only for a while. Somewhere less wet and more exciting.
12. Can you give examples of art, literature or other forms that you feel represent your experiences?
Ngozi Onwurah and Isaac Julien’s films are amazing. Zadie Smith’s books such as White Teeth were extremely informative and Tsitsi Dangarembga’s Nervous Conditions was so close to home. Lynette Yiadom-Boakye and Chris Offili’s pieces are gorgeous and rich in different ways. I feel like these artists represent Africa, blackness and Britain in very interesting and refreshing ways. Although set in France Sembene’s Black Girl is also wonderful.
Extra Details on Chibeza
Equality & Diversity Committee: I go to the committee with things that can be improved or issues to discuss relating to race and ethnicity, if a group has an issue I can bring it to our student union and the issue would be addressed. Also I collaborate and create events and relating to ethnic minority student but I also help out with things regarding to LGBT+ students, students with disabilities and other minority groups as of course there are intersections within these groups.
Dissertation: And I’m doing my dissertation on the representations of mixed race women with a black/white background in British cinema. In previous years the White British public thought that mixed race children were a bi-product of a diseased society and they were largely oppressed and marginalised. Mixed race people are now the largest growing ethnic group in Britain and the media heralds them as examples of a ‘‘post-racial’’ society. I found that mixed-race women are often fetishized, hypersexual used and made invisible.
I was born in the North;
My family is from the South;
I left to the West.
I was too black for the North;
I was too white for the South;
I was left in between.
I carry papers that describe me;
I carry labels that entrap me;
But papers will not define me.
“Who are you?”; “Who am I?”, I will reply: “I am black.”
“I am successful, I am nice.
I am handsome… and a free man.”
Bring me the flags, bring me the suitcase!
I might lose one, I might get another,
But I am me, even though my identity is not fixed.
My life is a journey to an unknown destination…
Let me guide you to the inner me.
By Carla Asensio, Clara Esquerdo, Anna Ferrón & Elena Peris
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…
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?
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…
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?
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?
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.
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. 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.
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.
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?
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.
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?
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?
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?
ELENA: Ok, thank you very much, Prude.
PRUDENCIO: I’ve found this interview very interesting.