Working Class Heroines


Coming back to Alfafar has felt strange, after wandering across the south of Spain enjoying beautiful and brilliant people. We felt a little bit out of time when we got back — Bekah drove for 12 hours, and I tried my best not to stop talking, giving her some entertainment. To make matters worse, the Camaron CD even rejected to function sometimes. It was the car, we supposed; he has his own musical taste, spitting out disc after disc for no apparent reason. This time, he clearly preferred Tom Petty, and for some reason rejected John Lennon and Bob Marley.

Before arriving in Valencia we stopped by Lleida, near Catalonia, but this episode will not appear on the blog. It is too complicated, and anyway it involved a Girl, a Girl from my past who comes back into the story from time to time in her attempts to destroy me.

Bekah and I survived my ex-Muse, and after finishing our ultra secret mission in Lleida we arrived in Alfafar. Nothing special here, just life as usual, but a long list of people we needed to meet.

Israel Cortes, Juan Hernandez AKA Patato, Miguel and Pepi, and Pichon the Roma archaeologist. Our week was stacked.

But in the course of our conversations, looking at the blog I realized something. We have a serious lack of women. In every interview and in every recording women appear, but so far they almost never have their own statement. Rather, they appear in support of their husbands, most of the time at spectators, as witnesses taking care of the situation and the words men then discuss.

I felt that was wrong at some point, and Bekah agreed; but for our particular team, it can be hard in grassroots communities to interview women. For me, as a man, this could be very polemic, and for Bekah it can be difficult due to the cultural gap and linguistic barrier. We need each other, as I am learning trough this trip. This is a bet for two: either we live together or we die alone.

In general, the dynamic between Bekah and me is working very well. We are very similar in some ways, and in other things we are totally opposite. Anyways, we compliment each other and we respect each other’s work and criterion. Even in conflicts and in hard situations, we stand together as friends and dreamers.

This evening we arrived to the Church (again) to meet my cousin Miguel and his wife Pepi. I spent some time with him and the other young Roma preachers of Valencia, but I preferred not to involve myself in their activities (too much Gospel this past week).

Bekah and I were thinking out loud about taking care of the development of the blog when a group of women started to ask us about what we were doing. They came up to us very curious, all different ages: around 40, 18, 14 and 8.

The ladies. [Photo by MAGNETO]

The ladies. [Photo by MAGNETO]

I saw the skies open at that moment: oh God, this is the perfect moment for an interview! Lucia Cortes started to talk first. She was the oldest; she started to talk about the daily life of Roma women in Alfafar.

“Home, Family and the Lord, it is such a simple life in which we live. For our daughters it is different but is very close, still there’s a huge difference between Roma and non-Roma women. Union is the key: we live together, we remain together.”

Their words were simple, but they were honest. These women were not positioning themselves to defend any NGO campaign or to neglect any aspect of their reality, but spoke as they were, transparent.

“Racism it is nothing new, there are so many things we can say, so many things that I don’t know where to start. One example: when I was young, some gadji lost his wallet, and because they saw us passing and we were Roma they blamed us and put us in jail, no questions, no choice… We appeared in the newspaper, the title humiliating us. There was even a trial! My father was scared, he saw me in the police car crying as they took us to the jail. I was just a child. We were eventually absolved because they found the pocket in the house of the woman.”

When I asked them why racism is increasing today they were very clear.

“Today the media is destroying the image of the Roma women, TV shows such as Palabra de Gitano or Callejeros reflect an invented reality which is reinforcing our bad image. There are few things the media shows that reflect reality. We are human beings, usual persons, good persons; as everywhere, we are good and bad.”

Sitting on the table in front of the coffee kiosk of the church,  I focused my questions on racism because I knew that sometimes people just don’t want to talk, especially women who a lot of times keep this kind of episode silent so as not to bring problems to their houses or their families.

“Every day we go to buy clothes,” Lucia said, “we buy clothes and sell them in the streets. One day an African women came to me, we became friends after some weeks. Finally, one day we were talking about racism and we told her we are Roma. The women said ‘no, impossible! Roma are killers, Roma are thieves, don’t say you’re Roma!’ She came from a place where there were no Roma, and she was almost unable to speak Spanish, but she had such strong prejudices that we were not able to understand it.”

Children started to cry, and a car honked outside the building. It was the husband of Lucia who had come to pick her up. Bekah and I said goodbye and asked for a picture; we felt there was much more to be said, but they didn’t have time. They were full time hard workers, full time mothers, full time wives, full time daughters, full time examples: working class heroines.

One thought on “Working Class Heroines

  1. I really really like this part “in general, the dynamic between Bekah and me is working very well. We are very similar in some ways, and in other things we are totally opposite. Anyways, we compliment each other and we respect each other’s work and criterion. Even in conflicts and in hard situations, we stand together as friends and dreamers”🙂
    Your adventure sounds amazing, i often think about you guys, wish you good continuation!

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