Casares could become the first place in Andalucía to become a 'rumour-free zone', because it has now signed up to the 'Stop Rumours' programme organised by the NGO 'Malaga Acoge'.
This doesn't mean that nobody in Casares is allowed to gossip anymore, nor will anyone be banned from talking about the new girlfriend of the lad who lives at the end of the street, for example. It means that council workers and the general public will learn how to react to the most widespread rumours, especially the ones about the immigrant population.
These include the belief that the health services are unable to cope because there are so many immigrants; that foreigners receive more in benefits than Spanish nationals; that they take all the jobs, leaving local people out of work, or that the Chinese pay no taxes.
Members of the Malaga Acoge organisation will be holding workshops so that people in Casares have the tools they need to act as 'anti-rumour officers' in their neighbourhoods.
Rocío Ruiz, the councillor for Education and Social Wellbeing, says the aim is to “build a society with a happier coexistence, where everybody has a place and, above all, we want people to realise that they can't always believe what they are told by others. They should check for themselves. Inaccurate rumours can only damage coexistence.”
Ángel Galán, a technician in awareness at Malaga Acoge, will be one of those giving the talks and leading training sessions. He says that spreading rumours “doesn't mean that someone is racist, but it is harmful to coexistence”.
Galán warns that although the most common rumours are about the immigrant population, there are others which are specific to each municipality.
In the case of Casares, which has three separate areas (Casares village, Costa and the village of Secadero) different prejudices have been identified among the local population, depending on the area in which they live.
There are also rumours detected among the foreign population about the locals. For example, that British retirees' pensions are supporting Andalusians who are too lazy to work.
“This is always the result of a lack of communication among different groups,” says Ángel.
So how can these myths be wiped out? Ángel says that people will learn from the workshops that there is no need to be confrontational; how to ask questions of the person who is spreading the rumour; they should listen with interest, answer with brief arguments, and ignore any insults that the other person may throw at them during the conversation.
“When there is an argument, it is very unusual for one of the parties to admit that they are wrong. That's why we shouldn't try to convince them that they're wrong; it's enough to ask yourself whether you are right,” he explains. What is most important is to have specific facts to hand to demolish the fallacies upon which the rumours are based.
After a time, the experts will monitor the situation in Casares to see if there has been any change in attitude and whether the 'anti-rumour officers' have had any effect.
“Casares has signed up because it wants to improve its coexistence, and I'm sure it will succeed in becoming a rumour-free zone,” says Ángel.