Raquel Vega-Durán's book is erudite, well-researched, intelligent, and persuasive. Emigrant Dreams, Immigrant Borders comes to complement Susan Martin-Márquez's Disorientations (2008), Daniel Flesler's The Return of the Moor (2011), Adolfo Campoy-Cubillo's Memories of the Maghreb (2012), and my own ¡Hay moros en la costa! (2014). Emigrant Dreams' strength is the study of migrations to Spain as portrayed in literature, art and film, comprehending writers, film-makers, and artists from Spain, Equatorial Guinea, and Latin America. On the other side, one can argue that Vega-Durán's book lacks the point of view of Moroccan cultural production in Castilian and Catalan. For example, Vega-Durán vaguely mentions the works of Najat El Hachmi (Moroccan/Riffian-Catalan writer who won the Ramon Llull Prize in 2008 with L'últim patriarca). At any rate, Vega-Durán's choice to analyze books, film, and art from Spain is understandable insofar as Martin-Márquez, Flesler, Campoy Cubillo, and I have already explored the cultural relationship between Spain and the former colonies in Africa from a comparative point of view. As the author expresses in the Introduction, her research is motivated by the amnesia of the Spanish society about its own migratory history: "One force working against this amnesia is Spanish fiction, film, and art, which have increasingly found inspiration in the encounters between Spaniards and migrants" (vii). [End Page 737]
A unique feature of Emigrant Dreams is how the author digs in the history of Spain from medieval times, the presence of Arabic and Jewish cultures in the Peninsula, and the claims for unity during the reign of the Catholic Kings, Franco's regime, and la transición. Moreover, the book moves effortlessly from canonical to non-canonical texts. Vega-Durán's book explores how present-day migrations are making Spain's own conceptions readjust and develop. Aiming at analyzing how Spanish identities are constructed through edgy encounters with the Other, each chapter of the book analyzes the stages of migrants' journeys: outside Spain, at the border, and upon arrival.
The first chapter of the book explores the articulation of the departures of the migrants, offering a historical background for the principal Spanish emigration waves. Vega Durán's work pays special attention to how the Peninsular field of cultural production informs the representation of past and present Spanish history. In this chapter, the author analyzes numerous letter exchanges between Spanish emigrants in the Americas and their homeland during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. The study of this historical journey through correspondence serves to reveal the process of amnesia ("pact of forgetting," [xxvii]) about Spain's past as an emigrant country. Later, in the same chapter, Vega-Durán interprets common experiences of displacement that takes the Other as a vehicle of self-understanding. The latter is accomplished by analyzing modern/contemporary texts of fiction, and history, as well as photography and film
The second and third chapters deal with the second stage of the migrant's journey, the crossing. Both chapters are devoted to the treatment of border and border crossing in Spanish fiction, film, and art. In the second chapter, the author focuses on the two Spanish enclaves in Africa: Ceuta and Melilla. Vega-Durán traces the history of the fences built around the two cities, the reclaiming of several unoccupied islands by Morocco, and Spain's militaristic reaction. By recounting the novel-testimony of Senegalese Mahmound Traoré and Bruno Le Dantec, "Dem ak xabaar." Partir et raconteur: Récit d'un clandestine en route vers l' Europe (2012), Vega-Durán gives voice to the testimonies of Sub-Saharan migrants, acknowledging that the border between Morocco and Spain is not the only obstacle migrants encounter. In this chapter, the author could have mentioned the works of Laila Lalami, Hope and Other Dangerous Pursuits; Pasqual Moreno Torregrosa and Mohamed El Gheryb, Dormir al raso; Rachid Nini, Diario de un ilegal; or Michael Ohan, En ruta hacia una nueva esclavitud. El tr...