“Alberto Núñez Feijóo is not present?” An afternoon at the Galicia Center in Buenos Aires

Buenos Aires (Argentina) “With both feet here and the head there”. This is how 80-year-old Lourdes describes living in Argentina. Born in Ordes (A Coruña), she boarded a ship at the age of 21 accompanied by her parents and siblings and, 15 days later, disembarked in the port of Buenos Aires. From the end of the 19th century to the 60s of the 20th century, it is estimated that close to a million Galicians settled in Argentina fleeing the famine that mainly affected the rural areas of Spain. The Civil War and the establishment of national Catholicism re-impelled exile at a time when Argentina was in full economic growth and had flexible migration policies. “There was a lot of work,” recalls Jesus, Lourdes’ husband and originally from Viveiro (Lugo), who arrived here at the age of 22.

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The two have spent the afternoon chatting with their friend Jimena, having a coffee and sharing a package of maria cookies. “We speak Galician, eh?” Jimena says, laughing. On Saturdays they meet at the bar of the Centro Galicia de Buenos Aires, a social, cultural and sports center with around 14,000 members created in 1979 after the merger of the centers Coruñés, Lucense, Orensano and Pontevedrés, which grouped together, decades ago, the population original And it is that Buenos Aires, known as the fifth Galician province, gathered (and still gathers) the largest community of Galicians outside of Spain. Especially the elderly – those who migrated when they were children, teenagers or young people – try to stay connected to the land where they were born: they call relatives, watch Galician television and exercise their right to vote, both in general and regional elections.

The vote: a way to feel close

“I want to continue to exist for them,” argues the 81-year-old Mercedes, a native of A Coruña: “If I stop voting, it’s as if I stop existing.” She plays Rummy with her friend, who is not Galician but who frequents the center and already locates certain things. “Feijóo is no longer there?” -he asks-. “No – Mercedes replies – he ran for Spain’s elections, he got the most votes, but it doesn’t work there like it does here”, referring to Argentina’s presidential system. “Then he has decided not to accept conditions that Pedro Sánchez has accepted,” he says while shaking his head. “I don’t know how this amnesty will end.” In Galicia, Mercedes has always voted for the Popular Party – “Like most of us here” -, among other things, because she believes that Alberto Núñez Feijóo “did very well” while presiding over the Xunta. He remembers his visits and those of José María Aznar, as well as those of Felipe González, José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero “and also those of the mayors”.

“But the one who came very often was Fraga”, explained in conversation with ARA the president of the entity, Jesús Mosquera: “Fraga was, without any doubt, the best representative of the Galician collective abroad “. Mosquera, who treated him and all those who came after him, highlights his ability to understand the complexity of migrating: “He helped all emigration, regardless of who they voted for”, which “drew the majority of Argentine Galicians towards a political tendency”. The Xunta’s current Secretary of Emigration, Antonio Rodríguez Miranda, also maintains a “very fluid relationship” with the Galician community, according to Mosquera. In Argentina there are more than 160,000 Galicians with the right to vote: neither more nor less than 35% of the foreign vote in the autonomous regions. This week, both the president of the Community of Madrid, Isabel Díaz Ayuso, and the president of Vox, Santiago Abascal, were interviewed on the country’s leading radio, Radio Mitre, both asking for the Galician vote and praising the figure of the president Argentine Javier Milei. Yolanda Díaz, for her part, asked for the vote for Sumar: “We are very close to getting Milei’s friends to leave the Xunta.”

“I don’t know the candidates for this election,” says 90-year-old Antonio. “I’m more interested in what happens in Argentina, which is where I live and where I have my children and grandchildren”, who, he adds, are even less connected to the current situation in Spain. In addition, he suspects that the Galicia he left behind is very different from today: “No one lives in the village where my mother was born, it is abandoned.” José, on the other hand, says: “I would go back tomorrow, I live in constant longing”, he admits, and his eyes fill with tears. “I didn’t want to come, but what are we going to do, I was 16.” He remembers that at night he cried and couldn’t sleep, but that the social center saved him: “I waited on Sundays to meet the people of the town and the shipmates, and we talked for hours about Galicia.” He looks at his friends, playing cards around the table, and smiles, “This place definitely helped us survive the homesick“.

2024-02-18 06:30:13
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