Alistair Gomez: The Mediterranean Heritage

Border, Ethnicity, Identity, Language, Social class Comments Off on Alistair Gomez: The Mediterranean Heritage

Alistair lives in England since he moved there to study at the university, but until then he had lived all of his life in Gibraltar. In his interview, he describes how “Gibraltarianess” should be imagined as distinct from both “Spanishness and Englishness” – or as just the combination of these two national identities and cultures. Rather, as he argues, what makes Gibraltarians Gibraltarian is the Mediterranean heritage shared by most of the inhabitants of the Rock. An alternative common identity that is however challenged by everyday life in Gibraltar as social class and legal citizenship still mark distinctions and exclusion within the tiny national community.

Audio Interview (28-01-2016):



AG: Ahí va. Gomez – mi apellido: all my family are completely Spanish. From my mum’s side ya, there is a bit more variance. So, my mum’s mum – la que conocías tú – she was Spanish as well, but my mum’s dad – I believe he was from Italian descent.

IN: Vale.

AG: Although they migrated to Gibraltar a couple of hundred years back. And when I say couple it’s probably… Perhaps just over a hundred years.

IN: And… Y tu Abuela, por ejemplo…. Tu dijiste, and your Gran… I didn’t know Antonia was Spanish, I thought she was from Gib?

AG: No, she was born in Spain. Ahora, she obviously… She got a British citizenship and all that, because she lived in Gib for her entire life, basically… Y ella a los españoles no los quería ni ver entrar: quería todo inglés, inglés, inglés… Ella era más inglesa que los ingleses… She would hate admitting in fact that she was born in Spain – implying it was that bad. Ella movía la cabeza… If I said: “tú eres española”, she would say: “anda ya, niño”.

IN: Venga. And, obviously you…. You are Gibraltarian, that’s your Gibraltarian identity… What is… What does it mean to be Gibraltarian, no? We can start there.

AG: I mean, for… Personally, Gibraltarian is purely a fact that you were born there – en plan. I don’t… I don’t… It doesn’t mean you have to have – no lo sé – you don’t have to be, or have to have Spanish roots, or English roots. But at the end of the day… ¡No lo sé! Yo de inglés no tengo nada, en plan!

IN: Yeah

AG: Pero, and… Obviously, Spanish I do have in me… Pero que, I don’t feel Spanish either.

IN: Sí, sì, sì… I mean, you have Spa…

AG: It’s a very unique thing… In fact, I was… I was born and bred and grown up entirely in Gibraltar so… And it’s so different from how, the way, Spain operates. And it’s also different in the way England operates, although there are obviously some similarities: but it isn’t the same…

IN: Yeah

AG: A lot of people are thinking that we are British: yeah, we are British, but we are not English! There’s a difference between being British and being English, no? You won’t call – although they are probably a lot more similar to each other – an Englishman to a Scotsman, pero a Scotsman is not an English… Is not English. He is British, but he’s not English.

IN: Yeah, so…

AG: So, obviously, they have different traditions, different things. Pero, in this case, obviously because they are a lot closer – pues, mira – they share a lot more of the culture. Share more of the – you know – the basic human interactions: the humour and everything else, no?

IN: Yes…

AG: Whereas we are British so we share that national identity, pero when you take down into… When you think that a bit deeper – pues, when you start to realizing that culturally, actually, we are a lot more different than we thought we were.

IN: So, this Gibraltarian identity, which is a unique thing that we’re saying now… We can’t pinpoint, no? That we can’t say it’s this or that. Pero, is it more – do you think – more Spanish, or more English? Or those categories don’t work?

AG: No, I don’t think they don’t work, I think… I think it’s larger than that. I think it’s more Mediterranean…

IN: Vale.

AG: I wouldn’t put it down to just Spanish. Especially when there are so many people who come around the entire Mediterranean to live historically to Gibraltar…

IN: Sí…

AG: Anyway, so I wouldn’t put down to just Spanish or English…

IN: No, and then we have a sort of like… And then, we see, yeah… If we think of Moroccan friends… Moro… I say Moroccan… They’re Gibraltarians, they’re born in Gibraltar, their parents were born in Gibraltar, but they’re of Moroccan descent… Do you think of them como un llanito como cualquier otro, or are they “no, son marroquíes”. Like are they different?

AG: Obviously, they have they own different culture brought into that – because obviously, por ejemplo, the majority of Gibraltarians, they have the Spanish and the English culture – bueno, I say English – British culture, intertwined, no? In the life, whereas they add a new dimension to it, they added the Moroccan side to it, which I’m not very aware of… En plan: I’m not very… Pero does that makes them any less of a Gibraltarian? Or, do I see them as anything less? Not really. It’s fine. It’s people who I grew up with, and went to school with, and I shared all the same resources anyway.

IN: Yeah, yeah…

AG: So, I don’t see them any…. I mean, I think the special thing about Gibraltar is because everyone moves… I mean, it’s not a place where we’ve been living… I mean, most of our families have migrated to Gibraltar…

IN: So, can you be Spanish and Gibraltarian? Or, can you be English and Gibraltarian?

AG: I mean… For me Gibraltarian is having not just one thing, is having that mix: you need the mix. I think… Gibraltarian has la mezcla esa… They have the Spanish culture, but the… Some Britishness inside of them too. It’s very unique… And if you’re Spanish, then you won’t get it: you won’t get the whole thing how it works. And if you English, you won’t get it either, because you just don’t get the Mediterranean side of things. I think that it is the key thing. It’s the mix between the Britishness, the British influence that we have in the education system, in the way things are run… Pero, then, there’s that – we are saying – that low-level lifestyle, cultural thing that there is to it…

IN: Venga, venga, venga…

AG: And it’s that mix of both of them, that – que – I think defines it, so… If it’s just from one side, if you’ve just grown up English or just grown up Spanish, and then you move to Gibraltar, you won’t… You’ll be very similar, pero it will take you time to – as you said – assimilate and digest what’s going on… I would much rather people felt less British, if you can say, and just more the local area and just everyone get along better… A lot of people think that they are a lot more British than they actually are, y después vienen aquí y están amargados. Esto no les gusta. Inglaterra no me va a mí, if my… British, bro? Tanto de Union Jack, y después te vas al país donde está el Union Jack, el que ellos han creado y no te gusta nada. It’s creating like a false sense of Britishness where in actual fact, really that’s not really that… no? En verdad… Uno está aquí – la mitad de la gente, ¿cuántos estudiantes van a Uni y se van para atrás? Because they can’t take it, they’re just not used to it, it’s completely different. The lifestyle, everything to it. It’s not the same. The easiest thing, como obviously the… Los red telephone boxes, that are cool and stuff, pero… It’s just not there.

IN: Is there a border between England and Gibraltar?

AG: No… No, I don’t… No, I… Pero, I don’t think so… I mean, it’s just a question of getting used to it, no? And just realising how – realising like you said – accepting that they are different people… For example, one of the first things, por lo que me he cabreado, era en plan: going to a place and perhaps asking for something que – I don’t know, maybe the shop’s closed now or whatever – and here in England it’s like: “No, sorry, shop is closed, no”.

IN: Yeah.

AG: And that for me would… Me mataba a mí eso, en plan de escuchar eso. I was used to, in Gibraltar, in Spain or whatever: the bloody shop has closed ten minutes ago, and the guy was like: “Bueno, venga, picha, te hago el favour: entra ahora”, no? It’s more of that… It’s not open… No, sorry. This, and this, and this has to be done in this way, before, actually you do this. Pero mira, once you learn to accept those things, and you find you way things around… Pues mira: it’s fine.

IN: Yeah.

AG: I suppose…. En Gibraltar, o en España, someone rings my mobile phone and I’ll get it sin problema and start shouting away. Whereas I’m on the train here, and I’m extremely conscious now de que, en verdad, reading people… Estamos, ¿no? Como tú dices… I actually, I tone down my voice, and I purposely try and adapt myself…

IN: Estamos hablando antes de borders, ¿no? We’re saying borders outside with Spain, Gibraltar… Pero borders within the community, we’ve said ya borders within religions… Pero, por ejemplo, the class… The borders between classes, or borders between people who speak more Spanish and people who speak more English… Do you think that exist borders between the Gibraltarians?

AG: No, I think that there’s definitely people see – en plan, like… There is like a lower and a higher class, and the higher class tends to speak more English and the lower class just speaks in a more colloquial – it’s not even Spanish, it’s a bastardization of the Spanish language. Even though they are both Gibraltarian, pero… But, of course, there exists different classes in society. And the higher ones tends to speak more English, and you hear these ridiculous statements saying: “oh, I only talk to my son in English, I won’t teach them Spanish”…

» Border, Ethnicity, Identity, Language, Social class » Alistair Gomez: The Mediterranean Heritage
On 10/08/2016
By Andrew Canessa

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