To Be a Latin-American Migrant in Madrid

Potosi street, walking from Colombia street to La Habana avenue, Madrid. Credit: IPS/Baher Kamal
  • by Baher Kamal (madrid)
  • Inter Press Service

There you will see relatively modern buildings next to old houses constructed under Francisco Franco's rule (1939-1975) and sold to military officials at token prices. You will also see many shops run by Chinese migrants, selling cheap but nice cloth in what used to be boutiques frequented by wealthy middle-aged women. But what you will often see are old Spanish men and women, some of them in wheelchairs, who are patiently accompanied and taken care of by Latin American migrants, going for a walk, sitting in a small park to breath some fresh air and take the sun. Before that, these very same migrants would have walked the dogs of the elderly persons for whom they work, went shopping for food, read books or newspapers to them, and helped them wash their faces before dressing them up to go out. Back home, the accompanying migrants will clean the house, wash, iron, cook, give them their medicine, answer the phone calls of their very busy, very short of time working sons and daughters. "Good People" "They are good people, all old people are good people," Nancy*, a 33-year old Ecuadorian migrant, told IPS. "It is a tough job because they spend their time either complaining or saying confused words or speaking to their late husbands or wives," she tells IPS. In spite of that and of some prejudices against migrants in general, such as "they come to Spain to take our jobs" or "to cheat our elderly people and take their money," Nancy* does not complain. "Yes, we hear these things but when you look at the old people we assist and see their resigned look or watch them sleeping like babies, you feel more pity than anger." Nancy* gets 620 euro a month (some 700 dollars) helping her pay her rent and send a little money to her own elderly parents in Ecuador. She is now looking for two part-time jobs to earn a bit more. Vladomiro* (37) is Colombian and assists don Jaime, an 87-year-old man who did well running a small grocery. Like Nancy*, Vladimiro* feels compassion. "In our country we all respect elderly people... they have worked hard all their lives, they built up their families and did all what they could for their daughters and sons to have studies and a better future that what they had," Vladomiro tells IPS. Both Nancy* and Vladomiro* confess to feeling homesick for their families, their countries, their food, their habits and traditions. But they are relieved as they can send some money to their families and help their sons and daughters have a better life. By the way, this neighbourhood full of elderly people accompanied by Latin American migrants is called Barrio de Hispanoamérica and its streets all bear the names of Latin American countries and capital cities. If you instead go to the popular Malasaña neighbourhood, you will see many ethnic restaurants run by Latin American migrants, serving traditional dishes though moderating the taste to adapt it to the Spanish clientele's eating habits. Jose* is a 39-year Peruvian. He works as waiter and partner at a small restaurant. His wife Alicia (35), also from Peru, works in the kitchen. He tells IPS that they met in Madrid and married here, and do not want to have children for now as they're working hard to save money that can allow them both help their parents and also one day return to their country to have a "decent" life.

© Inter Press Service (2017) — All Rights ReservedOriginal source: Inter Press Service