She lived for seven years in the United Kingdom without papers, hiding her identity and origin. Today, free of any restraints, she teaches her son and other Latinos in London how to survive in hostile and discriminatory environments.
Marcos Ortiz F.
Ángela Camacho gives off Latin Americanness. So says her colourful necklace, her bracelet, her large rings, belt, bag and her skin tone.
However, for this woman, 39 years old and the mother of Pedro, 12, it was not always like this. For long years she had to hide her roots.
The daughter of Bolivian parents who moved to military Argentina in the 1970s, Ángela left her birthplace of Buenos Aires when she was 22 years old, in the middle of a period of financial restrictions and political instability.
“It was a difficult period and my parents decided to send me to Europe, it was very dangerous there. We decided that I would stay for one year travelling. I was privileged enough that financially, despite everything, they were fine”, she remembers. After half a year touring the continent and thanks to the existence of family members in England, she chose to stay and study English for a couple of years.
“Here I changed visa, so I was working and studying. I first worked as a waitress, because my aunt and uncle have a café here”, she explains.
At the same time, she met the father of her child. “There was when everything started to get a bit complicated. We couldn’t pay for the next visa and I decided to stay as undocumented. After being a waitress, I started working as a nanny, because they let me take care of my son and the child of the family that I was working for”.
Soon the father had to leave. Now it was just Ángela and little Pedro. “The baby was 3 years old when we remained irregularly. However, it seemed very important to me as a Latin American woman without the right to a European passport that I should get it for my son”, she said.
Very involved with the rest of the Latino community and with friends in the Anti Raids Network who warned her about migration raids in different areas of London, Ángela got used to hiding her origins when out on the street.
“They used to send me text messages and tell me not to go through Elephant & Castle because that morning they saw the vans. I was scared, but I was very informed about what were my rights, what I could and couldn’t do”, she remembers. She learned all the tricks to pass unnoticed. “For example, you should use pastel colours on the bus, you shouldn’t walk around with a lot of colours showing your culture,” she laughs.
“From a very young age my son knew his status and he knew what to do. As soon as he could travel alone and have an Oyster card, a set of keys and his telephone, if we went to a march or somewhere we could be at risk, he already knew what to do. He knew that if they arrested me he should go home alone and call family”, she explains.
“If they got hold of both of us it was much easier to deport us. Therefore, I always tried to avoid risky situations where the two of us were together”.
Everything changed in 2015, when she managed to obtain her papers. “Since I have had my documentation in order I can get dressed without hiding my Latin Americanness”, she says. Last year they both travelled to Argentina and Bolivia. “It was very important to us to connect with our land, social life and the movement there. It doesn’t matter where he was born or what passport he has, he is Bolivian. He is an indigenous child, our family comes from the mountains”.
Ángela actively participates in the Movimiento Jaguar Despierto and The wretched of the earth, concerning topics such as sexism, the environment and workers exploitation, among others. Today she attends all types of demonstrations with Pedro. “It is very important that children know how the system works, political-social education from a very young age”, she says after a demonstration against the detention of immigrants in Yarl’s Wood. While she prepares new art and craft workshops for women and children, she concludes: “I really like living in London. I feel that I am socially making a change in my community and in the environments that I move in. I was born in Buenos Aires, but I introduce myself as Bolivian. I learned to be Bolivian here”.
Photos: Marcos Ortiz – (Translated by Donna Davison. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org).