Siggy: Gibraltar after the border closure

Border, Border economies, Gender, Identity, Language, LGBT, Spanish culture Comments Off on Siggy: Gibraltar after the border closure

Thirty-four years old Siggy is a Gibraltarian who left the Rock to go studying abroad when he was eighteen, and never returned as he established himself in Australia. Despite the relatively little time spent living in the Rock, he has strong memories of how frequently he used to go Spain and how and why he had only little relations with Spaniards. He also remembers how his grandmother used to take him to a cross-dressing flamenco bar in la Línea, and how to leave the Rock allowed him to look critically at gender relations in Gibraltar.

Audio interview (04-07-2015):

 

TRANSCRIPTION:

IN: So, really, you’re an Australian-Gibraltarian maybe now; because now you have Australian citizenship.

S: I do, I do, yeah. No… I’ve been Australian now for three years…. And yeah, obviously still very much Gibraltarian.

IN: So, how does that work for you?

S: See, you ask me an interesting question that… I think I feel a lot more Gibraltarian when I’m out of Gibraltar… So, when I’m in Australia – you know – I proudly wear the Gibraltarian football shirts.

IN: Mm…

S: I’ve got a Gibraltarian flag in my garage… I have had a Gibraltar screensaver at work. Being in Australia I – you know… This morning… I wanted to not lose my roots: I deliberately try to find things to ground me to Gibraltar.

IN: Mm…

S: And I – you know – I constantly introduce things to the kids about Gibraltar: the apes… And the family at home…

IN: So, when you’re here in Gibraltar…

S: Mm…

IN: So, what do you feel then?

S: When I’m here in Gibraltar I think I forget about Australia. You know… It’s like I’ve never left. So, I’m here and I’m talking in Llanito again which I don’t… I just don’t get the chance in – you know – in Australia… Sí, y eso. I find I’m here and I can… And what that would be? What is it now? Fifteen years I have not been in Gibraltar. I left when I was eighteen to study…. That melts away, and I feel like I never left, no? Back into Llanito and thinking in Spanish and swearing in Spanish – you know – the… You know that kind of reflex when something happens and – you know: in Australia you swear in English whereas here you swear in Spanish.

IN: Ehm… But, when were you born? Were you born during a closed frontier situation and…?

S: I was, yeah. Born in ’82.

IN: That was the year the frontier opened for the first…. Pedestrianized! So, you were born the year the frontier opened.

S: Yeah, because I’ve got memories of crossing the frontier, and back then you wouldn’t have a passport. You know, your parents would have your name in their passport and my grandmother had my name in her passport. I’m pretty sure because I used to go to Spain a lot with my grandmother. And she’d take me to this… Like a flamenco bar called La Guitarra… And it was a cross dressing like bar so, yeah… So, I’ve got a lot of weekends in Spain.

IN: I didn’t know that Rosita took you to the cross-dressing flamenco bar…

S: [She did. She did.]

IN: [Que chulo…]

S: I know, I know. It’s great. Great to have you know that… You know, that exposure and – you know – that perspective no? For it to be… You know, it’s normal and there’s nothing wrong with it. I think it’s beautiful – you know… Yet, people can… If it’s something which they enjoy doing and people enjoy watching, why not? I’m grateful for that, no? To have…

IN: Sí…

S: Because I don’t know, something which… Leaving Gibraltar and then being able to reflect back on… You know, we are very closed, or we can be quite closed-minded no? With sexuality and… And we – you know – we use derogative terms for gay people which – you know – as a teenager growing up you use as throwing coins. Pero, when you actually sit down and think that was… It’s not very nice to say… And – you know – it’s something which I regret. Using as a… You don’t know… It’s a normal part of society, no? You can – you know… Somos hombres: we’re men and – you know –women have a place and – you know – gays – you know – sort of outside what’s considered – you know – normal as it were…

IN: So… So, growing up in Gibraltar how… I mean, you’ve touched on a number of visions but this question of masculinity in Gibraltar is big. I think, maybe…

S: Si… I think it is…. I think certainly had… I left Gibraltar at the age of eighteen, and going to Scotland – which is where I went initially, and seeing how it happened – you know: how women and men relate slightly differently… I am very glad for, no? I’m quite proud of the fact that it’s… I enjoy that shared sense of responsibility around the house: you don’t want to… It shouldn’t be the wife or the mother’s responsibility to raise the kids, sort out dinner and clean the house and make sure that everything is – you know – to run the household, no? I quite enjoy that Christen and I, we have that shared role and I think… My first… Up until the age of eighteen, I was very sheltered, – you know… You know, my grandmother would cook me – you know – she does: “Are you hungry?”, “What would you like?” It was like choosing from a menu – you know: “Me gustaría  un morcilla con tomate o guisado de ajín ”… And you wouldn’t think at that time when you’re sitting down watching TV that there’s that process of preparing, cooking, put it on the table, then clean… You know, that was something which as a young man in Gibraltar I didn’t… You didn’t see that sort of things. You just thought: “me ha preguntado si tengo hambre…”

IN: Y te pone un plato por delante y ya está.

S: Exactly and – you know – very grateful, and you think: “pero…” And you just take it for granted: después you go to your mum and your mum say again: “Are you still hungry?” “Venga, sí, tengo hambre… ¿Que hay para comer?” And then – you know – being a student and being – you know – self-sufficient and… You then realise that there’s a lot more to, to the back end of preparing a meal and having a meal… So, yes, that sense of having left Gibraltar, I think was great for me to appreciate then, the role that women have in our society, which is… There’s a big burden on their shoulders.

IN: Err…

S: And one which, I didn’t want my kids to not expect any of that.

IN: So they adjust…

S: Exactly you know that’s… And you need to respect everybody regardless of gender or sexuality or religion. There shouldn’t be any, any difference in how you… You interact with people based on any of those things. So, yes. Gibraltar – you know – is a wonderful place but I’m glad – I’m very glad – that I left when I did… I guess, looking… If I compare myself to some of my family members who haven’t ever left… And haven’t seen – you know – the world and how… And how other societies and other cultures have differences in male female dynamics. But, again, I don’t think there’s much… I don’t think unless you’ve been outside your front door – and the front door leaving Gibraltar or La Línea and the surrounding vicinity – I think it’s very hard to see anything other than that.

IN: And even though there’s a border… It’s a very…

S: Sí, culturally we do share and… Bueno, we… There’s less of us showing them. Rather, we take on their culture in a way… And even across the straits, culturally, the dynamics in Morocco…

IN: But do you think that the opened border offered more opportunities for people to become a bit more expansive, think more widely about the world around them or…?

S: Mira… I don’t think, from my experiences… I mean, what we… What we… My trips into Spain other than with my grandmother were going to Prica – which was what it was called back then shopping. Yeah… You go to Prica and you get your – you know – your cheap fruit and veggies… We’d… What else would we do…? We sometimes – yeah – go on holidays to… We’d do the Aqua Park. You know, they’re the main reason of my – you know – my younger self in Spain. It was, you know, Aqua Parking…

IN: Tivoli…

S: Tivoli, exactly. That was the Aqua park, deportivo… And the boring – you know – as a kid was following your parents to Prica – you know… As a kid getting the necessities for the shop, my brother and I would look for… What can we get mum and dad to buy us – you know – from – you know – the sports section: could you get a new pair of shoes, or we could – you know, you know – some sort of sweets, or… So, that was – you know… That was the only escape… It was quite of a mundane trip to… Spain. And then, as I was getting older, I had a friend who lived in Spain so I… That was another… I went to his place a couple of times… But, look, I think as far as changing the way I saw the world as such? No. I think… I think we used Spain as a means – you know, to… It was… For to satisfy certain needs rather than: “let’s go to Spain and meet Spanish people and sit down and talk to them” you know… I think that’s something – you know – people ask me and say: “Oh – you know – you’re from Gibraltar… Oh, you must have a lot of Spanish friends!”… And to their surprise… And I say: “No, you know, we don’t really…” It doesn’t drill down to friendships – you know… And I didn’t – you know… We have a lot of Spanish workers, we do have houses in Spain, but we don’t really have – you know – it doesn’t drill down to friendships – you know… And I didn’t really think about that more, other than explaining that relationship…. But in a way, it sadness me no, that you can’t say – you know… We may have friends in Spain, or Spanish friends come in and visit us in Gibraltar, which is easy given the proximity and given – you know – the language and the cultural similarities… But, again, I guess that if you got to look at the political background and the fact that… Probably, socio-economically, the contrast between Gibraltar and La Línea – you know – it’s not a – you know – an equal footing. I don’t know, I guess there’s lots of reasons there and ones that I couldn’t explain. But I’ve always thought it’s quite sad the fact that we haven’t got those – you know – those links… Personal links.

» Border, Border economies, Gender, Identity, Language, LGBT, Spanish culture » Siggy: Gibraltar after the border...
On 18/08/2016
By Andrew Canessa

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