By the river
Recently, Spain, which in the past was a land of emigrants, has become the promised land for immigrants from developing countries. For instance, that is the case of Oswaldo Giraldes, a 27-year-old Ecuatorian who plays soccer every Sunday by the riverbed in Valencia. As many others, he came to Valencia attracted by an economic growth based almost exclusively on building, and now with the crisis he is unemployed. So, his story is not different from many of his fellow countrymen.
How does the local population receive these immigrants? In general, humans are gregarious and tend to perceive foreigners as a threat. For example, some labourers, especially from poorly qualified sectors, see them as disloyal competitors. Although they are not completely wrong, it is not immigrants’ fault: if employers were honest and governments more watchful, exploitation would not exist at all.
On the other hand, some people think immigrants are not very clean. I must admit that, if you look at the riverbed after Sunday matches, with lots of rubbish and piss everywhere, they seem to have a point here. However, once again we should ask ourselves if immigrants are completely responsible for that issue. Some years ago, when the Pope came to Valencia, I remember seeing rows of portable toilets all around the city. Therefore, why cannot the city council put the same toilets throughout the riverbed? Immigrants can look different, but they have the same needs as the Pope.
Finally, the last regret I’ve heard of is that immigrants are collapsing the health services. Nevertheless, immigrants are young people for the most part, and they don’t need special care. Additionally, maybe I am slightly forgetful, but I don’t remember living in a perfect world before they arrived. Consequently, we cannot accuse immigrants of the social welfare degradation. In my opinion, that would be absolutely unfair.
To sum up, I think the most important problem about immigration is the lack of culture and information amongst people, as well as the instinctive fear brought about by differences in colour, culture and habits. The economic situation does not help either. Until this conglomerate of problems can be reversed, Oswaldo will win some soccer games, but in life he will have all the numbers to lose.