small states on un-certain stereotypes

Interview with Bruno Garrido Ruiz
Director of Instituto De Bachillerato Siete Colinas, Ceuta, Spain

Ceuta - Spain, November 2009
BRUNO GARRIDO RUIZ – Different cultures have always lived side by side in our city: primarily Christians and Muslims, in peaceful coexistence, while the Jewish and Hindu cultures are minorities. From an economic standpoint, the city is currently going through a crisis, with an unemployment rate higher than in the rest of Spain. Ceuta primarily lives off of commerce. As a free port, we do not pay VAT, and the taxes are lower. Trade, which is the primary source of income, has diminished. Our problem is that the border with Morocco is only a point of transit for people, but not a customs point for goods. There is no customs office, and Ceuta’s commercial structure is confined to its own borders. Along with the government, the city is carrying forward a policy of renegotiating agreements with Morocco, though in concrete terms this is difficult, because Morocco continues to claim that Ceuta and Melilla are Moroccan cities. So it still refuses to recognize them as independent cities, preventing us from developing trade. Ceuta’s geopolitical situation is not familiar to most people in Europe; even in Spain, we’re an unknown entity, nobody’s really sure where we are. Or they think that Ceuta and Melilla are connected, when instead they are some 600 km apart. All of this makes the city something exotic and rather insignificant in the imagination of a country where there is a very heated debate about nationality. There is the Catalan question, the Basque question, the Galician question. As a demonstration of the multiculturalism of the city and our environment, all four cultures are represented on the Ceuta city council. We have Christian, Muslim, Jewish and Hindu members.
PIER PAOLO CORO – But how can you not be concerned about what’s on the other side of the Moroccan border? What’s happening over there.
BGR – Yes. Morocco is totally different from Spain, socially, economically and culturally. The difference is distinct. Of course we care about the situation in Morocco, in part because our geographic location puts us on the edge of anything that happens there, so it concerns us. At the moment, there are various problems between Morocco and Ceuta.
(interview extract)