Latin American soft integration in Bordeaux

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  • By Paco Audije-Vega and Phil Mac Giolla Bháin

    There are not so many in Bordeaux, but they could be a model for others’ integration. Latin Americans are around 10.000 in the city and its suburbs. They come from all Spanish speaking countries. “It is impossible for us to forget our origins, but here we realized the true values of our different homelands”, said Juan Vílchez Flores, from Peru. He was one of the first to arrive in France, more than 30 years ago. Now, he is the Honorary Consul of Peru. We met him at La Maison du Pérou, which has become a meeting-point for all Latin Americans.

    Juan, in his sixties, arrived in 1976; no more than 20 Latinos lived in Bordeaux. They knew each other. They felt what they have in common, they share the language. “Now, we are about 800 Peruvians in Aquitaine, but there are more un-registered”, add Juan Vilchez.

    Most Peruvians were middle class students; very few came because of big poverty. The case of Chileans or Cubans is different: in the origin of their motivation is political. Around 600 Chileans live in and around Bordeaux.

    Alicia López Aravena, 63, is in Bordeaux since 1979. She is one of those who escaped from Chile’s dictatorship. She worked with the victims’ families, with the association of missing people, the victims of Pinochet. She crossed illegally the Argentinian border, but she could stay there only part of 1978 and 1979, because the wave of military coup d’états threatened all in South America. With the help of the French Embassy, Alicia got a safe conduct paper and with this she could travel to France. She finished in Bordeaux.

    We met her and her daughter Baptistine in the restaurant El Tacuabe, which has become a kind of social club for Chileans and other Latinos. Her daughter Baptistine is in her twenties, she has Alicia as mother, from Chile, and a father from Senegal. “I am maybe more accustomed to my Chile origins and family, because I have been there and not in Africa, with my father’s family, but I feel and consider myself as just French”, said Baptistine. She speaks Spanish with a light French accent.

    “We remain around 600 from Chile. Some went back, but they realized that Chile was a different country to the one they knew years ago “said Alicia. She agrees with the idea of Latin Americans integration between themselves, with independence of their country of origin. Now, some died, some of them were leaders of our community. This is lowering the level of activities. This and the full French integration of their second and third generations, is reducing progressively the Latin Americans common social life in Bordeaux. The young ones are more French than Latinos.

    An Association France- Amérique Latine, an Association France-Cuba, continue organising lectures, seminars, food exchanges. Remain the bars to meet the friends from there. There is a radio station broadcasting on Saturday in Spanish for the Latinos in Bordeaux. Also solidarity activities, such as sending humanitarian help to countries affected by natural disasters, such as Brazil or Haiti flooding or earthquakes.

    “Nowadays, everyone feel represented through this type of meeting and activities, rather more than politics. We participated, anyway, to paint a wall in Saige Formanoir, to remind that we came to France mainly because of several dictators pushed us towards escaping to Europe”, declare Alicia.

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