Monday, 13 October 2008

Borders now

I have been reading lately quite a few articles in magazines and newspapers about how the other half live in any given situation. Workers in Dubai living like animals while tourists spend loads of money in luxury hotels. Farmers in Argentina struggling with new taxes while government officials get richer. Street artists fighting social injustice while well established practitioners play with unreal prices in the market.
Getting inspiration for new stories around the world is easy, but for some reason I find it harder in London. This is the place where my everyday life became routine with same patterns over long periods of time. Jono said to me once that Istanbul is full of visual opportunities and Mark was thinking about travelling to the borders between India and Pakistan.Talking about his new film on the IRA hunger strikes, Steve McQueen said that people talk about the abuses in Abu Ghraib, but the same thing was happening here in our own backyard.
I would love to travel somewhere and explore some of the issues I am reading about, but for this new project I will try to work on something a bit closer to me from a cultural and geographical point of view: Spanish and Latin American people in London living somehow detached from any local interference in terms of language, music, food, customs and culture.
The largest modern influx of Spanish people happened after the Spanish Civil War, when political exiles began to settle mainly in Westminster, Kensington, Chelsea and Camden. Many others like me came seeking work, skills and education after the economic crisis in Spain.
Latin American people started arriving in London mainly in the 1970s at a time of much political turmoil and civil unrest in their countries. Around 2,500 Chilean exiles, including businessmen, professors and students, were met by a small community of Latin people who were already here. In the following years people from Argentina, Ecuador and Peru came to London. The mid-1980s saw Colombians arriving not only as political refugees, but also as migrant workers escaping conditions in their country.
Although there are no real Latin American or Spanish districts as such, it is estimated that around 15,000 Spanish people live in North Kensington, focused around Vicente Canada Blanch, the Spanish School in Notting Hill. Other areas with Latin communities are Camden Town, Finsbury Park, Harrow and Wimbledon. In Lambeth the community from Latin America has grown massively within the last five years or so with Spanish being increasingly spoken in the borough. It was Mark again who told me about El Carnaval del Pueblo, the largest Latin American festival in Europe, supported by Southwark Council and attended by more than 130000 people. Such a big and close event I didn't know anything about.


Anna said...

Hi Rafael,
Have a look at the 'Home elephant & Castle' book (the group project the LCC students did last year), one of the students did portraits of Latin American people living in the Elephant & Castle area. She also has them on her website. (They are in the portrait section)
Also I watched Junkmail Britain a programme on channel 4 last week. Apparently Willesden have turned very Latin and pizza with a Brazilian twist is the thing!

antrim said...

hi rafael,

i just wanted to respond to the part of your post that talked about doing work in your own backyard...we know of all the misery and struggle over the world from others reporting on it...but be sure there is all this pain and destruction in london...maybe try to find some grassroots groups that are working on particular issues...i know in NYC, the immigrant community has been fighting over a drivers license issue whereby the city wants people to be able to prove citizenship to get a drivers license. many of these people rely on driving taxis for a living, serving their own expat community...on the face, not a very exciting issue, but to explore the issue through the lives of the people, could be very good.
good luck in finding what you are looking for. antrim