Cristina is one of a generation of Latin American immigrants who emigrated to Spain as a child and who now, thanks to her Spanish nationality, can build a future for herself in other EU countries.
Many of the new friends she has made are fellow Ecuadorians and have come from other Spanish cities.
Cristina arrived in the Spanish capital when she was barely nine-years-old. She came with her family, who were seeking a better future for her. “I was brought up in Madrid but my roots are in Ecuador,” she points out.
Now 22-years-old, she has in fact visited her birth country on two occasions, first when she was 15-years-old and again at the age of 18-years-old, both of which she describes as “very special” moments in her life.
It is clear to see how special as her face lights up at the mention of her time in Quito. “Now I can see it’s going to be difficult to get back, because the tickets are very expensive and I just don’t have the money,” she adds sadly.
It is this lack of money that brought her to London, and took her away from her life in Madrid. “I came alone to London, with the aim of learning English and saving up some money” says Cristina, who also wants to study Business Management and Administration.
To achieve her goal, she is currently working as an office cleaner. “Like the majority of Latin Americans in London, I work in the cleaning industry” she says, a fact her friend backs up. Both work for the same company.
She is happy with her work, but is aware of the fact that “if you don’t know your rights, working conditions or the country’s minimum wage, you may be abused”.
Nor is she fazed by her part-time shifts (two hours in the morning and two hours in the evening) because “it leaves time to study in the afternoons at the English Academy”.
In the meantime, she studies Shakespeare’s language. When she arrived, she had “a very low level of English” but she is sure that in the last few months she has “improved a lot”. However, not quite enough to “find a good job and study a business course”.
So far, her life in London is moving forward and she can already imagine spending her future here. “The city is sad when it comes to the weather, but the people make it cheerful” then she blurts out “Here, I am happy”.
She has no idea when she will return to Spain, and says “I think of today, not of tomorrow.”
(Translated by Claudia Rennie)