No quería dejar pasar la oportunidad de postear sobre una grata sorpresa que me trajo mi viaje de investigación durante el verano. Aunque la generosa beca Tinker solamente pudo cubrir mi viaje a Lima y Bogotá, quiso la casualidad que el tercer país que anhelaba visitar viniera a mí. Gracias a coordinaciones con dos amigos teatreros peruanos, Lucero Medina y Michael Joan Gómez, y al Grupo Panparamayo Teatro, tuve la oportunidad de formar parte del taller de teatro “Memoria y olvido en la acción dramática”, ofrecido por el grupo Malayerba, de Quito, Ecuador. Dos de los miembros fundadores de este emblemático grupo, Arístides Vargas y Charo Francés, fueron hasta Lima a compartir su conocimiento y su pasión por la creación colectiva. Continue reading
Over the past year I have been keeping track of the work of a group called Casa Trans (Trans House) based in Quito, Ecuador. Casa Trans is both a home for LGBT activists and a political and cultural center where events and meetings are held on a regular basis. Providing safe and affordable housing to lesbian, gay, bisexual, and especially transgender activist is an important factor that contributes to the vitality of the organization because many of its members experience housing discrimination. Casa Trans was formed in response to the murder of a transgender activist in 2004. The members identify themselves as Transfeministas (transfeminists); they embrace the legacy and history of the feminist movement as their own and see themselves as working to expand the scope of feminism. Casa Trans works on various different projects and campaigns at any given time, but their mainstay is as group in defense of the gender and sexual rights of Ecuadorians. They are resolutely in support of women’s right to choose in a political climate where abortion is a relentlessly controversial topic and many LGBT organizations have refused to weigh in on the topic. Casa Trans is the first LGBT organization in Ecuador that has sought out transgender men and made them part of their organizing efforts. They affirm that some women have penises and some men have vaginas, and thereby refuse a biologist gender binary. One of the members I interviewed said that she is not interested in being identified solely as woman because the term trans marks her experience of transitioning from one gender to another. This is a remarkable contrast from more common approaches to transgender identity as a pathological disease, or a case of being trapped in the wrongly gendered body.
Sign reads “We are all whores”
I came to Spain to better understand the Ecuadorian immigrant experience in regards to racism and discrimination. What I found was that racism does exist in Spain and it is apparent in the laws and policies constituted by the Spanish government. While these laws and policies directly affect Ecuadorian immigrants, the Ecuadorian immigrants that I spoke with were not very open in discussing their own experiences of racism. Many believed that racism was a problem in Spain, but didn’t recount personal experiences of it. Often, when racism was discussed, people spoke of the racist government and policies that have been making things difficult for them as immigrants, yet racism was rarely used to describe experiences with these policies.
Ecuadorian immigrants spoke of the immigration policies implemented by the newest president that have made it difficult for them to become citizens. Some even referred to these policies as “racist,” yet others did not equate the policies as a personal experience of racism, even when they were being directly affected. One immigrant had been waiting a year since he filed papers to become a Spanish citizen. He stated that before the economic crisis, it only took a year to complete the process and it was very easy, but now, it could take twice as long. Despite the policies directly affecting him, he did not seem to think that this was a racist or anti-immigrant issue.
Police inside a Metro Station
Another policy that was heavily discussed among Ecuadorian immigrants was the policy of police checking papers and legal statuses of anyone in the country. While the police have the right to check anyone’s papers, they have been known to mainly check those of racial minorities. One immigrant said that the police would never check the papers of a “rubia
,” but that they often ask immigrants for their documentation. While this immigrant seemed to deny that Spain was a racist country despite his own experience of being asked for his papers, he referred to the police asking for documentation as “racism.” Continue reading
“Unite Against Racism” banner displayed during the 2012 Euro Cup
Not only is Spain facing an economic crisis but the people here are expressing angst and frustration towards the government for its incompetence to aid its people. The current Prime Minister of Spain, Mariano Rajoy Brey, was sworn into office this past December. While he has only been in office for 8 months, he has not been popular among the people, especially the immigrant community. One Ecuadorian immigrant expressed that the former Prime Minister worked to get immigrants documented and legalized, while “Rajoy is racist and doesn’t do anything” for them.
Much has been speculated about the correlation between the growing economic crisis in Spain and the racism and xenophobia directed towards immigrants. It has been argued that the tension caused by “la crisis,” as the locals call it, has only intensified fears of job loss, which could then cause Spaniards to resent those who could potentially take jobs away from Spanish citizens. Continue reading
There are many things on the Ecuadorian mind here in Spain. For many, their first and foremost reason for immigrating to Spain has been influenced by the economy or lack thereof in their home country. Whether they are sending money back to their families in Ecuador or simply saving their money for their future, past assurances of jobs and wealth have brought them to Spain over the years.
Now the current economic crisis in Spain is causing large sectors of the population to return to Ecuador. From my conversations, Ecuadorians that are leaving seem to be bringing everything with them, which would indicate that they are planning to return to Ecuador for good. One man brought 23 suitcases with him to the airport, while another brought 12 suitcases and two dogs. Surely, this is in part influenced by “Plan Bienvenidos a Casa,” but has also led me to question the relationship between immigrants and their host country. Continue reading