African Market

Pescara, Italy – September 2014
At the train station in Pescara I noticed something: a market in the car park, so I went to take a look. It turned out to be entirely African-run stalls, selling cheap trainers, sunglasses, quilted coats, and downmarket dresses. The customers, those I saw, all either poor Italians or poor eastern Europeans or both.
I walked round the outside of the stalls and it could have been in a market in Nigeria, men repairing old cars and people standing around talking and arriving shaking hands with a wide sweep and grip and laugh: kech, kech, kech – all black African.
I saw a notice pinned to a van and stopped to read it. It was in French and announced the forthcoming arrival of a Sheikh from Algeria who was to do some sort of religious presentation; the stirring of jihadist subversion maybe but I thought, no, not these people, they want to make a life for themselves, they’re the last people to be interested in creating a fundamentalist upheaval. The sheikh might rant all he chooses. The bigger worry will be their offspring or grandchildren, who will have been born in Italy and grown up in Italy but who do not get Italian citizenship automatically. That will lead to disenchantment, though with any luck the complicated Italian rules on citizenship will have been changed by then. There’s talk of it, along with all the talk on all manner of things that never quite seem to get implemented.
While I was looking at the poster about the sheikh a man in a djellaba spoke to me and I responded in Italian something to the effect that the world is a wonderful place if you keep your eyes open. But I don’t think he understood, I got the impression he didn’t speak much Italian, he smiled a wide smile and I went on my way. Would have liked to take a photo of the poster but felt that would be too much pushing my luck. Would have liked to have taken a photo of the man, some would have asked but I’m too shy still.
So that’s what some of the Africans are doing, becoming regular market stall traders. That will grow and develop, with time.

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