The Ecuadorian is well aware of what it means to change your country of residence and culture. By the age of twenty she had already done it twice: first to Spain and then to the United Kingdom.
The first time her parents broke the news to her she was just eight-years-old. She lived in Quito and her school friends were her entire world. “One day, my parents told me we had to go to Spain because things in Ecuador weren’t going so well,” she recalls.
And, they were not mistaken. It was 2001 and Ecuador had just adopted the dollar as its official currency after years of political instability, economic crisis and financial volatility.
It was a difficult juncture, forcing many Ecuadorians to leave the country to find fresh job opportunities abroad. The majority chose Spain, where their numbers rose from 1,100 in 1992 to 30,878 in 2000, according Home Office figures.
Her family settled in Pamplona to start their new life. She grew up here and lived a large part of her life (12 years) there, but even so, she still feels Ecuadorian. “I am Ecuadorian, but I come from Spain,” she says in answer to the question “Where are you from?”
However, this was not to be her final place of residence, and when she was 20-years-old her parents announced that they were moving for a second time. “The outlook in Spain was and continues to be bleak so my parents decided to try their luck in London,” she stresses.
She arrived here 10 months ago. Since then, she has concentrated her efforts, almost entirely, on an English language course in Lambeth College. “My English was at a rather low level when I arrived – say pre-intermediate – but now I am already at intermediate level,” she says with a sense of pride.
The young student, like so many of her age, combines her education with a day job. “I work as a cleaner four hours a week” and stresses “my work schedule allows me to study and attend classes.”
Alejandra knows that being able to speak and understand English is fundamental not only for successfully integrating into British society but also for achieving her chosen goals, “Next year I want to go into nursing.”
Although she has only just left Pamplona, she is motivated by the idea of finding opportunities that do not exist in Spain. “The situation in Spain is very difficult and finding work is almost impossible,” she explains.
In her own words, what she most likes is “people’s manners” and she emphasises how often they say “please” and “sorry”. With a burst of laughter she asserts, “that just doesn’t happen in Spain!”
Despite her happy disposition, she cannot help but think about her friends, the wonderful Spanish weather and the Sanfermines celebrations. “Last year I wasn’t able to go and it really got to me,” she says unhappily, confessing her desire to go this summer.
“I’d love to go to Pamplona for the celebrations but, to do it I’ll have to save up and try to fit it in with my work and studies,” she remarks quite sensibly.
She has time in which to decide as the Sanfermines celebrations start on the 7th* of July and, as Alejandra rightly says, “there’s room for lots of things to happen between now and then.”
(Translated by Nigel Conibear)