Elhadji Diouf is finishing off the last of the paella dishes that he is making today. Better known as “Ali” by his colleagues – thanks to his skill at making alioli garlic mayonnaise – the 36-year-old from Senegal is now a master paella maker at one of the most successful restaurants in Mazarrón, in the southeastern Spanish region of Murcia.
A fisherman by trade in his home country, Diouf is explaining to the rest of the team at the Bangalore restaurant where he works how he reached Spain as a migrant in 2012. Since landing on the shores of Spain’s North African city of Melilla, he has worked his way up to become the chef in charge of making the paellas at this chiringuito, or beach bar. You can watch his story in the video above.
Diouf lived on the same street as Younes Bilal, who was shot dead in a racist attack
Diouf visited his wife in Morocco just before the pandemic hit, and returned to Spain not knowing that she had fallen pregnant. The ongoing coronavirus restrictions in that country mean that he is yet to meet his baby daughter. He has now started the process of family reunification in the hopes of bringing the pair to Spain.
The Murcia region has seen several racist episodes in recent weeks, in the midst of the discourse of far-right political party Vox, which was the most-voted group in the region at the last general election in Spain. One of those attacks took place in Mazarrón, where Diouf lives and works. On June 13, Moroccan Younes Bilal was killed by a former soldier, who shouted racist insults at his victim when he shot him dead.
Senegalese chef Diouf and the victim lived in the same street, and knew each other “very well,” Diouf explains.
The master paella maker arrived in Melilla on a boat together with a dozen other people. In 2020, the arrival of Senegalese nationals on Spanish shores rose. This was due to a reopening of the Canary Islands migration route, caused by factors such as a lack of fishing and the effect of the pandemic. Senegalese migrants ended up being the second nationality in terms of arrivals on the islands, after Moroccans. The migration crisis is expected to worsen this summer. During the last two weeks of June, more than 1,100 people arrived on the Canarian coasts, according to Red Cross data.