News / Culture

Salamanca Diaries: I was in Madrid on the day of the General Strike with my illegal hipster friend

Remezcla blogger Juliana Nalerio recounts news and adventures from Salamanca, Spain while drinking too much caña, going to classes, writing a thesis on latin life stateside, and just trying to make sense of it all.

The truth is I was fucking pissed when I realized that the same day I was leaving for Italy from Madrid –  November 14th – there would be a Huelga General in all of the Pig countries, i.e. Portugal, España, Italia, Grecia, etc. To be clear, I am a supporter of the cause and was at Occupy Wall Street last year in New York, protesting against the same offenders: the big banks. The government. I recognize that they keep fucking us, or, as the Spanish say “Nos dejan sin futuro.” It’s a transnational problem. But I also like things to be convenient. And if nobody is working in the subway or in the airport on the day of my flight, well, that just isn’t so convenient.

By the time I left Salamanca for Madrid in the afternoon of November 13 there were signs plastered all around saying “Apoya la huelga. Hay cupables. Hay soluciones.” I was pumped to stay for the night with my friend who lives in Lavapies and at least see the huelga. My friend S. is an activist, a hipster type, a bit of what you would call a rebel within reason. In her case, as in general, it isn’t the rebels that cause the troubles of the world, it’s the troubles that cause the rebels. Last time I saw her she was reading Benedict Anderson’s Imagined Communities for fun.

When I arrive at the bus station in Madrid there S. is waiting for me. We hop on the subway back to her place and she explains that one employer has already given her the day off tomorrow for the strike. The other is requesting that everyone come in, but she will call in sick so she can participate. Her neighborhood, Lavapies, is known for being a young, hip area where many activists live. By midnight there is a large group of protesters in the square. Las manifestaciones are beginning. People set off firecrackers and chant “fuera, fuera… capitalistas.” It is noisy.

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Workers from Telefónica cover their heads in protest. Photo credit: Starmedia

S. and I listen from the balcony and she tells me her personal story. S. is living in Madrid as an illegal alien even though she was born there. I don’t agree that anyone is ever illegal, but whatever, we will use the terminology to be clear.

Born in la Clinica Belen in Madrid, S.’s abuela is from Valencia and her abuelo is an Italian American. They met in Madrid while her abuelo was stationed at the Madrid air base. When they got married they were on the front page of the newspaper El Alcázar. Later, her abuelo took them back to the States, where S.’s mother was born. Eventually, her mother moved back to Madrid at 18 to study and ended up staying for the rest of her life. She had S. with a Catalan living in Madrid who was separated from his wife; after conceiving S. he abandoned her mother went back to his wife, never telling his family that he had another life and child. S.’s mother – who never applied for Spanish citizenship even though she was eligible – died a couple of months after giving birth, and S. was raised by her maternal grandmother in Florida, where we would meet during college.

“My grandmother could have obtained Spanish citizenship for me whenever she wanted when I was a child,” she notes with a tinge of regret. “She could have formally adopted me through the Spanish government, as she retained her Spanish nationality her whole life, but again, we have no idea why she didn’t.”

On S.’s Spanish birth certificate, it lists her mother as an American because she was only ever a resident in Spain. It lists her father only by his first name, José. He never recognized her as his child.

S. now lives in Spain again and wants to obtain citizenship. Whenever she tells anyone about this, she says they furrow their brow and say, “but, you were born here!”

But it’s only becoming more complicated. To the Spanish government she looks like an anchor baby. The law that allowed grandchildren of Spaniards that moved away from Spain (up until the end of 1955) to obtain citizenship due to Franco’s oppression expired last December.

Now her options are A) Find her father who she hasn’t seen in 13 years, get a DNA test and present it to the Spanish government; B) Get into a Pareja de Hecho, a civil union, with a Spaniard for a year; C) Live illegally for 3 years with records of her work (bank statements, empadronamiento, work contracts, etc); Or D) Have a lawyer work to obtain citizenship through the grandmother.

S. has chosen option D. But it is a long and expensive road. A road that many people would just give up on.

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S. and I listen to the chanted demands of the protestors in Lavapies. Tomorrow the huelga will continue and S. will join the ranks. I will attempt to leave for Italy, where there will be strikes as well. I can’t help but think: fuck all this citizenship national boundary mierda. Her story gives me more reason to support the huelga.

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photo credit: Starmedia

The nation is deadweight. The borders are unfair and unjust. Capital and goods move across national boundaries easily while people struggle to get refugee status or to claim their right to live on family land. There are moments that reveal the arbitrary nature of bureaucracy and state power. This is one. The issue is not restricted to the Mexico-United States border. This issue is transnational. Pero ya sabes.

Photo credit: Starmedia

Photo credit: Starmedia

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To be continued…

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Salamanca Diaries 2

Salamanca Diaries 3