At the gates of the Plaza del Tapal, in Noia, a late September tourist crosses my path, frightens a pigeon and asks with a foreign accent: “Where can I eat a kebab?” The façade of the church of San Martiño, with all its heavenly musicians and saints and other monsters, with its Gothic sailor, stands behind him, but it quickly becomes pure circumstance in the face of the urgency of the foreigner. I indicate: first to the left, then straight ahead and again to the left almost at the end. And I add: “The smell is unmistakable.” I want to get mad at the foreign boy but I can’t. On the contrary, it makes me smile. I smile thinking of the kebab of this town of 15,000 inhabitants, so identical and treacherous – indigestible or delicious – to that of any European capital.
I think about what Europe means to me. Two or three images come to my head: the Erasmus program, the third flag on the municipal balconies and a gray and bright color like the sky overcast in summer or a suit jacket. In my imagination, the ring of stars is above all synonymous with subsidies: it survives inclement weather on advertising posters for public works, in campaigns and organizations … And it hangs perennially on SME websites for fear that at some point someone Far away, in Brussels or Strasbourg or who knows where, decide to check that the contract is fulfilled, that the money spent buying a web domain and getting it up and running is being thanked enough to the Union.
But what is being European for someone born in the 90s? I’m not talking about the administrative, but about the symbolic.
Until Brexit, to be European, for someone educated in Spain, was to belong to the European Union. After Brexit, for all non-British citizens, being European remains more or less the same, the textbooks and the destinations of the end-of-year excursions have not changed much. Total, what is one more wound? Europe today is above all a stamp, a certain pedigree. When a European flag adorns the Twitter profile of a boy under 30 – almost always a young man from the provinces and lower-middle class living in a capital – I automatically think: politics, international relations, business administration and management, law. The flag is an indispensable requirement to show that one is waiting in line for the social elevator, that he knows how to speak languages and seeks to carry out an internship in a huge administrative building that depends on the EU, the WHO, UNESCO or any other non-place. with capital letters that impress your parents, your parents ‘friends, or your friends’ bourgeois parents.
The proof that true European sentiment no longer resides in the institutions (if it ever did) could be the fact that no young man who has left Erasmus sings the Ninth Symphony drunk. I also do not know of any couple whose members are from different countries who meet at a party under the EU flag. Does anyone who was not born in the 80s or earlier know what Esperanto is? In that sense, in the institutional sense, for me Europe could well be Eurovision. I say it without acrimony, with optimism. At least there the public boo the booing of the national juries and later fix the mess through televoting.
I do not mean by this that it is against the European framework, the possibility of traveling freely without borders, political collaboration and solidarity (even if it is scarce). What I feel today is rather tired before that bourgeois idea and its symbols, that resentment that we still have. pigs of the crisis of 2008. Faced with all this, fortunately, chance wanted a Turkish immigrant in Berlin in the 70s (because it was surely a woman) to invent, willingly or unwillingly (because surely it was out of necessity), the kebab. I did not imagine then that lady who did it so that today I can smile before a tourist, so that he feels at home eating in Galicia, thousands of kilometers from his Nordic country, without having to go to American fast food and ignoring the local gastronomy. Because the kebab, dear, dear, is a symbol of brotherhood, it equalizes us precarious regardless of nationality, stains our fingers, weighs on our stomach, lightens our pockets, breaks with the Schengen area and seats even the less honorable members of the EU.
We eat kebab while we stroll the General Millán Astray street in Madrid or we read Virginia Woolf in the shadow of a church in Hungary; discussing gentrification with a Danish woman in Barcelona or during our lunch break after low-paid internships at any eurocosa based in Brussels, surrounded by guys just as smiling and convinced Europeanists who can afford the stuffing of chicken, lamb or falafel. What I want to say without fear is: my European sentiment goes in a kebab, it exists and believes in the possibility of not having a university degree and not feeling ashamed, of going against social advancement, against idolatry to the north, in against boredom in the tinted windows of administrative buildings, hypocrisy in the face of inequalities. And all this I am about to tell by placing an emoji in my Twitter bio.