Sunday, December 01, 2002

Des is in transition between troll status and useful citizen status like the rest of us; he's got another good question which deserves a good answer. We talked about this back on the old site (which for some reason hasn't been taken down yet), several times, but it's about time we talked about it again.

How is Spain and the ordinary Spanish Juan coping with the North African influx?
Des | Email | 11.30.02 - 10:53 p

a href="">This link is to a May 22, 2002 article from La Vanguardia on the subject. When asked their opinion of immigration--and everyone in Spain associates immigration with North African Muslims--42% of Spaniards said they had positive feelings about the general concept of immigration, while 31% were against. I suppose the other 27% are confused and could go either way depending on how things develop. However, here in Catalonia, the figures were 37% negative-35% positive, with 28% not real sure how to spell their last names, much less opine on anything of serious import. (Look, everywhere you go 50% of people are of below-average intelligence by definition. Catalan dumbasses are no smarter nor dumber than dumbasses anywhere else, with one possible exception.) The theory that Catalans are more anti-immigration because they are one of the regions of Spain with most immigrants is defeated by the fact that other Spanish regions like Madrid and Andalusia also have a lot of immigrants and their citizens are much more favorable toward immigrants than the Catalans. What I'm afraid this means is that, simply, there are more racists in Catalonia than in other parts of Spain. A clue to this is that 52% of Catalans, but only 41% of Spaniards in general, say there is a connection between immigration and crime. The age groups in all of Spain that were most anti-immigration were the over-55 group, which isn't too surprising or too worrying, because these folks are going to die off, and the 18-24 group, which is something that Spanish society ought to be concerned about. The lower, lower-middle, and middle classes are anti-immigration, while the upper-middle and upper classes are in favor. (Remei says, "They're hypocrites. They'd never eat with a Moroccan.")

Gràcia, where I live, is a very multi-culti and boho kind of place, and here we're all pro-immigrant, because we see the advantages of immigration. First, the first thing immigrants do is open up restaurants, and now there are many Lebanese, North African, Egyptian, and Syrian places around here. At some of them you get good food and two of them are rather high-dollar, or should I say high-euro. Second, this is a very crowded neighborhood, the most crowded in Barcelona, which is the most crowded city in Europe as far as inhabitants per hectare goes. I calculated it once and Gràcia is well more densely-populated than Manhattan. This means that there is all kinds of small-scale economic activity around here, and I mean shops the size of your bedroom are all over the place. So a lot of cheap labor is needed, and everywhere we go we're faced with immigrants from somewhere. You can either say, "Well, it's cool, I don't care who they are if they don't break the law," or you can get all bitter and nasty and wind up getting nowhere in the end. Most people here have made the wise choice and welcomed immigrants. And, as far as I can tell--I spend a good bit of time in rural Catalonia because my wife's family has a house there--country people don't have a problem, either, as long as you can pick lettuce or whatever they've hired you to do. Seriously, the central Catalan agricultural area of la Segarra, l'Urgell, la Noguera, les Garrigues, and la Conca de Barberà would have real problems if it weren't for North African workers, and there are in particular a lot of Arabs in the slaughterhouses in Guissona and the prefabricated housing factories in Sta. Coloma de Queralt. The people there aren't real enlightened but do recognize that these people are human beings.

This isn't true in more working-class neighborhoods. Remei has family in the industrial suburb of Terrassa, and these people are stereotypical racists. They believe and repeat such well-known urban legends like the one where the government is giving free apartments to immigrants who then proceed to use the bathtub for a coal scuttle or whatever. I seriously think a lot of the problem is sexual; the sexual taboo is the only one that still exists between the races in the United States, and the United States is a hell of a lot more enlightened on racial / ethnic matters than Catalonia is. It shouldn't be surprising that if that's the only taboo surviving in America, then it certainly exists here. There have been several serious ethnic disturbances in Catalonia, mostly in lower and lower-middle class industrial areas, and the one in Terrassa about two years ago in the Ca'n Anglada slum is the one I remember. Arab youths lounging around a plaza made comments or something to some local girls and a scuffle turned into a gang fight turned into damn near a pogrom, with Arab-owned bars and shops assaulted. Good thing no one was too badly hurt. Remei's redneck relatives, of course, were terribly offended that these scumballs were daring to speak to local girls.

The Vanguardia article, self-exculpatorically, names three possible factors to explain the greater rejection of immigrants in Catalonia than in other parts of Spain. The first is the controversy about a proposal to build a mosque in Premià up the coast; the locals were afraid it would attract bad elements. Joder. People who attend religious services don't tend to be people who do bad things. Now, certain Muslim leaders in Catalonia have said certain very stupid things in public, but no dumber than what I've heard some Christians say, and so I vote we give the Muslims the benefit of the doubt and wait till we see some Talibans hanging around the mosque before we start to get too worried. The second is that Artur Mas, now Convergence and Union official candidate to succeed current Catalan Prime Minister Jordi Pujol, in office for 22 years, shot off his mouth about there being a disproportionate number of North Africans in Catalonia. That didn't help anything any. The third seems to me to be a crock of crap: they blame the Madrid central government's denouncing immigrants as the cause of the most recent crime wave, which I don't remember happening at all. I think La Vanguardia is making it up. I do remember statistics being released that said that 40% of those arrested in Spain were foreigners, which I believe, but not all foreign dirtbags are North African.

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