Alejandro Domínguez I Algeciras (Cádiz), (EFE).- The media focus on the social situation in Algeciras (Cádiz) after the tragic murder last Wednesday of the sacristan of the La Palma church at the hands of an alleged jihadist has revealed a latent reality and more defended now than ever in the society of Algeciras: that of its coexistence and its multiculturalism.
A total of 129 different nationalities live in a municipality where the social model is very different from the rest. Miguel Alberto Díaz, president of the Barrio Vivo association, has spent many years working on the social integration of this cultural diversity.
For the associative leader, “without taking away the seriousness of what happened”, it is important to emphasize that “we have lived this coexistence normally, but we have not given it importance”.
Of the 129 nationalities that live in Algeciras, 70% are Moroccan. The rest is an amalgamation of nationalities among which there is a North African, sub-Saharan, South American or Asian population. There is also an important British colony, in addition to the strong presence of other European countries such as Romania or the Ukraine.
The work of the associative movement offers the best images of this integration. For example, Barrio Vivo promotes a music school in the neighborhood of La Piñera, in the southern zone, in which people of different nationalities share this cultural experience playing instruments such as the cello, piano or violin.
Other initiatives, such as the reading of Don Quixote in the Los Pastores neighborhood, offer every year the image of Arabs, Senegalese or Ukrainians reading fragments of the immortal work of Cervantes.
A spectacular coexistence
Initiatives that end up mixing with the life of the city, such as Tapasmundi, a tapas route in which Moroccan, Tunisian, Senegalese, Japanese, Thai and Pakistani recipes have been enjoyed in the city for the last five years.
The demographic reality of Algeciras is that of a city that surpasses the capital of Cádiz in number of inhabitants, and that is only surpassed in the province by Jerez. A city where there are around 12,000 Muslim inhabitants, who practice their religion in a total of seven mosques.
Omar Khemlani, imam of one of the city’s mosques, points out that “there is a spectacular coexistence here, and foreigners who have been here for a short time already feel like they are from Algeciras.”
Mohamed Mkaden expresses himself in the same terms: “I have been living here since 2004, and this city is an example of peace and coexistence. Here it is very difficult to divide between cultures. It’s a mix. There is a very high percentage of mixed couples, of Spaniards with Moroccans”.
Sociable and open people
Albert Bitoden, from Cameroon, arrived in Algeciras at the end of the nineties, after a migratory journey that took him through fifteen African states, until he managed to jump over the Melilla fence.
Now, he works for integration in the Cepaim Foundation: “Algeciras is a crossroads. It is a city of plural respect.
You can walk at any time with complete peace of mind and people greet you. I have always found shelter and respect here and this is not going to change it. After the storm, calm always comes.
Martha, a 23-year-old Bolivian with her architecture career under her arm, expressed herself in the same terms, decided to cross the pond in 2003.
Over the years, he would end up setting up a greengrocer in Algeciras: “When I first arrived in Spain, we arrived in Madrid, but the people there are very different, much more closed. I came to Algeciras, and here the people were more sociable, more open”.
The president of the Alternativas coordinator and the Márgenes y Vínculos Foundation, Francisco Mena, has spent years working on this cultural integration through different programs.
Algeciras is a model of exceptional coexistence
For Mena, «the coexistence model of Algeciras is exceptional, unique in Spain. It would have to be exported to other places. Here there are no ghettos, but the migrants are totally mixed with the rest of the population.
According to the study “The weight of immigration in the perception of the other”, carried out by Márgenes y Vínculos in 2017, 84.7% of the Moroccans surveyed describe life in Algeciras as very satisfactory.
The association leader highlights that “one of the most important things is that they accept our rules of coexistence from the beginning, when it is explained to them that children have to go to school, that families must be vaccinated or that women must go to the gynecologist ».
“And it is also important to teach the Spanish population that miscegenation is enriching and good,” he adds.
Regarding the explanation of this high number of resident nationalities, Francisco Mena is clear: “because it is a welcoming land, where the immigrant is not continually indicated. As in the rest of Spain, migration has been a relatively new phenomenon, the Campo de Gibraltar has spent its entire history living on migration.
“We have seen the ugliest face of migration, which is the dead. They arrive in Madrid on a plane. Here, they arrive in a boat. That creates a sensitivity that there is not in other places”, Mena specifies. EFE