A better world is possible




This chapter deals with the millions of agricultural workers in the world who have no access to land and who form part of the large pockets of marginalization, hunger and poverty in the urban areas of their countries, and later in developed countries, generating one of the most complex problems of society today: the flux of illegal migration. This challenge is analysed within the framework of the


In memory of Eduardo Rodríguez

Voice over:

The suffix “less” is a negative addition to a word. It removes, it means without. When you add it to a noun, it means the same as “No” or “Not”. An example: I’m homeless. Which means: I have not got a home.

Landless, rootless, penniless, luckless, homeless, loveless, yes, you understand, that’s what being a migrant is; immigrant, emigrant or émigré.

Eduardo Galeano – Writer, Uruguay (World Forum on Migrations, Rivas Vaciamadrid, Spain):

They, we all know,

The experts, the sociologists,

They study them and give us updated figures,

How many poor people are there?

What work do they do when they work?

How much do they not eat?

How much do they not weigh?

How tall are they not?

What do they not think?

What do they not vote for?

What do they not believe in?

All we need to find out now is

Why are poor people poor?

They, who are the dead in war,

And the dead in hurricanes,

The landslides, in the earthquakes,

In the floods, in the droughts,

And in the other disasters

Of civilizations.

They, who in jail

Are the loneliest prisoners.

And in the factories

Are the cheapest hands.

Is it that the poor are poor

Because their hunger feeds us

And their nakedness clothes us?

Dom Demetrio Valenti:

Greetings and special greetings to the two main sponsors of this forum. And very special greetings for the authorities of Rivas Vaciamadrid. We are here in the capital of worldwide integration, and this is very important for all of us. And very special greetings for all the participants...

Dom Demetrio Valenti – Bishop of Jales, Brazil (World Forum on Migrations, Rivas Vaciamadrid, Spain):

With your permission I’d like to highlight the worldwide dimension of the migration phenomena. And this for the data we have. It’s very significant data, which tells us that in just a few years, the migrants of the world went from 90 million to 175 million migrants, according to the latest figures. And when we identify these migrant numbers, we are talking about those migrants who have not yet been integrated into their host countries.

Saskia Sassen – University of Chicago, USA (World Forum on Migrations, Rivas Vaciamadrid, Spain):

So, let’s say they are 175 million out there - I don’t know how they’ve been counted, and we don’t have to get into that now - but this means they’re a very small minority of all of us living on Earth, of people that move. The overwhelming majority don’t move.

Dom Demetrio Valenti:

The world is our home, and in the first World Forum we emphasised the need to think in terms of universal citizenship. It may seem utopian, and it most probably is utopian. A universal citizenship starts with the conscience that we should all have of being a world citizen.

Sofía Monsalve – Fian, Columbia (CIP meeting, Rome, Italy):

I feel like a world citizen because, well... because I live in Germany, because... I’m an immigrant... in Germany, and I identify with immigrants, so it’s a mixture of the three that I feel.

Gerardo Maidana – Argentinean immigrant in Spain (Torrelodones, Spain):

To find a better place... because... I don’t see a future for my country, and for... the need I have... to do things, things that will be respected... and valued.

Saskia Sassen:

We in Europe have lived some very violent anti-immigration cycles, but in reality, if we take a wider perspective, a broader view of the present phase -which is quite anti-immigrant - then we can see that we are quite hybrid, we are very mixed.

Patrocinio Ramírez – Spanish immigrant in France (Torrelodones, Spain):

We were immigrants, of course, but as I’ve said before, we left with our rights and our obligations, and... when we arrived there, from day one we had our jobs and our son placed in a school, because since he left first, he had to find a place to stay, and he found one, for better or worse... There were... He had his animals, his chickens and his rabbits for when we got there, and we left, kind of like those people who come here on their rafts.

Gerardo Maidana:

For me the change was... was really good... and... since I’ve been in Spain I’ve felt like... at home but with other people. It’s as if I were sharing my old house, but with new tenants... and... I was well received here.

Dom Demetrio Valenti:

I think that immigrants are those who impose... ethical criteria, a more consistent ethical postulate which states that not only is another world possible, but it’s urgent, it’s necessary. A more caring world. Immigrants -and history shows us this - are always a sign of great changes.

Patrocinio Ramírez:

I wanted to, but I never went to school. What can I say? But... after all is said and done, well... that’s what I would have liked... to have studied. But I wanted my son to be different from me... to study and be better than me.

Gabriela Rodríguez Pizarro – Former UN Special Rapporteur on Immigrant Rights, Chile (World Forum on Migrations, Rivas Vaciamadrid, Spain):

They’ve got a debt in their country of origin. If you don’t pay, they can kill a daughter of yours, or they take away your things, or they kill your mum, because in the end you left to work in order to send money for your kids to get an education. That’s the story of all immigrants, men and women. People leave to educate their children. They take care of the children of others, or the elderly, so that they children can get an education back home.

Eduardo Rodríguez:

Our happiest moments? That was... well, when the kids were put in school, and we were living just like the French, or even better, we were living better than many Frenchmen.

Gabriela Rodríguez Pizarro:

But there are regions where some areas are almost deserted. In many countries, you can’t imagine it. Places where you can see an old person with a child, or there are men alone with children, too.

Patrocinio Ramírez:

Me alone, with 4 kids, well I had to fight for a living because I lived alone for 7 months in Guadix, with the kids, and I didn’t want to go to France, because I didn’t want to leave, but what was I going to do with the kids there? And then I got there, and I had a tough time, because I didn’t know how to speak...

Gabriela Rodríguez Pizarro:

So there’s the issue of family disintegration, a serious issue but that isn’t really talked about. Here they are fighting for work permits, but we’ve got to fight for people to be able to reunite their families.

Enrique Santiago – CEAR General Secretary, Spain (World Forum on Migrations, Rivas Vaciamadrid, Spain):

Society is more and more racially mixed, like it or not, and these people - if not them their children raised amongst us - are going to form part of our society, so we must normalise cohabitation, and cohabitation can only be normalised through total access to civil rights and political rights in order to prevent future conflicts. What we don’t want to happen or to spread are the types of conflicts like they’ve had in France. We’re talking about second generations, we’re not talking about immigrants. Or the conflicts that arise every summer in the United Kingdom.

Gabriela Rodríguez Pizarro:

Now, be careful. Look at France. Look at the second generation issue. And talking too about rural populations migrating to cities. In urban areas, the ghettos are... dangerous. Kids growing up there who don’t even have a football pitch, or whatever... to play. They’ve been marginalised, they’ve been absolutely... well, always fearful... How do you teach your children... your values... deeply rooted values, so people teach their values, the values of their parents, but the second generation... look at what happened in France, what happened and is still happening... The second generations... Be careful... be careful with the second generations.

Samir Amin – Economist and writer, Egypt (European Social Forum, Athens, Greece):

Africa is fully integrated in the global system, like the other continents, and even if we take the percentages which represent exports to GDP, we find that Africa is even more integrated than other regions of the world in the global system. But it is integrated at the lowest level.

Participant (World Forum on Migrations, Rivas Vaciamadrid, Spain):

Hunger as a cause for emigration... is a... maybe an occidental perspective on the African problem. Emigration... hunger as a motive which obliges people to leave their homes... we have done a study that shows the opposite. And we have found causes, certain causes which are linked to hunger,  but which are more related to underdevelopment.

Jean Ziegler – UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, Switzerland (World Forum on Migrations, Rivas Vaciamadrid, Spain):

In Africa, the problem isn’t a lack of land, it’s not a problem of agrarian reform – in Africa, that is. It’s a problem of the quality of the land. In Africa the problem is the quality of the land, meaning of destruction by drought, by war, etc., of the ecosystems. The Sahara advances 10 kilometres south every year.


In Africa there is no currency. Our currencies are the currencies of foreigners... from occidental countries. We are waiting for an African currency as a source of development.

Jean Ziegler:

There are currently some (cough) 138 million ecological refugees, who are farmers that have lost their land because of drought, of desertification (cough), of lowering water tables. So they have lost their land and have ended up in slums, completely marginalised, in Kampala, in Bamako, in Niamey, in Dakar. If you go to Dakar – I go there at least every two years – there’s a new shanty-town on the cape. You can see it every time.

Samir Amin:

... which means that it is integrated at old global imperialist levels.

Jean Ziegler:

The reasons for (cough) the farmers’ misery are many. In Bangladesh and in other countries of southern Asia, it is the tenant farming contracts – in Bangladesh I did a mission – which are terrible. Tenant farming... the landlord takes two-thirds of the harvest. They can’t live on that.

Gabriela Rodríguez Pizarro:

The issue is that when dealing with people, let’s say that when the human being turns into an object... into an object to be abused, sold, cheated, to be taken over because of debt, for example...

Somaly Mam – AFESIP President, Príncipe de Asturias Prize winner, Cambodia (World Forum on Migrations, Rivas Vaciamadrid, Spain):

Also... I would also like to talk about violence. Because if you talk about prostitution, there will be people who say “Oh, it’s easy to become a prostitute because it’s easy for her to have pleasure, to have customers, to make money”. But if we talk about violence, in my country in Asia – and I think it will soon be coming to France – of violence, it has been 3 years now that violence has been present in...  by groups against prostitutes.

Gabriela Rodríguez Pizarro:

In the case of the agreement, the person, even though he hasn’t used transport and although his identity papers are in order, well he’s cheated, and the terms of reference are changed. This is the treatment they get, where additionally they are cheated. They told you were going to work in a factory or in a home or a butcher’s, for example, and they bring you straight to a brothel, or they chain your ankle like they do in some countries that I’d rather not name, and you have to be in the sweatshop day and night, sleeping in some corner. That is slavery.

Somaly Mam:

4 million women are bought and sold a year. 4 million is a lot and in smuggling circles that is... a lot of money. I think it’s the second... biggest money maker. So, we should really be careful with this... And I think we should also talk about inequality, as you mentioned before. For me, inequality is at the root of prostitution, and the trade of humans. So today, if you all want to live in dignity, we all have to work together.

Voice over:

The World Social Forum on Migrations, held in Rivas Vaciamadrid Spain in June of 2006, provided a glimpse of what was to come in the Canary Islands the following August of that same year: an avalanche of sub-Saharan immigrants. While the country was enjoying a sun-drenched and sleepy summer holiday, we witnessed the landing of over 15 thousand human beings on the shores of those islands, people trying to save the only thing they had left: their lives.

The NGOs managed 85% of this crisis. Without their active and efficient participation, there would have been a conflict of unpredictable consequences.

Clandestine, illegal, without papers, and for the thousands who died during the journey, lifeless. These are some of the labels the media insist on tagging the immigrant with.

Ignacio Díaz de Aguilar:

Faced with a constant presence in the media of anti-immigration messages,

critical and fear-ridden, today we can hear the voices of the affected, the voice of the immigrants...

Voice over:

These labels distance us from their humanity, and we stop perceiving them as people. We don’t know their names or their stories, and they are turned into faceless statistics that threaten our security and well-being.

Gabriela Rodríguez Pizarro:

I can tell you, and I’m very sorry to do so, you’re very alone, absolutely alone. And so many unmarked graves, not only of those who died in what happened recently between Ceuta and Morocco, but also in Arizona, and also in other areas, in other regions, there are many dead. There are many nameless people.

Participant (World Forum on Migrations, Rivas Vaciamadrid, Spain):

I’d like to bring up the issue, especially for those of you here from the Canary Islands, of the some 10,000 dead who drowned in the waters between the African coast and the Canary Islands, looking for that European dream and fleeing from the European and Spanish patrol boats – there are more and more of them – and they don’t even have a right to show their papers to repatriate their dead.

Ignacio Díaz de Aguilar – CEAR President, Spain (World Forum on Migrations, Rivas Vaciamadrid, Spain):

And talking about the Canary Islands, now that we’re here, and I’d like to remind you because at this moment there are people arriving, and apart from Ceuta and Melilla, there are people dying now, there are many graves - and it’s very sad - that have tombstones which say immigrant number 1, immigrant number 2, immigrant number 3, there are no names, there are no faces, no names, nobody can mourn at these tombs, and this is appalling.

Voice over:

The reality is that immigrants are those who make the economies of wealthy countries function. They are the cheap labour, used and abused, and who do the hardest work for the lowest pay. And the money they send home sustains the weak economies of their countries of origin.

Vladimiro Valdés Montoya – National and Regional Migration Network Coordinator, Mexico (World Forum on Migrations, Rivas Vaciamadrid, Spain):

For us, these waves of migration, especially these latest waves of migration caused by the structural adjustment process, are a result of... form an international labour market, fundamentally.

Gerardo Maidana:

You live in fear because of it, because you don’t want to do it, because I, because I didn’t need or want to do... illegal papers... forged papers, but if you don’t have them you won’t work.

Vladimiro Valdés Montoya:

There are job opportunities in the countries of the North, and their economies depend on these workers, structurally speaking, and if these workers don’t arrive, these economies can’t function.

Saúl Vicente – International Council on Indian Treaties, Zapoteca, Mexico (CIP meeting, Rome, Italy):

Well, the brothers said that no matter big they build it, no matter thick, they’re going to get through anyways... No walls will stop them. The brothers say they need us more than we do. We left because of need, and they’re going to be there all their lives.

Gerardo Maidana:

It’s different from the United States. There it’s a... it’s a struggle to see who’s head you’re going to step on or who’s going to step on your head.

Vladimiro Valdés Montoya:

And the government of the United States invests more and more money to stem the flow of illegal immigration, and coincidentally, half a million of workers with no papers get through. So, one can ask oneself: or they aren’t investing enough, or... they’re very... inefficient at doing their job, or they are totally corrupt.

Saúl Vicente:

However tall the walls are, we are going to keep getting through. They can’t stop us.

Gerardo Maidana:

In the United States I met a 19-year-old boy, Honduran, who had crossed the border 5 times.

Saúl Vicente:

In Mexico, it’s basically... a daily affair, in all the indigenous villages, the issue of emigration, because, the rural world has been abandoned for decades now, and the indigenous world is a rural world, so conditions of poverty are worst among indigenous communities, so they are forced to... migrate.

Gerardo Maidana:

... Mexico United States 5 times, and since he’s Honduran, so he crossed three borders to arrive in Mexico all three times. The first 4 times they deported him, they sent him straight back to Honduras, so he had to cross all the borders again in order to cross the US border again... and he crossed the jungle three times (laughter)... but... if... you don’t see any other way out, and you leave you’re country because you feel you have to, you’re going to keep doing it.

Vladimiro Valdés Montoya:

Because the systems makes us act as if we were stopping the flow, and at the same time makes us let the flow go through, depending on the needs of the labour market. When it’s harvest time in California, everyone on the border patrol staff suddenly develops an interest in star-gazing. And they pass through... thousands and thousands and thousands of migrant workers.

Voice over:

Our memory is very short. We have forgotten that Europe was once a source of immigrants. Wars, political repression and famines displaced millions of Europeans to faraway lands. Between 1900 and 1913, 180 thousand Spaniards a year emigrated in search of better opportunities.

Enrique Santiago:

It’s an organisation that was created in Spain since 1979, which doesn’t claim to be a charitable organisation, but which wants to return the solidarity received by Spaniards throughout history on those occasions in which they had to leave their country seeking refuge and protection from persecution.

Eduardo Rodríguez – Spanish immigrant in France (Torredolones, Spain):

I had a truck, and the truck could legally carry 3,500 kilos, and the police were stopping me all the time, so I had to abandon the truck in France and go back to my family in... in Guadix.

Voice over:

Between 1960 and 1975, over a million Spaniards emigrated to Europe. In 1973, there were still some two million Spanish immigrants living in the Americas. And even today, Spain is the sixth country in the world in terms of the amount of money its emigrants send back home. According to the World Bank, in 2004, the Spanish who live and work abroad send home over 7 billion dollars.

Patrocinio Ramírez:

And my dream was always to return to Spain...

Eduardo Rodríguez:

We didn’t like living there... First of all it was very foggy and very cold... We didn’t like it... And it wasn’t our plan... our plan to live there with the French.

Voice over:

World geography is imperfect: land without people, people without land, nations without territory, forgotten peoples fighting for a state of their own.

Sofía Monsalve:

Look, the organisations in Columbia say that it’s usual to think that there’s migration because there’s war. And the organisations in Columbia say no, there’s war so that there will be migration.

Saúl Vicente:

The indigenous peoples in Mexico are in the same situation as... almost all indigenous peoples... around the world... of external colonisation at first, then with internal colonisation, stripping them of their land, of their territories... and now there’s a plundering of their cultural heritage, their natural resources... and... a situation of... of poverty.

Mani Napi – Pueblo Cuna, Panama (CIP meeting, Rome, Italy):

For the Cuna people, their dreams are what’s most important. Like that... like that you learn everything from your dreams... you get medicine, you get... let’s say you learn how to produce, you get all knowledge from them.

Mbarka Hamudi – Saharaoui Women’s Organisation (European Social Forum, Athens, Greece):

A second, very important step in women’s lives is... are the years, we’re talking years now, of female re-education, because in fact these years are... the years when... open fighting was happening, because it’s also important to say that in the first step, women in the refugee camps were almost alone.

Sofía Monsalve:

The analysis made by the indigenous farmer organisations in Columbia is that war... there are people making a lot of money from the war, and war is a method.

Mani Napi:

If someone doesn’t talk about their dreams, everyone gets worried, you know?... So that’s really a habit in the communities. But that’s getting lost... many people are losing the habit... many people are going to the city, and coming back, and they come to the community, and they tell other types of stories, they talk about what happened in the city, or in novels, or in soap operas, and that’s breaking... now it’s another type of dreaming, created by... by technology or...

Off screen male voice:

... plastic dreams.

Mani Napi:


Voice over:

Perhaps the cruellest migration is that which distances us from ourselves when we abandon the basic principles of solidarity and social justice, filling our lives with alienation and emptiness.

There’s a storm tonight on land

The seas are rough and I’m afraid

And I breast feed Yousuf.

I am sailing to your country, to an uncertain future,

And tonight I’m a single cloud,

A plastic bag. I’ve left everything behind.

And now put yourself in my spot. You have it all.

But maybe your grandfather

Travelled to another place, between the sky and nowhere.

You’re overweight, and my people are dieting

On horrors and famines.

You’ve got a bed yet can’t sleep,

I bring you dreams that give names to things.

You wear a brand name watch on your wrist

And I bring you the time of a jungle in silence,

Of a love with no hurries, of a natural light.

I’m not coming to steal

Your bread and butter

Cheap labour is the apple you bite,

The body for rent in the sleazy nightclub.

I’ll build your house, I’ll care for your elderly,

I’ll clean your house, your wide avenues,

I’ll populate with smiles and children’s songs,

Your empty spaces and your closed down schools.

My heart is an island from the sky,

A statue of salt without work papers.

Put yourself in my spot. There’s a storm tonight in our lives.

My name is Amira, Lorenzo, Makui, Masha, Viorica, Abdul.

In my language it means joy, rain, traveller, Landless Juan,



Direction and Screenplay – Sonia Llera

Direction of content – Vincent Garcés

Executive production – Sonia Llera, Manolo Rodríguez, Sergio Escribano

Photography and camera – Sonia Llera

Editing – Javier Cordero

Live music – Musicians from Leetonia, Rumania, Senegal, Morocco

Sound and mixing – Marco de Gregori Astrici

Poem “Landless Juan” – Ángel Petisme


Graphics and Headings – Jesus de Matos, Marcela Pelegrin

“Etalonaje” ?  - Miguel Tejerina

Production direction – Cruz Ortega

Production aid – Eva Nistal

Special collaboration (in order of appearance) – Eduardo Galeano, Saskia Sassen, Sofía Monsalvo, Gerardo Maidana, Patrocinio Ramírez, Eduardo Rodríguez, Gabriela Rodríguez Pizarro, Enrique Santiago, Samir Amin, Participants, Jean Ziegler, Somaly Mam, Ignacio Díaz de Aguilar, Vladimiro Valdés Montoya, Saúl Vicente, Mani Napi, Mbarka Hamudi

Landless Juan