Recipes for interculturality from Bilbao

Rices from the world, Munduko Arrozak, is a popular fiesta being held since 2004 in San Francisco neighborhood, Bilbao (Basque country) . This barrio, divided from the center by the estuary and the railway, is four times more populated than the rest of the city; it has always been stigmatized as a ghetto, related with prostitution, considered a marginal part of the city where the immigrant live, and recently is becoming to be partially gentrified. The fiesta is the result of a patient networking that the Coordinadora de Grupos de Bilbao la Vieja, San Fraencisco y Zabala had been doing for years: this organization was born to influence in the Renewal Plan designed by the City Council, and is made of groups and individuals who had already done projects of social communication in the neighborhood. The idea of the fiesta serves both to denounce the abandon of the neighborhood, and to aim at the construction of intercultural relationships through autonomy and self-organization: the organizers of the event stress that as many people are involved, as less conflicts and incidents ocurr – with the practice, this undermines the securitarian discourse used by the authorities to increase police presence in San Francisco neighborhood.

If there is a food that represents human diversity, this is certainly rice. In the last edition of Munduku Arrozaka, on june 9th, 2012 in plaza Corazón de María, there were 3200 persons organized in 111 groups, joined by hundreds of neighbors. The square was full of posters and banners, even from balconies and lamp posts: to eat you have to wake up early, and from 9 in the morning everybody takes their seats, organize the space happily and chaotically at the same time, preparing the stoves and the ingredients. At noon it is almost impossible to reach your table without crossing at least ten kitchens, which means ten impressions of the diversity of inhabitants of the barrio. The appetizers are made more enjoyable wit the Kalejira (street parade), that attracts more spectators to the plaza. Before everybody begins to have lunch, all those who enlisted in the cooking competition file in front of the jury with their dishes. After lunch the coming and going of the morning turns into an afternoon laziness, interrupted by small groups dancing on drums and music on the stage, also offering an example of the variety of sounds and movements that make a barrio. Now “Los Arroces” turned into a prototype that is being applied in other parts of the Basque country.

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