Carmen Gomez

Leafing through one of our excellent local glossy magazines, I noted that the author of an article; written around a young, experienced entrepreneur who has done the rounds in London; had suggested to him that he might like to come to Gibraltar and inspire us with his ideas. 

The reply that came back was “I don’t know much about Gibraltar; apart from the fact that it is a Rock and has apes.” In seven years that I have been writing for this newspaper I may have mentioned on a dozen of occasions, if not more, the lack of knowledge of people from the UK, about our hometown and the modern society it has become. Whose fault is that?

Have we become an insular society and thus the reason why we do not try harder to export our views, or indeed an image which goes further than our darling apes and fish and chips? Because frankly I personally tire of reading in the British press articles on Gibraltar where we are either painted as British pretenders, or brushed off as a political hot spot that continues to be a burden on the UK`s shoulders and should be once and for all given back to Spain.

But then again, can you blame them? Who is telling them anything different? We have had excellent books written on sieges and our naval history from days gone by; but what about the people?


In my day, we had the hugely talented local playwright Elio Cruz, who wrote several topical plays on our society of the time; written around Gibraltar’s working class social scene and which has become part of its folklore. Plays which attracted huge audiences locally; depicting life in the patios and streets of Gibraltar of those days, in all its authenticity; exploring the aftermath of the evacuation and its effects on people’s lives.

Those plays then were for local consumption, true; but serving as a treasured backdrop of our history, other works could be added to it showing how we have evolved; how we have moved on to become a truly modern society, which has no place for a country that came away from the Treaty of Utrecht with the devil on its back. Where are those young talented local playwrights of today; who whilst not trying to imitate Elio‘s style, can nevertheless learn from his appreciation of the Gibraltarian character and in so doing be inspired to write something which resonates with today’s society.

Plays which can then be staged not just locally, but beyond our shores; perhaps even get them filmed, for them to be shown in schools in the UK. In this way British children in the UK could get to know us, just like we have learnt about their customs and their history. Everything we do and are starts with family and ends with family, and after all, we are part of the same family are we not?

I am aware that some very interesting work has already been done locally, involving the carrying out of interviews on locals giving their opinions of our society and how their lives have been marked by the specter of Spain. But these as far as I know are for archive material only.

They will remain hidden away for posterity. Surely we have a need to express ourselves but in so doing give others an insight into what we are about; and demonstrate the imprints that have been left upon us over time; which have become our personal embroidery. As life-engraved people we should share our experiences with others who will undoubtedly have their own imprints to show and talk about too.

If we continue on this trend of being content just with historical books written about us or around us; however exquisite they may be; or writing for our own home market, however delightful that also is, we are never going to go past the recognition stage of; “Gibraltar? Oh yes the Rock with the apes! Or in wider journalistic circles where our portrayal as a people has been quashed and left to stagnate in some forgotten space; to be only described as “the promontory” or the UK`s problem.

At the same time and because of it i.e. all this past animosity and bad press, we have to begin to wash away some of the negative thoughts associated with our early beginnings, which were as much influenced by Spanish traits to a great extent from generations of inter marriage between Spanish and Gibraltarian families; as they were by our Genoese; Portuguese; Maltese and Arabic origins.

Hostile attitude

In saying this however, what we cannot do is to be afraid to show how Spain’s hostile attitude has marked our lives for decades. I say this because at a time when I tried to portray a play about a Gibraltarian family some years back, I came across an uncomfortable sentiment from those I had originally approached to stage this.

A sentiment of fear arising from the supposed consequences their taking part might have for them, when they should find themselves crossing the border. It is true that there are many Gibraltarians who continue to; by their participation in competitions abroad; not only export the artistry that exists in our small and proud nation; but which in turn allows others to come to our shores and learn about us; even though in Spain our flag is never allowed to fly, and our players are portrayed in the main as coming from a Spanish region.

But I digress because, Gibraltar pulls at my heart strings constantly, and I can only think upon the fact that we deserve more than we are achieving. Our story; the aspirations and struggles of a people still palpable today, has to get out there. Because the day it does, it will not only surprise many, but we will perhaps find understanding and support of our cause in places we never expected.