“No to illegal immigration,” shouts a man in a cowboy hat over the loudspeaker. “This is a true invasion,” says Soledad Caballero, a housewife who has wrapped herself in a Spanish flag to attend the demonstration called by the Arguineguín Neighborhood Platform. “At 50 meters from where I live they have put 296 immigrants. I’m not saying it’s them, but lately there have been robberies ”.
Arguineguín, in the tourist municipality of Mogán, in the southwest of Gran Canaria, has 2,500 inhabitants. Since the end of August, it has become the involuntary epicenter of migration: more than 1,300 people have been crowded into its port. The situation confronts the Canarian Administrations with the central Government and angers the population.
It is Saturday and about 1,100 people, according to the City Council, demonstrate against this situation. The slogans call for the resignation of the Government of Pedro Sánchez and angry words are heard such as “illegal”, “invaders” or “parasites” and some now classic “I am not a racist, but …”. “I have nothing against immigrants, but if there is none for us, how can there be for them,” says Verónica, an unemployed shop assistant. The mayor, Onalia Bueno, disapproves of the xenophobic comments. “Everything that is not the fight for human rights has no place in this Consistory,” he warns through the public address system.
This same neighborhood unrest is reproduced in El Lasso, a neighborhood of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria. There, the Government wants to prepare a closed school to add it to the reception network. “They closed it because it didn’t meet the requirements and now they are going to put in the dark ones?” Says Jerónimo, 59, a scrap dealer. “If it wasn’t for some, it shouldn’t be for others.”
This year around 12,000 African migrants have arrived in the Canary Islands, the highest number since the so-called cayuco crisis in 2006, which has fueled mistrust and fear. And xenophobia? “Undoubtedly,” recognizes the regional president Ángel Víctor Torres, who blames the tension against foreigners in the speeches against immigration that are heard in Congress.
The uncertainty and the health and economic threat caused by the coronavirus have been mixed with the mismanagement of arrivals. “There are worrisome elements,” says Daniel Buraschi, member of the Social Action and Research Network (RAIS) and co-author of the book Racism and anti-racism understand to transform. One of them is called democratic racism. “It excludes migrants by appealing to democratic values, so that the violation of their rights is justifiable,” he explains. “For example, there is talk of a health threat and radical measures are justified based on a pseudo-principle of justice, with arguments such as immigrants get too much or the Government has abandoned us, but it puts them in a hotel “: resentment is mobilized based on legitimate principles such as the right to health or concern for the economy.
The difficulty here is the problem of calling racist who holds this position. “The only thing we would do is increase his resentment because he doesn’t see himself as such and he feels that we don’t recognize his outrage. And this resentment can become a mobilizing agent ”.
The most palpable consequence of this democratic racism is the dehumanization of the migrant, in which institutions deepen with practices such as separating children from their mothers upon arrival, warns Buraschi. It also allows us to exclude certain people from the group that we consider worthy of having rights. “A moral frontier is built and the person becomes a rapeable body,” he explains. “That is why you have to work to reconvert them into political subjects.”
Flags and politics
Spanish flags fill the demonstration in Arguineguín. It is worn in his mask by David, 40, who looks suspiciously and doubts whether to answer the questions. “First I want to know if you are on the left,” admits this declared Vox voter.
This formation tries to capitalize on this discontent regarding migration. His deputy for Las Palmas, Alberto Rodríguez Almeida, is, in fact, one of the few politicians present at the demonstration. The training tries to capitalize on this discontent of the population. This day, his speech focuses on the lack of control and the poor adaptation of the pier. “The inaction of this Government has caused this phenomenon to overflow.”
Antonio Morales, president of the Cabildo de Gran Canaria, fears that “the extreme right” will take advantage of the situation and admits that “pedagogy has been lacking” to avoid it. Nasara Cabrera Abu, doctor in Sociology and general director of Economic Affairs with Africa, agrees “There have to be strategies to work on these integration values,” he assures. “I am in favor of introducing diversity management as part of public policy.”
It is already night in a pedestrian street near Parque Santa Catalina, an area of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria where Hindu electronics stores proliferated decades ago, sheltered from free ports. The Karani Bazaar sustains the business in part by sending remittances from Africans. Behind the counter is its owner, a middle-aged man who has been on the island for many years and who prefers not to reveal his name. When he finishes caring for two twenty-somethings of Gambian origin, he does not hesitate: “We must control this phenomenon.” With information from Maria Martin.