Immigrants’ Access to the Spanish National Health Service, Part 2

Initially I intended for my research to focus on the bounds of Spanish national identity as communicated through different sources’ attitudes toward immigrants’ access to health care services.  After reading many newspaper articles and listening to the opinions expressed by Spaniards themselves, the focus of my research shifted toward the implementation of immigrants’ fundamental right to Spanish health care services during the ongoing economic crisis.  This somewhat altered focus blends what were originally secondary facets of my research topic. 

At first I hesitated to refocus my research, but in retrospect my original thesis would not have reflected as well what I learned from my on-site sources.  In many ways these sources—newspaper articles, presentations by NGO officials, and government publications—contributed to the formation of my ultimate thesis to a greater degree than did the scholarly articles I initially read for background research.  Likely this occurred because these resources lent themselves to primary source analysis, allowing me the freedom to analyze them through my particular research lens rather than merely rely on them at face-value for information. 

On a different note, finding Spanish-language written sources played a critical role in helping me write my final paper.  To learn the Spanish equivalents of the vocabulary used throughout my project proved essential to the actual writing process, as well as to truly understanding the linguistically transmitted viewpoint of my sources.   In addressing the former point, I discovered that Spaniards use at least three terms to refer to health care, each of which describes a slightly different facet of the more general English-language usage of the term.  Los servicios sanitarios refer to the services provided by the health care system, while la sanidad pública describes the public health system administered through the State and la sanidad can refer to the same or to health care more generally. 

Yet, learning the nuances in vocabulary proved even more important in deciphering the perspectives from which my sources were written.  In recent years the more politically correct term for immigrants used by the government and immigrants-rights advocates has been los extranjeros, which literally translates as “foreigners,” because many feel that the term los inmigrantes (“immigrants”) carries a stigma and does not allow for recognition of said people’s integration into Spanish society.  In my paper I continued to use the term los inmigrantes because American society favors the direct translation of this term and ultimately my linguistic perspective on it is a product of that influence.  These linguistically dichotomous terms revealed the source’s perspective before further reading into its contents, as those sources that used los inmigrantes generally were either older sources or more skeptical of fully incorporating these individuals into the Spanish National Health System.  Analogously, generally people not in support of the health care initiatives undertaken by the current U.S. Administration refer to them collectively as “Obamacare,” while their supporters tend to prefer the term “health care reform.”


  1. Libby, this sounds really interesting. I can’t wait to hear the results of your research! It must have been both incredible and very strange to do research in another country.

    I am surprised that the term “foreigners” is considered favorable over “immigrants,” when I would say it is the opposite in American culture. Go figure.

    I read your comment on my own blog, and its incredible that we both seem to be tackling our own opposite–two different language barriers to health care. I am wondering if you had the chance to observe any healthcare settings while you were in Spain? I imagine that would be super difficult, though. Can’t wait to read your last blog.