INTERVIEW WITH MAGNETO
Roma activist Vicente Rodriguez Fernandez is known as a Magneto. You cannot understand Magneto, without knowing the X-men comics and movies. The story of X men is the story of mutants born with superpowers; Profesor X and his fellow X-Men defend coexistence with humans and fight against Magneto, a Roma survivor of the Roma Genocide during WWII who believe in Mutant Revolution. A huge metaphora for the US civil rights movement in the 60’s and the figures of MLK and Malcolm X
Magneto, what is your story ?
First of all you should know that I was a very fat child, coming from a poor Roma family, with a lot of problems, Comic Books and Sci fi were some of my only Illusions, to make small clay figures, to paint, to write relates, in the middle of my early life, inside the cage of my own traumas and complexes, the few time that I spend out of my room show me about the reality of Roma people, my people.
Both of my parents did not attend school and hardly knew how to read or write, my father was the waterproofer of the town I came from, Alfafar, an small invisible place in the region of Valencia, in Spain.
My Mother was seller of socks and all kind of underwear in the streets, she still is, I have a brother one year younger than me he is a genius, a brilliant military strategist! We were all of us survivors, in an environment of real oppression, we never understood that we were suffering racism, to hide it was always the normal, the expected, who could imagine that to say that we were Roma would help us in something?
Alfafar was a small hell for us, where we were hiding from the social services, which oppressed us constantly with their promises of “integration”, we were hiding from the Banks and the police menacing us with constant evictions, they still do, but I don’t put attention anymore, Humans will always fear what they don’t understand, that’s why they are afraid of us, because of our gifts, because we are mutants, we are different, we know and they know, today I see clearly, we Roma people, and all oppressed People, we were born to rule and not to serve, and the time will come when this world will surrender.
When I was eight years old my father rented in the Video store the Malcolm X movie, at the same time I start to read Bible and American Comic Books, at that point in my life, my values were pretty much very strong, I believed in Justice, Change, Freedom, Responsibility and overall in the power of Hope…deep inside of my also rage was always very present, I saw it in my father, in my grandparents, rage, fear, pain, I still have those feelings as we all Roma have them, I don’t feel like dancing right now, have a look on Europe? I want to fight not to dance!
I let school as many other Roma children, when I was 12 years old, I never studied, when I was teenager many times I tried to prepare a CV and work in the Mcdonalds of my town, I was rejected each time, in almost all Jobs I applied, so I always turns back to my Comic books, the Bible, the Rock and Roll and my people’s reality, selling clothes in the streets helping my cousins in wherever business they had at that moment.
Without first degree I suffered the reject and the humiliation on dozens of persons, being Roma, being a Nerd, being 140 kg, being a total strange.
What happened with that fat Roma nerd child? It happens that I was lucky over any comprehension, I was blessed, a series of accidents bring me to Israel in 2010 were my life changed somehow ,and since that trip I started to travel all over Europe generating confusion and Hope in a huge amount of people, Roma and non Roma, all mutant brothers and sisters.
When I met you, You were travelling to India in an old car with no money. How was the trip?
After 4 years travelling and working for TernYpe-International Roma Youth Network, I started a trip with my friend Bekah Ward, an unbelievable trip, from Spain to India, following the steps of my ancestors, meeting Roma everywhere, having coffee, having food, receiving so much love, so much attention, sleeping many times in fuel stations in a second hand car of 900 Euros, against all possibilities we succeed, and we went to India, and I walked the steps of my ancestors, and I felt trough all my body one thousand thunders, million volts of electricity, to understand who I am, who we are, and what’s my role in history.
The only purpose of the trip it was to discover what was out there, to understand better, to see with my own eyes what our situation was, and I will say that we succeed, hundreds of interviews, families, voices, I have today a much more complete view of Roma reality in Today’s Europe, and I feel deeply thankful to life, to luck and to God who gave me this opportunity.
You visited Czech Republic on your way to India, how was it
We visited during our trip several cities of Czech Republic, we knew about the situation there for our previous background, in my case I’ve been involved in several actions for make visible the reality of Roma people there, who suffered and still suffer and horrible structural violence.
We contacted Konexe and we visited Usti Nad Labem, to talk about the episodes of Violence Roma people is facing in Czech Republic, we had a very short overlook on Czech reality but the situation there is absolutely unsustainable, we listened some terrible testimonies as well some voices of hope, I will tell you something, Roma people is angry, very angry, and that’s a glimpse of the future, I think Czech Republic is a window to the future of Roma and non Roma in north and central Europe, with far right rising, riots and anti Roma demonstrations, and at the same time a Roma population that will eventually get organized to protect itself from mainstream population.
As Roma, you are criticizing the Romani elites in Europe. You are using the word “Romanoids” can you tell something on this issue?
Actually I did not invented the term, it was Ricardo from Alicante a brilliant Roma family man, in our way to India we meet him and he used the term Romanoid to refer to the “Roma Elites” in fact there are no Roma Elites, as fast they became Elites they stop to be Roma, they become Romanoids, for some people that will be a very politically incorrect statement, honestly I don’t care, the only ones who don’t like to criticize the Elite are the Elite themselves!
There is nothing like Roma grassroots for me neither, we are Roma, we are grassroots!, if you don’t have any connection with the community, with the struggle, with the fight for survival, who the hell you think you represent? Not me, not most of us.
People talk about the positivity of working with grassroots, but here’s the irony, all Roma are grassroots, facing very similar problems, the ones who don’t share our pain and suffering are very hardly able to feel and to empathize with us, will they work for us or against us? Since our interest is opposed I believe they work AGAINST us.
I don’t believe in Grassroots and elite, I believe in Roma and Romanoids, the slave of the field and the slave of the house, as Malcolm X said.
To be Roma is a political statement in XXI century Europe, is a personal choice, is an historical fact, is a reality of heritatge, but is also a MORAL ATRIBUTTE, in every Roma community ever existed, when Roma stop to care about their families, their brothers and sisters they are not anymore perceived as Roma by the community, they become Gadje by their own merits, it is what happened in the Roma movement, Roma Activist you say? I say Romanoids!
I don’t see activities, I don’t see Roma, all I see is Romanoids, people who look like Roma, walk like Roma, talk Romanes, but people who stand to clean the image of European institutions and legitimize a horrible system of oppression.
The old Communist, the International, they were singing like this
”The first bullets on our rifles are for our generals”
I agree very much with that, the first heads that should pass through the Guillotine should be the heads of our “Roma Elites”, for me, if you take a salary for represent Roma, that’s BLOOD money, so better you do your best, or don’t take the job, because soon or later, JUSTICE will find you.
In Budapest you are running Batman Vs. Jobbik project, can you describe it?
Roma need a Batman generation, a mutant generation, a Super-Generation, that’s what’s all about Batman Vs. Jobbik, a Systemical change trough individual service to the community, an ideal of hope in the pursuit of Justice. Batman is one of the greatest symbols in the history of Pop Culture and we need symbols, Icons, that’s real power, I’m living in Hungary by the moment and the situation here is horrible, there is a total acceptance of Neonazism, you will not see anti Nazi demonstrations, thousands of persons in the streets for the Internet taxes, how much for the Roma hate crimes few years ago? 50? 100? Don’t make me talk about students mobilization, Roma, non Roma, wherever they come from at the end the real division is between the ones who struggle for survive oppression and the ones who became oppressors trough escalation and acceptance of a deeply wrong system.
In this sense Batman fits very well with Hungary, as in Gotham City Corruption rules this country, the values have changed and now to be a Criminal is more acceptable than to be a liberal!
I don’t know how the project will develop in the future; eventually there will be Batman, Spiderman, Hulk, the Avengers and all the Legion of Superheroes, because we really need them, but that doesn’t depend on me, if evolution show us something is that Time and pressure are the keys of change, we have a lot of pressure, but not so much time, so we better run! The future belongs to the ones who prepare for it today.
If there is something I love from Comic Books and bible is that at the end the Good ones always win, there will be a clash, for sure, but we will succeed, I’m convinced.
There is a Revolution coming?
There are 3 things that will change the face of Roma reality next 10-20 years, 3 historical points of inflection that nobody will be able to stop, because they already started, and as incredible as it seem few persons care about them!
The first one will be the Political rising of the Pentecostal Roma Church, that will change totally the model of participation in Roma Youth activism, during last 50 years Pentecostal Roma movements took over the communities, working more on employment, health, education and housing than any other institution, they develop a very strong sense of community, and the time is close, when they will articulate themselves as an International force for Change with huge political repercussions, “Romanoids” and other groups living from Roma money are blind to this fact, because they don’t have a clue on what is happening on communities, they still live in the 70’s.
The second thing that will remove the foundations of Roma reality will be the rising of poor communities, the mobilization of settlements, the Roma Revolution, and that will happen because far right is not going to step back, so we will need to step in, to stand in front of a very visible enemy.
Could be because of the church or because of the Mosque, communities will gathered by using any structure you can imagine, it will happen naturally, it will be spontaneous and when this happen all the Romanoids etc. will say that they knew long ago, and they even will claim it as the result of their hard work! That’s fake, our communities will rise because we don’t have any other choice, you cannot dialogue with Nazis, you can not invite them for coffee, and is matter of time we rise against Oppression, because our blood is boiling and soon or later we will explode.
The third thing that will surprise all of us will be the advent of the Roma Pop Revolution, is an historical imperative. Never before did the right conditions for the revolution exist. Never again would the right conditions exist again, today TV, Videogames, SCi Fi, they are everywhere and more or less accessible to our people, that will strength our common bonds as community and give us Symbols, Icons, tools etc.
We will use Pop Culture as a way to express ourselves, to mobilize communities, to participate in society, and soon, very soon, everybody will know that Magneto was right and that he was Roma too.