There are 12,657 South American immigrants living in Seville, of which 2,105 are of Bolivian nationality. Spanish on her mother’s side and Bolivian on her father’s, the young Rosario Marín talks about her experiences as the proud owner of a “double heart,” despite the difficulties she has found living in a society that’s commonly miseducated about and intolerant of her identities. She expresses all this while waiting to be picked up from the Santa Justa train station.
“I don’t remember, but my father says that as a child, I would go to tell him that the kids from my school called me names, like poor and black.”
Rosario Marín’s young and spirited face shows desperation when she speaks about the subject, for although she’s accepted what happened a long time ago, it still visibly hurts. Daughter of a Bolivian immigrant, Rosario endured taunting from school classmates as a child due to the color of her skin. Today she returns to that same memory while in the Santa Justa station, where she awaits her father to pick her up to have dinner somewhere close to the clinic where she practices medicine. As she faces the schedule of trains that come and go, she looks at the travelers illuminated by the setting sun, running to catch their own trains. Some are clearly tourists, with two cameras hanging around their necks; others are white Spaniards. Between them all, a multitude of Latino, Moroccan, Asian, and other European immigrants are heard speaking perfect Castilian Spanish. She looks at them with no special interest.
“For me, they are normal; although for other Spaniards, they are a spectacle.”
Rosario, also known as Charo by her family and friends, looks behind her, toward the lights and noise of the McDonalds that is situated inside the station, and she walks toward it to wait inside for her father. At 25 years old, she’s finishing her studies at the University of Seville, and she’s following in the steps of her parents who are both doctors. Her father, William Orgaz Jiménez, came to Spain after finishing his studies and working for a couple years practicing medicine in Bolivia. So, unlike numerous other Latino immigrants who are known to come to Spain in poor conditions, ready to accept whatever employment available, he was a licensed doctor, with a high economic status, and his objective was more than just to find work. It was to explore other places of the world and to learn other ways of life. William situated himself in Seville where 12,657 other South American immigrants also reside now, 2,015 of which are of Bolivian nationality. William found work, and thanks to his economic stability, was able to integrate into city life far from Macarena, where the Bolivians are known to live. He then met Rosario’s mother, married her, had Rosario and her brother, and the couple is now divorced.
“And while he was doing all that, he confronted the discrimination that existed then and that still exists in this country. But my father is a man of character, he doesn’t let others step on him, nor does he feel bad about what they say to him. And I admire him for that, and I thank him. I thank him for having shown me that I am not less than others because of the color of my skin and Latino roots. In school, there was this kid who bullied me and called me ‘black piece of shit.’ My father spoke to the kid, there was a hearing, and the school kicked him out.”
Sitting inside McDonalds, Rosario speaks softly and smiles after speaking about the incident. At her side, a young father and his child pass by; the girl doesn’t appear older than six. The father looks at the girl with a big smile, and she laughs back ecstatically. Rosario looks at the pair, and when they leave, she switches from talking about memories to the present day; from that bad kid as she described him, to men now who call her ‘hot-blooded.’
“Here, they look at Latinas as hypersexual,” she says, “or ‘Machu Picchu,’ a name I’ve heard a lot at this point, including by my friends. And I’m Spanish by birth . . .”
The difficulty of feeling worthy of both identities, when one is not valued or accepted by the community of one’s country of birth is an established problem. With more and more frequency, young Spanish-Latinos like Charo feel frustrated and embarrassed by their Latino identity, after seeing the hard and cruel stereotypes that remain about the group among Spaniards. Many of them have spoken on how they choose to hide these certain parts of themselves to avoid the racism and negative treatment they find even in their own communities.
“But, thanks to my dad, I’ve never stopped being proud of my identity. I’ve never hidden that part of me, and, throughout my life, I’ve been fighting and am still fighting for them to see me as just another Spaniard, in all sensess: personal, academic, and professional.”
Staying close to traditional and cultural related practices associated with her Bolivian identity has also helped reaffirm this pride. She relates how she has memories of herself in her youth being a part of the Bolivian parade associated with Carnival that takes place in the city. For her, the act of dressing up in traditional clothing from Bolivia, with the bright colors and the feathers and the headdresses, listening to the rhythm of the flutes, dancing to the music of Los Kjarkas, and finally, eating her favorite Bolivian dish, salteñas filled with chicken, beef, and egg, made her feel closer to her other identity. At the same time, seeing the smiles on the Spanish who watched the parade made her aware that that same identity, although dismissed by some in Seville, was accepted by others.
“I felt Bolivian at heart.”
Rosario hasn’t eaten anything at McDonald’s, because she hopes that after her father picks her up and they go home, she’ll be able to have her favorite dish: Spanish omelette. In that moment she receives a message from him; he’s waiting for her at the entrance of the parking lot of the station. She gets up and walks toward the exit, letting out a profound sigh. She seems to be relieved to finish talking about immigration, identity, and racism, and about a society where several members do not accept her as one hundred percent Spanish. But, she is conscious of the fact that this conversation has to continue to be had if things are going to change in the community that she and her father form a part of.
“Years ago, I told a Spaniard that my father was from Bolivia and he responded that I spoke Spanish very well. So as long as this miseducation persists in this country, and as long as there are people who tell me, ‘You are only Bolivian, you are not Spanish,’ the conversation is necessary. Because the truth is, I’m both.”