lundi 3 décembre 2012

A CUBAN ANTHROPOLOGIST AT MADRID BARAJAS AIRPORT


A CUBAN ANTHROPOLOGIST AT MADRID BARAJAS AIRPORT
I am catching a flight to MIA today via FRA. Arriving just one our before departure, the silence at the International Airport was palpable. The LH counter was empty, an agent named Cabrera (made me think of Cabrera Infante, the writer) checked me in, within a few minutes, and I was airside, amidst desperately lonely shops with tired looking attendants.
I am looking for Cuba everywhere. An occasional mulatto gave me hope, but he just does not walk like a Cuban.
Along with the absent shoppers, were the absent foreign workers. At any airport in Europe: recent immigrants would do, at Frankfurt, Amsterdam, Paris or London, all the menial jobs and also attend you at the shops. But here, all jobs, those which are there to be held, are done by what looked like Spaniards. The tumult of the Indian faces were at the check in counter of Air France, which offers attractive fares to its south American destinations, via Paris….they looked like the usual immigrants returning home, eyelids heavy with sleep, dressed with an urgency of departure to their homelands. Many of the South Americans waiting in line ported symbols of returning immigrants, large bulging bags, heavy carry on luggage, dressed in multiple layers as if it was a journey to the Alps, but to accommodate extra clothes. Many of the listless passengers had their ancestral Quechua etched on their faces.
I was still looking for Cuba!

Sr.Cabrera miraculously reappears and makes announcements in three different languages: Espagnol, English and German.. as the flight was a Lufthansa flight to Frankfurt. A long line of passengers had already formed to my left, a straggle of passengers to the right, with the privilege to board first. I had adorned myself with my usual paraphernalia including a prominent bag I had recently acquired in la Habana to carry passport and the boarding pass, adorned with Bandera Cubana.


Observations on the line to the left:
Almost all of them were of South European stock, with an occasional Northern Europeans looking distinctly out of place. Spaniards are flocking to Germany in search of work, it had been announced and that there are more Spaniards learning German now than English! Sign of the times..
After Paris, one does get used to a svelte haute fashion, among the ordinary people, and compared to that the Line on the Left had horrible dress sense.

No one was smiling. It is true, airports are not usually places of joy and on this flight going to Frankfurt, especially, with all the frigidity it implies.

I am dressed no differently than I used to dress 20 years ago while travelling. I even remember the first flight of that year 1991, MIA-LAX-HNL on an ageing 747-200 coming in from GRU! Seated Upstairs. Now the destinations have changed, fortunes of entire countries and companies have changed as well. The recent prosperity of Brasil was an unimaginable dream in 1991.
Oh Pobre Espana.. Poor Spain

Looked up as an up and coming giant of economic development, with new democracy and membership in the EU strapped on to it, is in financial ruins at the moment, with Catalunya threatening to secede! Just last week, they were begging Correa of Ecuador and Dilma of Brasil for economic help! Who would have imagined that? In 2004, just eight years ago, there were close to 1 million illegal immigrants from Ecuador alone in Spain! And as you entered any restaurant, South American faces from the Andean countries greeted you. How the fortunes of the colonial master has changed!
I am reading a long interview with Eric Hobswam, the erudite historian of the last century; the book is called the New Century. Prof. Hobswam had recently passed away and his observations about what was in store were astute and right on the mark.
Spain, Portugal, Greece and Cyprus.. are all deep trouble, with the dream of a united Europe somewhat faded. Old hatreds and prejudices have surfaced: immigrants, dark skinned people, Jews are now bear the brunt of this hatred rising out of desperation resulting from years of mismanagement. Pakistanis, Bangladeshis desperate to get into Europe, are being subjected to extreme hatred in these troubled countries. And there are no jobs for anyone, native or immigrant..
Back to Barajas..
No Wi Fi, an airport looking tired and needing a little bit of make up. I imagined myself as a Diplomat, creating in my imagination different scenarios.
The flight is about to take off..
I am sure unexpected pleasures await me.