The decision to apply for Spanish citizenship isn’t just about paperwork, it’s freighted with a lifetime’s worth of confusion

On my birth certificate, Christobal Garcia-Ferrea is listed as a painter and decorator, though his occupation has never struck me as the most compelling thing about him. I’ve not seen my father since I was eight, and now – despite my name – there’s little about me that betrays the Spanish heritage I supposedly inherited from him.

Christobal moved to Britain from Spain in the early 1990s. He had it OK here, at first. He was lively, handsome and often enthusiastically in pursuit of a good time, as men in their early 20s often are. Never too far from song, or heroic all-night drinking sessions. He’d met my mum in La Línea, a little coastal city on the Spanish side of the Gibraltar border, though they were back in London before too long. Christobal’s English wasn’t great and work was hard to come by. Things started to slip. His drinking worsened and grew to long periods of absence. And then, in 1999, he made an abrupt return to Spain after my mother’s death from breast cancer.

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