Benamaldena : a tourist town in southern Spain with a small marina quite quiet. In 2016, we had already come and in the evening while walking on the “remblas”, we were amazed to see people selling t-shirts, caps, handbags, shoes on blankets in the flour and suddenly see them packing their equipment fleeing the police. A game of cat and mouse was set up every night.
In 2019, nothing has really changed. Same race, same precipitation, same anguish.
The kids wanted to find Sadio Mane's t-shirt.
Obviously the seller of the t-shirt is very surprised to have a so precise demand on a Senegalese player. From there, there was a discussion with Seryne, a young Senegalese about thirty years.
We took the time to discuss a little with him every night and we met Dou and Djibi two other Senegalese who were also sellers on the sly.
Seryne arrived on July 23, 2018 in Benalmadena. He left Senegal, the city of Saint-Louis where his mother still lives. His father died in 2011 in a car accident. Seryne crossed Africa to Morocco and then took a boat to Spain. He thinks to stay here for another 3 years,then return to Senegal a few months to be able to see his family and then return to Spain. His two other brothers work in Brazil. "There is no business in Senegal so we have to find solutions" he tells us in his deep voice
with a big smile.
"He was Djibi who told me to come in. We knew each other from Saint-Louis, we were friends, he came here three years ago."
Djibi is the oldest of the three friends but also the most marked. All his family stayed in Senegal: his two brothers, his sister and his parents. "I'm tired, “mom”: all day hiding to sell, to win a little money, I'm tired."
The last of the three friends is Dou: he is the youngest, he is 23 years old. He left Senegal four months ago leaving his wife and two children aged 5 and 4 in Dakar. He plans to stay another month in Spain and then go to join his big brother in Paris who works in a restaurant.
And right in the middle of the conversation, he receives a phone call, talks Wolof and in the space of 10 seconds everyone packs his equipment and they run away to hide.
How many kilos should they carry 40kg? 50kg?
When they come back to set up their things, we proposed : "Would you like to join us tomorrow afternoon at the beach so we can eat together?" "Eat? With Fanta and Coke? What time? Where?" They say looking at us a little weirdly.
The next day, the arms loaded with a good picnic (coca and fanta included), we position ourselves at the place of appointment at 13h on the beach of Benamaldena. The children take the opportunity to do bodyboarding on waves big enough that day. All five we imagine the various scenarii: will they come? Will they dare? What would we have done in their place?
We see Seryne arrive with his big package, all smiles as usual. He calls his friends to find out where they are: "They will come later, they are at home, there was trouble with the police ".
-"What happens if the police catch you?"
-"If we have papers, she keeps our goods and we stay in jail for one or two days, without paper she expels us."
We see arriving Djibi and Dou on the beach. They come from their house. They live there at 6. They get up in the morning at 8am to prepare the meal, eat at 10am, work until 5pm, then have a meal break and then they go to work until 1am. And so every day, from April to October. Then from October to May, they go to Barcelona to work in the vineyards and reap the rewards to earn around 40 € a day.
When they say goodbye, they want to give us gifts: shorts for Olivier, football for Maylis, Oriane shoes, Elouan jersey.
Their generosity touches us enormously. We leave them with a twinge of heart. What will become of them? What could we have done to help them more? They are trying to get out but sell counterfeits. Yet the police, who has seen their work, hunt them certainly but does not really try to stop them. It is a complicated problem to breathe. They seek to feed themselves and they have no choice but to do illegal work.
We will remember this beautiful meeting: their good humor, their smile, their kindness and their philosophy of life: "it's like that, “mom”, you have to do with".