How a Chinese community of migrant workers and entrepreneurs put down roots in the Spanish capital of Madrid
“Even now, in our rural exodus away from China to work in Europe, acquaintances remain crucial. We always choose a place where our connections will help us settle down, find a job, earn money, and eventually obtain a permanent residence permit."
Taiping is a small village with less than 3,000 people located in eastern Shandong province, at the junction of two cities and three counties. Over the past two decades, more than 200 from people here have migrated abroad to work in countries such as South Korea, Japan, Malaysia, Singapore, the United Kingdom, and Spain. This is far from exceptional in our small, impoverished county, where incomplete statistics point to approximately 200,000 people out of an estimated 1.1 million total population having migrated to seek work abroad.
This story begins on February 15, 2019—the 11th day of the first month of the lunar calendar. Uncle Fu, who’s been back home from Spain for a visit for almost a month now, is struggling with the cold weather of his hometown. He is sitting in front of the fire, smiling as he scrolls down his friends’ WeChat Moments, saying, "Look at them marching in protest.”
At that time, hundreds of Chinese citizens were staging a demonstration on the streets of Madrid, waving flags from both countries to protest against the freezing of their accounts by BBVA, Spain's second-largest bank. To the eyes of the Chinese community, this measure was rooted in racial discrimination. Media focused on the bank’s branch in Usera, the district with the largest concentration of the Chinese diaspora in Spain. This is also where Uncle Fu often did most of his bank transactions. "Good thing I returned a month earlier. Had I delayed until after the New Year holidays, I probably couldn't even withdraw money to pay for the trip.”