Nearly half a million Spanish citizens fled the country during its Civil War between 1936 and 1939 and during the ensuing Franco regime, mostly to France because of its proximity and Latin America because of the cultural synergies. Now, perhaps due to its low birth rate which has made Spain generally open to immigration over the past few years, the country has opened its doors to anyone who can prove that his or her parents or grandparents went into exile during the war or the first few decades of Franco’s dictatorship that followed.
With anywhere between 500,000 and 1 million people eligible, Spanish embassies are expecting to be full of applications, particularly in Argentina, Mexico, and perhaps most the most intriguing of them all, Cuba. The irony is that this decision comes at the same time Spain has started paying economic migrants from non-”Latin” communities (read: Arab, Muslim) to return home, citing language, a Catholic heritage and history as a reason for welcoming certain migrants over others. “We can’t just open the doors unlimited to everyone,” Spain’s director general of immigration said in a Monocle article. “It makes sense that we do everything for those who have a right to be Spanish.”