Saturday, 8 August 2015

A moment's thought...the African street vendors of the Mediterranean

It is a typical sight nowadays when in the Mediterranean region, be it Spain, Italy or Greece, to come across the black African vendors trying to scrape a living from selling all manner of things that nobody really wants to buy. The immigrants that peril their hazardous ways across the sea from Africa, particularly places such as Senegal, Nigeria and Benin, come praying for a better life in southern Europe.
Of course, they turn up with little to offer, no job skills, no qualifications, little or no knowledge to begin with of the native languages, Spanish, Greek etc, and so end up forming entrepreneurial groups whose aim is to work the tourist hotspots. From fake designer handbags to even faker watches, from handmade African styled objects to Premier league football shirts, the black African will readily learn any language, any skill, commit to any challenge, in order to fulfil his dream of earning a living on foreign soil. Africa has nothing. At least, where these men come from that is. I am not writing of the South African safaris, the Kenyan coffee or the Egyptian pyramids for instance. The things we may 'love' about that continent. I am writing of immigrants whose heritage is generally West African, a place where mass disease, tribal conflict if not conflict of all manners and what one might call 'economic non existence' thrive as they have done so for decades. These people have escaped countries where rebel forces until only recently dressed up as blonde wigged transvestites, entered villages whereupon they violently raped hundreds of women and children whilst high on drugs, brandishing AK-47s. Just one example of the unbelievable occurring in the 'day to day life' of people from these African nations. I do not pity all, for those black Africans committing these terrible things deserve anything but sympathy or 'a moments thought'. I pity the Africans in turn, who risk life and limb to journey from these ruined places, across land, across sea, with all but hope in their hearts. I pity those who arrive at the destination whereupon they are attacked by Italian fascists or indeed by Greeks of the same ilk as has happened before. I pity the black immigrant women who are seen as 'easy prey' for white European pimps, that put them to work in places such as Magalufe, Malea or Ibiza - where swarms of tourists can be found. If such things can be escaped, most will undoubtedly end up as a 'vendor'. I recall many an arrogant Frenchman in Catalonia, the tourists in the town of 'Roses' particularly, yelling 'putain de merde!' or 'fuck off!' in the faces of these worn out, malnourished African men, as they dragged themselves through the heat asking timidly 'can I interest you in anything I have?' in French, Spanish, Catalan or even English.
I think that all of us, when in the Mediterranean on holiday for instance, should at least 'spare a moments thought' for the black African vendor, and show some respect if possible. There is little we can all do to change the situation of Africa, immigration etc, but I feel declining their goods politely is the least one could do as opposed to shouting profanities in the face of truly struggling men and women.

Bottom photo: a view to the palm trees at the end of the beach promenade, where Africans rested from the heat by day and slept by night to resume work on the promenade the following morning. Day in day out, the sentence before sums up their existence during a summer season.

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