Volunteer blog: The beginning / Y dechrau

This post could be one of those philosophical and witty pieces, after which people deduce that what’s about to unravel in front of their very eyes is golden material. Although on second thoughts, those catchy headlines, often utilized in multiple academic and journalistic fields, do not necessarily represent other than a beautiful façade.

Instead, this is an attempt to start from the beginning without much embellishment.

These posts will reflect upon global issues impacting our societies with multiple outcomes. In this vein, the aforementioned reflections do not intend to lecture nor support a specific sided line of thought. Rather, they emerge as a personal view not exempted from exterior influences and a multifaceted identity, at times chaotic, at times contradictory. So, without further ado…

I am from Madrid in Spain, and as Spaniard in the diaspora, I have repeatedly come across the reflection of what migration in any of its forms entails. I have come to the not-so-obvious conclusion that migration is a complex phenomenon incited by multiple reasons among which we could find the economic and/or socio-political as two of the main driving forces.

Syrian refugees in Macedonia, August 2015
(Stephen Ryan / IFRC)

In my case, as mentioned, I was born in Madrid, Spain. As simplistic as it may sound, it was and has been for a very long time, my unique vital compass, and as long as my reflection upon my own identity would go… This is, I had never thought features such as gender, sexuality, race, ethnicity, or class could crisscross within the same identity; which is at the same time shaped by circumstances, therefore contingent.

So, when I first had the chance to explore outside of the European bubble and across the Atlantic Ocean, I travelled 8,000 km to Albuquerque, New Mexico. It should not come as a surprise that my personal values shifted the same way the San Andrés Fault has done in the past and it is expected to do so in the coming years.

Therefore, I “became” certain markers such as ‘white, somehow Latino and definitely privileged’. Although I understand these assumptions are made by almost the entire society we navigate in—and eventually benefited my own journey to integration, I came across two markers that had not necessarily shown up back in Spain.

So, linking back to migration as a global issue impacting us all, the question is: How does migration intersect with identity? What are the dynamics by which we transfer our multiple identities through time and space? The once again not-so-obvious-answer has to do with the way each of us manage our identities and its external projections in westernized areas, where the white hetero-patriarchal paradigm can empower or constrain systemically and/or circumstantially to the benefit of a chosen few.

In Albuquerque, my identity was expressed through performativity, body politics and clashing self-image vs outer-assumptions.

A very concrete and idiosyncratic part of the Southwest where Native Americans, Spanish conquistadors, Anglo people and a very rich social-ethnic melting pot would emerge to have an idealized and romanticized idea of who a European in general and a Spaniard in particular would embody.

That, however, is clearly not the case in Wales, which has shared history with Spain but does not have the same bonding.

Nonetheless, it is clear that so far, nationality is a social construct that does not necessarily define your identity, but it imprints markers through which you may be seen in multiple contexts. All in all, I have tried to pose various reflections in the hope that they motivate a social debate and help question ourselves for the sake of a knowledgeable coexistence

Written by Santi, our long term ESC Volunteer

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