The Miami Herald
January 20, 2002

A reverse diaspora: Spain welcomes Argentine migrants

 Associated Press

 MADRID -- Since Daniela Camino's native country took an economic nosedive and its streets exploded with violence, the recent Argentine immigrant's inbox has been flooded.

 ``I'm getting e-mails all the time, asking me to tell them what it's like here,'' the 28-year-old said, sipping a soft drink at a cafe on Madrid's trendy Fuencarral Street, near her work at an advertising agency.

 ``Already I know of six people who arrived last week, and another four who are coming this month. Everybody's coming,'' she said.


 Drawn by cultural similarities and Spain's newfound prosperity, Argentines are flocking here by the thousands, fleeing uncertainty in a land that once held so much
 promise it competed with the United States in drawing European immigrants -- including many of their ancestors.

 In the first half of the 20th century, hundreds of thousands of Spaniards boarded ships for Buenos Aires, escaping poverty, famine and civil war. They sought better
 fortunes in a country considered one of the 10 wealthiest in the world.

 When sociology student Yamila Lujan arrived in Spain nine months ago, she immediately went to Salamanca, a city two hours' drive from Madrid, to see the birthplace of her great-grandmother.

 ``We both journeyed because we didn't have much of a future where we were,'' said Lujan, 22, who got a job waiting tables in an Argentine-owned restaurant and
 persuaded her parents to join her in December.

 Fashion designer Graciela Chaia left Argentina on Dec. 27, after street riots left 28 people dead and more than 200 injured and ushered in a succession of unstable

 While having a Spanish parent or grandparent makes any foreigner eligible for citizenship, Chaia is hoping to get papers on the basis of her descent from Jews who were expelled from Spain in 1492.

 Spain is ``bringing back the people they kicked out,'' said Chaia, whose great-grandfather emigrated to Argentina from Syria.

 Agreements between Spain and Argentina mean Argentines of any background get preference in jobs over immigrants from most other countries.

 But while most openings in a nation with 13 percent unemployment -- one of Europe's highest -- are for blue-collar jobs, most Argentines come with impeccable
 white-collar credentials.


 Fernandez, who is getting 10 new Argentine clients a week -- more than triple that of a year ago -- said virtually all ``are people with a high level of education and
 exceedingly good professional qualifications.''

 Recalling the red-carpet welcome Argentina once gave to Spanish emigrants, Spaniards seem to treat Argentines better than the multitudes of Ecuadoreans, Colombians and other South Americans who have come to find work here, Lujan, the waitress, said.

 ``It's as though they see us with different eyes, as though we're not as South American,'' she said.

 But with thousands of people lining up daily outside the Spanish consular offices in Argentina, the reception is beginning to cool.

 Galicia, a cold, rainy and historically impoverished region on Spain's Atlantic coast that is the origin of 200,000 Argentines, is not accustomed to being a magnet for

 The region's emigration minister, Aurelio Miras Portugal, went to Buenos Aires this week to speak to 50 Galician diaspora organizations and tell them that ``this is not El Dorado,'' according to his spokeswoman, Concha Pombo.

 Camino said she had considered moving to the United States, but after a business trip to Miami found that Americans were more ``superficial'' and ``materialistic'' than Spaniards.

                                    © 2002