The first graduate from the Los Asperones slum

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María Alonso I Málaga, (EFE).- José Francisco Gómez became the first inhabitant of the slum of Los Asperones, in Malaga, graduated from the universityand he did so despite the fact that “society has been saying for 560 years” to people of gypsy origin, like himself, that they cannot study, which they themselves have come to believe.

“We gypsies themselves think we don’t have to study, because that’s what they have told us historically, since we arrived here in Andalusia 560 years ago,” he said. he said in an interview with EFE.

Gómez assured that it is something that limits them “enormously”, since they do not even question the possibility of accessing secondary or higher education.

“I spoke with workers in the neighborhood, educators, psychologists… and we know that in the neighborhood there are people who have great abilities and yet who fail in the educational field”, a- he said before adding that there are different studies. which show that families of children with fewer economic resources are those with the highest dropout rates.

A “normal” neighborhood

Composed largely of prefabricated houses and located on the outskirts of Malaga, next to the municipal landfill and the kennel, the neighborhood of Los Asperones is one of the most marginalized areas of Malaga.

Without commercial establishments, without electricity or sewage and with a deficient urban transport service, the neighborhood in which José Francisco Gómez grew up and lives does not seem, at first glance, the most appropriate environment to study.

View of the “María de la O” school in the slum of Los Asperones, Malaga. EFE/Maria Alonso Martos

Despite this, the social educator says that for him it is a “normal” neighborhood, quieter than you might think.

Aware that for most people it can be surprising to live in a place like Los Asperones, he explains that he was lucky that his parents always instilled in him the importance of studying.

“Living in an area where no one has gone to college and hardly anyone has studied has not made it easy for me, but what has helped me the most is having the support people,” he said.

Pariah in the rot

The recent graduate in social education from the University of Malaga believes that in addition to the prejudice suffered by gypsies for not studying, there is social discrimination against them.

“It seems that we don’t study because we don’t want to, that we don’t work because we don’t want to… when society and institutions have taken it upon themselves to exclude us all the time, to put ourselves next to the dead in the cemetery, the garbage cans, the dogs and the scrapyard. In other words, where they kill cars, where they kill dogs, where they bury people, they put us next to where all the rot is,” the young man explained.

Asperons
José Francisco Gómez Heredia poses at the “María de la O” school in the slum of Los Asperones, Malaga. Gómez Heredia, who studied at this school, became the first resident of Los Asperones to graduate from university. EFE/Maria Alonso Martos

He also said that his mother’s family lived in Calle Martínez Maldonado -located in a neighborhood in the middle zone, close to the center of Malaga-, but there were floods and they were sent to Los Asperones. At first they were told they would be displaced for two or three years, but after 35 years they are still there.

“There is a social image that we are the bad guys, but in reality we are people who live in neighborhoods like Los Asperones because the institutions have decided that we live there,” he insisted.

deeper discrimination

According to José Francisco Gómez, in recent years the problem of discrimination against Roma has become even more serious. Contrary to what he believes should happen – that over time, people have more confidence in the group and in the Gypsy culture – he considers that it is quite the opposite that is happening.

“Perhaps the birth of certain political parties that have a lot of hatred has perhaps increased the tension towards us, towards the gypsies”, he commented.

Despite this, he feels that little by little progress is being made in education and there are more and more Roma who, like him, decide to study.

He says that in his case, throughout his training, he found more teachers who supported him than those who told him that he was useless and that he was not going to be able to obtain academic titles .

set precedents

For the graduate, having managed to be a Social Educator from a neighborhood like his means having opened a door to the children of his neighborhood, because he can serve as an example for them to see that, if a person has done it, can also.

“The best way to change the social image towards our group, the best way to reveal ourselves, is to study and obtain a profession, a middle or higher level family doctor, a university degree or whatever,” says Gómez, who adds that although he is the first university graduate in his neighborhood, there is a neighbor who will graduate next year and there is another girl who has just started university.

He assures that he feels partly responsible for this and that he feels that what he has achieved can motivate other gypsies to pursue higher education.

“I think what I have done is not only good for me, but also for my neighborhood, for Roma and to advance rights and change the image they have of us”, concludes José Francisco Gomez. ECE

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