Correspondents and teachers

In the last decades we have witnessed a fascinating phenomenon of intercultural transformation due to the new technologies. Until some years ago, European immigrants who arrived in America suffered from a banishment of their roots that led them to a cultural and emotional uprooting many times. Our migrants saw great difficulties in postal communication and in writing. Speech over the phone was expensive and full of difficulties.
We now see Latin American and African immigrants with their cell phones communicating with each other in different parts of Spain. This allows them to maintain their traditions and to have information about centers and about better working conditions. It is common to see how they get together during the weekends in parks and places of encounter to share their traditional food, listen to their music and exchange valuable information. Those who leave take firsthand information on working conditions, shelter, healthcare, education and social relations that falter the proliferation of fantasies, or the criminal activities of people without qualm.
The majority of Latin American female immigrants used to be hired as domestic workers. This guaranteed them a home and avoided some spending, which allowed them to pay back the enormous debt they acquired with the airfare from home. Little by little, they have been renting apartments that they share with family and friends and go to work for hours in different jobs. They live in their traditional atmosphere, make use of the improvements that the local society gives them and they count on a free time that facilitates leisure, learning a profession, or obtaining supplementary incomes while charging for the hour.
We have gotten used to see multitudes of South Americans speaking on the public phones and in popular calling centers during hours and days that offer special prices. The most interesting step is to prove there are computer centers where they learn, at the same time as we do, to get along and to participate in chats with their family and friends.
This is a sociological phenomenon with formidable consequences. Immigrants keep their family bonds, the affective and social ones with their communities. This blocks their uprooting. They use modern systems to send their savings without the need of going through banking institutions or by any other intermediaries. Money does not longer go from here to there with the need of trusting risky travellers. Immigrants get along efficiently with the techniques of clearing and of the compensations in their accounts. At last, they make good use of the advantages of globalization, which, until now, had only benefited large financial groups.
A fact with unimaginable consequences is taking place: immigrants have become authentic correspondents for their country in Europe. Their messages have more reliability and they use a more authentic language that the one media use. Many Latin American communities are better informed about the European reality than in many places of Spain.
Governments must facilitate this phenomenon as the best method of integration to promote the mutual enrichment between people of cultures and ethnicities that are so diverse. Then, a culture of responsibility will emerge. It will be a culture of acknowledgement, rather that the blind attitude of distrust and rejection that still exists between people who have lost their sense of history.
There is another fact to which we must pay close attention. During decades, Latin American people have been fascinated with the American Way of Life that they got from Hollywood products, especially the movies. Later, it was the television series that soon arrived in the orbit of Miami, Venezuela, Mexico and Brazil, and they offered a spectacular world that, was, in reality, out of reach. This created an enormous unrest because it was a sharp contrast with their reality.
The authentic process of change is being produced among immigrants who arrive in Europe and who can contrast reality with the fantasy that the mass media offer. They can still be fascinated, like many Spaniards are, but they are no longer at risk of confusing them with the reality that, the person with a job and who accepts the rules of the game, becomes the master of his or her own destiny. And this person has the same right to enjoy the same privileges that the rest of the citizens enjoy.
A proof of this is the immigrant families who have kids that go to school in the European countries that give them shelter. Within one generation, sons reach the integration dreamt by their parents. Their signs of identity are now enriched by the unquestionable advantages of cultural mestization.
Mestization keeps the dangers of xenophobia and racism away. Who would not like to be neighbors with Michael Jordan, Zinedine Zidane, Tiger Woods, Roberto Carlos, Denzel Washington, Halle Berry or Whitney Houston? It is proved that it is not a matter of skin color, the curly hair or the original ethnicity. It is rather the level of education, the social level and the equality of opportunities. The food and the accent do not have as much influence as the shared education, the games, leisure and the dreams of a better and more just world full of solidarity.
Another fundamental and desirable aspect is to see the massive proliferation of elderly people that one finds in parks and gardens taking a walk or getting some sun next to a requested Bolivian or Ecuadorian, Peruvian or Dominican friend who accompanies them. He or she talks to them, smiles at them and offers his arm as a support, just like the sons and grandsons used to do. This was way long before the consumerist wave that confuses value with price and does not find the imposed productivity in the attention of their grandparents. Immigrants are employees that help the elderly recover the desire to live, like family members with trust and respect. The old people receive their authentic grandchildren, when they visit, like true members of the family. These immigrants do not only inform their people and transmit our situation, which they admire in Latin America. They also help us to recover some forms, values and a tenderness that seemed to be forgotten.

José Carlos Gª Fajardo
Translated by Carlos Miguélez

This article was published in the Center of Collaborations for Solidarity (CCS) on March 21, 2005