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Serigne Mbacke came to Spain 15 years ago with only three of his Senegalese friends. Right now, he works at heights, runs the Senaglese Association in Ferrol and has just become a father. The beginning was anything but easy- a new language, new customs, new challenges, but also new opportunities.

‘Through the years we managed to integrate with the others and brought more Senegalese people to Ferrol. When I first set the Senegalese Association, there were only three of us. Right now the numbers are growing and more than 100 people from Senegal help each other on different occasions. We all treat each other as one big family who celebrates together. Often people who come here have no money, nor food to survive but because of our family spirit- we always manage to deal with the problems together.

When I first came here thanks to my friends, it seemed like a new, wonderful opportunity. Although Senegal is poor- what really matters there is avoiding the war. Perhaps living in peace is the most important aspect in my home country. Politicians have stayed the same for years and certainly did not manage to bring any change in Senegal. That is the reason why we migrate to Europe- to earn the money we can later use to improve’.

Spanish and Senegalese cultures are very different. However, according to Serigne Mbacke, what really matters is to adapt and learn from the place of your stay.

‘If we come to a new place- we come in order to improve. I believe that some of the customs from Senegal should be replaced, and some of them should remain the same. We do have customs that are not good for any of us. I often compare two customs from different cultures and choose the one which I prefer. For me that is the main point of integration: to take one but leave another. Countries like Spain hold various aspects that I would love to implement in my home country, such as fixed working hours.

Senegalese culture is all about integrity. We never leave our family alone with no food, but rather share everything we have. I miss a lot of things from my home country which is why one day I am willing to return. Eventually, we live here in Spain in order to come back and improve our family and community lives back there. I have two more children in Senegal. We are thinking about developing a bigger project such as opening a local business or building houses for everyone in my homeland (it is still very common for people to live in overcrowded spaces). We really do need those changes’.

What is the most important thing/dream?

My dream would be to stop mistreating people, especially immigrants who come here and are willing to get the proper work permits and papers in order to work. Personally, I do not care if anyone calls me black or white because the color does not matter to me. But what I do not want for other people is to treat them in a different manner because they are immigrants. Many of us are struggling with their rights to work and live. 

It really bothers me a lot. At the same time, I know we can change this attitude. What we should do is very simple: to treat everyone in the same way.