Rachid

Sometimes, all you know his how the story ends. “I know that I will die with my feet on my soil and be buried in a white kafn, but many things must come before,” said Rachid, a Moroccan immigrant who has lived in Spain for eleven years.

Rachid comes from a large family in Tangier, a city that receives many European tourists. He got to know many of them working as a tour guide when he was in his twenties, and with one family in particular he developed a special relation. They were a family of Spaniards: a mother, Maribel, and her two daughters, a few years younger than Rachid. On more than one occasion, they traveled with Rachid during their visits to Morocco. “Now you have to visit us in Spain,” insisted Maribel. “Come. You have a home in Santander.”

Rachid had always wanted to explore Europe. He felt inspired by the tourists that came to his country from a part of the world that was foreign and enticing. Above all, he was drawn to Spain. There were many Moroccans living in Spain already and they created a grand impression in their homeland. Those who returned for a time saved up a couple hundred euros every year. While those euros wouldn’t reach past a month’s rent, utilities, and groceries in Spain, in Morocco they reached far. These men bought themselves expensive clothes, leased fancy cars, then went back to Spain to return to life as paupers. But in the eyes of Morocco, Spain was a land of kings. Rachid was as starry-eyed as any other.

It was difficult to enter legally into Spain, but Maribel’s husband was a business-owner and wrote out a job offer so Rachid could apply for papers. A few weeks later, Rachid entered Spain on a visa. The family welcomed Rachid and took him in in their Santander home. “I had become really fond of them during our time in Morocco, and Maribel was like my mother,” Rachid remembered. Then one day he realized the seriousness of his mistake he had made.

The husband had just left for work and the girls were out of the house, when Maribel began making advances on Rachid. “She was the age of my mother, and I thought her affection for me was mother-son,” Rachid recalled. “She was married, she was much older. I told her, ‘I won’t let myself do that, and neither will my religion or my culture.’” And so Maribel threw him out on the street.

Rachid didn’t consider returning to Morocco. “I was in Spain and I had papers. If I went back to Morocco, I’d never have that chance again.” So he stayed. He found work right away, at first doing odd jobs in construction. Later he took a few courses and began working as educator in a center for youth with social troubles. Now and then he passed Maribel’s daughters in the street, but he never returned to the family that brought him here.

Work dried up with the onset of the crisis, and Rachid has been without employment for some months. However, work is still more promising in Europe than in Morocco, so he is not ready to go home. His next destination is Germany. There are many things to come before he returns to the place where his story ends.

–Samia Bouzid

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