• Marseille: A bittersweet place to live

    Posted on July 20th, 2012 palmucci No comments

    There is only so much reading a paper or article can do to illustrate the diversity, surroundings, public housing situation, and racism in Marseille, France.  On a recent trip to Marseille we were able to take readings from the classroom and experience countless observations first hand.  One prominent observation was how many different cultures reside together. We also saw the beautiful beaches that seem to unintentionally integrate the many immigrants of the area, creating a peaceful abode.  We observed the public housing situation and saw how many of the buildings were empty, with signs of protest on the outside of some and false promises posted by the city on others.  We also experienced what it felt like to be stigmatized by the color of our skin and gender, which is something that I for sure, am not used to.

    View from a distance of Marseille, France

    One thing that I noticed while walking through Marseille, was the vast amount of cultures and nationalities of the people there.  It is clearly noticeable how many different types of restaurants line the port area.  From Japanese Sushi to French cuisine, the people have taken their culture and worked to share it with the rest of Marseille.  Besides the bustling streets, the most common place to notice how the diverse Marseille is, is by traveling to the beaches.  La Plage de Corbière is the common beach where, according to a National Geographic magazine article, “for several months of the year, rich and poor, white and black, African and Arab, Muslim, Christian, and Jew, all find their own space on the sand, strip off most of their clothes, and settle down to socialize—and be socialized— under the Provençal sun” (Dickey 2012).  It has inadvertently integrated the many different cultures and provided a place that has a common interest, relaxation.

    Beach at Marseille

    The public housing situation is what interested me the most.  I found it so fascinating walking around and looking up at these massive condemned buildings and wondering how the city was going to fix them.  There were so many signs saying that all public housing renovations would be done by 2011, which obviously didn’t happen.  There were even more saying everything would be done by 2012, then 2013.  The grad student that was giving us the tour basically said that the city didn’t have enough money to fix these buildings.  It was also very clear that the citizens were upset about this by the amount of protest signs outside “hotels”, saying “This is not a hotel” and they were being forced to live there.  Another thing that stood out was the huge signs saying how this elaborate new boulevard was in the process of being designed on top of all the city’s other projects.  All this just made me wonder what the city of Marseille is doing?  They have no money to fix the public housing and are paying people off to move out, yet they are planning this beautiful boulevard!  On top of that, the grad student expressed how developers created a massive skyscraper for people to live in.  Even though only half of the skyscraper was filled up, the city was already planning on building another one!  After leaving the public housing area, it just really made me wonder whose interests the government had in mind and where their priorities lie.

    Public Housing Promises

    It seems that during the day when  around the port area and all of the shops and beaches everyone gets along.  Maybe it’s the fact that people come to the ports, shops, or beaches to relax or enjoy other culture’s food and company.  It seems like the second you leave the main area of Marseille the tensions become a little thicker.  Especially at night, you will find yourself walking and getting approached by certain groups of people to be harassed and talked to.  Those areas are usually small alley- ways filled with trash.  Almost every one of those alley-ways has people in them sitting or standing in groups, mostly of the same race.  There just seemed to be parts of the city that more people of the same race tended to hang out in and made it very obvious when someone else walked in that they were not welcome.

    Overall this experience was irreplaceable.  I never could of learned the same amount and learned with such great quality if we had not visited and seen the things we had read about.  Although the racism and segregation can be severe on the outskirts of Marseille, it is amazing how simple things such as beaches can work towards integrating the different cultures.  One final observation was how the city uses it’s money to promote it’s public housing.  Marseille clearly is on the track towards development, but it seems that money is not being spent in the right areas.

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