Gibraltar’s best interests at heart

Carmen Gomez

On the inside sleeve off my book “Memories bound up with life” is written; “at this moment I have felt inspired to wander back, rediscovering in the past a present to remember.” it has reminded me that looking back is healthy, because in so doing there are comparisons to be made between days gone by and now; comparisons which help us to see how far we have come on our journey through life; in the life of our small nation. In so doing, understand what strides we have made, but also what precious things have been lost along the way; like a code of conduct we all lived by which in modern times has lost its appeal, sadly. However, what I have found in rediscovering the past, is something that time has neither erased, nor been affected by the passing of the years; i.e. the determination of the Gibraltarians to live their lives as British citizens and survive any onslaught from Spain. 


I recall abuelita Rosa telling me as I sat by her side, that due to Grandfathers’ business connections in Larache, where they then lived, he had once been approached by the Spanish hierarchy and made an offer of having his fortune doubled if he was to become a Spanish citizen; I used to enjoy hearing his reply to them; however many times I asked her to repeat it; which was, that he had been born under the English flag and he would die under it. Unfortunately destiny robbed him of his last wish; for when the Spanish Civil War broke out and many of his supply ships were sunk and other misfortunes befell them, they had to move to La Linea where they lived for a short time in a big house; for soon after, he died; granny said of a broken heart; and is buried there.

Growing up in Gibraltar of the 50‘s, I don’t have a memory of lacking for anything; and I don’t remember any of us complaining, or saying we wanted what others had. When at school if we felt cold we would wear a sweater, and if hot we would wear a short sleeve blouse. Now the Government has made it possible for the youth of Gibraltar to have mega schools with air conditioning, and central heating! When it came to looking to the UK to further our education, some like me, managed to obtain a Commonwealth bursary to go to college; not university. Government grants did not exist. Nowadays our students not only have sizeable grants given them, but Gibraltar has a University to call its own which this Government had the balls to build; despite the oppositions’ hierarchy at the time saying it would never work. I wanted to teach drama but I was not allowed to take it up as my main subject.

No choice then

There were no choices then as there are today when students can even attend the university they prefer. It’s extraordinary when you think about it. The struggles of the past have served us well for the struggles of the future. These are sentiments that furnish and make a small nation, more than unrequited complaints or rhetoric. I am aware at present, as we all are, that Gibraltar is at a crossroads; one she has not stood at before; plus a local election looms on the horizon.

This fills me not with fear, but certain trepidation; not because I have any doubts as to where affiliations should lie when I look at Gibraltar today and feast my eyes on its extraordinary progress; and not because of what Spain may do on this particular occasion. We have been locked up before, and nothing can beat that. It’s more to do with where the UK may end up taking us.

Looking back one realizes changes that have come about in our home town, where many families lacked today‘s amenities and basic needs. When having to share a toilet; generally situated in a patio; amongst various families, was the norm for many; or having to go to a collection point to get your water by the bucketful; as there was no running water. Can any youngster or young mother even envisage that today? The thing is we managed well; we were happy; and no one complained. Talk about going abroad to play your favourite Sport! The furthest our basketball team got was Morocco! If you wanted to play badminton like my sister did, you had to go through an incredible rigmarole, before stepping onto the court; after having been escorted there by a member of the military.


In fact, I don’t need to go back that far, for in the late 1990‘s, when I came back from London to help my sister look after our ailing parents, there was nothing in the way of help for people who had suffered a stroke, like my mother. I remember making umpteen trips to London to buy her much needed equipment to help give her a better quality of life and make her life more comfortable. Respite was an unknown word then for the carer. There were no centres where people could stay for the day like today; and the only one place I approached where my mother could have visited, was denied her, because she had had her treatment for cancer in London, as opposed to here locally; believe it or not. It was another world altogether!

This caring Government of ours also extended a hand to Emily; one of Gibraltar’s most admirable of daughters; when others had not, and now all those who needed help but found none, have that and more. Picnic areas existed only in Spain and after the closure we found most of them fenced off. Now we have a mini Hyde Park in the middle of town with more green areas to come, where children can play safely and grown ups can enjoy.

It’s like I once said to a friend who was from the opposition; I don’t care what party you are from; I care about friendship and for those who have Gibraltar’s best interests at heart. As far as I’m concerned there should be no doubt as to where those lie.