16 May From Migrant-land to “Vikingland”

From Migrant-land to “Vikingland”

by Eva Yera

Galicia has always been a land of migrants. Since the 18h century, the Galicians have been forced to leave their land. First to southern Spain; later, to Latin America and from the 60s onwards, to the most industrialized areas of Spain (Bilbao, Madrid, Barcelona) and other parts of Europe like Germany and Switzerland, in need of manpower.

Since then, the flow of Galicians arriving to these two countries has been constant. In the 70s, 80s,  90s and also, as generally known, in the 21st century. The causes behind this have always been economical. It is estimated that today there are about 500,000 Galicians spread around the world, representing about 20% of the current population of the region.

But behind the migration movements – seen as a demographic phenomenon without names or faces- there are always personal circumstances and individual stories, as shown in ‘Vikingland’. Luis Lomba has a name, a face and a story. He is a sailor working on a ferry covering the route between Romo (Denmark) and Sylt (Germany). He just bought a video camera and he records himself and his mates’ daily lives, their jobs and their journeys on the boat, sailing the icy waters of the North Sea during the winter of 1993-1994.

And the audience also travels with Luis and his camera, transported back to the VHS format that dominates the film. The homesickness suffered by the Galician sailors, thousands of kilometers from home, is also the nostalgia of those who see ‘Vikingland’, more than twenty years later after the file was recorded.

But ‘Vikingland’ is itself a testament to the dawn of amateur cameras and the men, flirting for the first time with affordable and handy technology. A material legacy that has survived in the HD era and reminds us that History has always had a “before”.

Xurxo Chirro, the director of this documentary (or manipulator, as he calls himself), found this treasure by surprise. It was kept by his father, Manolo, the other sailor who appears in the film with Luis. The tapes were inside a box under the name of ‘Vikingland’. That was the name, precisely, of the boat in which both spent that winter in the North Sea, far from their families and far from home.