A culturally diverse community

A culturally diverse community
1859. La Alameda (Gibraltar). Sketch by Smith O'Hara from ‘Smith’s Wanderings. A Cruise in the Mediterranean’ (London, Thomas Mc Lean). Source: ‘Aikaterini Laskaridis Foundation Library

A culturally diverse community

Cultural diversity in the colony originated in migrations from other Mediterranean enclaves and the need for a workforce created by the colony and military base. In this sketch, Smith O’Hara reflected the presence of the British, Andalusians, Arabs and Jews, which also represented the religious diversity: Protestants, Catholics, Muslims and Jews. A discrete oasis of diversity in a peninsula with a history of ethnic and religious persecution dating back centuries.

The newly-arrived migrants to La Línea in the 20th century found many customs, culinary traditions and languages, as there were many cross-border families with members of Spanish, Maltese, Genoese, English, Irish, Scottish… origin. The military population in transit crews of ships which restocked at the colony, military engineers and officers and the garrisonhad a more vertical relationship with the locals, although there were some mixed marriages and friendships.

The children of La Línea and Gibraltar learnt all the games available. «We used bottle tops to play the Maltese game called arrimaíto», recalls Antonio Barros, «we would batter the buttons of military jackets to play hoyito. We played meblis (marbles) and córrela, which was like baseball but with a tennis ball. Cricket and palicache. And what we called escuta (scooter)». Several generations from La Línea and Gibraltar grew up in this culturally diverse environment.