Gorrilla warfare

by La Sevillana /
La Sevillana's picture
Jul 02, 2009 / 1 comments

No, there isn't a type-o in that title. Gorrillas (not gorillas) refers to those liminal characters you see in Spanish cities "parking" cars for loose change, sometimes referred to by locals as "guarda coches" (car parker).* While gorrillas are certainly interesting in and of themselves, what prompted this entry is the incursion of an immigrant from Africa on "our" gorrilla's territory. "Our" gorrilla, as my husband and I refer to him (his real name is Paco), is a Spanish man of indeterminable age with a lamentable addiction to cheap Spanish wine who parks cars on the street beneath our atico apartment. Lately, he's had a bit of competition from this new gorilla - this immigrant.

Immigration to Europe is a rather contentious topic, the complexities of which should be left to a more appropriate forum. It is, however, worth noting that the recent downturn in the global economy has inevitably led immigrants here in Andalusia to seek even more marginal employment, as gorrillas. Since having first seen an immigrant parking cars a few months ago, I have since seen numerous others.

Most immigrants, more appropriately termed migrants, from sub-Saharan Africa arrive here by boat from Morocco. Their journey to Europe takes several years, as they have to save money to get from wherever they begin to Morocco, and often find when they arrive that they don’t have sufficient funds to pay the mafia which traffics human beings from Northern Africa to Spain. What they do to earn money in Morocco, I have no idea, but once they have enough to pay their way, they hop in tiny little boats and cross the big ocean to Spain. As you can imagine, many of them never arrive.

African immigrants

In the past, many of these would have been taken care of by one of Spain's numerous NGOs, who pay sub-Saharan Africans 30€ a day to stand at street lights and sell Kleenex to passing cars. Not the most glamorous job, but honest work, nonetheless, that has earned them respect. Yet, despite their reputation as honest and hardworking, immigrants from Africa often have difficulties finding employment, as they encounter tremendous competition from both other immigrants and Andalusia’s natives, many of whom still work as agricultural workers, maids and manual laborers. It goes without saying that what they find in Andalusia is often not what they had hoped for when their journey to Europe began.        

The incursion of immigrants into the gorrilla industry is not, I fear, a good sign. I have a suspicion that the local NGOs have been overcome by immigrants who’ve lost their jobs due to the crisis and have just run out of Kleenex and euros. Perhaps I’m wrong. I hope so. As for our new gorrilla, after some initial resistance from Paco, he has been accepted, and seems to have worked himself into the fabric of our neighborhood…as much as any gorrilla can.

Good luck, brave immigrant. And welcome to Andalusia.

*Guarda coches do not actually park cars, they just stand on the street and wave you into a parking space.

Immigrants in Barcelona

In the photo above, migrants in Barcelona watch fearfully for the policia. Selling black market purses, DVDs, and belts on the street is a source of income for some migrants, although it puts then at risk of arrest and deportation if they are caught. They place their wares on blankets, so that, if the need arises, they're able to snatch everything up quickly and run, as these fellows are preparing to do.


La Sevillana is the Anthropology Editor, Andalusia, for Wandering Educators

Comments (1)

  • Dr. Jessie Voigts

    15 years 3 weeks ago

    thanks, la sevillana, for sharing this. it is so hard, everywhere, in this global economy. yet some obviously have it so much worse than others. i can't imagine paying someone to show me where to park, yet it works. 


    Jessie Voigts, PhD

    Publisher, wanderingeducators.com

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