Kebab, Yes; Revolution, No: Migrants and the Fight for Catalonia

“Catalan flag in Figueres”. Photo by Kippelboy via Wikipedia. CC BY 3.0

The following is an edited version of an article written by Irina Illa Pueyo for Afroféminas about the debates for Catalonia's independence

“Without migrants, there is no revolution,” was one of the slogans chanted at the demonstration on October 3 in Barcelona. We were a considerable crowd, judging from the chants emanating from various megaphones.

Words like “woman”, “grandmothers”, “people”, “workers”, “proletariat”, “anti-capitalism”, “anti-fascism”, “independence” were mostly cheered on, but when it came time for the word “migrants”, we found ourselves alone. Megaphone in hand, we mustered all our breath in order to raise the tone, but of the five senses that every human being possesses, the only ones that responded to that word at that moment were ears and a few big, astonished eyes. It seemed like that term was unknown or, better yet, that those present were not prepared to include, even symbolically, it in this group.

I was greatly surprised that young people sporting dreadlocks, turbans, braids, and other Afrocentric apparel failed to acknowledge the word “migrant” at an event in support of those being persecuted in Catalonia: its residents. Even more surprising was that during the break between the morning and afternoon demonstrations, many people went off to eat kebabs—the most popular fast food in many European cities—which originated in the Middle East. In other words, while it's convenient to eat at a kebab restaurant run by migrants, there's no interest in relating to them or including them in the cause. It also surprised me that the same people who with the dreadlocks, braids, and turbans would buy esteladas, the Catalan flags most commonly seen at demonstrations in favor of independence, manufactured by the hands of exploited migrants in China.

At the school where I work, a girl told me that her mother, who is Bolivian, had been beaten for going to work. A migrant woman is beaten for going to work and not supporting the strike against police brutality, but she is not even allowed to vote. When she comes out to march against police brutality, the white community will barely be present.

It seems as though the issue of migration is always a step behind the white community's concerns, in the shadows like a simple prop, carrying out exhausting manual labor to facilitate white intellectuals, and allow them to think.

There's a general reluctance to listen to migrants in environments that are not exclusively racialized, because theory seems to be a white thing, while experience and victimization are migrant things. We need to start considering the presence of migrants in all types of spaces as something normal, not as a threat to the homogeneity of thought and culture.

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