National Geographic : 1989 Jul
A generation of foreign workers and their children have not been fully assimilated. Caught between two cultures, they are the... Unsettled Immigrants By THOMAS J. ABERCROMBIE NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC SENIOR WRITER Photographs by STEVE McCURRY MAGNUM _ICK ANY DOZEN Frenchmen and one will be a foreigner. Pick any twenty and one will be a Muslim. Go to the great Mediterranean port of Marseille and pick any six. One will be Arabe. Those numbers, especially the last, have in recent years tested France's long tradition of accommodating foreigners. Marseille, after all, was settled by foreigners: Anatolian Greeks some 25 centuries ago settled there and called it Massilia. They may have chosen a site occupied earlier by Phoenicians. Some of France's most celebrated figures, past and present, have sprung from foreign ancestry. Designer Pierre Cardin and actor Yves Montand hail from Italy. Picasso was born in Spain. Charles de Gaulle had a Ger man branch in his family tree. The literary genius of existentialism and Nobel laureate in 1957, Albert Camus, had a mother of Spanish descent, and he was born in Algeria. After the 1789 Revolution the young French republic became known as a "land of asylum." Today it shelters 140,000 political refugees: Vietnamese, Chileans, Iranians, Poles, Palestinians. After both World Wars, workers flowed in from Italy and Spain and Portugal to help rebuild, and share in, France's prosperity. They blended in; perhaps 750,000 Portuguese remain. Then came the revolts in Indochina and Algeria and the ending of France's empire. French colonials came home, many of them bitter. After them came thousands upon thou sands of former colonial subjects in search of work-perhaps a million and a half from Algeria, Morocco, and Tunisia alone. They were welcomed at first, since France had a labor shortage. The labor shortage evaporated, but the population of Muslims in France continued to grow. Marseille is the clank and drone of cranes and conveyors, the hum of pipelines, and the curses of longshoremen in a dozen languages along 40 miles of modern docks and yards that dominate commercial shipping in the Mediterranean. Marseille is the Vieux-Port (Old Port) that Hiding shyly behind a lesson book, a young Muslim in Marseille spends summer vacation studying the Koran. Her family, from the Comoros in the Indian Ocean, figures among the 4.5 million immigrants-manyfrom overseas French departments and former colonies- who are changing the face of France.