Monday, 14 September 2009

RIP Kelvin

In the small hours of Saturday the 5th September a 19-year-old young man, known to his friends as "Tiger", was stabbed outside a disco in Sabadell. According to the reports I've read, Kelvin - his real name - was involved in a street fight, taken home by friends after being injured, and then his family called an ambulance. He was taken to the Hospital del Mar, where he soon died of his injuries.

If by any chance any friends or family of Kelvin come across this article I'd like to extend my deepest sympathies for their tragic loss.

Despite a remark in a report by ADN that it bore the hallmarks of a gang confrontation, El País carried a piece that said the Mossos d'Esquadra had discarded the idea that it was gang-related. The same article also identifies a 17-year-old from L'Hospitalet de Llobregat as the current suspect, and that the assault is alleged to have occurred after an argument that started inside the disco. The youth is currently in custody. 

I was on holiday when it happened, and heard that there had been a stabbing, via the radio. I didn't realise that the victim lived in Poble Sec. In fact the first I knew of how close to home the tragedy was, I was having a quiet glass of wine with my wife and mother-in-law in a bar, and at the corner of c. Blai and c. Tapioles we saw floral tributes to "Tiger" and "Kelvin". Commemorative messages had been sprayed onto the walls, and attempts obviously made to remove them by the cleaning services, as they already appeared faded.

As you can see in a photograph in this blog entry - if you scroll a little way down, past the videos and photos of party-goers - the original homage also consisted of photographs of Kelvin, and votive candles. This was to prove to be a bone of contention for some of those living in the barri, as we shall see. 

It appears from the above blog that Kelvin lived with his mother and five brothers and had only emmigrated to Catalonia from the Dominican Republic five months ago. The spot was chosen to mourn Kelvin,  I suppose,  as this is a corner where many latin youths meet up and socialise. During the Festa Major there are always open-air discos playing bachata and other popular latin music, which people of all ages dance to. Customised cars cruise the corner, and young people flirt. The only trouble I've ever seen, other than a little rowdiness, was a screaming match between a couple which looked like it could turn a bit nastier. It didn't.

The Dominicans and other latin arrivals to Poble Sec are amongst a large number of recent immigrants to the barri which include Brits, Pakistanis, Chinese, Germans, Poles, Russians, French, Ukrainians, Morrocans and many more - a microcosm of the entire town in other words. I'm part of this wave of immigration, and so feel a great deal of solidarity towards any immigrant here, and whilst I am lucky enough not to face many of the struggles the majority have to contend with in trying to make it in a new country, I have an inkling of how difficult it can be.

As a white Anglo with a job, a flat and money in the bank (some of the time), I get to miss out on the worst that this town - or any, for that matter - can throw at you. So, I was very upset by this blog entry. Now, as I've said in my profile, my Catalan ain't up to much, and my deepest apologies to Oscar - whose blog it is - if it has severely let me down on this occasion and I have completely mis-understood him, but I found one or two of his comments a little offensive. 

He writes: Quan hi passava al vespre tornant a casa, estaven tots reunits fent una mena de missa rara: resant i bevent cervesa. Semblava vudú. That, I think, translates more or less as: "When I walked past on the way home that evening, they (the Dominicans who hang out on the corner) were all engaged in some strange kind of Mass: they were praying and drinking beer. It looked like voodoo." He then goes on to ask why it subsequently took four days for the street cleaners to get rid of the melted wax, etc that was left over from this "voodoo". 

Labels for the blog entry include brut (dirty) and brutíca (filth/dirt/dirtiness). In addition, a comment from a reader includes this: "que s’adapten a les nostres costums, és molt important

 "It's very important that they adapt to our way of life." By that, does the poster mean rampaging insensitivity, in the face of tragic loss, masquerading as civic pride?

Attitudes towards immigration, integration, preservation of immigrant culture and sensitivity towards cultural differences are fraught at the best of times. And with a recession, 20% unemployment and the spectre of worse to come, these are far from the best of times. It is also far too big an area to go into here, particularly as I don't wish this blog to become a polemic (those that know me would say that it's inevitable, but I'll try to defer it for as long as possible). So I'll leave you with a photo of a commemoration of another shared tragedy, also on public display at the same time as Kelvin's. Dedicated to those killed in Catalonia's loss of independence on September 11th 1714, it is now our national day and a public holiday.

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