Spain has been receiving more and more illegal immigrants from Africa who, fleeing poverty, have been sailing hundreds of miles from places as far as Senegal to make it over here. On some days this week as much as 1000 illegal immigrants arrived in the Canary Islands in one day. Hundreds have died while trying to make it.

This crisis is similar to that of the Southern border of the United States. Our Rio Grande is the Atlantic Ocean, Gibraltar and the Mediterranean. Latin America and USA have similar income inequality as Africa and Europe. In Spain the problem is even greater as there are twice as many Africans as there are Latin Americans and they are even poorer. Spain, at the same time, has only 20% the population of USA. But as I was researching migration flows between Spain and Africa I ran into an extremely surprising fact. I am currently in the island of Menorca where I have a farm that faces the South side of the island, around 200nm north of Africa. As I was wondering if Africans were ever going to make it to my farm, I found out googling “African migrations to Spain” that in the first half of the XIX century human traffic went the other way around and as much as one third of the inhabitants (in Spanish) of this now very prosperous island were forced to emigrate to Africa, because of lack of economic opportunity and famine.

I guess this ads a little historical perspective to the ups and downs of economic opportunity. It´s hard to imagine thousands of Spaniards going out to pursue the African dream, but it happened.

Follow Martin Varsavsky on Twitter: twitter.com/martinvars

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