See all those languages up there? We translate Global Voices stories to make the world's citizen media available to everyone.

Learn more about Lingua Translation  »

Spain: Racism and Intolerance Advance Relentlessly

The project of constructing a Western European identity without much space for immigrants brought a mix of laws, verbal affirmations of hate, and even blood-ridden attacks this summer of 2011.  In spring, restrictions were placed on inter-European border flexibility within the Schengen zone [es], including Denmark, and between France and Italy [es].  In July, Norway suffered a double attack from a mass murderer who strove for a renewed crusade and promulgated hatred towards Muslims and women.

This act motivated Abuy Nfubea, president of the Pan-African Federation of Black Communities in Spain, to establish a parallel between fearing the other, as much in Norway as in Spain, in an opinion piece [es] entitled “Is there really someone that is surprised by Norway's racist crimes?” [es]:

Insisto decir que nos extraña lo de Oslo es muy ofensivo, porque los que vamos en metro, nos paran para pedirnos papeles con perfilamiento racial o vivimos en Salt, Vic, Alcalá de Henares o Badalona….sabemos que no es extraño, que se veía venir y eso es lo peor DE ESTE CRIMEN ABOMINABLE.

I insist that saying that we are perplexed by what happened in Oslo is very offensive because those of us who ride the metro are stopped and asked for documentation for racial profiling, or those of us who live in Salt, Vic, Alcalá de Henares or Badalona… know that it is not perplexing, that we saw it coming, and that it is the worst thing about THIS ABOMINABLE CRIME.

In terms of opinions on the number of immigrants in Spain (according to official numbers amounting to 5,0526,256 in March 2011), NeoBandam recounts that [es]:

el 46 por ciento opina que es “excesivo”, el 33 por ciento, que es “elevado”, y el 17 por ciento que es “aceptable”.

46% feel that this is “excessive,” 33% feel it is “elevated,” and 17% feel it is “acceptable.”

In 2010 already, the Movement Against Intolerance [es], with headquarters in Madrid, warned against the links between the country's economic crisis and the increase in xenophobia.  As GuinGuinBali reports [es]:

Con la irrupción de la crisis económica es un hecho el aumento del prejuicio xenófobo y el hostigamiento a la inmigración. (…) Además, se añade la agitación y hostigamiento xenófobo que impulsan grupos organizados extremistas que alimentan la intolerancia hacia la inmigración con consignas populistas del tipo “los españoles primero” y la intolerancia religiosa en su doble vertiente de islamofobia y antisemitismo.

With the eruption of the economic crisis, the increase in xenophobic prejudice and harassment towards immigration is a reality. (…) Add to this, the agitation and xenophobic harassment propelled by extremist organized groups that feed the intolerance towards immigration with populist slogans of all types, including “Spaniards first,” and religious intolerance, coupling Islamophobia and Antisemitism.

Racist and anti-Arabic poster found in Madrid. Photo taken by Flickr user Daquella Manera. Republished under the CC BY 2.0 license.

The PxC in Catalonia

We can consider the Catalonia Platform party (Plataforma Per Caralunya (PxC) [cat]), led by Josep Anglada, an example of a group that feeds this intolerance.  Recently, PxC organized a demonstration against immigration in Sant Adrià de Besòs, the urban area of Barcelona, where the city council has a state member.  The news in August regarding PxC had more than enough to report on, as their intent to protest benefits for immigrants, especially Muslims, in Catalonia.  A state member in Salt was dismissed due to her sentimental relationships with a citizen from Cameroon, and there was an inquiry of his legal status in the country.

Following the events in Norway and PxC's growing protagonism in Spain, the blog Unite Against Fascism and Racism (Unitat contra el feixisme i el racisme [cat]) exposes the ideological similarities between Norway's murderer Anders Behring Breivik and Josep Anglada, which is based on the belief that European principles are threatened by Muslims and the effects of immigration.

The conflation of immigration and Islam is evident, clearly, in point 5 of the PxC Programmatic Declaration [es].  According to this document, globalization is associated with “massive waves of illegal immigration,” which in turn, endanger the social well being and identity formation of the welcoming States.  Point 5.2 is key to understanding the message on the association of immigration with Islam [es]:

PxC no se opone a la inmigración, pero sí a la instalación de inmigrantes musulmanes en nuestro país, fenómeno que puede suponer a largo plazo una clara amenaza para nuestra cultura.

PxC does not oppose immigration, but rather the installation of Muslim immigrants in our country, a phenomenon that can pose a large period of clear threats to our culture.

Josep Anglada's words on immigration in Spain are used as an example in blogs that criticize and denounce that the contributions of immigrants to the Spanish sociopolitical dimension have been obscured and invisibilized.  In the blog Noticias que Dejan Huella, the post “Immigration, the state of well being and xenophobia in Spain [es],” from August 10, 2011, recalls the contribution of immigration to the state of well being that Spain experienced before the current financial crisis, and criticizes the PxC's “complaints” [es]:

“Niños moros” que acaparan ayudas sanitarias y eligen colegio “mientras a nosotros nos asignan plazas lejos de casa”. “Medicamentos gratis” para inmigrantes. Comerciantes paquistaníes que “no pagan impuestos ni se les obliga a cumplir las normas”. Una nueva mezquita inexistente. Extranjeros contratados “antes que los autóctonos del pueblo”.

“Moorish children” that hoard medical care and choose school “while we are assigned posts far from home.”  “Medicines free” for immigrants.  Pakistani businessmen that “do not pay taxes nor are obliged to follow the norms.”  A new non-existent mosque.  Foreigners hired “before town natives.”

The recently legalized block to the passage of Romanian immigrants — that is, gypsies — sanctioned by the rest of the European Union members, brings up a question in online journal Latino Migrant: With one door closed to Romanian immigrants, will another door open for xenophobia? And PxC leader serves as an example once again [es]:

En otras ocasiones, Anglada ha pedido a las autoridades que vacunen a los rumanos gitanos para evitar la diseminación de enfermedades y ha calificado a los miembros de esta etnia como “delincuentes indeseables”.

On other occasions, Anglada has asked authorities to vaccinate Romanian gypsies to avoid the spread of diseases and has characterized the members of this ethnic group as “undesirable delinquents.”

The fight against the fear of Islamization in Spain is the motive behind the blog Eurabia.  Here, Josep Anglada's expressions are used once again to highlight and denounce the discourse on the alleged dangers that Muslim immigrants represent.  “If Muslims prefer to observe Ramadan and not work, they should leave because we do not want them here”: the title of one of the blog's posts on August 2, 2011.

In this context, it is interesting to consider what the blog Immigrants in Spain calls an “erasure operation” of  the “complaints and penalty processes of racist crimes in Spanish territory,” which is evident in the absence of public debates regarding the topic [es]:

La falta de notoriedad pública no es un mero descuido o una omisión inocente: es una forma de borrar una problemática de la agenda pública, esto es, un modo de minimizar estos problemas graves y recurrentes tanto en el contexto nacional como mundial.

The lack of public presence is not a mere oversight or innocent omission: it is a form of erasing a problem from the public agenda; this is a way of minimizing these grave and recurring problems in the national, as well as international, context.

Receive great stories from around the world directly in your inbox.

Sign up to receive the best of Global Voices
* = required field
Email Frequency



No thanks, show me the site