Making a Living in a Ferrol Market

Cheikh Faye arrived in Spain almost 14 years ago, in A Coruña where he still lives to this day. He sells goods in a street market in Ferrol, things like leather belts, hand bags, wallets and teddy bears.

He’d rather be doing something else, he tells me, like working for some company in an office somewhere, but this how he has to make his living.

Back in Senegal, Faye was an elementary school teacher of geography and history. He misses teaching because it was his way of helping the next generation become successful.

“The best way to liberate yourself politically and economically is through education,” Faye said.

This was especially true in Senegal, he told me. Faye left Senegal because it’s a hard country to live in, he said. The country depends on agriculture for its economy and with constant droughts and a lack of water, problems arise.

Living in Spain also comes with its own set of challenges, Faye said. High unemployment among the Spanish makes it difficult for Faye to find better work, he said.

When he first arrived in Spain, Faye picked strawberries in the fields of Galicia alongside other immigrants and Spaniards. His job at the market has helped improve his living conditions and gain independence. However, he continues to look for opportunities to move upward and earn more, as difficult as it may be.

“Before hiring me, employers hire a Spaniard,” Faye said. “It’s a question of priority.
Unemployment is especially high among the country’s youth at almost 40 percent.

Photo by Luis Sánchez de Pedro Aires

Prosecuted in the Promise Land

A call came in as soon as I logged off the dial-up connection. I let the phone ring because I didn’t recognize the number, but the answering machine picked up. A panicked voice came through.

Back in those dial-up days, when I was about 11 years old, you couldn’t receive phone calls on a landline while you were connected online. The man on the other side must have been calling over and over for some time.

“Hector,” he said in breathless Spanish. “Don’t go down Iowa Avenue on your way to work today. The police set up a checkpoint so DO NOT go down Iowa, if not you’ll get deported. Te van a chingar.”

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Value of Tradition

Rosa Marina Gonzales-Quevedo is not a traditionalist. Tradition doesn’t do her any good, she says.

“I don’t think I’m a Cuban who represents Cuba or anything like that,” she tells me one afternoon in her Leonese home.

A painting of a turquoise blue Chevrolet from the 50s hangs behind me in her living room. On the same wall hangs a portrait of a young Cuban boy, shirtless by a stream, looking at the camera with soulful eyes. Those are the only Cuban artifacts I can spot in her home.

“It’s not that I have a need to continue being Cuban with the Cuban traditions. I know them, yes, I’ve lived them. If I go to Cuba, my mother is there, I adapt once again to everything. But when I leave again, I don’t feel anything,” Rosa said.

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