surinenglish

Helping residents in five languages

Javier León, Frigiliana’s new foreign-department officer.
Javier León, Frigiliana’s new foreign-department officer. / J. Rhodes
  • Javier León is the new foreign-department officer at Frigiliana town hall

Javier León is the new foreigners-department officer at Frigiliana town hall. He has been in the job since 1 March this year, after successfully passing the ‘oposiciones’, or civil service exams in January.

Javier, 48, is already a well-known figure in the town, as he and his wife have lived there since 2012 and own the Axarcá beer company, which has its distribution centre in Frigiliana.

Born in Switzerland to Spanish immigrants, Javier speaks five languages. He puts his multilingualism down to his country of birth. “Switzerland is a mix of languages and cultures. From an early age kids are encouraged to learn the languages spoken in the country and English,”he explains.

He adds that children of immigrants in Switzerland must also learn their parents’ mother tongue. “It’s in case for some reason you have to, or decide to, return to your own country,” Javier explains. “Imagine not having any sense of the language or culture if you suddenly have to go back for some reason.”

Multilingual

Being able to speak Spanish, English, French, Italian and Portuguese, Javier is able to help many of the 1,000 foreigners that make up a big part of Frigiliana’s 3,000 population. While Britons make up the majority of the foreigners in the local population, there are many other nationalities registered on the ‘padrón’, or town hall register.

Javier says that the effects of Brexit are already being felt in Frigiliana and he knows of expatriates who are either already trying to sell their properties or are not sure what to do. “Frigiliana is a very small town and the foreign residents know each other. Iknow that there are people who have decided to leave” he says. “The problem is that there is no information and people can’t be in this limbo for long. They need to make decisions.”

Information

In fact lack of information is a problem in general for foreigners that move to another country, says Javier and his aim is to make that transition as easy as possible, at least for people who come to Frigiliana. “There is very little information readily available and in other languages,”the foreigners’ officer says. “People often don’t know what they have to do and why things like registering on the ‘padrón’ are important and what it involves.”

Javier describes his new role as, “solving problems for foreigners,”and working closely with the other departments in the town hall. Javier is supported by Councillor Carmen Cerezo, who is responsible for foreigners, tourism and culture.

Javier works at the town hall from Monday to Friday, but on Mondays helps out at Frigiliana’s health centre as a translator. His current contract is for 12 months, until 28 February 2018. After then it is unclear whether Javier will continue or the job will go to someone else who also passed the oposiciones exams for the job in January.