The Getxo (Spain) intercultural awareness programme


“We must acknowledge the positive aspects of migration” said Ms Elena Coria, the Head of the Getxo municipal immigration department, on 21 March 2012 during the commemoration of International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. “The town of Getxo is therefore establishing areas where the local population can express their views and meet one another and where cultural diversity can be fostered”1.


Getxo is a town in the province of Biscaye, a few kilometres from Bilbao, in the Autonomous Community of the Basque Country, Spain. The town of Getxo comprises three distinct centres with over 80 000 inhabitants, 10% of whom are foreigner born of 81 different nationalities. The largest minority groups in the town are made up of nationals from Latin America (Bolivia, Columbia, Paraguay and Ecuador) and Romania. There is also an important Filipino community since the 60-70s, settled and with a large proportion of naturalizations. Most of the migrants are women2 an important number of foreign born, mainly from Latin American countries, have been naturalised.


The Getxo intercultural awareness programme

The town of Getxo undertakes to promote and foster a culture of peace and living together in harmony. With this in mind, a municipal education programme on how to live together in harmony and prevent racism, entitled “Intercultural awareness in GETXO” has been set up at municipal level and in schools. The activities proposed in the context of the programme take place on premises made available by the Immigration Department and other municipal departments. Such activities are carried in collaboration with the Plataforma Inmigrantes de Getxo (Getxo Migrants’ Platform), which comprises migrants’ associations working in the field of immigration. The Platform also runs its own programme of activities and helps to set up discussion groups on citizenship and living together in harmony.


The main thrusts of the Getxo “intercultural awareness” programme are:  


Celebrating key dates for cultural diversity

Every year the town of Getxo organises a number of activities to commemorate the three key dates relating to cultural diversity: International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (21 March), World Refugee Day (20 June) and International Migrants Day (18 December). These activities take various forms, for example conferences, round tables, debates, films, performing arts, and sometimes workshops for young people, and are carried out in close co-operation with the Migrants Platform and CEAR Euskadi (the national commission responsible for assisting refugees). The activities organised, for example on the issue of refugees, help local inhabitants to understand the situation of refugees across the world and in their own town. They also provide the opportunity to demand respect for refugees’ rights.


In Getxo, diversity is also acknowledged through the celebration of the national holidays of the main communities of foreign nationals. For example, Saint Patrick’s Day is celebrated on 17 March, the Philippines Independence Day on 12 June and Bolivian Independence Day on 6 August. The celebrations involve the participation of associations representing the relevant communities, for example Sikap, Pagkakaisa and Adrebol.


Intercultural meeting places

The town of Getxo allows its residents to hold intercultural meetings and similar events in a large number of venues.


For example the “Folk Getxo BBK” festival, which takes place in early September, gives local inhabitants the opportunity to discover all sorts of world music, while the “Terrace of the World” festival, organised by the “Médicos del Mundo” (Doctors of the World) association, brings migrants and local nationals together to discover the food of other countries. Another event is the Getxo Folk, a 4-day event that attracted 50.000 people. In parallel to this event, during 4 days, people could participate in workshops and activities to know the daily work of associations. That allows Getxo Folk participants to discover the municipality and associations involvement in sensibilization, accommodation and information programmes on diversity. The “Intercultural Tent” organises activities to improve the way in which migrants are welcomed into the host society and relevant awareness-raising activities.


Since 2009 the Basque government’s programme recommends libraries as a place of integration and intercultural meetings and encouraged foreign residents to use municipal libraries. As for the libraries themselves, they adapt their programmes and their funds to the range of nationalities living in the town and organise joint activities such as festivals, conferences, exhibitions, culinary workshops or film screenings with associations working in the field of immigration, usually in October. At the same time the government wishes to encourage all residents to discover the countries and cultures represented in Getxo. Every year the municipalities taking part in the initiative choose a “reference country”: Bolivia in 2009, the Philippines in 2010 and Columbia in 2011.


The Getxo School for Women’s Empowerment offers another meeting place and support, which, given the specific nature of the establishment, is aimed at women. Here local women and those from elsewhere meet to exchange views and ideas and discuss how to live together in harmony and how to build an inclusive community that can deal with today’s problems. This School has some programmes to contact and share with other women of the world in a framework of solidarity. Monthly, the School organises an event called Intercultural Dialogues.


The Getxo intercultural awareness programme also comprises a strong educational component. This part of the programme, which was prepared with the assistance of the department responsible for integration and living together in harmony, BILTZEN; is aimed at pupils from 10 to 14 years of age and implemented through the town’s educational centres. The educational programme is designed to give pupils an understanding and a positive view of diversity as an inherent feature of all human groups. It also seeks to teach them to analyse the impact of prejudices arising from popular misconceptions and those conveyed by the media. Finally, the programme helps pupils to identify strategies to deal with any conflicts of intercultural origin and transform them in a positive manner.


Diversity in the audiovisual sector

The intercultural awareness programme is also aimed at the audiovisual sector. Accordingly, the town of Getxo takes part in ZINESKOLA, a programme for the screening of films that promote the values of diversity. For example, in March 2012, the town held a competition of short films on the theme “For diversity – against discrimination”.


A radio workshop was also launched between January and March 2012. The workshop was aimed at adults who wished to learn specific techniques in radio broadcasting, to work in a multicultural team and address topical subjects based on the town’s social and cultural context. A group of twenty persons of various origins, including indigenous people, were selected to take part in the initiative free of charge. The participants received a certificate of participation.


Finally, to ensure that the Gexto intercultural awareness programme was well advertised, the municipal department for immigration launched a Facebook page and invited everyone to joint the intercultural community that had been established to exchange information, points of view and suggestions.


For further information on the Getxo intercultural awareness programme “Getxo entre culturas”, please consult: and


Christina Baglai


1. Ms Elena Coria’s statement can be found on: 

2. Source: Instituto Nacional de Estadística (National Institute of Statistics), “Overview of immigration in Getxo, № 1, 2008,”, available at: