Felipe Orviz returned from Brussels with a thought repeating itself in his head: even in the community capital he is not exempt from being singled out. The legal adviser of the ALPE Foundation, the main Spanish organization affected by achondroplasia, traveled to the city accompanied by six other people with dwarfism to ask institutions and MEPs to ban shows that use them in a degrading role, a category in which They include the bullfighter fireman or the increasingly recurring erotic jesters of bachelor parties. Also to denounce the problems of accessibility that make an odyssey such daily acts as taking money from a cashier or picking up a parking ticket.
Once the busy schedule of meetings was over, they left for a bar accompanied by seven other members of a Bulgarian association. The road from the hotel to the place already anticipated what was coming on 14 short people walking together. Unguarded looks. Laughter Videos with the mobile. But beyond the threshold of the door, far from entering a refuge, everything became even more murky. A group crouches imitating its height, advances on its knees, and records the scene with laughter. There is a confrontation that ultimately ends up in nothing. They have covered 500 meters and the night of partying has already been spoiled. Welcome to the life of someone who, at 38 years old, measures 1.32 meters, like Felipe. Or less than a meter, like some of his colleagues from the association arrived from Bulgaria, where they even throw stones at them on the street.
The incident illustrates a reality masked by the low number of people suffering from achondroplasia, a genetic mutation that suffers approximately 1 in 20,000 live births. In Spain there is no official census to know how many are – another of their claims – but according to that scale, they would add about 2,000. "We are the only disability that causes laughter," laments Orviz. Complaints have gone to activism. The visit to Brussels at the end of September served to start the socialist group in the European Parliament the commitment to give visibility to the problem and review the laws that give legal support to the humiliations. "To think that in 2015 a royal decree was approved on the bullfighting party and" the dwarves "as a show gives an idea of the difficulties that this group faces", explains Soledad Cabezón, a member of the European Parliament and a cardiologist. The socialist policy refers to the current national bullfighting agreement, that he collects in his article 9 the obligation that comic bullfighter shows have "a minimum of five bullfighters little ones"And they define little ones as those who do not have "self-sufficient physical capacity for the fight".
It's late, I know, but it's one of those days that I need to make these stories public. Not for nothing, but because I want you to know much more about it and learn more about achondroplasia without seeing it from a height problem. But also social. I open thread
– Carolina Puente (@_carolinapuente) October 7, 2018
This type of gangs have experienced a significant decline in recent times. The only one that survives is Fun in the ring, which is offered as "a renewed show for all audiences with the best dwarfs". But they have also noticed the crisis in the sector: from more than 100 shows annually they have gone to 22 this 2018. Its head, Daniel Calderón, 36, explains that the majority of its members come from Colombia, Ecuador and Venezuela, and defends who choose to participate voluntarily. "I do not force anybody in. From the office it is very easy to say that you have to abolish it, but you have to pay for electricity and water, if you are worried, what you have to do is look for a job," says a critic with party entities. of its prohibition.
Jose Antonio Zarzuela, a 50-year-old from Jerez, lived the golden age of comical bullfighting. He devoted himself to it between 1985 and 1999, and for his work in the square he entered some 180,000 pesetas a month – almost 1,100 euros at the time. From that year the ONCE hired him and went on to sell tenths. The reasons were more money and stability: I did not have to go on tour anymore. "I went to Mexico 25 days after my son was born and when I came I had five months," he explains over the phone. Zarzuela, now a pensioner, is in favor of everyone doing what they want. "I do not think it's unworthy, I do not think they would make fun of me because of what I did, the one who wants to make fun of you will do it on the street, and that hurts more".
Felipe Orviz does not believe that the consent of his protagonists is enough to perpetuate practices that he believes ridicule them, and he replies with several questions: "Why is there so much debate about the limits of individual freedom in cases like the bellies of hiring? or prostitution and we are no longer? Why do not they hire people with Down syndrome or blind? Would it be accepted the same? "
The conflict between dignity and individual freedom has precedents. In a country so careful with the treatment of minorities such as France, the State Council had to intervene in 1995 to give the reason to the municipalities that banned the "dwarf release". The controversy came after some municipalities prevented by law nightclubs to perform such shows. Manuel Wackenheim, who earned his living by being thrown into the air, unsuccessfully resorted to the United Nations, arguing that it was discriminatory to only veto people with dwarfism. The UN Human Rights Committee responded that the prohibition was not discriminatory, but a matter of "human dignity": In Anglo-Saxon countries such as the United States, Canada or New Zealand it is still legal, and this type of functions, conceived as entertainment in bars and pubs, have generated various controversies recently.
As Calderón recognizes, with the taurine decadence and boom of the bachelor parties, some of the people with dwarfism that are used to their orders in the squares at a rate of 200 euros each time they act as a comic bullfighter, also swell erotic businesses that the achondroplasia organizations consider degrading. On the website enanosboys.com they describe one of their shows: "The stripper comes out and blinds the boyfriend, then the dwarf or antistripper and makes funny shows to blush the boyfriend. After making theirs the exuberant stripper to reward the boyfriend for the bad time. "Contacted by this newspaper, the owners explain that their hiring costs in Barcelona 220 euros for half an hour, 50 euros more" for each additional half hour of dwarf. "On his page They publish videos of those scenes.
People with achondroplasia also deal with the lack of accessibility. The laws are designed for larger groups, with which the physical barriers are immense. In order to alleviate it, they ask that they be taken into account in the European Accessibility Act. The obstacles are multiple: call the bell of the portal of friends who live on the sixth floor. Ask at the bar counter. Move the breakfast tray in the self-service of a hotel. Peek into the window of attention to the public.
Language is another of the workhorses. They consider an offense expressions like "pass it as a dwarf," or "grow dwarfs." And they see especially flagrant the little subtlety of some doctors. "He's going to have a circus dwarf," one of them snapped at Pedro Sagastizábal, today Catalina's happy father and three other children.
As Felipe Orviz insists, the ultimate goal is none other than dignity. In the laws and in the treatment of society. The visibility has increased exponentially after the successful appearance of the actor Peter Dinklage in Game of Thrones, a before and after in the treatment that series and films are dispensing. During the delivery of a recognition in La Zarzuela, another illustrious personage, the emeritus Reina Sofía, bent down to greet Orviz, of lower height. This did not miss the opportunity to note with humor the significance of the gesture. "Do you know that it is the first time in history that a commoner is reduced?"
Discriminations are common. The face-to-face interview becomes a filter sometimes insurmountable in the search for employment after a first positive contact by phone or email. The history of humiliation includes affective relationships. Oier Ander Salvador, a 19-year-old student of Robotics in Bilbao, has lived in the flesh: "I asked a girl to go out and the answer was 'no, people laugh' I was shocked, I did not know what to say". Uncomfortable situations are common. Carolina Puente, 25-year-old from Oviedo, Business Administration student at the Francisco de Vitoria University: "One day at the nightclub they danced gogós with achondroplasia and the people laughed, all eyes turned to me. the cup to someone. " Patricia Gil, Journalism student. "We went to the Malaga fair and people took out their cell phones to ask us for pictures. From Friday to Sunday of last week, their testimonies resonated in Gijón. More than 500 affected with achondroplasia attended a Congress organized by the ALPE Foundation.