Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Barcelona - Pakistani "capital" of Spain


Sometimes after a long day, like today, I don't feel like cooking dinner nor am I hungry enough to go out to eat. In this situation I sometimes pop down to the Pakistani owned convenience store next to my apartment building to pick up a couple or three of the large, generously stuffed homemade samosas on offer there for 75 cents a piece. Mmm, delicious! This little convenience store is one of several owned by Pakistanis in my neighborhood -- indeed, throughout Barcelona.
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My first contact with such a business occurred not long after moving to Barcelona. It happened one Sunday when I was looking for a convenience store because here, as in all of Spain, larger stores are not allowed to open on 'the day of rest.' So, I stopped a policeman on the street to ask if he knew a place that was open where I could buy bread and milk. I can still hear his reply, "Quieres decir un Pakistani?" (Do you mean to say a Pakistani?)
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I wasn't sure what that meant, but I replied something to the effect that, if that's what he called a convenience store with Sunday hours, then, yes. It turned out to be exactly how locals refer to such shops and my first introduction to Barcelona's large, thriving Pakistani community.
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After living here a bit I began to sense that Barcelona probably had the highest concentration of Pakistani immigrants in all of Spain, consisting mostly of men, many of whom seemed to come from the Punjab. Recently I discovered a couple of interesting reports that actually confirm these perceptions: Multiculturalism and Health and Immigration, Education and the Labour Market. For example, the first one states that 95% of Pakistanis in Barcelona are male and are not only from the Punjab but from a particular city there - Gujrat. The second report claims that 69% of Pakistanis living in Spain live in the province of Barcelona.
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Although it looks to me like the convenience store is the major business they are involved in, they also seem to be heavily represented in 'locutorios' (small businesses where you can pay to use a phone by the minute), Internet cafes (often combined with locutorios) and restaurants. In addition the local gas company's butane delivery staff appears dominated by Pakistanis and the many construction sites around the city usually have at least some Pakistani laborers. Obviously, Barcelona is a place where many Pakistani immigrants are establishing a life for themselves.
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I would love to know more about the history of this community and how Barcelona came to be the destination of so many. (I've heard estimates as low as 10,000 and as high as 60,000.) I have asked a few Pakistanis about this, but have not discovered much other than things like, "I had a friend/neighbor/relative who lived here" or "who knew someone who lived here."
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Although I don't know when the immigration began, I believe the majority have arrived relatively recently. (Another perception verified by the Multiculturalism and Health report.) However, I do know one man from Pakistan, an owner of an electronics shop, who has lived here for over 25 years and who has raised his children here.
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If anyone knows anything about the history of this community, please feel free to share it here. It would be another piece in the puzzle about how Barcelona has become (or maybe I should say, is becoming) such a diverse and interesting place.
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Chao amig@s
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Carloz

21 comments:

Anonymous said...

I am an Indian married to a Catalan who has lived here in Barcelona for at least 7 years. I've had an opportunity to chat with quite a few Pakistanis as I volunteer at a non-profit as a literacy volunteer, helping immigrants to learn the spanish alphabet. Many Pakistani and Indian immigrants (all of them Punjabi) are exploited by immigrants like themselves. For example, the men who you see working in locutoris or shops pay money to the owner for the 'privilege' of working long hours there, in exchange for a promised work contract which will enable them to get a residency and work permit.

Carloz said...

Thanks for your comment.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Carloz said...

Hello Ashiq,

Thanks for your comment. I have never heard anyone in Barcelona say Pakistani's are terrorists.

Que vaya bien amigo,

Carloz

Nam said...

Hello Carloz,

I am Indian and have been living in Barcelona for about a year. I've noticed the same trend you have. I believe that non-latin (South American) immigration on a relatively large scale to Barcelona began in the mid-nineties, after the Olympic Games were held here. I have noticed that in general in Spain, there are more Pakistanis than Indians. In Madrid where I earlier lived there seem to be more Bangladeshis in the Lavapiés area. And traveling around Spain, in other cities such as Valencia, Almería (mainly on the east coast), I’ve also noticed a decent sized Pakistani presence. To me it’s a blessing, being able to eat Indian-ish food and speak a few words of Hindi every now and then which I totally miss. By the way, I write a blog too (http://mibodeguitadelmedio.blogspot.com) and will add your link to mine you being a fellow Barcelona blogger.

Enjoy the city!

Carloz said...

Hola Nam! Thanks for your comment and the url to your blog, which I will post as a link on mine. I hope you enjoy your time in Barcelona! Saludos, Carloz

Anonymous said...

am rashad,
sir carloz please we need more comments in this blog

Carloz said...

OK, I'll try to start wring more -- after the US Presidential election!

Cheers,

Carloz

Anonymous said...

Dear Carloz!

I am Ashiq Hussain again, I left some comments few months ago along with my email and cell number. Since then I have been receiving calls and mails. Now I am tired of such emails and calls and want you to please manage to erase my comments from the page or atleast manage to erase my email and cell number from there. It is my humble request. I just posted a common view point but was not aware of such irritating calls and emails.
Ashiq Hussain

Carloz said...

Hi Ashiq, I am sorry you received irritating messages and calls after including your email and phone number in the comment you left on MArch 10, 2008. In order to delete your email and phone number, I had to delete the whole comment. However, I have copied and pasted your original comment below, minus your contact details, so that your viewpoint is still available to readers. Saludos, Carloz

"Dear Carloz! I'm Pakistani living in Sweden and have some friends in Spain. Actually the reason of this big chain of community from Pakistan is due to awarding of papers to illegele person by spanish Govt. You will be surprised that most of the Pakistani living in Spain are Master Degree holders and are working in Spain just as illitrare persons, all persons from Pakistan are so hard working and peacefull and thay have only one intension that is to earn money nothing else. So shouting that Pakistanis have link with terrorist that is totally wrong. Because all men here in Spain have their big families back at home and those families are their dependent. My name is Ashiq Hussain"

Anonymous said...

i was reading all the comments regarding pakistani community, and what i know is that, most people are not well educated, they came to spain to support to earn money so that they can support their families in their home country, and why they choosed spain? the answer to this question is that in european union spain was the only country which was legalising immigrants, so they choosed it as it was not their own choice , as every pakistani who came to spain, had no spanish language skill before arriving here, even i was among them, i learned spanish language when i reached spain, so it was just a new birth, and we had to learn it like a new born.
In every community their are good and bad people. Pakistani people are hardworking but on the other hand keep it in your mind that most people are uneducated and even some people who are educated they are here to make money and for that they mis use their own country people, but its hard truth. I am writing all these lines on my personal experiences, so i dont want to offend anyone.

Anonymous said...

totally agreed with the above statement,,seems story of mine

Anonymous said...

I would love to live in Spain, Im from the UK British born but my origin is Pakistani..

Anonymous said...

Hi, can anyone tell me if halal meat is available in Madrid?

Anonymous said...

Salam everyone am a student from pakistan can any one guide me where to live in barcelona? where we can get halal food? situation of job for student? thnks for comments

Anonymous said...

Hey guys, my name is Antonio, I'm from Berlin but at the moment I live in Barcelona in order to organize a exhibition project.
At first, I would like to say thanks for the input you gave to me! Think it's a very interesting topic especially because I know similar structures from berlin.
I'm writing this comment because I'm looking for some pakistan artist here in Spain, barcelona.
Maybe someone know some artist or a websides, forums or what ever.
Saludos!

Ahmed Ali said...

Lovely, Carloz you have written about Pakistani Community in a positive way. I would differ with you on the size of men out of the total Pakistani population in Barcelona. I have been serving families in Barcelona for many years via online Quran Teaching academy http://www.quranfocus.com. Pakistanis living away from Pakistan use our service to teach their kids, how to read Quran properly. Please do little more research on this important topic. Hay, you can even write a book... Good Luck!

ahmadpk22 said...

sir i want do my graduation from spain kindly guide which university has low fees for foreigners and which city has low cost of living

Carloz Newsvine said...

Sorry, but I don't know anything about university fees in Spain. You probably should contact the Spanish embassy in you country. As for the cost of living in cities, the website Numbeo has cost of living information by country. If you visit their page on Spain and scroll down to the bottom you will see comparisons of 11 different cities in Spain. It looks like Barcelona is the most expensive. Of course, cities smaller than these 11 are possibky cheaper. http://www.numbeo.com/cost-of-living/country_result.jsp?country=Spain

Maria said...

I know that you want to learn more about the history of this community, but maybe I will share my experience with this particular culture. Yes, I say culture, because the majority of the people from Pakistan that I have encountered in three different countries behaves in the same way.

First, one good quality of them is that they are very very hardworking. That is the only positive thing I am going to mention about them.

Second, these people always try to "get you" somehow when you shop from them. Lying about prices, not having prices on the products and asking for as much as they can get (i hope Barcelona institutions should give fines for such practices). On the other hand, they are super stingy. As I said this is in their culture..to bargain and try to get as much as possible. They forget that this is not their country and should not bring this crap here.

Moreover, they are very disrespectful towards women. Always checking the girls in the most obvious way and making them uncomfortable, with smiles missing half their teeth. Furthermore, they are smelly and disgusting. Clipping their nails in front of their shops.Most of their kids do not go to school and I guess will be in the family shop business. When they own a bar, it is even more disturbing - very dirty and low hygiene.

I have witnessed the same behaviour in three countries that I lived - UK, Sweden and now Spain.

Carloz Newsvine said...

Wow, Maria, what a narrow-minded, bigoted comment. Phrases like 'these people always' clearly demonstrate that you believe whatever 'experiences' you may have had qualifies you to comment on all Pakistanis. What bunk! My experiences with Pakistanis, which are as valid as yours or anyone else's, have been varied: some good, some bad, most neither -- just like my experiences with all groups of people. In fact, my experience with people in general leads me to believe that wherever you are from your fellow citizens are not as racist as you seem to be.