Elhadji Diouf is finishing the last dish of paella he is preparing today. Better known as “Ali” by his colleagues – thanks to his skill at making Alioli garlic mayonnaise – the 36-year-old Senegalese is now a master at making paella at one of the most successful restaurants in Mazarrón, in the Murcia region of southeastern Spain.
Fisherman by trade in his country of origin, Diouf explains to the rest of the team at the restaurant in Bangalore where he works how he reached Spain as a migrant in 2012. Since landing on the shores of the northern city from Melilla, he rose through the ranks to become the chef in charge of preparing the paellas for this chiringuito, or beach bar. You can see his story in the video above.
Diouf lived in the same street as Younes Bilal, shot dead in a racist attack
Diouf visited his wife in Morocco just before the pandemic and returned to Spain unaware that she had become pregnant. Current coronavirus restrictions in that country mean he has yet to meet his baby girl. He has now started the process of family reunification in hopes of bringing the couple to Spain.
The region of Murcia has seen several racist episodes in recent weeks, amid speech by the far-right political party Vox, which was the region’s most voted group in the last general elections in Spain. One of these attacks took place in Mazarrón, where Diouf lives and works. On June 13, Moroccan Younes Bilal was killed by a former soldier, who shouted racist slurs at his victim when he shot him dead.
Senegalese leader Diouf and the victim lived in the same street and knew each other “very well”, explains Diouf.
The master paella arrived in Melilla on a boat with a dozen other people. In 2020, arrivals of Senegalese nationals to the Spanish coasts increased. This was due to a reopening of the Canary Islands migratory route, caused by factors such as lack of fishing and the effect of the pandemic. Senegalese migrants ended up being the second nationality in terms of arrivals on the islands, after Moroccans. The migration crisis is expected to worsen this summer. In the last two weeks of June, more than 1,100 people arrived on the Canary Islands coast, according to data from the Red Cross.