In 2000, when I was 23, I started to work as a photojournalist for different newspapers and received several assignments related to immigration issues in my village and other local familiar areas. Covering conflicts that were affecting my own neighbours allowed me to have a critical position on how the press was depicting the immigration. I noticed that, as a consequence of the immediacy in the news they often were looking for the spectacle and the morbidity of the conflicts between neighbours, and that this superficial representation contributed to extending the fear and the anti-immigrant sentiment. In addition, when covering different anti-immigration demonstrations, it also surprised me that the majority of those who were against the immigrants were, in fact, people who like me who have immigrant roots in their own families.
I was born in El Fondo neighbourhood in Santa Coloma de Gramanet, a city which grew and became integrated into the metropolitan area of Barcelona in the ‘60s, when many immigrants moved from Andalusia in the south of Spain to Barcelona. Among these immigrants were my grandparents from both sides of my family. El Fondo in the ‘90s, in line with its historical character of a welcome neighbourhood, received a new wave of immigrants, this time they came internationally, mostly from China. In a few years, with a large Chinese presence, El Fondo gained the social reputation of being the ‘Chinatown’ of Barcelona.
The arrival of Chinese immigrants to El Fondo caused some issues with the local people, and among other things, the overcrowded flats by the families was one of their main complaints. When I listed Andalusian immigrants complaining about some of the Chinese social behaviours, it made me think about the situation of my family when they arrived at El Fondo in the ‘60s. Just as the Chinese immigrants were doing, my family had lived in a shared poor flat with as many relatives as space could provide, a common extended practice at that time by Spanish immigrants. Therefore, I noticed that when Andalusian were complaining about overcrowded Chinese flats, they seemed to have forgotten the conditions in which they were living when they moved and also perhaps their own immigrant origins.
The photographic series ‘So far so close’ explores the history of El Fondo as an immigrant neighbourhood. In the series, I juxtapose images from the immigration wave in the ‘60s with images of the Chinese community that I took the first years of the 2000s. The images from the ‘60s period come from my family album and ‘Grama’, a working-class community magazine published in Santa Coloma during the late ‘60s by a group of friends of my parents. The pictures depict the daily life of both immigrant groups, showing how the Spanish and Chinese in El Fondo, despite their cultural distance, have more things in common that might seem, with the conditions and the difficulties that they face.
‘So far so close’, Santa Coloma de Gramanet 2003-2006. Serie of 18 pictures.