While there is no official census of nationalized Spaniards, there are hundreds of thousands of them according to citizenship application records.
They come from Morocco, Romania, Ecuador, Colombia and Peru, to name the largest communities in Spain. And while their origins are varied, they now share a Spanish ID card and something else besides: a tendency to vote for left-wing parties.
These new Spaniards have the right to vote in the upcoming general election of June 26, which seeks to break the deadlock produced by the inconclusive ballot of December 20. Spain has been under a caretaker government since then.
We can’t arrive here and start asking for homes, cars and a paid education; nor can we believe that we’ll get those things just because Podemos is promising it
Colombian Chamber of Commerce worker
While polls indicate that the acting administration of the conservative Popular Party (PP) will repeat its victory in terms of votes, the second spot is being hotly contested between the Socialist Party and the Unidos Podemos alliance, which incorporates anti-austerity, green and communist elements, among others.
And the way that these new Spaniards vote on June 26 will play a role in the outcome. Despite this new social relevance, many of them say they still feel like strangers in Spain.
“We still feel like guests,” says Ica Tomi, vice-president of the Federation of Romanian Associations (FEDROM). “We are the largest community in Spain [around 800,000] but we are associated with Gypsy criminals; that is why many of us will not go vote, and those who do will vote for the left for historical reasons and because it fits in better with our own work culture.”
Tomi, 52, has been living in Spain for 12 years and describes herself as “a Spanish-Romanian who is disenchanted with the political class.”
She also suggests which way her fellow Romanians will vote.
“Among us, there is a historical rejection of communism because of a Stalinist past. Most will vote for the Socialist Party because of their sympathy for [former Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez] Zapatero following his immigrant regularization drives. The more conservative ones will vote for the PP, but they will ignore the new parties, precisely because they are new and are not renewing anything.”
Spain is the EU member state that grants the most citizenship papers, representing 23% of the total, according to the latest Eurostat figures. Most of these new Spaniards have been in Spain between 12 and 25 years. Last year, 78,000 applicants were granted citizenship on the basis of long-term residency.
Fabricio Ortega, president of the National Federation of Associations of Ecuadorans in Spain, says that his fellow countrymen do not look favorably upon acting Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy.
“We cannot go on like this, with a prime minister who is burnt out and in ruins,” he says. “Ecuadorans do not look kindly upon the PP because we are the most suffering of all worker types: the self-employed, who are forced to pay out nearly €200 every month [to the social security system].”
Ortega has a degree in Law and Economics but for the last 10 years he has worked as a bread delivery driver. He left Ecuador with his wife to escape the “corralito” (restrictions on deposit withdrawals) of 1999, and both of their children were born here.
Moroccans make up the bulk of the applicants who successfully obtain Spanish citizenship – 19,904 last year. Annas Merabet, a 43-year-old translator who works at the Madrid Superior Court of Justice and has been living in Spain for 24 years, says that Moroccans tend to vote left.
“The more-educated ones lean toward Podemos, and the less-educated ones toward the Socialist Party, which they identify with Morocco’s Socialist Union of Popular Forces, while the PP to them is the equivalent of the Islamist parties, from the moderate ones all the way to DAESH,” she explains.
Merabet also adds a thought about Islamist terrorism: “Nations’ involvement in the Syrian conflict makes them a target, and Spain is selling weapons. As long as Islam is not disassociated from Saudi Arabia, as long as Spain does not take Islamic religion seriously and control the training of imams, there will be jihadists.”
Meanwhile, Bolivians, Peruvians, Ecuadorans and Latinos in general feel closer to Podemos and the Indignados movement, says José Luis Salvatierra, editor of Ocio Latino magazine.
“We are more active, we’ve made many revolutions, we’re accustomed to taking streets and squares,” he says.
But not everyone is convinced.
“We can’t arrive here and start asking for homes, cars and a paid education; nor can we believe that we’ll get those things just because Podemos is promising it,” says a worker at the Colombian Chamber of Commerce in Madrid who declined to give her name. “What is happening here has already happened in Colombia: [Álvaro] Uribe won because the country was sick and tired of the narcs and corrupt liberalism. He made promises and he won. People here are sick of corruption and of the crisis, and they will vote with their gut.”
English version by Susana Urra.