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Journal 3 - Arrival in Ceuta, La Cruz Blanca (Morocco)
Sunday, Jan. 15
Today we took a bus from Cádiz to Algeciras, where were got on a plush ferry to take us across the strait of Gibraltar to Ceuta, one of two Spanish cities along the Moroccan coastline. We were welcomed at the Cruz Blanca by the director Hermano Aurelio and given a hearty late lunch of seafood. We talked with him for the next few hours about La Cruz Blanca, Ceuta, immigration, politics and a variety of other issues.
The event of the day came at suppertime, when we followed him into the comedor (eating room) where the immigrants were being served. We missed the idea that we were actually to eat next door with the staff, so we went ahead and got our food with these guys. I sat down next to a man who spoke no Spanish, but some English and got my first loaded immigration story. He was originally from Uganda, which is war-ridden in conflict between the brutal Lord’s Resistance Army and the government. He showed me scars by his eye, on his forearm and waist from a time when he had been caught by them. He had fled the country by bus and lived the last three years in Morocco, until three days ago. At that point he put on a life jacket at around 5:00 in the morning while the guards were not yet posted and swam about an hour across from Morocco to the city of Ceuta. Since then he has been housed here at the Cruz Blanca until he continues his journey to Spain, where he will join a friend.
While this conversation was coming to a close, another man with limited English started to joke around with Jenna. Soon he asked where she was from, and when the answer came, things got interesting fast. “Hey, she’s from America!” He rallies some of his friends. “Hey, F--- America! I’m from Liberia, America colonized my country!” Soon Hermano Aurelio who doesn’t speak English was over to see what the deal was, and everyone else in the room had their attention our way. I didn’t know quite what to do, but things were definitely tense with a limited communication possible. I’m not sure if I reached out my hand first or he did, but we shook hands next and he asked if I was also from America. When I said I was, he let a similar exclamation like he’d never seen any one from the U.S. except soldiers. Again not quite sure what to do, I got up out of my seat to give him a more proper handshake, and our handshake became a jovial hug. Now the exclamation was something like, He’s an American, I’m a Liberian, his country colonized Liberia, but we can get along. The hug was enough to speak between the French, English, Spanish, Arabic, and who knows however many other languages represented. It was a relief to feel the tense air leave the room.
Laura, Jenna and I took a brisk walk around the city after supper. Within such a short time we’ve been amazed at the difference between Cádiz and Ceuta. While Cádiz has a rich history, Ceuta is by far a much more diverse mix of cultures, religions (Christian, Muslim, Jewish, and Hindu), nationalities, histories, and much more. The process of understanding immigration inevitably holds many stories ahead.