Racism in El Ejido
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Mon May 8 08:07:42 MDT 2000
New York Times, May 8, 2000
Europe's Migrant Fears Rend a Spanish Town
By ROGER COHEN
EL EJIDO, Spain -- The newly planted orange trees on the quaint Plaza de la
Colonización suggest a certain civic pride in this southern Spanish town,
but the rubble and charred remains of Afrolatino Communication demonstrate
how civility has gone up in smoke.
The 20 telephone cabins in the burned establishment were used by
immigrants, mainly Moroccans, to call home. That was until the place was
set alight on the night of April 20, two days after the newspaper kiosk of
a Moroccan immigrant in nearby Almería was burned down.
"This is pure racism -- $12,000 of investment up in smoke because some
Spaniards can't stand Africans," said Armón Elia Mejía, the owner, who is
an immigrant from the Dominican Republic.
Those incidents are the latest spasms in anti-immigrant violence in this
region of southern Spain. After a Spanish woman was killed in a local
market by a Moroccan in early February, there was a three-day rampage
directed against the tens of thousands of North African laborers here.
The outburst, known simply as "la guerra," or "the war," was the worst
recent case of racial violence in a Europe increasingly uneasy about
immigrants. "When a people rises up, it is because they are tired," said
Alejandro Fernández, whose fiancée was the woman killed. "I tell you, this
place is a time bomb."
In some senses, that bomb is of purely local manufacture. A lot happened
suddenly to El Ejido, creating a rootless culture in which sparks flare
easily. It became rich through the production of winter fruits; it became
mixed through a huge influx of Moroccans to pick them; it became angry
because its identity was suddenly unclear.
But in other ways, the quandary of El Ejido is that of all of Europe.
Spain, like many of its partners in the European Union, is a rich country
with a fast-aging population, a low birthrate, a growing aversion to menial
jobs and an uneasy proximity to lands of poverty. It needs immigrants from
poorer places even as its national psyche resists them.
Across the Continent, young laborers are being lured from poorer places,
whether in Africa or Eastern Europe, only to meet resistance from countries
afraid that their national identities will be diluted or generous welfare
In Austria, the party of Jörg Haider rails against "overforeigner-ization."
In Germany, conservatives urge people to have more children rather than
accept immigrants. In France, riots erupt after an Algerian is shot by the
police. In Britain, drastic laws are introduced to curb the growing number
"Europe requires immigrants today because of simple demographics," said
Kirsty Hughes, a senior European Union official. "But try telling that to
people. The political atmosphere is one of fortress Europe, even if
immigrants are doing the jobs nobody else wants to do and are needed to
ensure that we don't end up as a continent of old people."
Complete article at:
(BTW, today's NY Times announced that their website now may be accessed
FREE OF CHARGE by non-US readers.)
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