Spanien: Mercedes García Fornieles

Women are born to dialogue, true dialogue that looks into the eyes of the other.

— Mercedes García Fornieles

Since the 1980s, Mercedes García Fornieles has been working for sustainable development, peace, and the promotion of respect between the local population and migrants working in intensive agriculture in the region of Almeria, Spain. She is the president of the Association of Progressive Women of El Ejido, a NGO that provides assistance to exploited migrant workers. Living in extremely poor conditions between the greenhouses, these migrants are also victims of racism. Mercedes and her organization have also been victims of persistent racist attacks because of their work.

When Mercedes García Fornieles was young she learned that the problem of inequality between sexes could not be separated from the need to struggle for social progress. And this has always been at the center of her life. By supporting migrant workers Mercedes has become the victim of constant attacks and intimidation from the racist mayor, the municipal police, and many of her neighbors who consider her – coming from one of the oldest families in town – a traitor. Mercedes does not let herself be intimidated by malicious posters and pamphlets on walls and distributed in bars that are targeted at her. She continues her path, knowing that her social work is needed. Thanks to her inner strength she has never hesitated to work as a volunteer for the most marginalized people in Almeria. These are the migrant workers in the vast expanses of greenhouses and in the vegetable packing warehouses who only earn scorn, suffer humiliating working conditions, are refused access to bars and public places, and who live between the greenhouses in old huts and plastic shacks without running water. Mercedes is receiving several journalists and a German television station today. Rather than speaking to them she simply takes them to the greenhouses, to the plastic and cardboard shacks, so that the media becomes aware of the horror of living in the open air, in the street, of not having a proper meal, or of being ill in the midst of abandoned plastic. Today, other volunteers of the Association of Progressive Women are presenting urgent documents to the local government. Others are accompanying a sick migrant without documents to the hospital, and a little later, in their office, Spanish class begins. It grieves Mercedes that authorities do not fulfil their obligations and that social workers create such obstacles to prevent her from carrying out her commitment to social justice.

Association of Progressive Women (AMP), El Ejido