Exploring contemporary Spanish and Moroccan attitudes and policies on immigration in a multi-cultural, historical context
Magellan 2019


“Exploring contemporary Spanish and Moroccan attitudes and policies on immigration in a multi-cultural, historical context”

The history between Spain and North Africa is one that has been interwoven for centuries. Most importantly, during the Middle Ages, Spain was invaded and occupied by Muslim inhabitants, typically referred to as “Moors.” Even though the time of “al-Andalus” in Spain was centuries ago, Spanish culture remains to be heavily influenced by the past Arab presence through their language, food, music, dance, and architecture. However many anthropologists and historians have argued that al-Andalus has not faded away into history, but continues to thrive culturally in Northern Morocco. For my Magellan Project I would like to study the “Lost Paradise” of Andalusia and the continually evolving Hispano-Arab relationship between Spain and Morocco. Among the questions I’m interested in are; How do Moroccans view the prospect of a life in Spain? Does the shared history shape differing attitudes to immigrants from other parts of Africa? How do residents in Southern Spain view Moroccan immigrants versus Northern Spain?

The first country I will travel to is Morocco, where I will travel to cities that held importance during the Spanish colonial era; Ceuta (technically Spain), Tetouan, and Tangier. In Morocco I will first travel to the small town of Ifrane where I will attend a conference, Social Sciences Migration in Morocco and Beyond: From Local to Global Dynamics, at Al Akhawayn University. I have submitted a proposal to speak about Tahar Ben Jelloun’s book Leaving Tangier, which examines the limits of Moroccan ambition to migrate to Spain through a variety of different perspectives. Attending the conference will further allow me to explore my research question by attending workshops and lectures involving migration life, migrant labor, gendered experiences of migration, and globalization.

I then plan to travel to the Spanish enclave of Ceuta, which is a Spanish territory on the coast of Morocco and a major territory of interest for immigrants attempting to cross into Europe from Africa. Here I will study the sentiment of locals about the influx of immigrants and the existence of an Andalusian/Spanish influence upon their culture. In Ceuta I plan to visit the park, la Plaza de Africa, the Royal Walls, with construction dating back to 982, the neighborhood of Meson el Cortijo, an example of a Spanish neighborhood in Ceuta, y el Museo de la Legión, which would help provide me with more insight about the Ceutan history and Spanish military presence.

The last city in Morocco I will travel to is Tangier, which used to be the heart of a vibrant Spanish community, but has since evolved away from Andalusian influences. However, evidence of Spanish colonialism still exists in contemporary Morocco through various means of buildings and culture. Here I will visit the Church of St. Andrew, which serves as a location for Christianity amongst an otherwise Muslim-dominated community. I will attend a church service here and hopefully interview some patrons about the religious relationship between Christians and Muslims in Tangier. I will also walk along the cobbled alleyways of the Kabash to experience what a typical Tangier town exemplifies. My time in Tangier will expose me to a Moroccan culture with an Andalusian influence less fierce than that between Tetouan and Andalusia, but still prevalent

Next I will take a ferry across the 27 mile strait of Gibraltar to Spain, where I will visit the cities of Cordoba, Madrid, and Barcelona. Cordoba as a cultural capital of the medieval al-Andalus and is currently located within the southern Spanish region of Andalucia. In Cordoba I will focus on the idea of interfaith tolerance, the influence of Islamic culture, and current Spanish ideals about the Spanish-Moroccan relationship. To do this, I plan to visit many important Islamic and Moorish architectural works. I will visit the famous Mezquita, a former Mosque and current Cathedral, that serves as a physical example of the relationship between Islam and Catholicism in Andalucia. I plan to ask locals about their perspective on the Mezquita and hire a tour guide to give me in depth information about the history of the Mezquita and its influence upon multiculturalism in current-day Cordoba. Likewise, I will visit CasaArabe, which operates as a center that fosters relationships between Spain and the Arab World. Here I plan to meet with a member of the staff who has agreed to an interview about the workings of CasaArabe.

From Cordoba I will travel to Spain’s capital of Madrid. Here I will meet with Dr. Debra Faszer-McMahon, a Spanish professor who has edited Africa Immigrants in Contemporary Spanish Texts, which is about African migrants and cultural encounters in Southern Spain to discuss the current research she will be conducting in Spain during Summer 2019. Dr. Faszer-McMahon has also graciously put me in contact with Bahia Mahmud Awah, a Saharaui refugee and poet who works as a translator for the Spanish government dealing with refugees in the Arabic speaking world. I plan to meet with Bahia Mahmud Awah and discuss his work acting as a mediator for Spain and Arabs, but also about his own refugee story. Along with this interview, I also plan to visit the branch of CasaArabe in Madrid, which focuses more on the political and governmental aspects of Spain’s immigration crisis. CasaArabe has many lectures, art exhibits, and talented staff that I plan to take advantage of during my stay. Finally I will interview Leila Nachawati, who works as a human rights activist for immigrants and refugees in the Madrid area.

My last stop will take me to Barcelona, where my main focus will be on working with Bayt Al-Thaqafa , a non profit organization that focuses on the social integration of Arab-Muslim immigrants in Spanish society. I will also study the “street vendors” of Barcelona, who are African migrants who fled their country to avoid violence and poverty. There is much conflict involving these migrants who are in Spain illegally working for organize crime systems, but are unable to secure a regular job upon reaching out to the European Union.

By visiting these locations, I hope to gain a greater appreciation for current Spanish-Moroccan cultural relations, more knowledge of their interwoven histories, and gain my own perspective on the debated existence of al-Andalusia in Morocco. At the end of this project, I plan to have collected notes from a series of interviews and use them to write an article about Spanish and Moroccan perspectives on immigration. The prospect of studying the rich history of Arab-Spanish relations first-hand greatly excites me, and I hope to gain a deeper appreciation for each culture and the multiculturalism agenda they promote.

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