Jacquie Bullard

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Expats and Immigrants (Part 2)

Back in September 2022, I posted an excerpt about the struggles of being an expat in Barcelona. Here is a peek into some attitudes towards immigrants and expats from that same WIP.

Ernesto walked slowly across Rambla del Raval and paused at the cat. El gato. El gat, in Catalan. It was a pleasing thing to look at, voluptuous and cartoonish at the same time, but what really made him stop in almost an act of reverence was the thought of Botero, the artist who created El Gato, and how his art appeared in places all over the world. And it wasn’t just normal sculptures, but things that were out of proportion, ridiculous yet full of life and feeling. It was, for Ernesto, a bit like Picasso’s work: so fantastical as to be memorable and striking, so disproportionate as to make one feel like life itself was out of proportion for seeming too square and solid.

But Ernesto also loved that Botero was from Latin America, like himself. Botero from Colombia and Ernesto from Cuba. Sure, they were two different places, but they were places so mixed and that mixture made for such distinct culture.

“I don’t like all the immigrants coming here,” one of his old Spanish friends said. “Spain is not Spain anymore. Look, how many Spanish do you see here?”

It was a lament his friend parroted out almost every time they met over a carajillo. It was a complaint like birdsong, frequent and characteristic of his friend, but losing its meaning with each repetition.

“Ah, but what is Spain? It didn’t become Spain until when? And Cuba, there’s an example. We have all this pride, Cuban music, Cuban cuisine, but Cuba what is Cuba? A piece of Africa, a piece of Spain, a piece of los indios. People keep damning Columbus, but to be honest, Cuba wouldn’t be Cuba if he didn’t come over. I can’t say anything is all bad or all good.”

His friend would usually end the exchange with a grunt that didn’t clearly signal agreement or disagreement.