The First Steps: Journeys of Movement Between Countries, Identities and Ideas

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Before our orientation class I knew next to nothing about the Moroccan culture or people. During this last quarter we have already begun our journey. A journey of knowledge and a transition of preconceptions and ideas.

A major part of the Moroccan history is its trans-national identity that connects the Moroccan people, and their historical identities with those in Spain. In a combination of historical videos and lectures of Morocco’s trans-national history, we learned that trans-nationalism started way back before Spain was fully developed and occupied. The Moroccan people developed Spain before the Europeans, which is why there are remnants of Moorish castles in Spain, including the Alhambra in Granada. The Riff War occurred several centuries later after the European occupation. It occurred while Spain tried to keep up with the European colonization. During the Riff War the Spanish Military traveled over to Morocco to occupy and take over the natural resources. During occupation they treated the Moroccans horribly, cutting off their heads, using chemical weapons, and other brutal acts, leaving the country downtrodden and impoverished. Almost ten years later, during the Spanish Civil War, Moroccans were recruited to fight for Spain. After the war the Moroccans were shipped back to Morocco with a scant amount of monetary compensation. Now the generation living in modern-day Morocco are fighting unemployment. Some hope to immigrate to Spain, legally or illegally, in search for a better life. There have been many generations worth of crossing between the two countries. This has intertwined the history and culture of both countries, evolving them into a continuous circle of trans-nationalism.

The idea of transition of identity is exemplified in both Laila Lalami’s novel Hope and Other Dangerous Pursuits and a film we watched in class, Ali Zaoua: Prince of the Streets. In Hope and Other Dangerous Pursuits the characters are participating in Morocco’s circulation of trans-national travel between Spain. On their journeys their identities are altered, some for the better, and others for worse. One women, Halima, crosses to Spain with her three children to escape her abusive husband and start a new life. On their arrival to Spain, they are caught, and promptly sent back to Morocco. Once back in Morocco, Halima finds the new life she had hoped to find in Spain, but instead gains from her journey. Her husband grants her a divorce and custody of her children. Halima through her journey found a new identity in a place where she had once felt trapped. Another character that attains a new identity though her trans-national journey is Faten. Faten before her journey to Spain is a prideful young women, who has very religious views and who convinces her friend to wear a head scarf. The young women that Faten becomes in Spain is hardly the same person at all. She becomes a prostitute on the streets, a complete transition from her Moroccan identity. It is interesting to see the two completely different identity shifts from the same journey. The transition of identity seen in  Ali Zaoua: Prince of the Streets is a different transition of identity than seen in either Halima or Faten. It happens when Ali, a street kid, is killed. The transformation appears in the impact that his death has on his friends. Through his death, his friends are sent on an emotional journey, through grieving and trying to give him a fitting burial. In the process his dreams and hopes are transferred to them. They each find a different part of him to admire and take on as a part of their own individual identities.

As we are taking the first steps of our own trans-national journey through the ideas we have discussed in class, we will also find ourselves changed by knowledge and experience.

~Devon Criswell~

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