Issue - May 2007

May 2007

In this Issue, an interview with Ana Cecilia Moreno, how she wanted to break the image of elite dance. Caroline Amouyal met with Anysongo.

Read about the history of Los Tiempos our local newspaper in Cochabamba. Andean Traditions, always present in our more...

May 2007


Looking for a New Beginning

In the last weeks there has been a lot of talk about topics of emigration in the Bolivian information channels. Of course the decision of 15 countries of the Shengen community to require, from the first of April, a visa for all the Bolivian tourists and workers that wish to enter Europe, has made the problem much more visible. But the large number of Bolivian people leaving their country to go to work in a foreign one already was a matter of discussing; some sources say that in last year almost 600 Bolivians a week are leaving their own country.
To analyze such a difficult and serious problem we decided to interview Walter Unzueta Perez, journalist of “Gente”, a Bolivian local newspaper.

By Emanuele Norsa
Milano, Italy
School of Literature and Philosophy of Torino University
Persuing a Masters Degree in Journalism in Luiss de Roma University this 2007

Cocha-banner: How would you describe the emigration phenomenon during the last ten years?

Walter Unzueta:Until about ten years ago, the main destination for Bolivian emigrants was Argentina but when the country drove into serious economic crisis in 1998/2002 all the Argentineans left the country themselves for Europe, which drew the Bolivians from this new Eldorado as well. Nowadays, the first destination for the Bolivian emigrants is Spain because of the language, but also other European countries such as Italy, Sweden, England or Germany. However, the Bolivians also keep going to neighboring countries such as Argentina, Brazil, and Chile. Between 2004 and December 2006, it was calculated that about 200,000 people had migrated.

During the last three months, the phenomenon has accelerated because of the deadline of April 1, when 15 European countries decided to introduce visas to get into the European countries, even for tourism. This decision is to be seen thinking that till now almost every Bolivian emigrant who was entering in Europe to get a job was declaring himself as a tourist.

As a clue, the number of new passports made daily passed from 80 to 160. Many Bolivians already living in Europe have sent money to Bolivia so that their relatives could travel before April 1st.

CBN: Who are the emigrants: where do they come from and which social class do they generally represent?

WU: The region of origin counts. 18% of the emigrants come from Santa Cruz, 17% from Cochabamba, but only 9% from La Paz.

The travelers are not those coming from the poorest regions. They need to be strong and to have enough money to travel. A writer once said “los más fuertes son los que viajan, no los más debil” (the strongest are those who travel, not the weakest).

Among the 200,000 emigrants, more than 50% are women and come from the countryside and the periphery of the richest region. Women represent the majority of the emigrant because the European countries offer, most of the time, house work.

CBN:What are the main reasons for this massive emigration?

WU: People travel according to what they have been told by those already living there.

One of the main points is the salary. For the same work, in Europe you earn at least three times your Bolivian salary; people living in Europe earn between 800 and 1200 euros a month. It is interesting to analyze that from this salary, the emigrants send between 20 and 1000 euros back to Bolivia.

The money the emigrants send back home is firstly dedicated to maintain their relatives who have stayed behind. The money is also meant to buy houses and vehicles that, most of the times, they use for public transportation. A percentage of the earned money is also kept for the homecoming, because the main dream of the emigrants is to one day go back home. Sometimes they will, sometimes they will not. Coming back to the question, of course most of the Bolivians going to Europe are looking for fast progress. Their country is plagued by poverty, unemployment, lack of expectations and economic problems.

CBN: What are the positive effects on Bolivian economy?

WU: Of course, all the money that the emigrants send back to Bolivia is something that brings positive consequences. According to a study from the Banco Americano de Desarollo, 500 million US Dollars have been sent back to Bolivia, which corresponds to 10% of the Gross Domestic Product.

Thanks to this money, the economy of the county has been triggered, with the start of micro companies, micro credits, and microfinance. Lots of small banks have opened in order to receive this money from abroad.

Thanks to this money, Bolivia can be considered as one of the country with the most active micro credit system of South America.

CBN: What are the main problems caused by emigration in Bolivia?

WU: There are many problems, but I would like to focus first on the tragedy of split families. According to the data from the government, 80% of the married emigrants leaving without their family end up in divorce, even when their partner comes back to Bolivia. The distance ruins the relationship at all levels.

Another problem caused by immigration is the aggressions on children. Some fathers, left alone by the wife that went to work in a foreign country, get aggressive. The reason in that they feel helpless: not everyone can substitute the mother’s role. Sometimes they need to look for another partner to manage the house and this event has to be accepted by the children,who end up feeling left alone.

It also occurs that people are not used to managing the money received. Children suddenly have lots of money in their pocket. Talking about the economic problems, it is important to understand that most of the people leaving Bolivia are qualified workers. Among them there are construction workers, plumbers, etc. Thus, Bolivia has lost lots of professionals and intellectuals and those who have stayed have raised their prices.

CBN: How could the situation be improved, in your opinion?

WU:The government should make international agreements for the Bolivian emigrants. Indeed, among the 200,000 who have emigrated between 2004 and 2006, only 60,000 are legal immigrants. Migration is a mutual benefit: both, Bolivia and the European countries, get positive things. Europe for example receives cheaper work force.

I also think that we should start making campaigns in the churches, schools or other social places in order to revalue the idea of family. People need to understand that leaving the family is something that most of times is difficult to manage. Also, we need to show the real situation that they will find in their new working country: there is a huge contradiction. By leaving the country, people are expecting to increase their quality of life, but, actually, it is the opposite. They become marginalized, they are exploited, receive bad alimentation, or live together with ten more people in an apartment in order to save money to send back home.

The value of money has become, in our country, more important than the value of family… that is the real problem.

How the “Latinos” organize their New Life in Europe and face the problems that they often find such as racism and poverty In his studies, Maurizio Ambrosini, professor of sociology at the University of Milan and great expert about migrations, has focused on the topic of “latino” immigrants in Europe to try to understand the social part of coming to another country searching for a new life.

Latin America was, for hundreds of years, a land where Europeans used to go to find a new life, escaping poverty and wars in the old continent. For several years the trend has changed because of economical problems in South America and because of the economic progress of countries such as Spain and Italy, where the most part of Bolivian immigrants are residing.

Studying the situation of immigrants in Europe Ambrosini tries to give us a schematic view of the characteristic of this kind of migration with the creation of some interesting points:

1 – Speaking about Latin American migrations in Europe Ambrosini stresses female migrations. The work that most of the European countries offer is house work, such as taking care of children or elderly. What makes South American women interesting for the European labor market is, most of the time, their catholic faith and, in some countries, the lack of language problems. Of course this aspect is useful in most of the cases but at the same time it has built up a sort of cliché that can prevent women from working elsewhere.

2 – As we talked about female migrations we have to focus also on the problems that this kind of migration causes in home countries: problems about transnational families, a phenomenon accepted when the travelers were the fathers, but difficult to understand when it is the mother who leaves the household.

3 – South American emigration has shown, as well, a huge capacity to build what Ambrosini calls “helping nets”: The people arriving in a new country always have contact fellow countrymen that have often already found a job for the newcomer, or at least an accommodation. In some cases, especially when the people are not part of the family, asking money for help is not at all uncommon. The nets are also seen in some cities where the Spanish communities of newspapers or cultural centers and, of course, in other cases the help of the catholic church in countries like Spain or Italy are very important.

4 – The final interesting point that Mauizio Ambrosini presents in his studies is the reconnection of families. This process is quite important in situations such as those who have seen mothers leave the family, but at the same time it brings upon other unexpected problems. The husbands arriving in the new country find a very different situation from their hometown: the one who works is the wife, finding a job for men is more difficult and this often brings problems such as alcoholism or violence. Of course children that arrive, most of them of preadolescent age, also find problems such as discrimination and exclusion. In the end, these reputations damage the reputation of the women who have gained certain status in the country.

It is a space of fusion between art and sport, as shown by its name: Ar stands for arte and de stands for deporte. We created it in collaboration with gymnasts, because we all needed a place to practice our different activities. We are all very proud of this place, because we built it up almost all by ourselves (we even installed the light and the electricity alone!)...
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