Once again, our research in Valencia met both success and failure as we searched daily for offices and interviews, painstakingly following our (now very tattered) map through the tiny, winding and always name-changing streets. On Wednesday, we made our way over the Turia riverbed, once a flowing water source that encircles the majority of the city center, to the office of the ever-elusive ACCEM organization.
ACCEM, a Catholic commission that works with refugees and migrants from sub-Saharan Africa, is a great example of a grass-roots approach to immigration policy. In both Madrid and Ceuta, we were unable to make contact with this organization, often finding that its open-door policy for migrants in all situations requires a certain level of secrecy and invisibility to the general public. Obviously, this was quite a challenge to the American tourist.
Nevertheless, we wandered through a residential area of Valencia on the north side of town. Again, we lost all sight of fellow travelers, winning strange glances from the locals sitting outside cafes and shops as we walked by. Always, this is a good sign we are going in the right direction. With the ACCEM logo shining like a beacon of hope in the distance, we rejoiced at the opportunity of finding another interview. We were not disappointed by the friendly staff as we were ushered into the small office of Marta, an employee of ACCEM who we took to be a kind of policy expert for the organization.
A little unprepared (we never seem to master the art of combining informal conversation with strategically placed research questions) we began to learn not only about the organization’s tasks in the refugee community, but also a bit about the daily experience of a migrant in Valencia. What was most notable about this visit, in comparison to our interview at CEAR in Madrid, was that we encountered more realism than optimism.
We found Valencia to be a vibrant city and it is obvious that many men and women care a lot about the people. Whether a social worker behind the scenes, or a migrant selling trinkets and hair braids at the beach, there’s a greater sense of tolerance and community that was evident in our daily travels. Observing this attitude was encouraging and humbling as we move into our final days in Spain.
We look forward to the next few days, hoping they hold just as many adventures, learning opportunities, and laughs as the past two weeks!
– Lashlee and Hannah