20 August 2018
Manuel Blanco (Proem-Aid), Iván Prado (Pallasos en Rebeldía) and Leticia Cabo (Proactiva Open Arms), the testimony of refugees at Rototom
The importance of stories, their meaningfulness and significance, as well as how and who tells the story. César Brandon asked; “What would happen if everything you had been told were a lie?” in the African Village a few days ago. The story that we’re being told is that refugees are the enemy and that people helping them are criminals. But doctor for Proactiva Open Arms Leticia Cabo, Manuel Blanco, firefighter and vice-president of Proem-Aid, and Iván Prado, international spokesperson for Pallasos en Rebeldía, change the story in the Social Forum with Walking together with refugees.
Listening to the testimony of someone like Leticia Cabo or Manuel Blanco would make your hairs stand on end and help you understand the importance of the message that is hidden behind the jokes of Iván Pardo, which make you aware and also smile, if you could still hear the applause under the tent of the Social Foum.
The Social Forum flipped the story and defended human rights on the fifth day of the festival. “It is called a humanitarian crisis, but it’s a crisis of humanity”, explained Leticia Cabo. For two years she has volunteered for Proactiva Open Arms with the intention of “working in something that governments aren’t doing; saving lives.” She has participated in 48 missions, having to fight against those who treat her as a criminal, who pursue and accuse her; “We’re irritating because we bring light to and make visible what is happening”. The key is to create small paths that can grow into wider roads through initiatives such as the one Rototom is taking to heart, where depositing your glass in one of the collection points donates the €1 deposit to the NGO Proactiva Open Arms.
With the crowd on their feet, ready to to take just their first step. That’s how Manuel Blanco left us; “We cannot stay sitting at home, we have to leave our comfort zone”, he claimed, “we cannot leave the sea to decide”. He knows very well what it’s like to be criminalised to helping, as he already had to confront a judge last month, standing accused of human trafficking, but finally absolved of a 10-year sentence; “We can’t call them refugees if we give them refuge”, concluded Manuel, “the volunteers show the best side of Europe and now we are criminalised”.
Because it’s not easy to put everything you own in a backpack and abandon your home, knowing that you’re not going to come back. These are the true heroes and heroines. Iván Prado bring a touch of humour and smiles to places of conflict through the initiative Pallasos en Rebeldía; “We are all refugees, we’re rescuing ourselves as a civilisation”. Iván spoke to us about the importance of valuing the story of where we come from to continue constructing it as and how it is; “If Rototom is useful for something, it’s to create a new story”, he explained. “They put up walls because they are scared, but the opposite of fear is love”, the same love that awakened us between applauses; “The only frontier there has to be is our skin, which melts with love”.
Closing was an acoustic concert from Ras Kuko who made the most of the situation to present his album, produced with a number of national and international reggae artists, to raise funds for Proactiva Open Arms.
Written by Asun Pérez. Translated by Finn Darco