surinenglish

Crossings

Francisco Griñán tells us in this edition about a documentary that recovers the unknown epic story of the people of Malaga who, early last century, emigrated to Hawaii in search of sustenance from the sugar cane plantations.

'Hawái o miseria' is the name of the film directed by Eterio Ortega, who tells a story the horror of which can be deduced from some of the figures: 3,000 emigrants boarded a ship that was to take them 13,000 kilometres, but more than a thousand of them pulled out before it set sail when they realised how harsh the journey was going to be. During the crossing there were 19 deaths and 14 births. Pregnant women emigrated in search of a decent future for their children then too.

When they reached the island, their situation was not much different to that of the majority of people who leave their home country in search of a future. They were exploited, they realised that what they had been promised bore little resemblance to reality, and suffered discrimination due to their origin. The harsh living conditions they found made 80 per cent of them decide to leave the island and look for a better life in California. The majority ended up adopting the culture of their new country and forgetting the one they had left behind.

The documentary could not have arrived at a better time as it will serve as a reminder that history is continually changing everything; now Malaga, once a port of departure, has become, in a blink of an eye in terms of history, a destination - two weeks ago three boats arrived with more than a hundred migrants onboard.

It's timely because that weekend the sports centre in Ciudad Jardín (and now Archidona prison) was full of hundreds of newly arrived immigrants whom we might consider unfortunate, but who have fared much better than some of their travelling companions who did not survive the hunger of a sea that has swallowed 2,726 people this year alone. A silent genocide of the poor.

For years the generation of Germans who lived through Nazism and tolerated the regime, through silence, fear or applause, have had to give explanations to their children over the disgrace this brought their country.

If the planet does not end up sinking in the moral destitution it seems to be heading for, it's possible that in years to come it will be our children who question us about what we were doing while the Mediterranean became a huge common grave that we look at with an indifference we ought to be ashamed of.