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parishes. In order to add its efforts to those already existing. It has also taken on the task of strengthening its links with the Central American Jesuit Service for Migrants in Mexico and North and South America by implementing common actions. SJM participates in networks made up of civil society organizations and other important actors in each of the region’s countries via active collaboration in national roundtables and forums and other relevant arenas linked to the migratory phenomenon. universities. The Central American Jesuit Service for Migrants puts special emphasis on three dimensions: research. research institutes. concerns and findings intersect with and are at the service of the socio-pastoral work and advocacy. in each of the region’s countries. socio-pastoral attention and advocacy regarding migratory policies and public opinion. including high schools. It established links with other Jesuit institutions working with migrants. T 4 . SJM applauds and joins with genuinely committed efforts to protect and defend the human rights of migrants and their families. transit and destination. SJM’s investigations are born of an ethical option and commitment and try to ensure that their methods. without sacrificing academic standards. and is a loyal standardbearer in repudiating all manifestations of xenophobia and discrimination. It was created in 2004 as a Central American network that inserted itself into wider networks. radio stations and journals.he Central American Jesuit Service for Migrants (SJM) is a work of the Society of Jesus that was founded to support and defend the rights of migrants and their families in their countries of origin.

a position that contrasts markedly with the indifference of many of his compatriots. is a collection of articles originally published over the past four years in envío. who had the vision to recognize that above and beyond the difficulties of institutionally consolidating the initiative there is a need to contribute to an understanding of the migratory dynamics with an institutional platform on a regional scale. but has also been the main impetus behind the investigative emphasis in the Central American Jesuit Service for Migrants (SJM). a regional initiative that also promotes political-organizational advocacy and accompaniment of the migrant communities. one of the most incisive analysts of Nicaraguan and Central American reality.PROLOGUE P eople have become Central America’s prime export product. in the latter case mainly in Costa Rica or the United States. José Luis has not only undertaken to study Central America’s migratory dynamics. 5 . Even Costa Rica itself. Between 2 and 3 percent of Costa Rica’s population currently lives in the United States. The Central American SJM owes a great deal to the talent and stubborn determination of José Luis. Their author. that between 20 and 25 percent of El Salvador’s population lives abroad. José Luis Rocha Gómez. A Region Torn Apart. as does 15 percent of Nicaragua’s population. The Dynamics of Migration in Central America. is beginning to figure among the expelling societies. recognized that emigration is not a marginal issue for Nicaraguan society. It is estimated. for example. traditionally a receiving country. a monthly analytical magazine of Nicaragua’s Central American University. emigration is an increasingly relevant structural dimension of Central American societies. Although market fundamentalism insists day after day that liberalization offers the key to accessing the future and well-being.

The author underscores how remittances are turning into the issue par excellence.While the Central American elites construct networks and consensus about their project for the region. It discusses. A Region Torn Apart is organized into seven chapters. we’re workers. The fourth chapter argues that migration is not explained only by factors associated with population density or labor markets. The first reviews the conceptual approaches or perspectives frequently employed to study migrations. which has made it possible for working teams from Guatemala to Panama to concern themselves with the migrations both triggered and accompanied by hunger. A Region Torn Apart inaugurates the series Studies of the Central American Diaspora. In this context. It also analyzes the support and information networks that intervene in the migratory dynamics. but ignoring the reasons that obliged them to leave their country. the segmented markets perspective and the world systems theory. It discusses the neoclassical approaches. SKM) and the Swedish Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA). the SJM and other Jesuit initiatives are starting to offer an arena for dialogue and action. who have made it clear that “We aren’t terrorists. putting the money emigrants send in the public eye. but that historical and sociocultural factors are also at play.” It also looks at the recent mobilizations of millions of Latin American men and women. The second chapter comments on some contributions by intellectuals and politicians to the migratory debate in the United States. critical and solidarity initiatives find it difficult to attain a regional scope. The fifth chapter analyzes 6 . The SJM has been benefited by the cooperation of the Swedish Lutheran Churches mission (Svenska kyrkan misión. for example. It is hard to build regional networks and dialogues in the institutional vacuum left by weakened public universities. comparing them with Nicaraguan migration. through which the Central American SJM will make recent investigations available to the region’s public. among others.” The third chapter reveals the absence of public migration policies in Nicaragua. Samuel Huntington’s thesis regarding the erosion of white Anglo-Saxon Protestant identity as a consequence of the Latin “threat.

those migrating to the United States now are mainly Latin and Asian. but also about listening to and helping end the hunger that is tearing Nicaragua and the rest of Central America apart. let it be said. the migration issue remained 7 . A Region Torn Apart invites Nicaragua’s political class to recognize that even though hundreds of thousands of people have been driven out of Nicaragua by hunger in the past twenty years. So what’s new is not the number but the ideological context in which the migratory issue is debated. In particular. in fact. There have always been immigrants.the images that the studies have constructed of migrants. But while European immigration predominated previously. but it was spurred on by the profound injustices that precede and accompany those migrating. there is a risk of reproducing images of purity and fear of contagion. which. In particular. The sixth chapter analyses how the financing agencies’ interests determine the research agendas. The book’s seventh and final chapter analyzes demographic and ideological changes related to migration in the United States. and of the special vulnerability of women and children. it is the product of both an analytical and interpretive motivation and an ethical one. the book offers interpretative keys to understanding Central American migrations. The book’s publication in both Spanish and English makes it accessible to a broad spectrum of readers. Taken as a whole. the author explores the case of the relationship between migration and AIDS. have ceased being national. in fact. pointing out that they make a very relevant contribution to the national accounts. In other words. there were even more in the early 20th century than at the start of this century: 12 percent and 10 percent respectively. In this chapter the author takes note of the swarm of experts and consultants on the issue who are trying to fill the vacuum left by impoverished universities lacking in long-term projects. It is about understanding. There are also studies of trafficking in people. The issue of remittances is taken up again. a devastating illness but one whose purported link to migrations is not well-demonstrated.

There were candidates. As Leoncia.… If my story isn’t coherent. 8 . In a word. they all fattened up and we so skinny. because the politicians are the wealthiest. and we’re the poorest. I apologize.” Decades ago we learned that we had to give “a voice to the voiceless. they who make interplanetary trips and we who migrate through thousands of difficulties. No. The problem has been our inability to listen to it. for example. Carlos Sandoval García Universidad de Costa Rica October 2006 * ¿Cómo me siento en Costa Rica? Autobiografías de Nicaragüenses. Universidad de Costa Rica. Serie Documentos. even though they have never so much as gone there to talk with them. they forget to fulfill the promises…. A Region Torn Apart is an urgent and indispensable contribution to listening and dialoguing about the Central America we so profoundly want. and after we bring them to power.” Leoncia and thousands of other migrants remind us that they’ve always had a voice. for our desired and hungered-after vote. skeletal children dying in the streets of my country’s towns and… all the government does is use us as grist for its mill. That’s why I now think you have to be pretty ingenuous to give them your vote. San José: Instituto de Investigaciones Sociales. but the thing is that I live here stressed out by the treatment they give us. wrote in her 1999 autobiography*: “We poor exist only when they’re in an electoral campaign.sidelined or else was converted into facile sloganeering even in the 2006 general elections. one of thousands of Nicaraguan women who have migrated. with eyes almost sunk in our heads from hunger.… I want to pass down a better future to my children where there’s no inequality and they have opportunities where they can feel they made their dreams come true. 2000. always without that hospitality we migrants hoped for. and not only for my own kids but for all the generations to come. A Region Torn Apart aspires to become an uncomfortable testimony for a leadership class that agreed to ignore a diaspora fed by hunger. who during the campaign promised to repatriate the Nicaraguans living in Costa Rica.

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Nicaragua is one of the nations whose out-migration has most increased in the last 10 years. if they participated in or were indifferent to community organizations.5% in 2002 (Camarota. MORE NICAS EMIGRATED IN THE LAST DECADE International migrations have experienced noticeable changes over the last 30 years. (Leonardo Boff) M any research studies have sought to reveal the characteristics of those who emigrate: whether they are better or worse prepared than those who stay behind. if social mobility was having an adverse effect or just impeding the satisfaction of their social expectations… Some studies have even used such profiles to calculate the probabilities of a determined segment of the population or community leaving the country. The vigorous nature of this human mobility and the many recent changes in its form add to the importance and potential controversy of any answers today. (Kurt Lewin) Every point of view is the view of a point. 53% of them in the last four years of that period (Instituto Nacional de Estadísticas 11 . some of them from a supposedly aseptic scientific position and others based on openly confessed political options.7% of the population in 1970 and 6. approaches and disciplines have attempted to provide an answer. friends.2% in 1980. In the United States alone. Why do they leave at certain historical moments? What springboard catapults them abroad? What siren or mirage lures them away or what invisible hand or rude kick pushes them to leave family. their volume has increased. immigrants have gone from representing 4.2). language and habits to face emotional scarring as they travel thousands of miles in extremely risky conditions only to reduce their social status and face racial and residential segregation? All of these questions could be condensed into one: why are so many people in the world caught up in the migration “trend”? Many theories.Nothing is as practical as a good theory.5% left between 1994 and 2001. whether they are poorer or better off. But it is just as important to know why emigrants exist. For a start. 71. Of the total number of emigrants recorded by Nicaraguan’s Living Standards Measurement Survey in 2001. to 11. 2002. p.

A WHOLE RANGE OF THEORIES PROVIDE PARTIAL EXPLANATIONS A look at worldwide population movements reveals that the sources of migration have switched from Europe to Latin America. at the same time increasing from half to two thirds of all foreign residents in that country (Castro.885 (INEC.* This explains our accelerated and growing presence in the two migratory destinations most preferred by Nicaraguans: Costa Rica (53%) and the United States (34. Instead. In fact. which traditionally supplied migrants. And we know that there are far more Nicaraguans in Costa Rica who were not registered by this census and even more seasonal migrants who enter and leave Costa Rica along undetectable paths. Several of these are relevant to the case of Nicaraguans who have emigrated. There is still no migration theory that pieces together a total explanation. And although it is important to know which approach has a greater empirical validation. one discovers along the way just how difficult it is to isolate certain variables and find univocal correlations. migration officials and citizens of the host countries. I will refer to the authors who are most representative of the theories and to their synthesis by US sociologist Douglas Massey et al. 2002).374 Nicaraguans. The most commonly adopted reactions have been indifference. 1992. 2000 a). bearing in mind the wise maxim of Brazilian theologian Leonardo Boff cited at the beginning of this article.9% of all ordinary residents in Costa Rica in 1984 to 5. Unfortunately. No less surprised are the politicians.000 (US Census Bureau.27). journalists. a 393% increase (Castro.190).431-466). this abrupt migratory explosion has caught social and political scientists and the disciplines of law and demography unawares. This is particularly true in a country like * 12 Calculations based on information from INEC. . 1992. Africa and Asia. p.y Censos [INEC]. an increase of over 300%.6 %). an improvised demagogy devoid of any consistent theoretical references and “iron-fisted” policies aimed at putting the brakes on human mobility. we find ourselves faced with a whole range of theories that are often segmented according to different disciplines. its 2000 census detected 177. pp. who find themselves devoid of any suitable discourse or concepts. 2001 b). Nicaraguans went from representing 1. The Costa Rican censuses during the same period show a jump from 45. (1993.27) to 226. The various theories operate on different levels of analysis that are not necessarily mutually exclusive.9% in 2000. 2002. a reluctantly swallowed novelty that shapes them into multiethnic. p. culturally enriched societies while generating unanticipated challenges. the causal processes and their variables operate simultaneously on various levels.166 Nicaraguans during the eighties (INEC. have suddenly become receivers. p. The fact that this is occurring in all industrialized countries demonstrates the pull and the coherence of the underlying forces. European countries. While the US census registered 44.

(1993) insist on distinguishing between the flow of international labor and the flow associated with human capital: even the most aggregated figures of the macro-level models must clearly recognize the heterogeneity of the immigrants’ professional qualifications. Thus highly qualified workers. with a resulting fall in the labor supply in the country with low wages. NEOCLASSICAL MACROECONOMIC THEORY: THEY LEAVE IN SEARCH OF BETTER SALARIES The oldest theory on migration focused on explaining the role labor migrations played in development processes. countries with an enormous labor force relative to their capital have a low equilibrium in their wage market. has very different implications for policy formulation. While this is a valid point. posits this theory. according to this theory. The neoclassical theory also states that capital sometimes circulates in the opposite direction. The country with high wages experiences a change in the opposite direction. skilled workers do not always migrate because of a shortage of human capital in the host country. with workers traveling from countries with low wages to those with high ones. which causes them to begin to rise.Nicaragua. 13 . its pertinence needs to be judged in each case. move from developed countries towards those with limited human capital and their skills are very well rewarded. a situation close to equilibrium is produced. international organizations often create demand out of home-country affinity. In Nicaragua. with labor multiplying and wages falling. making it very important to analyze what unique aspect it has to offer and its relevance to a particular country. For example. According to Massey et al. Here Massey et al. features and mechanisms converge to make us such a major league expeller of migrants that we validate almost any model. all of whose shortages. The wage differences activate the migratory flow. Human capital sometimes moves in that direction as well. however. (1993). According to this theory. The persisting wage differences merely reflect the pecuniary and even psychic costs of the migratory movement. without taking into account the real dimensions of our shortage of human capital one way or another. We read and hear about it in the media and studies by many researchers categorically conclude that Nicaraguans migrate because of low wages at home. Internationally. like the international consultants based in Nicaragua. external and internal migrations are caused by geographical differences between the supply and demand of labor. In the case of international migrations. diametrically opposed to that of countries with a small labor force and large amounts of capital. Each approach. the neoclassical macroeconomic theory of migrations has strongly influenced public opinion and provided the intellectual foundations for most migratory policies. for example. Money often travels from rich countries to poor ones with very high return rates on investment.

Massey et al. identify (1993) various propositions and assumptions implicit in this perspective. First, it is assumed that because the international migration of workers is caused by wage differences between countries, the elimination of these differences will put an end to labor migration. The exception to this rule are the international flows of highly qualified workers, whose rate of return is much higher than average and thus generates a migratory pattern opposite to that of non-qualified workers. NICAS EARN $204 HERE AND $253 IN COSTA RICA This theory sustains that labor markets are the fundamental mechanism for inducing international labor flows and that other kinds of markets do not affect those flows in any significant way. A corollary of this approach is the policy associated with it, based on the idea that governments in the countries of destination that view migration in a negative light can control migratory flows by regulating and influencing their labor markets. This theory also implies that the countries of destination—and their less qualified workers in particular—must fear these migrant waves because of the wage reduction they inevitably entail. The role of the US media in fanning such xenophobic labor panic has been magisterially described by Leo R. Chávez in his book Cubriendo la inmigración: Imágenes populares y la política de la nación. US magazines recurrently predict that the struggle between whites and blacks (Afro-Americans) will be replaced by a confrontation between blacks and browns (Latin Americans) competing for the same jobs. Due to the very simplicity of this approach, it is easy to find basic figures that support it with respect to Nicaragua. According to World Bank figures, Nicaragua’s annual per capita income fell from US$800 at the beginning of the eighties to $340 at the beginning of the nineties. Following a modest recovery, per capita income was just $430 in 1999 (Funkhouser, Përez & Sojo, 2003, p.73). The officially established minimum wage in Nicaragua is just $60 a month, whereas in neighboring Costa Rica it is $223 (Rocha, 2002, p.20). In addition, Costa Rica has a far greater capacity to ensure that the minimum wage is respected and in fact the country’s economic situation allows it to be exceeded. According to Carlos Castro Valverde (2002, pp.214-215) of the Latin American Faculty of Social Sciences (FLACSO), the average monthly income of Nicaraguan immigrants in Costa Rica is $253, which is 30% below the average income of Costa Ricans but 17% higher than the average monthly wage ($204) in Nicaragua. NEOCLASSICAL MICROECONOMIC THEORY: THEY LEAVE DUE TO A COST-BENEFIT CALCULATION These wage figures are important, but they do not encompass the true complexity of the migration-activating dynamic. So what does the microeconomic branch of neoclassi14

cal theory have to say on the matter? A microeconomic model closely associated with its macroeconomic cousin deals with individual choice. Individuals decide to migrate based on a cost-benefit calculation that leads them to expect a net gain by doing so. From this perspective, migration appears as an investment, and a very costly one at that. To obtain better wages, migrants invest in the material costs of the journey and then risk their lives. They also assume the costs of their own maintenance until they find work, and perhaps even those of the family they left behind, plus the costs of depriving their family—wife or husband, (often young) children and (often old) parents—of their presence and monetary and emotional support; and of racial discrimination in the country of destination. Finally, they must also be prepared to face possible isolation there, the effort of learning another language and culture, adaptation to a new labor market and the psychological costs of cutting off old links and forging new ones. This model has even generated equations to work out the expected net returns of migration. It is calculated just before departure as a function of the probability of avoiding deportation, finding work and the income resulting from that job in the new country—from which must be deducted the probability of finding work and the wages they can earn in the community of origin, as well as the total costs, psychological ones included, involved in migrating. If the expected net return is positive, people supposedly decide to emigrate; and if it is negative, they will stay in their community. If it is neither positive nor negative, the person in question will be undecided about whether to stay or go. Unlike the macroeconomic model, this perspective includes both employment rates (not just wage rates) and features corresponding to human capital (education, experience, training, knowledge of the language) as incentives for emigrating. The probability of emigrating is influenced by both individual and social characteristics, a set of elements that means that individuals from the same country may have different inclinations to migrate. As can be appreciated in the Nicaraguan documentary on emigration to Costa Rica, Desde el barro al sur (Álvarez & Hernández, 2002), older women have fewer possibilities of finding work in our southern neighbor and are therefore less inclined to emigrate. Only 5.5% of the total number of female emigrants are older than 45. Almost 40% of the women who go to Costa Rica are aged between 17 and 25, a range of just 8 years (INEC, 2001 b).† A large percentage of them work as domestics, a job for which young women are preferred. NICARAGUANS ARE MOVED BY HUNGER, RUMORS, MYTHS, EXPECTATIONS AND SERIOUS DESPERATION The neoclassical microeconomic approach assumes that migratory flows between countries are the sum of individual decisions based on the cost-benefit calculation.
† Calculations based on information from INEC.
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It also assumes that migrations are not divorced from the diversity of employment and wage rates, that the expected net return determines the migrant flow between countries, that the labor market—and none other—directly influences the decision to migrate and that governments can control migration through policies that affect expected income in the expelling and receiving countries. Such policies include imposing sanctions on employers in the country of destination to reduce the probabilities of finding employment, promoting programs to increase wages in the country of origin or even pushing up the material and psychological costs of migration through migratory controls and deportation. The costs and risks involved obviously do make a difference, which is why there are more Nicaraguans in Costa Rica (53% of Nicaraguan emigrants) than in the United States (34.6%), although the latter is more attractive due to its high salaries and the cultural draw activated through its cinema, television, music, currency, consumer goods, etc. But costs and the labor markets as measured by their employment and wage rates are not the only things that matter. Things are simply not that rational for many emigrants. A large number are fleeing enemies or the law, many women are as good as kidnapped by a new love and more than a few people are encouraged by rather unfounded expectations. The poorest must opt for destinations that may end up frustrating because they can’t make the kind of money they dreamed of there, as happened to a 22-year-old Nicaraguan agricultural technician who went to El Salvador to work as a hacienda laborer and returned with less money that he left with. Many others have had similarly frustrating experiences, although El Salvador remains the third most popular destination for Nicaraguans. In other words, it is not just a question of comparing income or the probability of finding work. This cost-benefit calculation includes the comparison of personal security in one country against another, along with the stories, accounts and rumors that circulate and fuel expectations and the myths and other ravings of national politics. Desperation is a variable seldom considered. Hunger produces despairing people. More than refugees and political asylum seekers, Nicaraguan politics produces desperate utopian refugees. Very few people are prepared to put their money on Nicaragua and some have even declared it unviable. But perhaps the greatest weakness of this theory is that it does not include the interests of those who go so they can invest in their families and by extension in their communities of origin. It ignores the most widespread strategy behind the desire to increase one’s income. THE NEW MIGRATION ECONOMICS THEORY: THEY LEAVE AS PART OF A FAMILY STRATEGY The “new migration economics” approach has questioned some of the assumptions of the neoclassical perspective. It proposes that the decision to emigrate is not taken by
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but also to minimize risks and eliminate the restrictions associated with a variety of market defects. Family dissatisfaction is triggered by comparison to neighbors. reduce their risks and make new investments. Developed countries have government programs. which lack such mechanisms as these to cushion their effects. the households survive thanks to the remittances sent back by family members who left and are living abroad. THE “SHOWCASE” EFFECT: COMPARISON WITH NEIGHBORS Sometimes it is not so important to increase income as to diversify its sources. as these institutional vacuums that stimulate emigration are also market defects. are other determining economic factors. offering them an appropriate framework for many of their assumptions. By sending members abroad. The theoreticians of the new migration economics sustain that households send some of their members abroad not only to improve their income in absolute terms. The families send some of their members away to diversify their sources of income. Poor people from underdeveloped countries have to seek other options because such institutional mechanisms do not exist. This thesis could explain the pull of emigration and its “showcase” effect: the more remittances emigrants from a community send home to improve their relatives’ living conditions.isolated individuals. but rather by units of related people—families and households—who not only seek to maximize income. social compensation programs. The probability of migrating increases with ‡ Not having harvest insurance means that farmers do not risk investment in introducing better technologies. This theory has most influenced those studying the impact of family remittances. insurance companies and credit programs that allow households to minimize their risks and make new investments. subsidies and other mechanisms to mitigate risks. By producing migrants and receiving remittances. but also to improve it relative to neighboring households and reduce their privations in relation to a given reference group. insurance. Thus credit markets. families mitigate the defects and shortfalls in all of these markets in the countries in which they happened to be born. increase investment and improve their living standard. at which point this approach differs radically from neoclassical theory. insurance markets‡ and unemployment security benefits in the receiving country plus price fluctuations in the majority of the South’s underdeveloped countries. are inaccessible or are too expensive for them. When local conditions deteriorate. the households guarantee themselves credit. the greater the number of dissatisfied households that want to place at least one family member abroad. The labor market is not the only market that determines migration flows. 17 . For example. they do not experiment with new varieties of seeds.

governments looking to put the brakes on migration face an enormous task. In light of this theory. (1993) argue that the new migration economics has a very different set of suppositions for examination from those of neoclassical theory. an increase in income in the areas from which emigrants are leaving could encourage migration if relatively poor households do not benefit from it. In fact. This means that economically developing the regions of origin may not necessarily reduce the migratory wave once it has been unleashed and is being fed by the desire to keep up with the Joneses. Such policies influence migration independent of their effects on average income. a strategy to provide local investment capital and mitigate the risks to which they are exposed. as households can have strong incentives to diversify risks even in their absence. eliminating wage differences may not necessarily stop emigration. For example. Remittances explain many new features of the Nicaraguan economy and their 18 .rising income in other households or perceived inequality. however. but also the insurance. Government policies and economic changes that redistribute income will alter the relative poverty of certain households and thus their incentives for migrating. They must control the volume of migrants through policies that influence not only the labor and wage markets. It must be recognized. households and other cultural units of production and consumption. The prosperity and profitability of local activities can even become a stimulus for migrating. By the same logic. According to this approach. or when there is a desire to attain the status of a certain reference group. as in the case of wanting to improve one’s status. This means that there will be a greater probability of migrating in poorer households and less equitable communities. Incentives to emigrate may persist when markets other than wage markets are imperfect. and must moderate inequality as well. but rather families. Wage differences between countries are not a necessary condition for international migration. REMITTANCES EXPLAIN MORE AND MORE IN NICARAGUACS ECONOMY Remittances and their repercussions provide the strongest empirical support for this theory. EMIGRATING TO LATER INVEST IN THE FAMILY AND COMMUNITY This approach also includes a novel discovery: international migration and employment and local production are not mutually exclusive. unemployment compensation and other markets. Massey et al. there are strong incentives for families to invest simultaneously in migration and local activities. that most often these other factors encouraging migration are at least indirectly related to income/expenditure. such an increase could put the brakes on migration if it excludes relatively well-off families. For example. capital. unbalanced or simply do not exist in the countries of origin. the most suitable units of analysis for research on migration from this approach are not autonomous individuals.

8% in housing in good repair. Posoltega and Santa Teresa. Other studies talk of each home receiving an average of $150. San Francisco.impact is receiving growing attention. it is striking that the 12% of households with migrants can account for the reduction of the country’s poverty level by nearly half (Ibid. A study by Federico Torres for the Economic Commission for Latin America (ECLA) (CEPAL. According to sociologist Eduardo Baumeister (2004). Tipitapa. While Nicaragua’s Central Bank estimates that remittances amount to $345 million a year. According to a FLACSO study. 15% in housing with tiled floors. households with at least one member residing abroad explain the 48% of poor homes that have risen above the poverty line between the last two national living standards surveys.224).4% of Nicaragua’s gross domestic product. conducted by the Improvement of Living Standards Measurement Surveys project (MECOVI) in 2001 (INEC. 17% in housing with more than two rooms. p. Even allowing for other associated variables. THE DIFFICULTY OF CROSS-TABULATING VARIABLES IN A COUNTRY LIKE NICARAGUA Cross-tabulating the variable of households with or without members abroad with other variables corresponding to certain types of investment could help reveal a correspondence between migration and the diversification of income sources. 10.5% in use of gas for cooking and 15% in availability of a telephone. The gaps with respect to those same variables are considerably smaller in rural areas. Remittances account for 60% of monthly family income in these municipalities. 7% in possession of a toilet. which amounts to an average monthly income of $70 per Nicaraguan household.). 2001 b). This included an advantage of almost 11% in ownership of concrete or cement block housing. This could be because the remittances received in the countryside are more meager and 19 . but even at that. By doing such a cross-tabulation of the last living standards survey. 5% in housing with floors in good repair. the average amount sent back from Costa Rica as monthly remittances is $63.4% of Nicaragua’s average monthly wage and exceeds its total minimum wage by about $3 (Castro. the poverty levels are so high that most of those receiving remittances said they used them only to cover basic food costs. we discovered that urban households with members abroad had a clear percentile advantage over those without in a number of different categories. which is equivalent to 33. La Conquista. other calculations have produced higher estimates. A study done by Ricardo Castellón for the FAO tried to measure the impact of remittances on the local economies of six municipalities in Nicaragua’s dry zone: Villanueva. risk reduction and even increased status within a reference group. 2002. 2000 b) concluded that remittances ranged between $400 and $800 million in 1999. Remittances could represent at least 14.30.

which might appear to be a very clear correlation. Isolating variables in a country like Nicaragua. is very difficult. we have a monopoly on the sweepstakes tickets when it comes to migration. In Nicaragua. It is also possible to draw conclusions about the ecological impact of remittances. because unlike the natives they only 20 . Theoreticians from this tendency argue that migration is caused by the permanent demand for migrant labor inherent in the economic structure of developed nations. As it becomes increasingly difficult to do so. THE SEGMENTED LABOR MARKET THEORY: THEY RESPOND TO DEMAND IN THE NORTH Both the neoclassical theory and the new migration economics focus on micro-level decisions. Here. the causes are not factors pushing people away from their countries of origin—low salaries. This demand for immigrant labor is caused by four problems characteristic of advanced industrialized societies. that of segmented or dual labor markets. the employers seek cheaper and simpler solutions. The first is structural inflation: wages are linked to social prestige. since we have no “before” to compare with the current situation. 2001 b). There is a need for much more research conducted at different moments and considering many more variables. which triggers a chain reaction when wages are increased among the lowest social strata. etc. such as contracting migrants who will accept lower wages. such as a chronic and inevitable need for foreign workers for certain tasks. For example. The problem lies in isolating the key variables in each theory from those that are irrelevant. For example. distances itself from decisions taken by individuals and small groups to focus on the demand for labor from industrialized societies. whose path is littered with all kinds of deprivations that encourage human mobility. But it cannot be inferred from these figures with any real certainty that there is a correlation between migrants and investments or risk reduction. the number of Nicaraguan emigrants strongly increased in 1998. upping the cost of attracting workers to low-paid jobs. We will have to wait for the next survey to make comparisons on a broad enough basis. despair. There are also motivational problems: the main aspiration of the migrant worker stratum is most likely to be the least qualified jobs.contribute to subsistence more than investment. given that 5% fewer rural households with members living abroad cut down trees for the sale of firewood or its consumption at home than those without members abroad. But it is very hard to isolate the Mitch variable from others that were also present during that year: increased unemployment. using MECOVI 2001 as a baseline survey (INEC. The new migration economics theory would say that it was a reaction to reduce the risks linked to Hurricane Mitch. high unemployment—but rather those pulling migrants to the countries of destination. rural households with emigrants had an 11% advantage over those without in harvesting agricultural products in their backyard. but focusing on other investment areas belies that supposition somewhat. Another theory.

Nicaraguans are satisfying the needs of clearly identifiable economic areas. and hence seek migrants. But both groups now have alternative options: women are accessing better-paid jobs and are interested in status. international labor migration is demand-based and activated by the employers in developed societies.care about the wage as income and not as an indicator of status or social prestige. the segmented labor market approach has very different implications. The low wages in the country of destination may fall even more with an increase in the migratory wave. Migrants satisfy a structurally constructed demand for labor in modern and post-industrial economies. extreme instability and limited opportunities for promotion previously came from among women and adolescents. This virtually limits the supply for this employment segment to migrants. In labor-intensive workplaces. unpleasant conditions. the employers seek the least possible payout for social and unemployment benefits. Costa Ricans are less inclined to work in these sectors because other opportunities are open to them. and influencing that demand would require monumental changes in the whole economic organization. so they invest in their training and pay the whole range of benefits because they are interested in keeping them. Although compatible with the previous models. the employers tend to need workers with higher skills. 21 . not to mention wages. where the remittances they send back and what is achieved with them have more than enough impact and generate status. given that social and institutional mechanisms that prevent increases in low salaries do not protect them from any decrease. This theory leaves very little room for governments to influence migration through policies that produce small changes in wages and employment rates. such as the agricultural sector and sweatshops that have not migrated to the very countries of origin of so many migrants. Carlos Castro Valverde (2002) found that the Costa Rican free trade assembly plants (known as maquilas) and the construction and agriculture sectors absorb a great deal of Nicaraguan labor. In this theory. even if not formally recruited. several researches have held that. while young people are absorbed by the academic system and seek swift upward social mobility. but in their community of origin. They measure their prestige not in the host country. !"#$% IN COSTA RICA: AT THE BOTTOM OF THE LABOR PYRAMID Although no researcher has sustained that Nicaraguans migrate to Costa Rica attracted by a labor demand from certain Costa Rican industries or productive sectors. Finally. The third problem is economic dualism: In capital-intensive workplaces. there is a problem related to demography and labor supply: the supply of workers willing to accept low wages.

The only fundamental exception is that the theory sustains that migrant worker flows are due more to formal recruitment mechanisms than to individual decisions. pp. The immigrants’ average income is 11. and almost a third of the Nicaraguans are working in the agricultural sector (29. Moved by the desire for profit. Nicaraguans are paid less than half the income of Costa Ricans in the service sector. the owners and managers of big capitalist firms go into poor countries on the system’s periphery in search of land. which is 30% lower than the average income of the Costa Rican population.1% of the Nicaraguans registered in the households survey in that country are working in construction. while the latter are involved in skilled jobs such as public sector services and private financial and computing activities. and the positioning of migrants at the bottom of the labor pyramid.According to Castro (2002).4%). migrants in jobs that nationals tend to look down on.457 colons ($253). THE WORLD SYSTEMS THEORY: THEY MOVE FROM THE PERIPHERY TO THE CENTER According to the world systems approach. In the words of Catalonian sociologist Manuel Castells.6%). This penetration alters the socioeconomic and cultural conditions in such a way that the movement of labor in the inverse direction to big capitalist investments is an unavoidable result.214-215) All of this fits in with the theory of segmented markets: lower wages. Castro (2002) estimates that “the average income of Nicaraguan immigrants is 78. pp. the tendency to predominate in certain occupations. making them a very attractive labor source. which is substantially higher than the 19.. largely due to a division of labor in which the former work in unskilled services such as domestic labor.200). The penetration of capitalist economic relations into peripheral societies creates a population inclined to migrate towards the capitalist center. Is this what really happens? Perhaps there are forms of informal labor recruitment.9% of national workers (Ibid.9% less in industry. twice the proportion of Costa Rican women working in that area (31. but it is currently facilitated by neocolonial governments and the transnational firms that perpetuate the local elites’ power. this penetration was guaranteed by colonial power.. In the past. (Ibid.202-203) In this context of segmented labor markets. 12. Costa Rican employers view Nicaraguans as candidates for lower wages. raw materials and labor and consumer markets. international migration has little to do with different wage levels or employment rates between countries and is fundamentally the result of the structure of the global economy and the creation of markets. This issue needs to be researched in greater depth and more evidence collected. if there 22 .2%—in the service sector. Meanwhile..5% less in construction and 17. People are now subjected to the global market economy just as land and raw materials were in the past. double the 6% of Costa Ricans working in that sector. p. Nicaraguan women have a huge presence—62.” (Ibid.

Even with the free movement of citizens within European Union member countries. 2001 b). borders. Between 1986 and 1990. Castells (1999) relativized the existence of a global and unified labor market by observing that institutions. there should also be a global labor market and global labor (1999. only 2% of Europeans were working in another EU member country. When writing his book. 23 . According to the 2001 National Health and Education Survey (ENDESA).§ A greater number of people still emigrate abroad from the cities. In 1993. The Information Era. the impact of international trade on employment and working conditions both North and South.262).5% of global labor—were working outside their country of origin. introduce high-yield seed varieties and apply industrially produced inputs. Those displaced seek employment in other areas of the country as well as abroad. p. But he stressed an historical trend towards increasing labor interdependence on a world scale through three mechanisms: global employment in transnational corporations and their associated cross-border networks. only 66% of those § Calculations based on information from INEC. given the labor market’s limited mobility.is a global economy.. and the effects of global competition and the new flexible method of managing each country’s labor force (Ibid. because those leaving the countryside tend to move first to a city inside the country. argued that this proposal was not being fulfilled in its literal sense. using figures from the eighties and early nineties. only some 80 million workers—1. culture. mechanize agricultural work. This displacement could partly explain why 20% more males than females emigrate from rural areas of Nicaragua while the percentages of males and females emigrating from urban areas are much more similar (INEC. MIGRATION IN NICARAGUACS RURAL ZONES Castells (1999) did not sufficiently develop how these mechanisms are gradually but consistently displacing labor. politics and xenophobia continued to confine the vast majority of workers to their nation of origin and that mass population displacements caused by wars and hunger are more important. 85% of those who emigrated left from the cities. thus helping weave a globalized labor market. All of these transnational-inspired novelties make a large part of rural labor redundant and also leave small producers at a disadvantage by reducing the prices of agricultural production. p. landowners in poor countries acquire more land. To be more competitive. but this pattern is changing.260). but this dropped to 75% between 1991 and 1993 and to 71% between 1994 and 1997. Castells. The invasion of trans-national companies stimulates migratory movement in various ways.

Some of the maquilas and other foreign companies also produce goods that compete with those manufactured by local industry while familiarizing their workers with certain goods not within their financial reach. 2003. for example. replacing them with a labor market rooted in more individualistic conceptions and private profit. only 13% of which are filled by men. of which rural unemployment. 2001 a). The increasing monetization of the economy tends to bring about the disappearance of the traditional institutions based on family networks and community solidarity that have provided the social infrastructure for many other exchanges. but a tendency is predictable. a similar percentage to that found on the national level among other maquila companies (Bilbao. it is too soon to calculate whether it will influence male emigration from the zone. with the others still migrating internally to the cities first. The penetration of transnational companies and their methods into rural areas undermines the peasant economy’s structures. provides 2. 2003). 66% are between the ages of 18 and 30 (Bilbao. FREE TRADE ZONES UPROOT AND ENCOURAGE MIGRATION The penetration of transnationals has other better-known effects in Nicaragua. is undoubtedly the most drastic.¶ It should also be borne in mind that the 34% emigrating abroad directly from rural areas is only part of a considerably greater volume of people leaving the the countryside for that same period. Although this deterioration of the peasant economy’s structures is perhaps not quite so attributable to the transna-tionals in Nicaragua’s case.emigrating between 1998 and 2001 were city dwellers (INEC. . Calculation based on information from INEC. This growing outflow of people from our countryside is considerably reducing the rural population’s overall weight and is a symptom of well-known changes caused by various factors. cultural features that trigger the uprooting of peasant populations. on the road to Matagalpa. p. The Presitex free-trade garment assembly plant located in Sébaco. demand a predominantly female work force that leaves men out in the cold. Of the female employees in Sébaco.000 jobs. which is also the critical age for migrating: 48% of Nicaraguan emigrants are between these ages when they set off (INEC. In short.12). Maquilas. 2001 b). The result is an uprooted population group prone to migrate because it cannot attain the living ¶ ** 24 Calculations based on information from INEC. Wages as the exclusive mediator of all labor purchases erodes such rural institutions as the practice of bartering for services with no monetary exchange involved. these companies displace labor while at the same time whetting the national appetite for a new range of consumer goods. which are based on reciprocity and established roles. most recently aggravated by the coffee crisis.** Given that this factory was only established in February 2000. it is already palpable.

Two other elements combine with this urge. so it is not surprising that the 2001 ENDESA survey revealed that 90. that enable one to move. which may be made in Bangladesh or even in Managua’s Las Mercedes free trade zone. vocabulary. T-shirts and caps. such that even a town as far from Managua as Matiguás—which is actually more culturally than geographically removed—has some 500 houses connected to cable by a local supplier. The highways designed to facilitate the transport of merchandise from North to South also reduce the costs and speed up the transport of people from South to North. Media publicity instills a taste for the consumption of many goods that Nicaragua imports but does not produce. After all. packaging in celluloid a way of life that feeds these ideological links. compared to only 60% of those who went to Costa Rica (INEC.” youngsters brought up in the States who came back after the revolution was safely dispatched. The international flow of merchandise and capital is followed by an international flow of labor that moves in the opposite direction. The movies shown in Nicaragua display the American way of life in brilliant and even lurid colors. attire. Young people look for brand-name pants. Capitalist investment fosters changes that create an uprooted and mobile population with cultural and material links to the countries from which the capital originates. THE IRRESISTIBLE LURE OF THE AMERICAN WAY OF LIFE Cable television companies have been increasing their coverage in Nicaragua. are the heralds of a new way of life that is sweeping many others away. or infrastructure linkages. In summary. In this theory. †† Information supplied by the director and owner of Cablevision of Matiguás in February 2003.3% of Nicaraguans who had emigrated to the United States were from the urban sector. The second is the facilities. generally speaking. They litter their conversations with English words. 25 . expressions. international migration is the natural consequence of the formation of the capitalist market: the global economy’s penetration into the peripheral regions is the catalyst for human mobility.standard to which it aspires and ideological links have been forged with the places from which the capital originated.†† Those with cable TV in that town will become increasingly more familiar with US humor. 2001 a). phrases and even distortions. Los Angeles and Miami being the cities of choice for Central America’s emigrants. but carry the US label. domestic appliances. The urban centers are more exposed to this kind of influence. the world systems theory sustains that migration provides continuity to the political and economic organization of an expanding global market. diet and. the global village is based on communication routes. the whole American way of life than they are with that of their compatriots in Rivas or Managua. The “Miami boys. The first is the demand for migrant labor in global cities.

Nicaragua has a long history of stormy and difficult relations with both countries. The trade disputes they would trigger. 77 years after Central America did. Costa Rica has historically been a destination for Nicaraguan labor. governments can only influence the volume of migration by controlling corporate investments and the flow of goods and capital. and the Costa Rican Palí supermarket and Musmani bakery chains have become ubiquitous in Nicaragua during the past few years. the risk of a world recession and the political resources the transnationals could mobilize to neutralize them make any such policies unthinkable.109-111). Such policies. This theory also says that when military interventions fail or the support of certain governments stops it produces a flood of refugees in the direction of the supporting country. linguistic. Puerto Rican-US journalist Juan González (2001) sustains that the links between the countries that generate migrants and those that receive them have been forged by a long history of trade. the Somoza dictatorship and the counterrevolutionary army of the eighties¶¶ and the fact that 27% of Nicaraguan imports come from the United States and 32% of its exports go there (Banco Central de Nicaragua. political and military relations. Calculations based on information from Central Bank of Nicaragua. Algeria and France. Nicaraguan migrants have mainly ended up in Costa Rica and the United States. Nicaragua ceded the territories of Guanacaste and Nicoya to Costa Rica. to name but a few. and a German-Turkish alliance during the First World War in order to obtain a foothold in Africa. The latter was largely a political destination during the eighties. the US government’s sup-port for local Nicaraguan elites.*** Political. however. provisionally in 1825 and definitively in 1857. commercial and communications links woven during the colonial period. the US Army’s creation of the National Guard. but the reasons for emigrating are now economic and Costa Rica is the main target. Morocco and Spain. since migration depends on globalization and the market economy. will probably never be implemented. at least since the installation of the banana companies in that country. It has been connected to the United States through the latter’s multiple invasions. ‡‡ §§ ¶¶ *** 26 Cuba became independent of the “mother land” in 1898. Latin America and the United States and Turkey and Germany§§. There were old commercial ties. military and economic relations between Nicaragua and Costa Rica have also been marked by notable trends and events. A history of Latinos in America. .WHY GO TO THE STATES? AND WHY TO COSTA RICA? International migration is very common between industrialized countries and their former colonies due to the cultural. armed Nicaraguan encampments were set up on Costa Rican soil during the struggle against Somoza in the seventies and again in the struggle against the Sandinista government in the eighties. German archeologists working in Turkey. 2001. And there is plenty of evidence for this thesis: Cuba and Spain‡‡. completely free of competition. In his book Harvest of Empire. According to the world systems approach. pp.

p. migrants left behind daughters and sons whom they later might send for. Looking at how many Nicaraguans have a close relative abroad would give us a better idea of the impact and possible contagion of the migratory trend.74). p. new conditions emerge during the course of the migratory movement that become independent causes. the national surveys conducted in Nicaragua have not explored whether. The legal status that many Nicaraguans were able to acquire as refugees or political asylum seekers in the United States during the 27 .. reducing the costs and risks and multiplying the number of migrants even more.1% of the residents in the La Carpio housing settlement in southeast San José (Campos. These networks generate a social capital that helps people access jobs abroad. the desire to reduce risks and market penetration may continue to push emigrants broad.808 Nicaraguan inhabitants are more than a quarter of the size of the city of Granada at the beginning of the seventies (Instituto Nicaragüense de de Fomento Municipal [INIFOM] & Fondo de Población de las Naciones Unidas [FNUAP]. It is a Nicaraguan bastion. With 12% of Nicaragua’s households already having migrants.THE PERPETUATION THEORY: THEY GO AND KEEP ON GOING The reasons the migratory movement is perpetuated in time and space can be very different from those that caused its initial explosion. Migrant networks consist of links connecting migrants. CHILDREN GET THEIR PARENTS AND OTHER RELATIVES INTO THE US Migrant networks are strengthened when some of their members get their residency in the country of destination legally recognized. 2004).4). 2001. for example. Unfortunately. We do. the probabilities of the migratory movement continuing and increasing are very high. Nicaraguans make up 49. however. Concentrations of this kind make Nicaraguans more visible than their dissemination across wide areas. giving rise to an ascending spiral of more networks and more migrants. Such is the case with the expansion of migrant networks and of institutions that support the development of transnational mobility. 2003. the networks expand. their relatives and even nonmigrants in the communities of origin and destination. Its 6. They are a very efficient incentive for migration because they reduce the costs and risks of the migratory movement and increase its net benefits. Once the number of migrants reaches a critical level. know that 51% of emigrants are children of the head of household and could eventually encourage and facilitate the journey of their siblings or parents. And although the search for improved income. they are the best material expression of these migration networks and greatly increase the probability of future migrations (Funkhouser et al. Although the concentration of Nicaraguans in certain Costa Rican neighborhoods has been analyzed more as a form of residential segregation.

perhaps fearing that this disaster would exponentially increase the number of immigrants. too. Costa Rica.4% of the Nicaraguans who migrated between 1998 and 2001 were grandchildren of heads of households. Migrants even offer their relatives and friends loans to migrate. with or without legal status. compared to just 3. It is almost a law of migration that the more years an emigrant has been established. the Nicaraguan Adjustment and Central American Relief Act (NACARA).eighties makes a multiplier effect more probable. The migratory flow does not significantly ††† Calculations based on information from INEC.7% of those who migrated during the 1994-1997 period. migration becomes self-perpetuating.000 Nicaraguans who had entered the United States before December 1. offered an amnesty that allowed the 160. In 1999. Each migration creates a social structure that makes it sustainable. 28 . According to MECOVI 2001 (INEC. and now have a relatively stable situation? Immigration policies that promote migrants’ reunification with their relatives also reinforce the network-building process. p. More recently. As the displacement acquires fewer risks.(Confidencial. 17. friends bring over friends. Because the extension of migratory networks increasingly lowers the costs and risks. has different implications. After a certain point. There is also room for the hypothesis that this particular boom is partly the effect of previous migratory waves. it unquestionably had an impact and many Nicaraguans legalized their status and then brought their closest relatives over. following Hurricane Mitch’s devastating passage through Nicaragua. Although compatible with the approaches based on individual decisions or household strategies. communities that experienced a small explosion of migrants are emptied of members within a certain age range: aunts send for nephews and nieces.††† Are they in fact the children of migrants who have already set themselves up in the new country.. granted legal residence to 55. Although this is a ridiculous figure relative to the number eligible to apply -some 160.73). the more likely his or her relatives are to follow the example. this theory. each migrant wave reduces the costs for the next. 2001 b). 1999).000. each new migrant expands the network and reduces the risks for those linked to him or her. 2003. Thus a decade after the first migratory wave. Kinship and friendship are placed at the service of migration. the migrations stop only when all of those who want to migrate have done so.000 Nicaraguans who could demonstrate that they had lived there since before 1998 to legalize their residence (Funkhouser et al. 1995. The fact that the vast majority of Nicaraguans have emigrated in the past six years enables us to predict that the true dimension of the networks’ multiplier effect will not be seen for a few years yet. approved by the US Congress in November 1997. and each increase in the migrant mass makes leaving more attractive to those still living in the country of origin. sisters send for their brothers. migration offers a sure source of income and real payment possibilities.

as the trend is more influenced by the decreased costs and risks than low wages and employment rates in the country of origin. coyotes (the guides who help illegal immigrants cross borders). which is very limited considering that an estimated 200 Nicaraguans head for Costa Rica every day (Álvarez & Hernández. multiplying the numbers and reducing the costs and risks. THE COYOTES: A POWERFUL INSTITUTION The informal migration sector is the most developed. When governments apply restrictive measures. Offering savings on telephone calls. increasing the flow. Migrations open spaces for other multiplying mechanisms. they encourage people to resort to the “migration black market” mechanism. humanitarian institutions providing social services and legal advice. Both humanitarian institutions and illegal trafficking have multiplied throughout the world. humanitarian institutions are in their infancy in our region. lawyers who profit by arranging legal status.depend on employment rates or wage differences. clandestine transportation and passport and visa handlers. In Nicaragua. shelters for migrants in transit. Such institutions include organizations that protect undocumented migrants. Governments cannot expect their policies to control migrant flows easily once their ascending spiral has been activated because the network formation processes are completely outside their sphere of influence. arranged marriages between migrants and citizens of the country of destination. with institutions that support mobility playing a role in their perpetuation. they have become a way to reduce communication costs and encourage cultural links. it can house 20 people. which are pastoral houses for people on the move. local and sometimes national radio stations have established themselves as one of the elements that most enliven the networks linking migrants and their relatives. NETWORKS. There are only five shelters in the whole of Central America. Migration thus becomes independent of the factors that originally caused it by institutionalizing itself through migrant networks. Located in San Carlos. contractors of illegal workers. Among the formal bodies. with the informal sector for outstripping formal institutions. Caritas runs the only shelter in Nicaragua. 29 . These institutions represent another component of the social capital on which migrants rely. 2002). the migration industry is a faithful reflection of the country’s economy as a whole. NEW INSTITUTIONS AND THE INABILITY TO CONTROL THE TREND The theory of the perpetuation of migrations is the one most skeptical of the capacity of the state apparatus to control them. Although they could create a social infrastructure that encourages migration. quick announcements and permanent communication.

passports. land distribution. 30 . the more suppliers there are. but even tinsel attracts people. It is based on the idea that each act of migration modifies the social context in such a way as to make subsequent migrations more probable. A flier titled “Know the risks of crossing the southern border” has been widely disseminated by the Commission for the Defense of Human Rights in Central America CODEHUCA). In their absence. According to this migration theory. All that glitters may not be gold. THE THEORY OF CUMULATIVE CAUSATION: THE MORE MIGRANTS. agricultural organization. Income distribution in a given community is modified by the remittances received.The number of coyotes has multiplied in the past five years and they have diversified their services. Social scientists have studied six socioeconomic factors affected by migration that subsequently stimulate new migrations: income distribution. now providing credit and exercising control over the indebted migrants through their relatives. The fact that certain families start to prosper changes the way other members of the community perceive their own economic situation. THE MORE MIGRATION Migration produces many other changes that encourage its growth. the more unequal the income distribution. regional distribution of human capital and the social significance of certain jobs in the countries of destination. The more emigrants a community has. The price for reaching Costa Rica from Nicaragua is considerably cheaper: $50 to cross the border and $250 if the emigrant wants to be accompanied to a local village or town. the culture of migration.000 to go all the way from Nicaragua. Humanitarian institutions are disseminating information on how to apply for visas. the coyotes will continue to be the most powerful institution supporting transnational mobility. But there are dangers. This also makes the coyote structure a source of employment. But there is need for far more resources to work on this issue and for much more reflection to provide an approach that has a truly positive impact. Migrations thus induce more migrations. which makes those not receiving remittances feel they are being left behind. so it can run over $5. etc. a process termed “cumulative causation” by Swedish economist Gunnar Myrdal as far back as 1957. which is linked to the Nicaraguan Human Rights Center (CENIDH) in Nicaragua and to Caritas. Many have emigrated out of a desire for their own people to benefit from the bonanza they witnessed in households receiving remittances. The prices set by the coyotes have remained stable because the greater the demand for the service..000 just to cross the border into the Untied States. to help emigrants avoid the vexations to which they are traditionally exposed. income appraisal is based on a reference group. In the city of Chinandega one coyote kidnapped the wife of an indebted migrant as a way to force him to pay. coyotes have even raped some women. They charge $2.

In other cases. Emigrants from an agricultural background look to acquire land back home. imported seeds. The 2001 living standards survey conducted by Nicaragua’s National Institute of Statistics and Censuses contains figures on almost 900 emigrants. Migrating takes its place as a community value and even as a right of passage among young people. Nicaraguan professionals who reach the United States are only hired for jobs well below their professional qualifications. the theory that the countries of destination don’t always know how to reap the benefits of the mobility of our human capital is supported by some figures and questioned by others. In both cases. respectively (Rocha. 2003). 43% and 10%. agrochemicals. labor-displacing methods: tractors. many Nicaraguan doctors and lawyers work as taxi drivers there. And the unemployment generated by the new distribution of agricultural property and new cultivation patterns encourages new migrations. A culture of migration is also generated in the community by the contagious example of others and the stories told by emigrants and their relatives about opportunities. unemployment is the inevitable result. the difference is even greater. motivated. It is a well-known fact that Nicaraguan emigrants have a much higher level of schooling than their compatriots who stayed behind: 65% of emigrants from urban areas aged 25 or over went to secondary school compared to only 40% of non-emigrants of the same age range. THE EXODUS OF NICARAGUAN HUMAN CAPITAL Migration also produces a movement of the more qualified. It is not just that experiencing other habits and customs makes one more likely to migrate. making them increasingly less pleasant to live in and hence encouraging even more migration. migrations create a migration culture. In Nicaragua’s case.Land distribution and the organization of agricultural production also stimulate migration. Costa Rica is no better at taking great advantage of this trend. Meanwhile. watering systems. they leave their acquisitions idle. This cultural virus produces a migratory epidemic. thus reducing employment opportunities in the rural area. provided by relatives 31 . Sometimes they act on those plans and the new availability of capital changes the cultivation patterns toward more capital-intensive. while reducing the development possibilities in the countries of origin. This dynamic improves the economic and development conditions of the countries of destination. either for reasons of prestige or to invest in it on their return. Those who do not dare to migrate are seen as “chicken” or unenterprising. customs and living standards in the countries of destination. at least those are the plans. making them more attractive. In most cases. educated and productive personnel from the countries of origin to the countries of destination. In rural areas. when emigrants realize that agricultural investments are not as profitable as their labor abroad.

agricultural laborers. female Nicaraguan teachers from schools in Rivas and other departments often work as nannies and domestics in Costa Rica.responding to the census.‡‡‡ This is an underutilized exodus of human capital that Nicaragua should not allow. it is difficult to find a floor cleaner in San Francisco who does not come from either Central America or Ethiopia. If migrants mainly settle in certain jobs. agriculture and ‡‡‡ Calculations based on information from INEC. only 25% are working abroad in jobs that correspond to their professional qualifications. thus redefining their social label. painters.5% had no choice but to join the last category. not even high unemployment rates can remove it and the governments of the countries of destination may see themselves obliged to retain or even recruit more immigrants to carry out such work. 37. It is an unquestionable benefit for Costa Rica. an enormous number of Boston’s janitors are Latinos. In this respect.5% work as waiters. the native population ends up considering those jobs as typical migrant occupations. Once the stigma has spread. Nicaraguan employees are gaining increasing weight in sectors such as domestic work. In Costa Rica. Of the Nicaraguan emigrants covered by this sample who had finished high school or teacher training. security guards and unskilled construction workers. and 21% as menial workers. and the number of Nicaraguan domestics in Miami is legion. domestics. launderers. The stigma this attaches to such jobs makes them even less attractive to local inhabitants. mechanics. cooks. On the other hand. there is an abundance of Honduran and Salvadoran waiters in Washington. 19% work as carpenters. Costa Rican children will be better equipped to face the world in general and the academic world in particular having been accompanied by people with formal education. 2001 b). nannies and above all salespeople. 32 . Adding the previous category and including drivers and factory workers. who see them as culturally inappropriate. AN EXPANSIVE AND UNSTOPPABLE TREND Finally. even in a context of brutal unemployment. As a result. a situation that leads to their definitive concession to the immigrants. the number of emigrants in the sample working in such semi-skilled or unskilled tasks who had finished high school climbs to 42% and of those who had finished university rises to 67% (INEC. with repercussions for the development of Nicaragua that cannot be measured either immediately or using conventional indicators. cabinetmakers. electricians and particularly foremen. Of the 52 who are university graduates. which means that 36% of all Nicaraguan emigrants doing that set of unskilled jobs hold either a high school diploma or university degree. doormen. Another 13. the theory of cumulative causation states that the arrival of immigrants changes the predominant perception of certain occupations in a given country.

they simply focus their attention and analysis on different levels (individual. In the real world. while at the same time structural forces are shaping the context in which all of this is taking place. 33 . both the segmented or dual labor market theory and the world systems theory ignore micro-level decision-making and focus on those forces acting upon greater levels of aggregation. its cumulative causation. On another level of analysis. family.” The cumulative causation theory fits in perfectly with the network formation theory. the theory of the perpetuation of migrations proposes that migrations produce changes that contribute to their own multiplication. A very visible sign is revealed by the survey done in Nicaragua in June 2003 by the M&R firm. As can be seen. while the latter sees migration as one of the natural consequences of globalization and a market penetration that respects no borders. The former links immigration to the requirements of modern industrial economies. The economic. Migrations cannot be fully explained by citing structuralism. Its micro variant presents migration as the result of an individual strategy to maximize income. Finally. explaining migration as a family strategy to minimize the risks to overall income and to survive capital contractions that affect family production activities. with 65% of those polled saying that they would be willing to emigrate to another country if the opportunity presented itself. individuals act to maximize their income and families adopt strategies to minimize risks. these theories are not mutually exclusive. social and cultural changes caused by migration in the countries of both origin and destination strengthen the migratory movement in such a way as to multiply it and make it more resistant to government controls. starts to show its effects.construction. it should come as no surprise that we have already crossed the line at which migration’s expansive tendency. The theory of the new migration economics considers the conditions in a variety of markets rather than just the labor market. The documentary Desde el barro al sur (Álvarez & Hernández. (“Queremos huir”) NO ONE THEORY HOLDS ALL THE ANSWERS The neoclassical economic theory explains migrations based on the costs of migrating and the differences in the employment and wage conditions between the countries of departure and destination. national and international). or the atomized approaches that ignore how individual decisions are conditioned by socioeconomic. With over 10% of Nicaraguans living abroad and 12% of Nicaraguan households having some member living outside the country. political and cultural structures. which ignores the role individuals play. independent of their original causes. 2002) shows Costa Rican citizens explaining how Nicaraguan migrants work in jobs that the natives look own on and how these jobs come to be considered as “typical Nica jobs.

34 . Or perhaps the first question is whether we even should try to stop it. Human mobility not only unleashes forces that ensure its own multiplication. white middle class of European origin contrasted with that of the barefoot.STUCK WITH ALL THE MIGRATORY HIGH CARDS We don’t know which direction the migrations will take. Will the xenophobic convulsions that are springing up everywhere have an adverse effect on migration? What impact will the reemergence of racist movements in the United States. or the ethnic trade unions in Miami—particularly the Irish ones—or the myth of Costa Rica’s peaceful. brown Nicaraguan have over time? The question for Nicaragua right now is how to stop this trend when we hold all the cards that win the migratory sweepstakes. it also awakens and ferments racial aversion.

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mechanisms. at New York’s Auburn prison. 1921. Defining an enemy forms part of and solidifies the demagogic vote-getting strategy of rightwing parties. Not being used to liberty. When terror and rejection of immigrants spring up with renewed determination there is a multiplication of policies. THE SENSENBRENNER BILL: WALLS. Benjamin Franklin declared that the German immigrants pouring into Pennsylvania were “generally the most stupid of their own nation…. The tension is evident: politicians want to throw them out. with taxpayers financing the construction of the irregularity and the businesses capitalizing on it. the most hackneyed objections to immigration. put another way. speeches and resources for controlling.” (Schlesinger. In later years. 1890. of pauperism and criminality. George W. A Tunisian immigrant living in France was the last to be executed by the guillotine. CONTROL. often call themselves “welcoming. based on stereotypes of unwillingness to assimilate. a German immigrant named William Kemmler was the first person to be executed in the electric chair in the United States. To grease this lucrative system.” US historian Arthur Meier Schlesinger argued that in his country the men with the longest colonial lineage viewed recent arrivals with a kind of alarm activated by each new generation. they know not how to make modest use of it. deporting and criminalizing.” The restrictive measures redistribute the costs of the immigrants’ presence. but dissolves into nothingness when it is shown that the cost of labor is inversely proportional to the number and effectiveness of restrictive immigration measures. Immigrants have never been the “cup of tea” of societies that. p.n August 6. date back to those early years. even more congested with immigrants... Even Caucasian immigrants. The contradiction is just as apparent. businessmen need to hire them. “more irregularity equals more profits. Bush has defined enemies both distant and close at hand—Muslims and immigrants. with little insight and usually even less justice. respectively. in 1977. which produces both votes and dollars. new arguments developed out of the fear of economic competition. steps have been taken in the past six months or so that express just how far the temperature of 37 O . blue-eyed blonds from the most western parts of Europe.74) According to Schlesinger (1921). or. FINES. have triggered fear and disparagement. PERSECUTION.

better known as the Sensenbrenner bill. US$15 for the second and US$40. Congressman James Sensenbrenner (R-WI).500 for the first offense. requires the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to report to Congress on the number of OTMs (Other than Mexicans) and of immigrants from countries that promote terror apprehended and deported. increases the penalty for employing undocumented foreigners to US$7. The law requires all border patrol uniforms to be made in the United States to avoid counterfeits. for its promoter. state and local government concessions to apply a “sanctuary” policy (cities such as Chicago and New York have had such policies. 2005).immigrant-focused policies has risen. 38 . On December 16. The Senate Judicial Committee later approved another bill aimed at incorporating security measures and certain mechanisms to regularize the presence of some undocumented immigrants. sending reports to Congress proving that these verifications are being made. clothes or shelter. and providing satellite communication among immigration officials. but don’t adhere to the terms of the agreement. and establishes a sentence of no less than three years imprisonment for anyone who takes in undocumented immigrants. as written in the law it also affects churches. and prohibits the provision of aid to an undocumented immigrant. Among other things. the US House of Representatives passed HR 4437. as well as a program for guest workers.000 for any subsequent ones. the Border Protection.120-kilometer wall at points along the US border with Mexico where the greatest number of undocumented immigrants cross. this bill proposes constructing a 1. Antiterrorism. granting the federal government custody of “illegal aliens” detained by local authorities to stop a lack of resources from leading to them being released without due process. obliging employees to verify the legal status of its workers through electronic means. obliges all undocumented immigrants to pay US$3. charity institutions and neighbors who provide undocumented immigrants with food. applying the same jail sentence to those who consciously disobey this mandate and assist an immigrant’s reentry as corresponds to the immigrant. which ignore restrictive dispositions). sets a 10-year minimum sentence for carrying false documents.000 before their deporta-tion if they agree to leave voluntarily. establishes a 60-day grace period for voluntary departure. and Illegal Immigration Control Act of 2005 (Sensenbrenner & King. requires the criminal record of any foreigners requesting legal status to ensure that they aren’t on the terrorist list. But this bill had the extremely thorny task of having to conform to what was established in the Sensenbrenner bill. 2005. which became even thornier with the signals issued by the US government in response to the huge protests involving immigrants and the groups that provide them solidarity. The law also adds the crimes of trading and trafficking in immigrants to the status of money laundering. requires a study on a possible border wall with Canada. Although this last disposition is particularly addressed to traffickers. eliminating federal.

WHO ARE WE? US IDENTITY FEELS THREATENED A country that surrounds itself with walls and hides behind paranoid measures does not seem very consistent with its self-proclaimed devotion to freedom. US sociologist Immanuel Wallerstein (2002) noted the contradiction in this shift when he pointed out that the Soviet Union was indignantly 39 . threaten to revoke agrarian reform rights after years of absence from the rural communities and establish strangulation points in the highways on the Tehuantepec Isthmus. including those who have committed either one serious crime or three minor ones. for example. who spoke of the uselessness of building a wall along the US-Mexican border.FENCES. In Castañeda’s (2006) words in Nicaragua’s El Nuevo Diario. 2006) Soon after. The US migratory discourse and policies have marked a major shift that coincides with many other developed migrant-receiving countries. Surely it had white-collar migrants in mind. The government could. the Senate approved the construction of a three-fence barrier along 595 kilometers of the border and an 804-kilometer barrier to block the crossing of vehicles between the two countries. The government of the country on the other side of these walls justified the wall and the military deployment as providing security to the migrants. Even a thinker like Jorge G. During the week April 21-28.” (Petras. article titled “Mesoamerica comes to North America: The Dialectics of the Migrant Workers’ Movement. the physical wall must be replaced by a barrier that combines “carrot and stick” policies with police operations. Few voices disagreed and even fewer got heard. NeoCon Chief of Homeland Security Agency. It also passed an amendment excluding any possible legalization program for undocumented foreigners with criminal backgrounds. described the conflicts around Latin American migration to the North mainly in terms of Mexico’s relations with the United States—excluding any leading role for other Latin American countries—and advocated policies to restrict the migrant traffic. double the social security payments to households where the man is the one who stays home. Castañeda.” (p. which means more than just sealing its southern border. Repression was not missing among the measures for immediate application.100 undocumented migrants in 26 states. “Mexico must assume the responsibility for regulating this traffic. Two days later. on May 15. 2006. President Bush ordered the deployment of 6. BARRIERS AND BLOCKADES BUT VERY FEW DISCORDANT VOICES The US government’s counterpunch to the demonstrations of millions of immigrants came in various ways.000 soldiers along the Mexican border to buttress border patrols pursuing undocumented migrants.” “The Immigration police have recently escalated their mass ‘round-ups’ at work sites trying to provoke a climate of intimidation.14B) In his version of reality. by a vote of 83 to 16. Michael Chertoff directed the arrest of 1. Some who did used a double-edged argument. As sociologist James Petras charged in a May 3.

race and ethnicity have now been widely eliminated. Huntington published another book a little over a year ago titled. and 2) that they represent a social “problem” whether because they are a burden on the others. Thesis 1: An identitP that has varied Huntington (2004) argues three theses. Physical walls need ideological walls. The US creed. the idea of a US nation took shape gradually. sub-national. are more inclined to commit criminal acts or insist on clinging to their customs and do not “assimilate” into the receiving countries. migration in general. ethnicity. He begins by recognizing that interest in US identity has varied over the years. ideology and culture. but when the post-communist regimes reversed that policy.accused of violating human rights when it refused to allow its citizens to emigrate freely. It has the virtue of being a condensed presentation of the objections to the migration of Latin Americans in particular. the wealthier countries immediately threw up blockades to the emigrants’ entry. It could be called the educated version of all the fears unleashed by the avalanche of Latinos. In the 1960s. This creed. After independence. is mainly seen as the crucial element that defines US identity. Only in the 17th century did the British colonists identify themselves not only as residents of their individual colonies. Thesis 2: The US creed Huntington’s second thesis is that while US citizens have defined the substance of their identity over the centuries in terms of race. All the evil talk about immigrants is being resuscitated and bandied about. The tragic events of 9-11 brought national identity back to center stage: US citizens are most inclined to identify with their country when they feel it’s in danger. Exploiting his fame acquired with The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of the World Order. 40 . however. with Americans seeing their country as a multiracial society. These perceptions and complaints are the preliminary project of the planned wall. while US nationalism flourished in the subsequent century. In the 19th century. national identity dominated other identities only after the Civil War. bi-national and transnational identities began to rival and erode the preponderance of national identity. Who are we? The challenges to America’s National Identity (2004). Such proposals must keep in mind how gringos view their identity. formulated by Thomas Jefferson and elaborated upon by many others. Harvard professor Samuel P. Wallerstein (2002) groups the slander into two blocs: 1) that immigrants reduce the income levels of nationals by working in poorly paid jobs and obtaining benefits from state assistance programs. crystallized in the form of intellectual arguments. and Latino migrants in particular. which thus deserves considered attention by those in our migrant-sending countries who are drafting policy and lobbying proposals. It’s an extensive disquisition on US identity and how it is being threatened by the massive migratory flows of Latinos. but also as Americans.

they’re Catholic. religious commitment. by the popularity of multiculturalism and diversity in intellectual and political circles. In other words. 4) a revitalized United States that reaffirms its historical Anglo-Protestant culture and its religious commitment and values. once more defined along the lines of race and ethnicity. by the dissemination of Spanish as a second US language and the Hispanic American tendencies of US society. As a response to these challenges. As many observers have recognized. but of colonists who came to build the Kingdom of Heaven on that earth. All these tendencies posed a challenge to the English language and to the US creed and cultural nucleus. 2004). the importance and substance of this culture were challenged by a new migrant wave from Latin America and Asia. by the affirmation of group identities based on race. In the late 20th century. and 5) a combination of these and other possibilities (Huntington. Thesis 3: The Anglo-Protestant culture This thesis holds that the Anglo-Protestant culture has been central to US identity for over three centuries. it is the common denominator that distinguishes Americans from other peoples. Latinos. Historically.however. the responsibility of rulers and individual rights and the Protestant values of individualism. US identity could gear itself toward: 1) a United States based on the US creed. but lacking its original historical cultural nucleus and united only by adherence to that creed. by the impact of the diasporas and of the governments of their countries of origin. excluding or subordinating those who aren’t white and European. Christianity. The key elements of that culture include the English language. argues Huntington. the United States isn’t a nation of migrants. they challenged US identity. 2) a bifurcated United States. with two languages (Spanish and English) and two cultures (Anglo-Protestant and Hispanic). 41 . the work ethic and the conviction that human beings have the capacity and the duty to create heaven on earth. and their endogenous marriages and other traits don’t lend themselves to assimilation of the US creed and Anglo-Protestant culture. the English concepts of the rule of law. was the distinct product of the Anglo-Protestant culture of the colonists who arrived in the 17th and 18th centuries. Thus. 3) an exclusivist nation. millions of migrants were drawn to the United States by this culture and by the economic opportunities it was building. They are a cultural perturbation that could deform the whole ethos that made the Unites States the great nation it is today. and stands up to a none-too-friendly world. ethnicity and gender. and by the growing interest of the elites in cosmopolitan and transnational identities. they keep their language. are particularly dangerous because there are too many of them.

says analyst Fernando Escalante Gozalbo (2006). an ideological elaboration at the service of the less friendly positions toward migrants. Huntington’s theses need to be debated and taken into account in the design of Latin American countries’ policies and lobbying strategies because they are the academic formulation of a rejection expressed in other spheres by police nets and racial harassment.7 million of us in 1970. 42% of New Mexico’s. went so far as to claim that he could see America’s entire destiny contained in the first puritans who disembarked on those shores. Florida and Texas. It’s true that our numbers have been increasing so that we now constitute the largest ethnic minority in the Unites States. over 70% of those born abroad are Latin Americans (US Department of Commerce. as in the case of states that once belonged to Mexico: 32% of Texas’ total population. By 2000. 32. debated. There were just 1. including the one that approved the Sensenbrenner Law.7% of the total of 31. Alexis de Tocqueville.” In any event. which is more susceptible to sentimental manipulation around nostalgia and fears of the “other. Is it possible to determine the veracity of this affirmation? Can we conclusively describe the identity of a people? The problem of identities. 36% of whom are Central Americans and Mexicans (Comisión Económica para América Latina y el Caribe [CEPAL].37 million by 1990. The problem can be summarized in one sentence: talking about identity is engaging in politics. the verbal crystallization of a sometimes very pernicious emotion and above all an ideological cornerstone for the wall with which some legislators aspire to seal the border with Mexico. not because it is in itself more complex than others. the nearly 16 million people born in Latin America and living in the United States made us the majority: 51. one of the major contributors to the US system’s rosy legend.AN IDEOLOGICAL CORNERSTONE FOR THE WALL Huntington wasn’t the first to highlight the determining role of the founding creed and the first colonists. “will always be confusing. difficult to get a grip on. even considering the overall population and not just the immigrants. a figure that had climbed to 4.107. 2006).39 million by 1980 and to 8. It seems to Huntington that there are way too many of us. ARE WE A THREAT BECAUSE THERE ARE TOO MANY OF US? Let’s respond to Huntington.4% of California’s and 25. 2003).” Some have mentioned that Huntingtonian reactions are an evasion of economic problems by displacing them to the cultural plane. Economics and Statistics Administration.3% of Arizona’s are Latino. There would appear to be some obvious arguments for a reediting of “manifest destiny. In some states Latinos are more notorious still. In Arizona.” 42 . but because identities are by definition imaginary and can be built making use of anything. it’s reasonable to take Huntington’s (2004) writings as symptomatic of a certain political sector.889 foreigners in that country. starting with a look at the numbers.

the weight of those born abroad—14.15).2% leap made by the former Soviet Union in the same period. Much more spectacular than the doubling of its proportion from 6.Even so. According to ECLAC. not penniless.6%. Guadalupe’s is 19. or the 3. Information from 1890 and 1910.000 and a population density of 29 inhabitants 1 2 Information from 1990 and 2000.4%. 43 . usually quite begrudgingly.7% jump experienced by the developed nations as a whole. p.9% between 1990 and 2000 was the 1. Martinique’s is 14% and Puerto Rico’s is 10% (CEPAL. DO THEY FEAR WASP CULTURE WILL DISSOLVE? In the United States. scrappy Latinos.4% to 8. the whole of North America shelters 23. In Latin America. despite being less attractive (2006. for example.1% migrants—the UN’s Economic Commission on Latin American and the Caribbean (ECLAC) uses 12. the Dutch Antilles’ immigrant population is 25. prosperous pensioners. we could comfort Mr. p. it doesn’t even have the fastest growing migrant/ total population ratio.4% to 10. The US-born population continues to be very much the majority. Huntington by telling him: “It’s not all that bad. Not only is it not the region with the most immigrants. which is almost as big as the whole of Europe. Clearly many countries are facing much more dramatic situations than the United States.7% of the total population—was various percentage points above their current weight.9%. Although its current figure of 11. it’s also well below Oceania’s 18. 2006.13). has a percapita gross domestic product of over $40.8%.” A quick look at the statistics shows that in 1890 and 1910. while the so-called “developing countries” have received 36.1% to 12. although it is likely that many of the immigrants in those countries are good-natured.3% of the world’s migrants. the whites still dominate.9%—puts the United States well above the 2.9% world average.

2000 b). France (109) or Spain (79) (Lista de países. Although no society has an unlimited absorption capacity and it’s impossible to define what it is (although de-penalizing the flows would help us learn it). the cultural barriers raised by xenophobic politicians and thinkers are what most determine the socially acceptable volume of migrants. many of whom are Latinos. Italy (192). WHITE FLIGHT FROM THE LATINO ONSLAUGHT As often happens.d. Today. Chicago’s Pilsen neighborhood has gone through something similar. n. Poland. schools and parks are filling up with immigrants. labor markets and the more or less aggressive recruitment by employers. Denmark (125).1% of the population. who were subsequently replaced by Czech immigrants—turning this neighborhood into the second largest city of what we now call the Czech Republic—and they were in turn replaced by Mexicans in the mid 20th century. Germany (233). Even if we subtract the white Latinos from the exclusively whites. the United Kingdom (244). is it even possible to still argue that the United States is inhabited by English with Presbyterian values? The United States is certainly still mainly a country of palefaces. or 69. the macro and the micro don’t coincide. Later.per square kilometer. nearly 90% of its inhabitants are Latinos (Lower west side. There are many political. as some immigrant waves pushed others out and the most recent arrivals always settle in the most marginal zones. population growth rates. Some Miami neighborhoods became Cubanized. Italy. Certain neighborhoods. part of Little Havana became Little Managua. demographic and economic factors: governance and all its tributary tools. n. A society’s capacity to absorb immigrants is not the only political and economic factor that should be used to define the indefinable and measure the resistance to measures. That exodus has a name: in the United States the expression “white flight” alludes to the progressive abandonment by white families of neighborhoods or towns with a growing presence of other ethnic groups or whose schools are subject to racial integration programs. city zones.d. we still have over 194 million whites. The gradual coloration of US whiteness acquires other dimensions at the local level. nearly 6 million whites with some combination (2%) and barely 64 million non-whites (23%) (US Census Bureau. Panic is spreading and whites are moving out of many neighborhoods. leading to the birth of Little Havana. In the mid 19th century it was inhabited by Germans and Irish. 44 . migrant waves can’t have the same impact and meaning as in Belgium (337 inhabitants per square kilometer). given the multiplicity of elements at stake. But population density may not be the most decisive factor. What is it that so concerns Huntington and many others? The dilution of whiteness? The dissolution of White Anglo-Saxon Protestantism in a sea of migrants? After so many migrant waves from Ireland. etc. with 211 million exclusively white inhabitants (75%).).). especially when the macro is only an average that doesn’t reflect particular situations. Switzerland (177). The transformation of the housing patterns of the micro-spaces greatly alarms the lovers of unblemished whiteness. Czechoslovakia and other Eastern European countries.

In 1998. 1987). These possibilities will be micro-localized for a long time to come. Frey. The whites. In contrast. With the imposition in the United States of the notion of “whiteness. where the Latino presence is changing the electoral composition and opens possibilities of changing repressive policies into legislation favoring integration. 84 against Latinos and 78 against Asians. stand out among the perpetrators of racial crimes. has called this emigration the new white flight. Strolovitch. In the 1970s and 80s a substantial increase in the residential segregation of Latinos was detected in urban areas with a lot of Latino immigration and population growth. non-whites have been the preferred target of discrimination. nearly a million people left southern California between 1990 and 1995.6% of those against blacks. Latinos were responsible for 8. The segregation of Latinos is highly linked to socioeconomic status. moral and intellectual superiority. which excludes and subordinates any who are not white? Social reaction is an element that must be included in the lobbying programs.9% of those against Asians in New York City. White flight and racially motivated crimes are expressions of xenophobia. William H. But it also represents a political opportunity in the United States. of the difficulty certain groups have accepting the gradual integration of other ethnic groups. Between 1987 and 1995. Asians committed no crimes against Latinos or whites. XENOPHOBIA: RACIAL CRIMES AND RESIDENTIAL SEGREGATION This white stampede has been neither the only nor even the most ominous reaction to the presence of immigrants. p. long-time professor of demography at the University of Michigan. they committed 31. many of them heading to the more mountainous states. converting the birthplace of the “Reagan revolution” into one of the country’s most solidly democratic states (2003. Could it be an indication of that bifurcated nation that Huntington lists as one of the directions the United States could take? Or of the nation defined solely by ethnicity. and were responsible for just 0. but they are increasingly exploitable and will gradually multiply the possibilities in some states. acculturation and suburbanization (Massey & Denton.98). California’s white population fell below 50% for the first time since the gold fever. who rule the roost there.According to journalist Eric Schlosser.4% of the racially-motivated crimes against Latinos and 18.3% of the crimes against Asians and 2. (Green. 1998) Residential segregation has affected Latinos more than Asians. Schlosser notes that the exodus of whites has also modified California’s political equation. 45 . Between then and 1995. & Wong. Brooklyn witnessed 300 racially motivated crimes against blacks.” glorified as a guarantee of physical.1% of the crimes against blacks. In 1986 a group of 20 white men attacked 3 black men in Brooklyn.

6 million of us registered in the census doesn’t accurately reflect our real presence (US Census Bureau.859 Salvadorans who live in California as a whole exceed the population in any department of El Salvador. the Central American political elites seem to coincide with Huntington in their ignorance of this post-nationalism—and in their case not even because it suits their purposes. Los Angeles has over twice the number of Guatemalans than live in the famous city of Cobán. According to the racial classifications of the latest US census. The 516.6%) and 35. 10. Chalatenango. 2003).3% of the population). Central Americans represent a rather paltry 4. an undeniable indication that the Salvadoran community is transcending El Salvador’s territorial limits. these volumes of migrants are important for the country of origin. Large or small in the United States. La Paz. Usulután. communications and local projects. 2000 b). The governments of some countries are inspired by this post-nationalism when designing their lobbying campaigns targeting the US government. San Vicente.827) than in Baja Verapaz or El Progreso. The article “Could the Community ‘Over There ‘Depolarize Politics ‘Over Here’?” (Envío.3 million Latinos (12. The 368.2 million Asians (3. La Libertad and Santa Ana (Datos de salvadoreños en El Salvador. Central America’s links to the United States make our attitude toward our emigrants a serious issue for US foreign policy. Cabañas. Cuscatlán. with the exception of San Salvador. 46 . And vice versa: the US state apparatus doesn’t only administer capital and services for millions of foreigners living in its territory. various US states and cities shelter more Central American citizens than many departments and cities of the isthmus itself.8% of the Latino group. Morazán and La Unión.6 million Afro-Americans (12. ignoring their common interests and the potential benefits of joining forces. 2003) demonstrates the capacity of the Salvadoran migrant associations to invest in projects and tip the balance in the municipal elections. There are more Guatemalans in California (290.416 Salvadorans who live in the city of Los Angeles alone represent a greater population than those of the departments of Ahuachapán. Except in the Salvadoran case. 34. present a challenge to the politicians of the Central American nations. This demographic fact and the economic weight of family remittances and migrants’ investment in tourist visits.CENTRAL AMERICA IN THE US: NOW POST-NATIONAL We Central Americans don’t yet amount to much.5%) live in the United States.896 Nicaraguans living in Miami significantly exceeds the population of most Nicaraguan cities (US Census Bureau. All these geopolitical features have been poorly exploited and were conspicuously missing from the free trade agreement negotiations. 2004). it also applies a foreign policy based around these foreigners that serves its own interests. The 79. not all Central American governments are equally belligerent and they typically work separately. Unfortunately. Moving into the 21st century. although the 1.

WECRE A MARKET: JENNIFER LÓPEZCS ASS Different points of support for the “Latino menace” that are sensitive for both the native population and the functioning of the US system can be found in the framework of negotiations with the US government. In the first place, Huntington and his followers or promoters need to be reminded that the Latinos living in the United States represent an important consumer market, which has had and continues to have consequences for the status of Latinos, as stressed by academic Frances Negrón-Muntaner: “No one knew it then, but the new Latino cultural scene began in 1995, when singer Selena Quintanilla was killed by Yolanda Saldívar, president of her fan club. Despite the tragic aspect—in the classic sense—of the episode, the explosion of visibility that followed gave many Latinos a new sense of optimism, possibility and self-esteem. The editor of People Magazine, for example, got a taste of that vast appetite for cultural citizenship of more than 30 million Latinos (and their $190 million of purchasing power) when it sold close to a million of the special issue dedicated to Selena in 24 hours. At that moment, the glances of capital and the longing for recognition of the Latinos came together in a long kiss of possibilities, and the current cultural boom ‘exploded’.” (2006, pp.129-130) In her expansive and acute article, El trasero de Jennifer López (Jenifer López’s Butt), Negrón-Muntaner (2006) explains how the body and especially the very Latino backside of the famous US-Puerto Rican singer-dancer-actor—whom many consider the most beautiful woman on the planet—became emblematic in imposing Latino taste: her Latinodimensioned buttocks, a sex symbol and presumably a manifestation of a not-at-all Anglo-Protestant diet, entered the canons of US beauty and now help define taste. The market is one of the cultural routes that Latinos will continue making use of. The boycott against Republican Senator James Sensenbrenner through his major stockholding interests in Kimberly Clark, which markets the Little Swimmers, Kleenex, Scott, Huggies, Pull-Ups, Kotex Poise, Viva, Cottonelle and Depend brands, is just one of the important pressure mechanisms and expressions of civic action that Latinos will continue to painstakingly employ. WECRE A LABOR SUPPLY: CALIFORNIACS FRUITS There’s also our role as workers: we’re an indispensable labor supply for the United States, even though—and in fact because—it wants to squeeze the lowest price out of us. With respect to the uncontainable migrant stream and the states to which they are attracted, Wallerstein (2002) argues that they must fill some function. They are willing to take jobs that local residents refuse to consider, but that are necessary for the economy’s functioning. Moreover, given that the majority of the wealthy countries have falling demographic growth rates (while the percentage of people over 65 years old continues growing), nationals could not benefit from the pensions they currently enjoy if it weren’t for the working-age immigrants who expand the base of contributions that finance them. He adds that in the next 25 years, if the current number
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of immigrants doesn’t quadruple, there will have to be drastic budget cuts in the public pension system. The New York Times has published data about the significant contribution immigrants have made to the social security system. Important industries in the United States depend on immigrant labor. In some states that dependence is a historical constant. California’s agrarian potential was immense: rich soil, perfect climate and abundant water for irrigation—much of it piped in from other states whose agrarian possibilities were limited. What it lacked was the labor force needed to harvest apples, melons, oranges, dates, lettuce and much more. First Chinese, then Japanese, then Mexicans and now other Latin American immigrants have come to solve the agricultural labor shortage in California. The Mexicans were the best solution, as it was assumed they would not only work hard for a miserly salary, but would then go back home when they were no longer needed. For that reason there was complete freedom of movement between California and Mexico until 1929, the start of the Great Depression and the year that clandestine migration to US territory was declared a minor crime. At that time, between 70% and 80% of California’s immigrant workers were Mexicans. According to Eric Schlosser (2004), California is the state that has made the greatest contribution to US agricultural production since the end of the 1940s. Even today, he reports, agriculture continues to be its main industry and it still produces over half of the fruit, dried fruit and vegetables consumed in the United States (p.122). IMMIGRANTS FEED THE COUNTRY AND SUBSIDIZE THE ECONOMY California’s prosperous agriculture has run into problems, with the real value of its annual production dropping 14% in the past two decades. Between 1982 and 1997, 120,000 hectares of farmland were swallowed up by urban sprawl, which then competes with the crops for water. The solution rests with the migrants. The permanent immigration flow has made it possible to expand the crop areas in certain zones. One of the crops most benefited by the importation of workers is strawberries. In the early 1970s there were 240 hectares of strawberries in the Santa Maria valley, a figure that has since increased six fold. California hasn’t always dominated strawberry production in the United States. In the early 50s it only produced a third of the country’s strawberries; today it produces 80%, generating $840 million a year. The yields per hectare of strawberries can be greater than any other crop—except marijuana. The technocrats’ utopia—which for others was an apocalyptic prophesy—didn’t come about: not all agricultural processes can be mechanized. Instead, much was Mexicanized, and now Latin Americanized. The labor force is the key to reducing costs and ensuring quality fruits, as Schlosser explains in his book, Reefer Madness: Sex, Drugs and Cheap Labor in the American Black Market. Nearly all fruits and vegetables included in the diet of consumers who are minimally concerned about their health, often people with noble ideals, continue
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being picked by hand. Each lettuce heart, each bunch of grapes, each avocado, peach or plum. And as the demand for these foods climbs, so does the number of workers needed to harvest them. Between 30% and 60% of the emigrants currently living in California—depending on the crop being harvested—are clandestine (Schlosser, 2004, p.123). In the apple industry, Schlosser (2004) adds, this need has demographic and cultural consequences: these are small towns that are filling with Latinos. In 1960, 18% of the population of Guadalupe was Latino; today the figure is 85% (p.147). The response has been white flight and the construction of walls and condominiums that isolate the Caucasians. The problem is that without this labor force and its willingness to work long hours and accept low wages, the majority of California’s farms would disappear. His conclusion is that the clandestine immigrants, generally reviled and often accused of taking advantage of social assistance, are in fact subsidizing the most important sector of the California economy (2004, pp.123-124). CAN THEY DO WITHOUT US? The immigrants keep increasing and the salaries keep dropping. The hourly wage of some California farm workers, adjusted for inflation, has fallen by over 50% since 1980, according to Schlosser (2004, pp.124-125). The undocumented status of so many of those immigrants deprives them of good salaries and other benefits. Schlosser explains that US growers are usually obliged to pay unemployment taxes and accident insurance for their workers, as well as social security and medical insurance contributions. Paying an “invisible worker” in cash reduces labor costs by at least 20% and leapfrogging the California overtime laws reduces those wages by half (Schlosser, 2004, p.129). Working conditions are established on a daily basis. If Latinos continue to be absorbed by the US labor market, the main problem is the country’s legal framework and its contradictions with the economic system (Escalante, 2006, p.59). Can the United States now do without this labor force? What’s the problem? Things weren’t going so badly when California absorbed the excess Mexican labor force and Mexico assumed its education, health care and retirement. But it was a different story when migrants came to stay and started demanding services from the US welfare state. Even at that, the situation isn’t a drain on the US pocketbook: in fact maintaining the current poverty level of the migrant agricultural workers saves the average US family $50 a year (Schlosser, 2004, p.159). The problem is that the legal framework is being exploited. The abundance of undocumented workers is a blessing for unscrupulous employers. BOTH NEEDED AND NEEDY Something similar happens in the fast food industry. According to Schlosser (2003), in an earlier book called Fast Food Nation, as the number of adolescents declined with
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the end of the “baby boom,” the fast food chains began to hire other marginal workers: recently arrived immigrants. English is now at best the second language of at least a sixth of all US restaurant employees, nearly a third of this group don’t speak a word of it and many only know the names of the items on the menu. As Schlosser wryly notes, they speak “McDonald’s English.” (p.107) The weakening of the unions—a drop in members and negotiation capacity—seems to put a solution out of reach: Latinos are needed, but also needy and thus easy prey for exploitation. This represents an important challenge for lobbying initiatives: it’s not enough to think only of remittances, but also of the remitters and the conditions in which they earn the money they send home. It’s also an opportunity: Latino immigrants are indispensable to the US market and their labor force could use its voice to win other forms of citizenship. WECRE A MOVEMENT: MIGRANTS ON THE OFFENSIVE In any period of history, politics is a struggle, a measuring of strength. No group can guarantee that it will continue subjecting the rest of the population for ever and ever with the simple argument that its ancestors founded the country it controls. It’s about who has more weight and knows how to assert their rights. The unusual reaction of so many immigrants to the legislation that criminalizes migration has demonstrated their capacity to pressure. In little over a month, between March 26 and May 1, nearly five million immigrant workers and US citizens who sympathize with their plight demonstrated in the streets of over a hundred US cities. There were massive protests in Washington, Boston, Detroit, Dallas, Houston, Oakland, San Francisco, Salt Lake City, Columbus, Wilmington and many other cities. The immigrant workers movement created a new high-water mark , topping the best that the US AFL-CIO labor federation has been able to leave it in its 50 years of existence. Some demonstrations set new historic records. In little over a month, between March 26 and May 1, nearly five million immigrant workers and US citizens who sympathize with their plight demonstrated in the streets of over a hundred US cities. In Washington, dozens of religious leaders supported by over 1,500 activists and immigrants—including members of the organization Mexicanos Sin Fronteras—held an ecumenical service in front of the Capitol Building as the Judicial Committee was debating the migration bill that would criminalize 12 million undocumented migrants. On March 1, defying the Sensenbrenner bill, religious organizations headed by Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick, archbishop of Washington, held an interfaith press event in which McCarrick called for the defeat of the Sensenbrenner bill because it would “fundamentally change the heritage of our nation as a welcoming, compassionate, and open society.” He instead called on the government to implement a comprehensive migratory reform that would
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the Philippines and Arab countries. “The work of the migrants is what has made Illinois and the United States great. they had their revolution. He also announced that he was instructing the parishes to continue helping people who are not legalized.’’ declared rapper Jorge Ruiz after performing at a Dallas rally that drew 1. 51 . On Saturday. Now it is time for us. as defined in the bill.’’ Illinois Governor Rob Blagojevich also participated in the protests. March 25.” There is now a movement that combines class and ethnic group demands: “We want to be legalized to live permanently in this country and we want fair treatment. What does this mean for our governments’ attempts to impact US policies? They obviously can’t lobby by threatening revolts by their emigrants. radio stations and Latin American newspapers that is plotting a network of activities and conciousness-raising. We cook your food. “We are the motor of this nation.” (Brooks. Central Americans. but people don’t see us. I’m a dishwasher.” he said. These are newly acquired skills and will be an indelible experience for all these men and women. The Catholic Church thus became a promoter of criminality. Caribbeans.respect human rights. Among the demonstrators were Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and Cardinal Roger Mahoney. marched together. Points of agreement need to be sought with numerous and influential groups to break the passive role imposed on migrants. hand in hand. They had their Martin Luther King. Some of the demonstrators’ placards read: “We aren’t terrorists. “Laws can never prohibit us from providing help to good people.” challenged Archbishop McCarrick. The diverse immigrants clubs and associations are bearing fruit. people from India. There is a critical mass of Latin Americans in certain neighborhood schools.500. FROM SCAPEGOATS TO AGENTS OF CHANGE “We construct your schools. The migrants are metamorphosing from scapegoats into agents of change. Blacks and whites. we’re workers” and “I’m not a terrorist. The Central American governments need to keep in contact and foment migrant associations. It was evident some years ago that the majority of the Central Americans and Colombians who participated in the Boston janitors’ strike had no prior unionizing experience in their countries of origin and even less experience organizing revolts. China. who instructed his diocesans to disobey any law that criminalizes those providing help to undocumented migrants. and even some Irish and Italians. 2006) Mexicans. half a million people marched through the streets of Los Angeles. but it is in their interest to negotiate knowing that the migrants are no longer passive and meek and that the persuasive presence of the immigrant rights movement has raised the bar on what can be demanded.

47) Unlike Huntington. has yet adopted a definitive form (p. US citizens will contribute to the culture of Latin American immigrants and indirectly to that of their families. with perfectly clear borders.WHAT IDENTITY ARE WE GOING TO ACCENTUATE? Will these revolts lead to a bifurcated nation? Are they a symptom that we Latinos are irremediably inassimilable? We’re no longer so overwhelmingly Catholic. they are constantly being reshaped and the edges worn down. an objective and indisputable existence. He rather wondered if the American type. Deified identities. Dewey (2003) argued that Americans cover their materialism and lust for money in idealism and altruism.” (2006. We’re not impermeable to transnational influx. are hard to define and aren’t etched in stone. “Exophobia. assuming that such a thing even exists. NEITHER ASSIMILATED NOR EXOPHOBIC Whether Latin American or gringo. or secretly buying the message that it is inferior. Nor are we as far removed from US culture as Huntington assumes. given that a multitude of Protestant denominations and evangelical sects have invaded our home countries. but it will be more productive if the immigrants are neither forced into assimilation—or acculturation. thought of as a solid thing. And the immigrants will in turn contribute to US culture. a way of being. going to emphasize over time? Those that most distance us or those that make us fit in more with the predominant identities? Or might we seek a pan-Latin Americanist identity? Identities don’t have sharply defined edges to begin with.64). “is to think of identities as referring—presumably—to fundamental and unmodifiable features that form a lifestyle. and charged other contradictions as well: alongside the disappearance of the household and the 600% increase in divorces in only one generation. Dewey found terrible contradictions in the US culture that for Huntington is so monolithic. On the other hand. social strata.” according to Lelio Mármora. We Latin Americans must shake off the supposed clash of civilizations and avoid the trap of arguing how superior our culture is. language. identities inevitably contain contradictions. so seamless and so committed to the founding creed and religion. we find the glorification of the sacred nature of the home and the marvels of eternal love more widely and more sentimentally than any other time in history (p. p. particularly we Central Americans. he wrote in the twenties. The problem. There is and will continue to be a cultural dialogue. In fact. as Huntington called it—nor shut up in their ghettoes as an exophobic reaction. tourism.53). political position… Which of these features are Latinos. but in many cases is a reaction from the immigrants themselves to the context surrounding 52 . US philosopher John Dewey didn’t treat US identity as a consummated reality. “isn’t specifically about immigration. cultural remittances and Hollywood productions. identity can be based on work culture. religion. argues Escalante Gozalbo.

LEARNING HISTORY TO DISLODGE IDEOLOGICAL BRICKS We need to know US history better. because they aren’t appropriating the natives’ possessions or trying to exterminate them. but also in the media. as well as with other more friendly interlocutors. Doing so will help eliminate Huntington’s thesis that the recent waves of migrants are radically different from the first migrants who came from England in the 17th century—although in many respects they unquestionably are. We need to understand the significance that these immigrants have had and could continue having in the history of the United States. a country built on dialogue. debate and at times cultural disputes. It develops through the prejudice that the minorities feel in relation to the global society into which they are inserted. there is a need to dissolve the wall’s very visible and dense ideological bricks. religion or ‘race’. corrective surgery to a cornea that views “others” with fear and superstitiously venerates the principle of territoriality. at times incited or fed by the xenophobia of the receiving country’s society. We must especially learn the history of the different waves of immigrants and their role constructing that immense country in order to unmask the rosy WASP legend and project possible changes as a result of the massive and growing immigration of Latinos. That struggle can’t be reduced to a mere sum-up of petitions and signatures. 53 . allowing it to open a debate with Huntington and his followers. pp. academic debate and many other spheres. this exophobia becomes a mechanism for maintaining the ‘purity’ of their culture. The struggle for immigrants’ rights is waged in the streets. 2002. For closed enclaves of foreigners. but always capable of incorporating other traditions. Will our social immersion be competitive or collaborative? The danger of both the US and Latino cultures isolating themselves must be eliminated if there is to be a fertile dialogue between the two.them. It must extend to the production of a more ambitious effect: a change of conceptions.” (Mármora. Those histories that do not jive with the rosy legend of a group of Puritan colonists who came to build a promissory world have to be rescued. Only by seeking dialogue and cultural vulnerability will the immigrants’ movement be able to improve its political position and discursive production. in governmental offices. in the houses of Congress and in party platforms. as it is one to which we Latinos have been and sometimes still are a forced party. In other words. the redesign of a vision.76-77) Work with the migrants must keep in mind the danger of exophobia.

did they head off to the New World to improve their situation or increase their wealth. exposing themselves to the inevitable rigors of exile. the history of successive migratory waves and the adaptation of the new arrivals and their descendents to the new surroundings offered by the Western Hemisphere (Schlesinger. the self-defined pilgrims. operating independently or reinforcing the religious conviction. who visited the United States in the first half of the 19th century. he insists. The real history is quite different.71). WITH ECONOMIC AND POLITICAL MOTIVES The migrants’ motives were quite varied. Today’s migrants have not attempted to spread such a persuasive myth. although now some want to reduce them to the construction of an earthly paradise. which is why Schlesinger felt obliged to warn that yesterday’s migrants had the same motives as today’s: to escape political or religious oppression and to improve their living conditions (Schlesinger. Huntington echoes Tocqueville’s rosy legend (2002) about that group of pilgrims who established themselves in New England. Today’s foreigners seem more like coat-tailers seeking to enjoy—and possible destroy—what others worked so hard to build. Waxing somewhat melodramatic he claims that these people renounced all that in obedience to a purely intellectual need. p. prompted tens of thousands to flee to America. cultivated the myth that they were led to the promised land by the hand of God. Nor.” (p. The objective of improving one’s living conditions appears banal compared to the sacred mission of founding a new world. The influence of these migratory waves can be traced in the legal systems. Huntington’s position is nothing new. Schlesinger reminds us that the constant migratory flows have played a fruitful and leading role in the most singular events of US history. customs and institutions of many zones of the United States. For many years the United States and the rest of the Americas provided an opportunity for the agglomerated populations of Europe to flee poverty and oppression. p. 1921. He argues that it wasn’t need that obliged them to leave their country. insisted that all immigrants spoke English and came to a territory that the natives were incapable of exploiting since they had been put there as if “awaiting” the arrival of those who would come to build a great nation.73).ROSY LEGENDS VS. given that they left behind a valuable social position and solid means of existence behind. In a broad sense.67) Tocqueville. as US historian Arthur Meier Schlesinger recognized in 1921 (p.72). There’s nothing like divine predestination to justify the colonization of a territory partially occupied by others. at bottom. In The Significance of Immigration in American History. THE REAL HISTORY The first immigrants. it should not be forgotten that the economic impulse. Schlesinger recognizes that while religious motivation has been emphasized in the history of colonization. pursuing the triumph of an “idea. the entire history of the United States is. 1921. 54 .

offering enormous extensions at nominal prices and describing the political and religious advantages of living under his rule. 2004 a. so could a colonizing enterprise (Asimov.The impulse to migrate was laced with mundanity. after the first settlements in his dominions of Pennsylvania. two groups of Englishmen representing the London Company and the Plymouth Company obtained official permission to colonize the eastern coast of North America between the 34th and 35th parallels. led to the founding of the Artic port town of Arkhangelsk. The first group of British colonists. pp. 2004 a). Another source of “assisted immigration” was the European countries’ custom of emptying their prisons into their colonies. In 1600 the East Indies Company was formed to exploit trade with the Far East. as was the case with the 1. p. was established on May 13. Women “of irregular conduct” were also deported to America in the 18th century.74). In their defense it must be recognized that the penal code of the day prescribed the death penalty for the theft of nothing more than a chunk of cheap meat (Schlesinger.73-74). pp. If those businesses could be lucrative. p. THOROUGHBRED OR MIXED RACES? It is not always understood that even the population of the 13 English colonies was a mix of racial types. 2004 a. It is estimated that Great Britain sent 50. located in Jamestown.92-93). in other words from the coast of what is now North Carolina to Maine (Asimov. 1606. and some private companies attempted to control and exploit them for their own benefit.213). which by 1584. a city that became the center of the British colonial government and afterward the capital of Nova Scotia.400 colonists who in 1749 founded Halifax. 2004 a. A group of London merchants formed the Moscow Company as early as 1553 to organize the fur trade in Russia. Many of these prisoners were serving sentences for unpaid debts. 1921. Penn publicized his lands throughout Europe. WITH COYOTES AND CRIMINALS William Penn was a Quaker who. 2005. in present-day Canada (Asimov. Big business also profited from and thus actively promoted the migratory flows.000 criminals to the 13 colonies. p. Prisons and hospitals such as Salpêtriere in France were the waiting rooms for deportation to America (Solé. 1607. He maintained paid agents in the Rhine Valley—they would be called coyotes or traffickers today—whose effectiveness is shown by the fact that within two decades German immigrants represented nearly half of the population (Asimov. a commercial corporation primarily interested in profits for its stockholders based on the colonists’ endeavor. by the London Company.74). In New England the majority of the first inhabitants were in fact English. 55 . wasted no opportunity to stimulate immigration artificially because the resulting improved land value implied an increase in his income. On April 10.

were a driving force behind the independence movement. The flow of migrants was also decisive in the Civil War.75). while over 150.” Given that the coastal cities had filled with English settlers. and at times of ferocious debates. and two quarters Irish (Schlesinger. French. non-English groups in the rural zones. As the rupture with Great Britain was approaching. p.84). 18 were not of English origin. Prussian. 1921. Dutch and Swedish. Eight of the most prominent men of early New York history weren’t English. He advanced the Continental Army $700. less inclined to loyalty to the English Crown.” especially of French origin.000.145). THIRTEEN NATIONS IN DIALOGUE. to a lesser degree. declared before the House of Commons that the patriot army had barely a quarter native-born Americans. But the other British colonies that gave origin to the United States saw the arrival of a large number of people of diverse racial origins who left their imprint on the native culture and. 2004 b. p. 2004 b. and they missed no occasion to enforce their interests. which he never recovered (Asimov. The United States is the product of a dialogue. FEROCIOUS DEBATES AND DISPUTES The glorifying legend of Anglo-Protestantism has a lot of cracks.000 Scottish and Irish Presbyterians settled in the colonies during the 18th century. bitterly recognized 56 . the language. p. The Federalist Party.79). Germans and Irish provided more troops to the federal armies as a proportion of their total population than the natives (p. In 1779. Hence Schlesinger (1921. where the bonds of loyalty were especially strong (Schlesinger.76). A key contributor to the independence cause was Polish-born Haym Solomon. The US Declaration of Independence did not found a new and independent nation. a quarter English and Scots. dominated by aristocratic politicians who were determined to extinguish the heresy known as “democracy. but Scottish. independent nations with uncertain borders and a great deal of mutual hostility (Asimov. Schlesinger (1921) estimated that the 84% increase in the foreign population in the decade prior to the war was vitally important to the future of the Union. Joseph Galloway of Pennsylvania. in which migrants and the migratory issue played a belligerent role. p. the new groups settled in valleys further inland. but 13 new.000.75) finds it instructive to recall that the “great flow of English puritans did not exceed 20. one of thousands of Jews who lived in the United States. where they occupied fertile lands and acted as buffers against the indigenous forays on the old settlements. A group consciousness rapidly developed in response to the organized efforts of the seaboard’s Anglo-American minorities to minimize the influence of the frontier population in the colonial tribunals and legislatures. They were decisive in Pennsylvania and South Carolina. p. 1921. who fought on the side of the Crown. Of the 56 brave men who signed the Declaration of Independence.due to the puritan policy of religious exclusivity. German.

78). together with the preponderance of Catholicism among the Irish immigrants. increasing the requirement for naturalization from 5 to 14 years and another law giving the President the right to expel foreigners from the country when they were considered a danger or suspected of treason. and the right to bilingual education is currently gaining ground in many states (Asimov. New Jersey was named for the English island of Jersey. New Orleans. 1921. pizza. French fries. too. In 1798 they pushed through the Aliens and Sedition Act to prevent aliens from cultivating the dangerous doctrine of democracy in the United States. needy. many dishes from New Orleans. That argument.126). omelets. Taken together. LANGUAGES. For the same reason and in the same year the Congress also approved the Naturalization Law. Natchez.” which is when a majority temporarily introduces new ideas without considering the established norms or rights of the minority (read aristocracy) once the decision-making procedures.immigration as the promoter of democracy or of “mobocracy. PLACE NAMES: THE PRINTS OF MANY CULTURES Cuisine is one of the indicators of US cultural syncretism: German hamburgers. So is music: from gospel and blues to hip hop. with identical arguments. the big corporations recruited migrant workers to the mortification of the natives and non-recent migrants. neither Huntington’s arguments (2004) nor xenophobic US policies are anyhing new. In 1850. p. Staten Island was named that for the General States. is being repeated now: the ragtag. led to an anti-immigration movement that would remain unparalleled in US history until 1920 (Schlesinger. offer clues to multi-racial tracks through the United States. content with minimum wages. As is obvious. According to Isaac Asimov. 2004 b. Vincennes and Port Royal. the laws meant that the President could theoretically expel any foreigner during the 14 years following his or her entry into the United States. French domination left Louisiana. The Bronx was named after Danish 57 . the legislature of the Low Countries. MUSIC. discourses and processes have collapsed. Toponymies. The same reaction. the American conservatives feared the “foreign agitators” (as has also been the case ever since) and the ultra-Federalists saw in them an opportunity to consolidate its dominion over the country and turn it into an aristocratic republic. Mexican enchiladas… The same is true of language: in 1643 a Jesuit priest who visited New Amsterdam— which later became New York City—counted 18 languages. Mobile. are stealing jobs from US citizens and threatening to destroy the order designed and maintained by Protestant values. Catholic Latinos. p. FOOD. Afro-Americans have been conspicuous contributors to the musical wealth of the United States. who complained that the foreigners’ low living standards made it impossible to compete with them. a kind of kingless Great Britain.

equivalent to the Prussian bunker. The weakness of Huntington’s interpretive key has been underscored by various authors through two elemental observations: Easterners aren’t so extremely different from Westerners—the globalizing processes aren’t for nothing—nor are they sufficiently similar among themselves to present a bloc with a single. It could be a thin red line tinted with blood.immigrant Jonas Bronck. Los Angeles. Florida.” There are also many other indigenous names: Mississippi (big river).” (pp. is an indigenous expression meaning “close to the big hill. Manhattan. between reifying one cultural identity—presented as objective and immutable—and believing in biologically demonstrable racial identities. Schlesinger’s words in 1921 remain valid: “Whatever of history may be made in the future in these parts of the country will not be the result primarily of an ‘Anglo-Saxon’ heritage but will be the product of the interaction of these more recent racial elements upon each other and their joint reaction to the American scene. compact posture toward Western civilization. enemies. Rensselaer after diamond merchant Kiliaen Van Rensselaer. which interpreted the international conflicts in terms of the confrontation between the Eastern-Muslim and Western-Christian cosmovisions. others stay home inventing myths about identities. and many. But there’s a danger in this business of tracing borders: the thin red line between the glorification of WASPness and racism. Massachusetts. San Diego. those of a historic moment or those that nostalgia imagines. was replaced by a religious bipolar axis. borders.82) A THIN RED LINE Huntington achieved celebrity status as a result of The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of the World Order. Connecticut (next to the long river where the tides penetrate).53-54) So Huntington pays no attention to East-West conver-gences or divergences within the East. We have to engage in the ideological battles emphasizing that there’s no cultural clash. The vagueness of culture as an individual right acquires a rigid form. and an absolute value is conferred on them to define the ‘true identity’ of whatever group it is. and Yonkers after a Dutch colonist with the title of jonker. With that one has a transcendental and unarguable justification for political power. In Who are we? he again embarks on a homogenizing fallacy. The bipolar USA-USSR axis.” (p. Huntington encourages an intolerance based on selective identity-building. named for the tribe inhabiting the island when the Dutch arrived. many more. 58 . San Francisco are only a few of the many vestiges of Spanish colonization. continuing to select certain features and exclude others to demarcate borders between what is authentically US and what is spurious. articulated over two political macro-projects. While some go out into the street to beat up on migrants. which serves the same purpose. Escalante Gozalbo (2006) explains the truculent and dangerous nature of this manipulation: “A set of cultural features is chosen. although thus baptized by a British cartographer in 1614.

Michael Jackson’s multi-metamorphosed nose. Lobbying also has to appeal to and try to rescue that heterogeneity. There is no true. Bellah conducted a very detailed and rigorous investigation of the culture. Latino asses will be welcomed rather than kicked. Even between those US citizens who best fit the WASP mold there is a heterogeneity that has benefited and will continue benefiting Latino immigrants. unique US identity. yet few are as idolized as she. Michael Jackson’s nose is the living metaphor and caricature of assimilation to the WASP image. what you get is a perversion of the whole idea of individualism to adjust it to the customs of a culture of money (2003. a group of social scientists headed up by Robert N. the glorification of the Hilton sisters’ wealth and Jennifer López’s backside provide more decisive and fluent expressions of US cultural coordinates than any mythology produced by a Harvard professor. whose limits could coincide with the political borders of the United States. There is nothing more opposed to Presbyterian morality and the “self-made man” (or woman) than Paris Hilton. visible even among those most deeply rooted in Anglo-Protestantism. p. One of the most grassroots illustrations of this are the murals by Central Americans in San Francisco. Then there’s Jennifer López.60). whose ample Latino buttocks gyrated their way into the most lucrative cultural market in the world. California. 1989). The veneration of the Hiltons is the concretizing of the cult to money not produced by talent. Bellah and his group asked what beliefs and practices shape the character and social order of people from the United States. Rockefeller or Commodore Vanderbilt provided the most recognizable face of the United States in Latin America. 59 . as Huntington would love to believe.JACKSONCS NOSE. THE HILTONSC WEALTH AND LÓPEZCS BUTT This thin line imagines more bipolarity between the segments and more homogeneities within them than really exist. a monstrosity that is at the same time the height of assimilation. What is the essence of an “American”: the Jeffersonian model or the Hamiltonian one? Who more approximates the US prototype: George W. if they buy. Nowadays. Latinos have notable successes to their credit in carving out a niche for themselves in US culture at all levels. The result of the investigation was the book Habits of the Heart (Bellah et al. The message is tidy: if they sell. BETWEEN ROCKEFELLER AND WALT WHITMAN A couple of decades ago. And take note: even when not for profit. Bush or Michael Moore? In the past the ideas and actions of Monroe.. values and features of US identity. an ideology that John Dewey saw as vigorous but pretentious even in the twenties because in place of developing those prophesied individualities.

in the final analysis.Among other features. open to all kinds of people. Expressive individualism is embodied in the immediate enjoyment of life. would not apply to any emblematic member of this culture. with the universe. who perhaps wanted to combine both traditions. The poet Walt Whitman. is the most extreme example of expressive individualism. 60 . Then there’s Walt Disney. a life with strong sentiments (Bellah et al. while Donald Trump would be the caricature of today’s crass craving for wealth. is perhaps the best embodiment of utilitarian individualism in US history. utterly devoted to nature and a life full of experiences. John D. The first emphasizes the individual effort to accumulate material wealth and sacrifice everything for professional or business success. p. and certainly did. And Madonna—the most profitable exponent of express yourself—is today’s hybrid. these researchers found two that stand out and have a certain degree of opposition: utilitarian individualism and expressive individualism. Obviously the shaded area of the diagram. with nature and.57).. classifying emblematic figures of US culture according to their either weak or strong manifestations of utilitarian individualism and expressive individualism. given his dedication to the pursuit of wealth. An “I” identified with other people and places. where both types of individualism are only weakly present. as exuberant in the sensual aspect as in the intellectual one. 1989. The table below is an attempt to represent these identity-generating components in a graphic way. Rockefeller. a life full of experiences. Who could say that each of them doesn’t exemplify US identity? Perhaps today we could speak of certain ecologists as exponents of expressive individualism in their commitment to turn the “I” green again.

a people’s cultural tradition—its symbols. Cultures are dramatic dialogues about issues that are important to the participants and the US culture is no exception. MORE SPICES IN THE MELTING POT Why not introduce new and multicolored interlocutors to spice up the dialogue? The United States was bathed by a migrant river of millions of Italian anarchists and Irish poor. The American culture remains alive as long as the dialogue continues and the debate is passionate (p. yet Huntington thinks that they didn’t constitute a threat to Protestant values because it was possible to assimilate them. We could include more to obtain an enormously complex and varied matrix: John Winthrop’s utopian Puritanism.In this exercise I’ve only combined two variables. Emerson’s and Hawthorne’s profound cultivation of self. The demonstrations against the Sensenbrenner Law showed that many documented citizens are in solidarity. which is a virtue. Can we Latinos contribute to that dialogue? Bellah (1989) advocates cultural dialogues that keep the traditions alive: As long as it lives. and were probably even weaned on the traditions of expressive individualism. but rather about keeping cultural dialogue alive. he argues. because it’s not a question of creating a cultural Frankenstein. Let’s conspire with Walt Whitman and his followers and celebrate ourselves. As Wallerstein said. Thomas Jefferson’s egalitarian republicanism. A few more spices in the stew will give things more flavor (2002). all countries are characterized by their diversity. Are Latinos so much more difficult to assimilate? Are they so resistant to assimilation? The more differences there are. the more energetic the dialogue.48). Let’s talk. ideals and ways of feeling—always constitutes a debate about the meaning of common destiny. No one could have all the features. Thoreau’s civil disobedience. Let’s add more flavor to the melting pot. egalitarian republicanism. 61 . the profound cult of self and civil disobedience. utopian Puritanism. Benjamin Franklin’s faith in progress promoted by individual initiative. and make an alliance with the gringos’ expressive side. etc. not a defect.

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It is followed in this legislative sloth by El Salvador. Convention on the Status of Stateless Persons. convention or agreement would be without Nicaragua’s resplendent signature. and no protocol. Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness. Additional Protocol to the American Convention on Human Rights in the Area of Economic. the process no longer seems so simple or festive. “POOR DOLLARS” When the Nicaraguan government thinks about migrants. 143 on Migrations in Abusive Conditions and the Promotion of Equality of Opportunity and Treatment of Migrant Workers. But as ratification implies turning an international convention into national law and bringing all existing related legislation into line with the provisions of the signed convention. Inter-American Convention on International Traffic in Minors. our Presidents would spring forward. The Central American record for legal negligence in this respect is Honduras. by contrast. Panama and Guatemala. pen at the ready. world champion in self-legislating and legislating for others. It may also think about the possibility of mitigating 65 N . which has not ratified 32 agreements related to this issue. A LOT LEFT TO RATIFY Nicaragua has yet to sign 19 of the 43 international agreements that either directly or tangentially affect migrants. have only 8 left to ratify. 15 and 11 agreements. But it’s still dragging its feet on transforming the following migration-related international agreements (among others) into national law: Protocol against the Smuggling of Migrants by Land. 97 on Migration for Employment. with 21 non-ratified agreements. despite the fact that the former country is a transit route for migrants heading north to the United States and the latter a migrant receptor country. dollar signs flash into its eyes like a two-digit slot machine. If it were just a matter of signing. Air and Sea. International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families.icaragua is very lazy about ratifying international agreements. and Inter-American Convention on Territorial Asylum. which respectively have yet to ratify 18. Mexico and Costa Rica. ILO Convention No. because that gesture earned a satisfied nod from Uncle Sam. Social and Cultural Rights. ILO Convention No. The Nicaraguan state demonstrated no hesitation about ratifying the Inter-American Convention against Terrorism. but even that figure pales into insignificance compared to the United States itself.

” and then only within the value framework of those who presume everything to be ruled by a rational financial logic. They have no pain or story. The emigrants who send them home are just an accident. Reinforcing neoliberal strategy. Another dramatic example that not even Ripley would believe is that those responsible for migration in the Foreign Affairs Ministry and Office of Human Rights Defense Attorney 66 . The worst problem is that only limited thought has gone into formulating policies to cultivate such “poor dollars. The vicissitudes of those thousands of compatriots are alien to the policy designers. sometimes return courtesy of the migration departments operating in the countries of both transit and destination. The UN’s Economic Commission on Latin America (ECLA) estimates that Nicaraguan migrants in Costa Rica and the United States sent US$320 million back home as cash remittances to relatives in 2000.4% of Nicaragua’s gross domestic product and 34% of total exports for that year. represents 13. Some multilateral organizations—followed by international cooperation agencies and NGOs—get fired up just thinking about the investments that could be made with this unexpected manna falling from the US and Costa Rican “heaven” to those living in Nicaragua’s hellish conditions. As in many other countries without many alternatives for salvation. remittances are never presented as what they originally add up to: an impressive manifestation of family and. Remittances are nothing more than a faceless providential gift to these policy formulators. men and women who leave at their own will and their own risk and who. but it rarely accepts any responsibility for challenging the human rights violations associated with the emigrants’ transit. who. including promoting micro-businesses that use them. finance studies and summon policy designers to economic conclaves to conjure up schemes to harness family remittances. The Nicaraguan government has done nothing in response to the imminent passing of Costa Rica’s new Migration Law—which essentially criminalizes migrations—other than perhaps to prepare Central Bank workers to revise the calculated flow of remittances. Nicaragua’s hopes rest on “poor dollars.unemployment. through no fault of the policy-makers.” POOR DOLLARS HAVE NO FACE. put up no real fight to regularize their migratory status or ensure their basic rights. And the amounts have steadily increased since then. feeling no responsibility for their plight. their status as undocumented immigrants. PAIN OR STORY Stripped of their human story and dressed only in cold figures. or the creation of community funds or 2-for-1 programs (one dollar from the central government and another from the local government for every dollar sent home by an emigrants’ association). they organize forums. The Nicaraguan government has no trouble perceiving the economic opportunity represented by these remittances. which some consider conservative. Even this amount. occasionally. the xenophobia they have to face and their working conditions and access to social benefits. community solidarity.

know nothing about the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families, a basic UN instrument for guaranteeing the exercise of migrants’ rights. The climate of increasingly precarious labor in which remittances are generated is not without its winners, however. Businesses in the countries of destination exploit the migrants’ insecure situation and even help reinforce it, as it allows them to dodge their obligations as employers. Although improved security would positively affect the remittance flow to Nicaragua, not even the government’s fondness for the remittances let alone those who send them is sparking it to come up with long-term solutions. AMNESTY: THE ONLY THING THEY APPLAUD The successive Nicaraguan governments have limited themselves to applauding the amnesties that occasionally come our way as “gifts” rather than anything negotiated or instigated by our authorities. Like other Central American governments, ours throws great celebrations every time Washington extends the Temporary Protection Status (TPS), a program offered to countries affected by natural disasters or armed conflicts that allows their emigrants to stay legally in the United States. On December 29, 1998, two months after the passage of Hurricane Mitch, former President Bill Clinton granted TPS to Honduras and Nicaragua, which halted the deportation of their emigrants and thus helped both the countries and the emigrants’ families during the emergency. It has already been extended six times. In November of that same year, for much the same reason, the Costa Rican government announced during a presidential summit in San Salvador that it would grant a general amnesty for all irregular Central American emigrants in its country (Decreto No.27457-G-RE, 1998). For a variety of reasons, the amnesty was not applied until February 1, 2000, by which time many more emigrants, encouraged by the announcement, had crossed into Costa Rica. Between February 1 and July 31 of the same year, the amnesty granted temporary and potentially renewable residence status good for a year to 155,318 immigrants, 97% of them Nicaraguans. So far, amnesties have been forged by wars and natural disasters. Regardless of their causes or authors, though, amnesties are only an ephemeral palliative. They don’t deal with important aspects of Nicaragua’s migratory problem and hence don’t exempt the government from negotiating policies that seek long-term solutions with the countries of transit and destination. Nor do they exempt it from formulating national legislation and coherent programs with international demands that respond to the different requirements and needs of migrant or returnee citizens.
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IN TRANSIT AND DEFENSELESS: WOMEN ARE THE MOST VULNERABLE An efficient and coherent migration effort supposes, among other things, differentiated attention for migrants’ different categories, statuses or stages. Migrants in transit, for example, have different needs than those trying to assimilate into their new country. Other possible variables that come into play here include language barriers, xenophobic legislation or an accentuated ethnic gap. Migrants in transit require special attention. Both men and women who decide to abandon Nicaragua frequently fall prey to some form of abuse from authorities or common criminals. Various factors increase their vulnerability: carrying money to cover travel and lodging costs; the need to kep a low profile; unfamiliarity with the geography and social-cultural scene they are passing through; inability to recognize the different authorities and their areas of responsibility; ignorance of their own most basic rights; and the need to resort to unscrupulous agents who employ means that are illegal and extremely risky for the migrants. Honduras, Guatemala and, above all, Mexico comprise the long vertical frontier that Nicaraguans must cross to reach the United States. Many disappear or are apprehended, murdered or forced into prostitution along the way. Inevitably, women are the most vulnerable. It is essential for the Nicaraguan government to get together with the other Central American governments and negotiate agreements with Mexico that guarantee the rights of migrants in transit. Guatemala is the only country in the region to have done so up to now, and the agreements it has signed are interesting. Consular protection and the creation throughout the region of efficient mobile consulates representing the Central American countries could play a significant role here.

BANDS OF HUMAN TRAFFICKERS The Regional Conference on Migration has stressed the fight against illegal trafficking of migrants. The International Organization for Migration (IOM) has done case studies on this phenomenon, presenting migrants as victims of “coyotes” (smugglers) and their networks, persistently described as being linked to drug trafficking and organized crime. The IOM studies insist that international bands organized around trafficking migrants operate throughout the world. Nicaragua is a country of easy transit thanks to agreements by the Nicaraguan migration authorities to eliminate visa requirements for a number of different nationalities, most of them South American and Caribbean. Beneficiaries include Peruvians, Ecuadorians, Colombians, Cubans and Dominicans, as well as Nigerians, Somalis, Chinese, Indians and Nepalese. Article 21 of the Nicaraguan Law to Control the Trafficking of Illegal Migrants (Law 240), passed in November 1996, condemned any foreigner entering the country
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illegally to detention for three months followed by deportation. The same law used to establish four-eight years in prison and the equivalent of US$600-3,000 in fines for the smugglers and traffickers. In practice, of course, only those smuggled rather than the smugglers have actually been captured, tried and punished. The Nicaraguan Network of Civil Society Organizations on Migration promoted the reform of Law 240 to bring it into line with international norms that do not discriminate against the rights of undocumented migrants. The main reasons behind this initiative were the precarious situations that encouraged migrants to seek better living conditions abroad and the fact that Nicaragua is a migrant-emitting country, which makes it inconsistent to maintain a dual policy defending the rights of co-nationals abroad and violating those of migrant foreigners passing through or trying to settle in Nicaragua.

NOT ALL COYOTES ARE BAD Not even smugglers should be pigeonholed. The association of human smugglers with drug traffickers should not be generalized, as the trafficking of migrants is neither monopolized nor even dominated by networks. Insistence on this link and other criminalizing statements tends to disguise the fact that the illegal smuggling of migrants is largely practiced by people, including relatives of would-be migrants, who operate in an isolated and relatively unsystematic way. This suggests that a proper policy should not emphasize an indiscriminate fight against smugglers. An effort must be made to differentiate this heterogeneous world of people who facilitate migrant transit, ranging from simple security guards and drivers to guides who cover the whole journey. And even among these players, a distinction should be made between those motivated by profit and those providing a community service. Presenting all smugglers as linked to criminal smuggling and drug trafficking networks only plays along with the political abuse of migratory control and the criminalizing migration ideology maintained by the recipient countries. Little mention is made of the fact that illegal smuggling and smugglers prosper precisely when the migration controls and barriers are at their most severe and criminalizing. The more controls there are, the more migrants have to pay and the worse risks they have to run along the way. The more rigid and extensive the surveillance by migration authorities, the more likely that the transit will take place in inhospitable places where migrants are often easy prey to abuse and robbery perpetrated by common criminals and even their own guides.
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630 Hondurans and 28. This tendency is turning Mexico into a very fine filter and the United States into a more inclement expeller.396 in 2002 to 2. from 1. the two main destinations of Nicaraguan migrants.RETURNEES: A SPECIFIC CATEGORY REQUIRING SPECIFIC POLICIES Whether forced back or not. Rather than adopt the joint reinsertion programs designed by the Sandinista government and international agencies in the UN-sponsored framework of CIREFCA (International Conference on Central American Refugees). could have been avoided with a more far-sighted policy. Although Nicaragua has been less affected by deportations and has benefited more from naturalization in the United States than its Central American neighbors. But we have set a dreadful precedent in this area. Another problem was that some of those who laid down their arms settled with their relatives on lands that in addition to having been demarcated as biological reserves had also traditionally been occupied by Mayangnas. There were no relocation programs or precautions for handling the social and environmental conflicts caused by the clash between the sometimes-abrupt appearance of settlements and land-use guidelines.318 Salvadorans (Instituto Nacional de Migración & 70 .361 Guatemalans. becoming a visible problem. deportations may start to multiply due to the rising volume of migrants and toughening up of migration policies in the countries of transit and destination. 58. The Chamorro government had no policies. returnees are another category deserving of specific policies. it left those agencies to carry out their side of the bargian alone. now organized as forest rangers by German cooperation. financial resources or institutional infrastructure of its own for coping with the postwar return and reinsertion of large flows of refugees and internally displaced people—who could not always go “home” because their houses and plots of land had often been occupied during their absence or even reassigned by the government. whose relationship with forest resources is far more depredatory than the rangers’ brief not to mention their own culture permitted. The number of Nicaraguans deported from Mexico has been on the rise. The repatriation of Nicaraguans in the early nineties began with the signing of the peace accords and end of the war caught the new Nicaraguan government completely unprepared. The situation was further complicated by the fact that many were indigenous people (Miskitos and Mayangnas). Some returnees settled in areas previously declared as forestry reserves.043 in 2003 and 1. The violence that broke out between the reestablished Mayangnas and the new settlers. But these figures shrink to nothing against Mexico’s deportations of other Central Americans in 2003: 81. WHEN RETURNEES ARE DEPORTED\ Deportees will presumably acquire a greater weight among the returnees from both the United States and Costa Rica.564 only up to August 2004.

Welcome Home is clas71 . should also be added to these figures. However. the relationship between returnee communities and the environment.5 Nicaraguans and granted residency to 14 others for every one it deported. 2002). The number of Nicaraguans deported is probably higher than these figures suggest. just 2 Salvadorans and 1 Guatemalan benefited from residency for every one of their co-nationals deported. 79).144). 2001.S Department of Justice Immigration and Naturalization Service[DJINS]. there are indications that US deportations are rising.000 a year. 5.S Department of Homeland Security [DHS]. While only 1. Formally known as the Program of Attention to Salvadoran Immigrants (PAIS). unlike deportees. pass themselves off as Guatemalans to avoid being returned further south. they are not prohibited from re-entering Costa Rica for the next ten years. Other. having reached 1.728 Hondurans. p. such as thos associated with the difficulty of reintegrating. the cultural changes introduced by returnees into their communities and their active participation in the social dynamics.942 Nicaraguans were rejected between 1995 and 2000. p. In this neighboring country.206 in 2004 (CEPAL. Such figures are symptomatic of how Mexico’s migration policies have been toughened up and border controls strengthened over the last 30 years to filter and reduce the number of Central American migrants attempting to reach the United States (Castillo. The relevance of any returnee policy on the government agenda should not be determined exclusively by the volume and increase of deportations. Some of those defined as rejections. 2000. In contrast. which means that the issue should start to appear on the agenda. 2004 b). given that many Central Americans. According to Costa Rican Migration Department figures. hoping to reduce the costs of their next attempt to reach the States. however.026 were detained for deportation between 1998 and 2002. even the latter figure pales alongside the annual average of 12. 1998. technology transfer. more qualitative aspects need to be considered.585 Nicaraguans were deported from the United States between 1992 and 1996 for an average of 317 a year. the United States naturalized 4. but rose again to 822 in 2000. U. but to Costa Rica. however.934 Guatemalans captured for deportation during the same period (U.215 Salvadorans and 7. 11. OIM & BID. a category Costa Rican authorities often use to process the repatriation of Nicaraguans they expel. 308. Although Nicaragua has a relatively favorable position in this respect compared to the rest of Central America. Between 1998 and 2002. 2002. It actually works out better for the “rejects” because.686 in 1996. 2004 a. an average of 1. El Salvador has been implementing a “Welcome Home” program since 1999. 1999. 2000. 1996. ARE THEY WELCOMED HOME? Our main emigration flow now is not to the United States. the deportation of Nicaraguans dropped to 17 in 1998.Secretaría de Gobernación de México. and 45.

The indiscriminate statements playing up the negative role of Nicaraguan labor in Costa Rica. additional labor (migrants who accept low-wage jobs rejected by native workers). and even new attitudes. but they returned home as the armed conflict in their respective countries ended. The Nicaraguan government should set the record straight on the incorporation and effects of Nicaraguan labor in the market to stop the Costa Rican government from adopting simplistic migration policies to respond to the dangerous net correlation between the number of immigrants and the number of unemployed Costa Ricans. the American Church of El Salvador and the National Association of Private Enterprise (ANEP). lack any real foundation (Mármora. 2002). the Catholic Archbishopric. competitive labor (migrants who compete for the same jobs as native workers when the latter could satisfy the demand) and marginal labor (migrants who create informal jobs off the supply-and-demand axis). guarantee their reincorporation into the labor market and offer them psychosocial and medical attention. Catholic Relief Services. A repatriation policy including attractive offers to encourage migrants to return home and insert themselves back into the country’s production could help Nicaragua recover the human capital it previously lost. the shortage of coffee pickers reemerged. NICA MIGRANT WORKERS IN COSTA RICA HAVE AN UNDESERVED BAD REP In his examination of the migrant labor supply. Central American refugees temporarily covered this demand. Migrant Nicaraguan workers have a long history of supplementing the limited Costa Rican labor supply during coffee harvests. The extensive area cultivated in Costa Rica from 1960 onwards together with the productivity jump increased the demand for coffee pickers. In the eighties. The “permanent” solu72 .144-145) distinguishes between supplementary labor (migrants who work in jobs for which not enough native workers are qualified).sified as an emergency program. whether for better or worse. the José Simeón Cañas Central American University (UCA). It can be assumed that many of those people have acquired greater knowledge and skills. the Don Bosco University. set up by a commission including representatives from the Foreign Affairs and Interior Ministries. to the great alarm of Costa Rican businesspeople. complementary labor (migrants working in jobs rejected by native workers in search of better positions). involves complementary activities implemented by different organizations. accusing it of having supposedly competitive or marginal effects. complementary and additional effect on various branches of the Costa Rican economy. The program. Argentine academic and IOM official Lelio Mármora (2002. pp. A similar initiative could be promoted in Nicaragua. the IOM. The incorporation of seasonal Nicaraguan labor has historically had a supplementary. during their time abroad. Its aim is to provide immediate attention to Salvadoran citizens deported from the United States.

1995). improving some of its mechanisms in the light of lessons learned from the first attempt? Promoting temporary permits as one way to regulate seasonal migration could offer migrants a chance to obtain work. coffee. p.000 Nicaraguans migrated temporarily to Costa Rica in 2000. and would provide employers with suitable and timely labor in return for complying with their obligations as employers. In just over a year. Later. Could this agreement be reactivated. a wage and social protection without the tensions and risks they face as undocumented migrants both en route and in the country of destination. the administration of José María Figueres created the Work Card (decree 141 of July 26.53). which sought to produce a strong and enduring impact. particularly coffee pickers and sugar cane cutters. 2000. 2001. during President Calderón Fournier’s administration. meanwhile. 2000). VARIOUS BILATERAL INITIATIVES Given the proven importance of Nicaraguan migrant labor. the Costa Rican Labor Ministry established the Framework Agreement for Migrant Labor. 1999. who arrive according to the different harvest times for sugar cane. 2003). In addition. 2002). Costa Rica has been involved in bilateral efforts with Nicaragua to move beyond migratory amnesties.000 Nicaraguan workers. While originally aimed at temporary Nicaraguan agricultural sector workers. most Nicaraguans lacked the original birth certificates or other forms of identification essential to getting the special passport. The Nicaraguan work force on banana plantations alone often represents about 40% of the total (Bannuett.300 Nicaraguans applied to the Migration Department for the special “passport” required to obtain the card. etc. p. to regulate the mainly Nicaraguan workers employed in seasonal agricultural labor. Solano. it was later extended to the construction and domestic work sectors when it became apparent that barely 10% of Nicaraguan seasonal workers were migrating under the agreement. In 1993. under the same agreement.tion came in the form of Nicaraguan migrants (Alvarenga. Convinced of the agreement’s inefficiency. 73 . the Costa Rican government suspended it in 1997(Acuña & Olivares. melons. while Costa Rican employers offered no advantages to workers who migrated under the agreement rather than doing so undocumented. and this figure has been rising year after year. But the card did not fulfill its objectives. (Consejo Nacional de Planificación Social [CONPES]. in part because the application requirements substantially reduced the number of beneficiaries. It is also estimated that the Costa Rican agro-export sector seasonally absorbs around 60.33) Some studies suggest that 75% of Costa Rica’s agricultural work is done by workers of Nicaraguan origin (Alvarenga. the slow and complicated application process increased the transaction costs. Migration experts calculate that some 105. bananas. 27. The Nicaraguan government.

Different studies have often shown that employers tend not to report migrants to the Costa Rican Social Security Fund.866 inhabitants were Nicaraguan (Campos. this program seeks to satisfy the demand of temporary migrant workers for health services both at home and abroad. Between 1984 and 2000. As of 2002. their wives and children under five years old.1% of its 13. 2004).36% of the total number of foreigners living in the country (OIM-SIEMCA. With the support of the Pan American Health Organization and the World Health Organization. they represent almost 8% of the total inhabitants and in the capital San José nearly 7%. even 40. According to the Fund.374 Nicaraguans residing in the country (Castro. Given that it does not include undocumented or seasonal migrants as well as the fact that undocumented migrants tend to avoid censuses for obvious reasons. Neighborhoods like La Carpio in San José have virtually become Nicaraguan territory. the same cannot be said of their ability to exercise their rights. That figure only includes those who declared they had been residing or were planning to reside in the country for over six months. Costa Rica. 49. Guatemala’s Social Security Institute and its Public Health and Social Assistance Ministry are implementing what they call the Program for the Social Protection of Migrant Agricultural Workers. it is safe to assume that the Nicaraguan presence is somewhat higher. Female Nicaraguan domestic workers in Costa Rica are paid nearly 32% under what their Costa Rican coun74 . and denunciations of such anomalies are rare because undocumented Nicaraguans assume that their irregular migratory situation excludes them from social security benefits. WHO RESPONDS TO THE PROBLEMS OF MIGRANTS WHO HAVE ALREADY SETTLED? Costa Rica’s 2000 census registered 226. where Nicaraguans respectively account for 88.8% of all foreigners. the United States and even Canada and other countries could satisfy their labor demand. p. Nicaraguans included in the census increased their representation from 1. The Nicaraguan government could also ensure access to different services for its temporary migrants.9% to almost 6% of the Costa Rica’s overall population and from 51. 2004). But while the number of migrants settling in Costa Rica is up.could set up the appropriate channels for satisfying its population’s work demands and guaranteeing the rights of its citizens abroad. who tend to find themselves at the bottom of the labor pyramid and prone to lower wages (Acuña. 2004). according to the 2000 census.6% and 86. the program had benefited 50. and their weight was significantly higher than the national average in some Costa Rican provinces.62% to 76.000 migrant workers. The situation is still more serious for women. offering equal conditions to nationals and foreigners and reducing the previous cost of implementing migration controls. In Alajuela. We wouldn’t be the first to try it.5% of the Nicaraguans recorded in the 2000 census are uninsured (CCSS. 2002. particularly Alajuela and Guana-caste. 2003).190).

doing away with visas and requiring nothing more than their national identity card for travel purposes. 2001. limited communication with relatives back home. including the high cost of consular services. and the towns of Cárdenas and Los Chiles among many others—is a case in point. Formal recognition of this situation. Honduras and Nicaragua). Established emigrants face many problems as well. Many of them remain undocumented for years.23). p. Again. THE SPIRIT OF MORAZÁN REDUCED TO THE CA-4 Migrants from border regions are a special group. low wages. would be a basic step towards multiplying the benefits and paving the way towards other agreements. despite repeated invitations from the other Central American governments. Costa Rica has not yet joined even the functional initiative known as CA-4 (the 4 in question being El Salvador. But the much-trumpeted regional integration hasn’t got much further when it comes to migration. with little possibility of ever becoming CA-5 much less CA-7. which has established a bi-national arena with fertile interrelations.terparts earn (OIM. champion of Central American unity during the early Independence period. there are possible solutions. The productive development and exploitation of what are known as “cross-border” communities should be part of the agenda of bilateral negotiations. were it to include not only Costa Rica but 75 . With civil society support. Guatemala. such as information. socio-cultural adaptation. informal labor status. The Program for Attention to Salvadoran Communities Abroad—run by El Salvador’s Foreign Ministry—aims to facilitate communication. the consulates could offer a number of different services. Other Central American consulates have had successful experiences with similar initiatives. Regardless of which side of the dividing line they actually live on.” The CA-4—which OCAM considers its great success—is oriented towards facilitating the mobility of Central Americans. discrimination. but make clear that “this is not an issue on our country’s agenda. the inhabitants have relatives of both nationalities and common commercial relations and use state and private services from both countries. etc. Unfortunately. living as virtual recluses in their places of work because they don’t have documents even proving they are Nicaraguan citizens. The spirit of Morazán [Honduran-born General Francisco Morazán. lack of documentation. According to minutes from the Central American Commission of Migration Directors (OCAM). joint-work and protection mechanisms for its nationals abroad. Costa Rican officials tend to thank the other countries for their invitation. The border region between Nicaragua and Costa Rica—including the departments of Rivas and Río San Juan in Nicaragua and Guanacaste in Costa Rica. was President of the briefly federated Central America] has remained limited to the CA-4. identity card and permit applications and denunciations to the Ministry of Labor and the Residents’ Ombudsman.

although such a sponsor surely sees them more as “Go Home” programs. it calls the tune—but have been unable to ratify and regionally adjust the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families. such as national security—in other words. Central American governments have made no effort to piece together a formal structure for the existing regional labor markets. US financing has also been eagerly received for the “Welcome Home” programs in Honduras and El Salvador. 76 . Yet. They believe such legislation would only serve to bolster the migrants and exponentially increase their numbers. They are blind to the complex problems facing each category of migrants. WHERE TO START? Many people—politicians and public officials from recipient countries at the fore—fear that conventions and protocols to protect migrants’ rights could encourage a migratory avalanche and recognition of their irregular situation. Nicaragua is one of the most backward countries in this and other respects.also Panama and Belize. All the Central American governments have united to fight those trafficking in undocumented migrants—as the United States pays the piper. politics. slothful when it comes to designing policies for each category corresponding to its thousands of migrants. above and beyond all restraints and excuses. whether linked to economics. sovereignty or ideology. Perhaps that’s where things should start: gradually changing that opinion until they are convinced that human rights are the great migration-related issue and that such rights should be above and beyond any other consideration.

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the media and analyses include certain data and theories used to explain the causes of migrations. the result can be a political apathy that is very prejudicial for the migrants.” Referring to prejudices. an official of the International Organization for Migration (IOM): “The state’s specific and determined perception of migrations will form the basis of their policy design and their subsequent action plan. Researchers. A clear awareness of the existence of prejudice and of the ways it is manifested and reproduced is fundamentally important in the establishment and development of international migration policies. and the prejudiced images transmitted. journalists and the general public all sketch out. and particularly of migrants. are used to formulate overall judgments. NGO officials. these limited visions produce portraits that are quite grotesque. as it conditions the world of policy. both male and female. disseminate and assimilate a determined “portrait” of migrants. Some depict them as deserters. international cooperants.” There is a notorious absence in Nicaragua of any migrant policy. But they often take selected fragments of these theories or concentrate on specific aspects. s people who have given up on their country of origin. When statistics are exposed to ideological packets that include “migraphobic” viruses. they nonetheless become the framework for what can or cannot be proposed and implemented. politicians. All of these prejudices influence policies and can even lead to a policy of not proposing anything. 79 . The world of perception is very important.A large number of sources feed and reproduce the collective view of migration. While only talking about what is visible at best. perceiving them as “the whole. And many people in their countries of destination think of them as spongers or even as a threat of one sort or another. she adds that “these kinds of reality-distorting mechanisms will negatively influence any objective definition of policies and the possibility of their viability. these fragments of reality.” In the end. How can we begin to challenge these stereotyped “portraits”? THE “MIGRAPHOBIA” VIRUS IS DETECTED IN PREJUDICES AND POLICIES Some of the portrayals circulating in individual minds. a void partly explained by the prejudices and perceptions surrounding migrants. According to Lelio Mármora.

Even more revealing is that the number of Nicaraguans deported was equivalent to only 8% of those who naturalized. for a new Nicaragua. and Guatemalans 30%. As we see. Many NGOs smell “migration promotion” in any measure that helps guarantee minimal 80 . for democracy. which in turn paved the way for the later migrant flow. The Reagan and Bush administrations and the Miami Cuban exiles had a political interest in getting ipso facto recognition for them as political refugees. Those who first obtained refugee status or political asylum in the United States found it easier to become permanent residents or even citizens. for their homeland.” They failed to fight for their country’s development. involving people seeking asylum in Costa Rica and the United States during the eighties. but they are not the only factors behind the drive to migrate or the situations in which the migrants are caught up. a record among Central Americans at the time. and those policies can be affected for better or worse by legislators’ perceptions and stereotypes. policies and politics also play a role. 11% of Nicaraguans residing in the United States obtained citizenship during the nineties. and determined the favorable policy applied to them. to defend the conquests of the revolution. Cold War interests conditioned the US government’s perception of why they migrated and paved the way for their insertion and assimilation. Playing down their impact leaves these perceptions intact and only perpetuates the apathy. emigrants are seen as people who swapped their country for another because they gave up on the hope of changing it. Labor-related issues obviously have a lot of weight in the more recent migrations. In this sense. The fact that the first waves of Nicaraguan migrants to that country were mainly from the middle-classes also goes some way towards explaining the social sector that continues to migrate there. One likely explanation is the US commitment to help its citizens recover properties confiscated by the Sandinistas. EMIGRANTS ARE PEOPLE WHO GAVE UP ON THEIR COUNTRY One of the main accusations leveled against emigrants—although rarely explicitly formulated—is that they “threw in the towel.NICARAGUANS NATURALIZE MORE FOR POLITICAL REASONS Nicaragua’s first mass migrations were political. to build the kingdom of God… Despite their “obligation” to create development at home. while deported Hondurans represented 61% of those who naturalized. According to US Immigration and Naturalization Service statistics. Political history thus established a tendency in which deportations affected Nicaraguans less and naturalization benefited them more. they set off in pursuit of an individual solution.

respect for migrants’ human rights. customs and lifestyles from the communities that take in the migrants. teachers can engage in private business if they can’t make ends meet with their miserable salaries. Their basic vision is that “we have to produce results where God put us and build the Kingdom of God here rather than anywhere else. which only increases the alarm. Why would they possibly want to leave a country experiencing the Bolaños government’s “new era. go as far as to propose increasing the educational level of those who stay 81 . The changes they adopt abroad often include greater independence from the priest figure and a more democratic style of Christianity less conditioned by the clerical hierarchy. they see individuals that abandon collectivity as rents in the precious social fabric of history being woven. This parochial vision. The Left tends to view as “traitors” those who leave for the “Switzerland of Central America. although for different reasons. This cultural exophobia views uneducated emigrants living in other regions as deserters from their mother culture. however. they show that the schooling of Nicaraguans who leave the country is higher than the national average. particularly for those who don’t even have a shirt. Backed up by statistics.” as the FSLN anthym famously described the “Yankees. Like Hegel.” Their communitarian vision of development has no place for individual adventure. They just don’t understand that following the President’s campaign advice of “rolling up their sleeves” can’t solve everything. Certain priests and pastoral agents adopt the same position.” Those on the Right. Generally speaking.” as Costa Rica has been dubbed. ANATHEMATIZING MIGRANTS IN AN UNFAIR AND STERILE VISION Many institutions—political parties. reduces them to a microproject of very limited scope.” with a government supposedly “of the people and for the people. the very opposite of universalism. or the land of the “enemies of humanity. meanwhile. They detect future “crises” and the failure of their local development projects because they won’t be able to hang on to their “key stakeholders. politicians find it hard to understand why Nicaraguans decide to leave a country that doesn’t look too bad to them after a few glasses of Chivas Regal. They also fear the importation of certain values. see no real reasons for leaving a country that has emerged from the “dark night.” as Pope John Paul II metaphorically described the revolutionary eighties. as President Bolaños pointed out. while prejudices and fears are dressed up with rationalizations that tend to demonize migration.” They suffer as they watch their “target population” slipping through their hands and their “beneficiaries” finding other non-collective and more sustainable ways of improving their living standards outside their communities. NGOs and religious denominations—coincide in stressing the migration-linked loss of human capital.” in which. They do not.

Exophobia is a typical reaction among minorities who find themselves at a disadvantage in 82 . be they socialism. as it fails to produce either progress. Like any prejudiced vision. It is true that immigrants who have found it hard to adapt feed the youth gangs. they throw up their hands in horror at the deserters who deprive us of their skills. PARASITES AND OPPORTUNISTS Meanwhile. Migrant women are seen as an even greater burden due to their demand for reproductive health services. it exempts those with the power and resources from producing policies on behalf of emigrants and their relatives or those that would increase the positive effects of migrations and reduce the negative ones. without noticing that migrants see their academic opportunities constricted in their countries of destination. It conceals the fact that the dynamism of Costa Rica’s agroexport economy and service sector development has been based on abundant and capable—and cheap—Nicaraguan labor. the Kingdom of God or democracy. MIGRANTS ARE SPONGERS. Over a decade ago. Instead. Many are now condemning migrants in the name of the same ideals. migrants are seen as spongers in the country of destination. These personalities and institutions also coincide in demanding the sacrifice of individual and family volition. or at least the most important factor. They are portrayed as parasites living off the economic boom generated by the natives and a burden on the welfare state. when the Eastern European socialist states were collapsing. This selective blindness is a symptom of the “migraphobic” virus. it again takes one aspect of reality—the immigrants’ demand for social services—and turns it into a “complete” picture that actually offers a distorted image. the fact that they are more likely to build solidarity networks that increase the migration of relatives and neighbors and because they often come with children who require education and health services.behind. And above all. The Costa Rican version of this vision relative to Nicaraguan migrants ignores the contribution Nicaraguans have made to the Costa Rican economy. the Kingdom of God. socialism or development. The worst thing about this anathematizing vision of emigrants is its sheer sterility. IMMIGRANTS AS A THREAT: CRIMINALS AND PROSTITUTES Another very prejudiced and widely disseminated image is that of immigrants as criminals. German-Costa Rican philosopher and economist Franz Hinkelammert charged that concrete human beings have always been sacrificed on the altar of great ideals. in which data is used to present one aspect of reality as if were the whole picture. But the act of migrating vindicates the sacred right to life and liberty. a statistic also available to those who care to look.

As lucidly shown by Costa Rican sociologist Carlos Sandoval. In all probability. a character in Salvadoran writer Salarrué’s book of ingenious Cuentos de Cipotes [Kids’ Stories] anxiously asks why God made some white and others black. Racism must be confronted in all its forms. but to avoid governability problems labor isn’t. Europe or any other country. they aren’t always sent to prison for committing more crimes. indigenous features. Magnified and generalized. Many white people in countries that receive black immigrants use the same logic that produces such gems as “All blacks are thieves. Punce Negroide. Racist xenophobia suggests that certain moral features are indissolubly linked to physical features. The immigrants’ path towards participating in established. The media play a regrettable role in disseminating such pejorative stereotypes of immigrants. His mother tries to make him understand that blackness is not a bad thing. In addition. There is also a great deal of cryptic material in Hollywood films about aliens from outer space that plays on these perceptions. Turkish youths face off against young neo-Nazis in Germany and Central American youth gangs operate in the Los Angeles neighborhoods. whether in Costa Rica. socially acceptable and politically correct activities is strewn with pitfalls.” Costa Rican logic contrasts Nicaraguans with brown skin.a hostile setting. but 83 . It’s surely no coincidence that the movie Men in Black opens with the unmasking of an alien that was trying to pass itself off as a Mexican wetback crossing the border. Italians at the beginning of the 20th. If the men are viewed as criminals. but rather because they find themselves under closer police scrutiny. the women are seen as prostitutes. wavy hair. US prisons have historically been packed with migrants and their immediate descendents: the Irish in the 19th century. but runs into a cultural wall that blocks her son’s ears. no money and a violent streak to “its own” middle-class white locals with European roots and a peaceful nature. but not all thieves are black. National security is under threat. the very construction of Costa Rican national identity is involved in disseminating such images. or in the best of cases “easy. and Latinos at the end of the 20th and beginning of this one. RACISM AGAINST IMMIGRANTS The “solution” dreamed up by the governments receiving immigrants is to apply a segmented globalization in which financial flows and commercial products are free to travel. the United States. receive harsher punishments and don’t have the wherewithal to defend themselves as well as most whites. immigrants who contaminate a country’s governability can also contaminate its race. suggesting that “aliens”—in the migrant sense of the word—are invading the country in real life as well with the malicious intention of taking power and doing away with human—read Caucasian—beings.” Xenophobia distorts real problems. they make migrants appear to be a real threat.

visions and perceptions have generated legal and operational apathy in Nicaragua and are producing hostile laws and repression in Costa Rica. the nine-year-old Nicaraguan girl who was raped by a Costa Rican and ended up pregnant provided a test for the Nicaraguan and Costa Rican institutional structures responsible for attending to migrants. or to guarantee education 84 . The proposed reforms to the migration law currently under discussion in Costa Rica represent a low blow to the Nicaraguans and Colombians who account for the majority of that country’s immigrants. create conditions for the apprehension of male and female immigrants. which amounted to nothing more than a few gestures perhaps inspired by political proselytism. on the other hand. regardless of their nationality or documentation. Racism is very deeply assimilated and operates against immigrants. theories. There are no special policies for women. Both failed. called for respect for the human rights of the detainees. Nicaraguans who have established themselves as businesspeople in Costa Rica are no more open to their poor compatriots. Immigrants would have to have family links with Costa Ricans and a work contract guaranteeing a wage of at least 200. Speaking on a radio program. The case of Rosita. images. PERSECUTED IN COSTA RICA^ FORGOTTEN IN NICARAGUA These prejudices. The most lamentable factor in the recent raids on and detention and expulsion of Nicaraguans was the apathetic intervention of Nicaragua’s governmental authorities. who suffer the greatest violations of their human rights. and they are probably as prone as local politicians to accept that immigrant plebeians represent second-class citizens. The bill would criminalize undocumented immigrants. Their own physical appearance tends to fit in with the prototype of a Costa Rican citizen. While the Nicaraguan Office of Human Rights Ombudsman did act commendably. and raise the cost. restrict their rights. The Costa Rican government displays a wide variety of positions. These included the February visit of Nicaraguan Vice President José Rizo to inhabitants of the Nicaraguan settlement called La Carpio in San José following bitter criticism of his total indifference to compatriots who were being persecuted the same day he was in the Costa Rican capital to see Luciano Pavarotti sing. the deputy government minister called on the Costa Rican population to support the detentions his ministry was carrying out. it had to improvise given the lack of procedures or structures for dealing with such cases. The country’s ombudsman. further complicate the procedures and increase the requirements involved in obtaining residency. slap punishments of five months wages and six years in prison on those who house or offer work to undocumented immigrants.unfortunately the cultural effects of centuries of colonization cannot be erased in one stroke.000 colons (the equivalent of US$468 using May 2003 as the exchange-rate base).

So much so that outgoing Vice President Carlos Quintanilla was considered the President of Salvadorans living in the United States and became an effective and permanent ambassador for Salvadorans living abroad. particularly with the Mexican government. while the FSLN continues to censure those who left. So while Nicaragua’s Supreme Electoral Council is busily organizing elections that Nicaraguan analyst Andrés Pérez-Baltodano accurately described as “the five-yearly impunity raffle. In fact. immigrants’ associations.to migrant children and adolescents. despite the fact that retired General Humberto Ortega. The Salvadoran government carries out intense lobbying of the US government to avoid the deportation of people who have illegally migrated to that country. It promotes the human rights of its emigrants in countries en route to the United States. lives in Costa Rica. but no institutional frameworks have been put in place to defend migrants’ rights. It has also mounted an intense campaign in different Salvadoran 85 . He doesn’t even notice the emigrants with no access to the “box seats” reserved for the elites like himself who walked away wellfrom the struggle for justice quite well-heeled. Forums and debates have been organized. And there are no reinsertion programs. reduce the risks associated with their journeys and insertion or legalize their status. a former National Directorate member and brother of the party’s general secretary. Its actions favoring migrant Salvadorans cover five different areas: lobbying. human rights. Their government stands out in the region for having a migratory policy that involves significant practical formulation and planning. are indifferent to the country’s emigrants. seeking to better orient the use of remittances they send back to relatives in El Salvador. the fostering of relations between these associations and municipal governments and a media campaign. The Constitutionalist Liberal Party (PLC) turns its eyes and hands to Miami in search of campaign funds.” it has failed to address the issuing of identity cards needed by emigrants as a first step towards legalizing their status and improving their conditions. there is little more than repression in Costa Rica and indifference in Nicaragua. Both parties. The government is working hard to foster relations between the migrants’ associations and local governments from their own municipalities back home. Salvadorans have reached a higher state in dealing with their emigrant population. guarantee them minimum conditions in their countries of destination. trapped by their own prejudices. EL SALVADOR SEES ITS EMIGRANTS AS “DISTANTBROTHERS” In contrast. And it has built closer relations with associations of organized migrants in the United States.

governmental and private entities. Another example is the “Welcome Home” program. including leaflets. the National Electricity and Telecommunications Fund (FINET) and the Social Investment Fund for Local Development (FISDL). electrification. health. the Salvadoran government recognizes its obvious interest in establishing communications with its citizens living abroadand has made real strides in providing information 86 . international cooperation. emergency medical care. business people. including sports stars. Finally. NGOs. The ministry also has a program providing Salvadorans abroad with information on events and activities involving their compatriots. the “United by Solidarity” Program. community associations and organizations of Salvadorans living abroad. the program produces and distributes easyto-read leaflets titled “NACARA: a step to step guide for Salvadorans” and provides a free telephone information service and a web site dedicated to the issue. which has been particularly noteworthy since it started up in 1999. And finally. churches. is implementing actions to introduce potable water and sewer systems. artists. a Legal Migratory Assistance Department and different activities aimed at informing the Salvadoran community. the academic sector and the IOM.forums and press conferences. intellectuals and professionals. 2001 via the US Temporary Protected Status (TPS).media to highlight the value and contribution of those who it affectionately terms “distant brothers. education. Implemented by the Foreign Affairs Ministry. the issuing of documents. risk mitigation. The program provides initial support to Salvadorans returning home. The program includes the participation of the municipalities in question. It offers voluntary registry for organized communities that want to establish links with their diplomatic representatives and with other organized communities. into municipalities with emigrants living in the USA. temporary shelter and assistance.” “WELCOME HOME”: ONE OF MANY PROGRAMS The Salvadoran government also has active migrant support programs such as the Program to Disseminate Information on the [US] Nicaraguan Adjustment and Central American Relief Act (NACARA). which coordinates the efforts of the government. roads. it provides information on Salvadorans who have made a name in the United States. an 18-month protection that includes the possibility of getting a work permit for the same period. funded by the Inter-American Development Bank. including the following services at the airport: orientation guidance. private enterprise. support for educational reintegration and the supply of a package that covers the returning emigrants’ basic needs. etc. The ministry’s program includes a free telephone information service. A third program provides advice on how to apply for the benefits offered to Salvadorans residing in the United States before February 13. sports centers. ministries. In short.

the best remittance he brought back with him was a respect for animals and plants. After all. threats or deserters. transmitters of new work techniques and new forms of organization.and direct primary attention to its emigrant population. In Nicaragua. Transforming the image of migrants is only one step and certainly won’t resolve everything. But a change of image would at least be a major step forward. the image of migrants as heroic pioneers and valiant colonizers played a key role in their incorporation. civil society and international organizations. the very fact that these programs were formulated and implemented in the first place indicates a clear determination to provide coordinated attention to emigrants. Cultural exophobia—the disdain that some feel for the culture of their countries of destination—is counterproductive. Emigrants can find positive influences even in the most difficult circumstances. which makes them technological pioneers in their communities. Such a position comes from misconceived leftism. It is obvious that it is in Nicaragua’s interests for Costa Rica to sign. Let’s not even think of them as fleeing from unemployment. came home after nine years living in Costa Rica. Let’s deconstruct the image of them as spongers. particularly “Welcome Home. a centuries-old chauvinism. but with what moral authority can Nicaragua ask it to when it hasn’t done so? In the midst of the Nicaraguan government’s apathy and inertia. It has coordinated notably in the design and promotion of certain programs. the pedantic error of rejecting what you don’t know and the kind of provincialism identified by José Martí (“The villager thinks his village is the world”). They 87 . it has not even signed the UN Convention for the Protection of the Human Rights of all Migrant Workers and their Families. lack of state finances. an initial and essential step is to transform the collective vision of migrants. LETCS CELEBRATE “THE NICA” Migrants are a cultural vehicle. But the emigrants themselves also have to open up. the father of nine-year-old Rosita. Any inefficiencies aside.” which includes the interests of the government. only two Central American countries have signed it so far: Guatemala and El Salvador. In fact. THERECS A LONG WAY TO GO Nicaragua has a long way to go if it is to achieve the development displayed by Salvadoran emigrant policy. political polarization and those interminable and exhausting power struggles that seem to take up all of the politicians’ time and energy. the initiation of creative and favorable policies for the country’s migrants faces many problems. In the early period of what is now the United States. When Chico. including corruption.

88 .” as portrayed by Nicaraguan-Costa Rican actor César Meléndez. but to reduce the adverse effects and increase the benefits there is a need to disseminate the image of migrants as people who are opening a window on other cultures and technologies. In doing so.propagate the ethic of reward for effort made. he manages to rescue that image and dignify it. whose theatrical monologue offers a more complex image of Nicaraguan emigrants living in Costa Rica (see the previous article in this issue of envío). Migration is not a bed of roses. including “The Nica. Let’s salute the new Marco Polos.

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scatter data.entral America is exporting increasing numbers of emigrants. What room is allowed for political commitment in the intellectual production about migration? Might researchers be able to help dissolve the pejorative and fallacious clichés about migration? With a more political interest. Researchers—often driven by a given political position—chisel out concepts. p. achieving economic insertion and cultivating a new identity. prejudices. insights and myopia. meanwhile. 2002. what can we do to reduce the inadequate perceptions to their minimum expression? 91 C . in contrast. The perception of the impact of migration on the economy. culture. Their commitment to specific causes and groups means that their efforts to mint defining concepts are ultimately a political investment. finally. migratory amnesties and the training of migration officials. ways of life and other aspects condition the opportunities migrants will find. are there perceptions that do not fully capture the benefits of migration and. conceal certain issues. programs and agreements. play up their adverse effects? And. the willingness to negotiate bilateral treaties in their benefit (including agreements on temporary workers). the image we choose to construct of emigrants could have them banking on the chances of government backing. prioritize others and modulate their rhetoric seeking the most persuasive tone to define the complex migratory phenomenon. There is pressure for state policies aimed at migrants to correspond to the image of migrations produced by social actors (Mármora. This thesis can be extended mutatis mutandis to the countries of origin and transit. among other policies. we would likely have them banking above all on the possibility of reducing the risks during the journey. the exploitation of remittances. MIGRATION RESEARCHERS: PERCEPTION SCULPTORS The predominant conception of migrants sees them as banking on the possibility of assimilating. German philosopher Jürgen Habermas (2000) stressed this correlation when he stated that the willingness to politically integrate economic immigrants depends in part on how native populations perceive immigration’s social and economic consequences (p. The researchers of this reality are like sculptors of perceptions. In the latter case. which is riddled with interests. In the case of the former. The intellectual production related to these migration flows and the vicissitudes of both their male and female protagonists is part of a struggle to construct a dominant perception of the migrations and migrants.53).636). ideologies.

but has extended its interest to other issues. and many other substantial transformations derived from the use of remittances. Comisión Económica para América Latina y el Caribe [CEPAL] 1993. along the lines of the 2-to-1 model. 2000 a. migrant flows and their demographic effects (Sistema de Información Estadística sobre Migraciones en Centroamérica [SIEMCA]. Studies on remittances normally aim to quantify their volume and their impact on the receptor households’ investments. 1999 a. the financing organizations have shown little interest in either the viewpoints of other social scientists such as sociologists and anthropologists. 1987. This model is based on one central government dollar and one local dollar for every dollar migrants send back earmarked for public works in their municipalities of origin. 1999 c. the emergence of nostalgia-guided consumption. 1999 b. the redistribution of power quotas and functions of family unity. The Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLA) has also stressed remittances. even to attempt to get at the real chances of implementing the proposed policies. savings and housing loans. The specific studies on Central American migrants by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) and the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) have focused on family remittances and their potential for activating so-called “productive” investments (Centro de Estudio Monetario Latinoamericano [CEMLA]. 1999 d. based on macro-statistics management and surveys that focus on restricted “laboratory” areas selected for the large numbers of migrants they emit and their very high poverty levels.ABUNDANT STUDIES ON REMITTANCES: ONE-WAY ECONOMISTIC INTERPRETATIONS Central American research on migration tends to be thematically segmented according to the interests and mandates of the institutions financing and/or producing them. focus groups or in-depth interviews. THE RIGHT TO EMIGRATE AND THE CRIMINALIZATION OF MIGRATION Contradictory interests can be seen in the research of the International Organization for Migration (IOM). 2002). such as migratory policies. The issue of reducing remittance transfer costs is less mentioned. but is growing in relevance. Most of these studies are done by economists. With respect to remittances. Its Guatemala office financed and published a series of research 92 . or other methodologies such as life stories. They ignore the vast range of functions and significances of the migratory economy. Carrera. two-way relations that imply a certain communications pattern and certain effects. 1999). with the aim of encouraging the region’s governments and private sectors to create programs for family and community investment. The result of such studies on remittances has been a series of otherworldly and essentially unidirectional economistic suggestions—about money going from the country of destination to the country of origin.

These studies consider the volume of such migration in the countries of origin and destination. expeditious style of a police report. They divert attention away from the fact that the multiplication of restrictions on population movements in the countries of transit and destination are making migration a gradually more risky and even lethal option. s. however. Although written in the laconic. These include abundant statements criminalizing migration. the dissemination of these studies by state officials helped propagate a perception of migration that stigmatizes the traffickers. Studies on female migrant workers include a study by Olimpia Torres and Milagros Barahona (2004) on “Nicaraguan migration abroad: An analysis from a gender perspective.f e).f c. including national security and governance (OIM & IDH. In the regional sphere. s. presenting it as illegal flows in which workers in the South have no right to participate. s.f b. 2001). The ILO’s interest in workers’ rights and gender provides a distinctive approach. an essential strategy in cutting the migratory flow. Such case studies serve the interests of those who want to control and reduce migration to the North. and seek to present abuses committed against the migrants by the traffickers as the main problem. STUDIES ON WOMEN MIGRANTS The International Labor Organization (ILO) has produced studies on the general situation of all Central American worker migrants. the IOM has also financed case studies on the trafficking of migrants.f d. migrants and production. 2001. magnifying the real power and organization of migrant traffickers and making unfair generalizations by denouncing supposed links among migrant trafficking. One produced by the Inter-American Human Rights Institute even elevated this right above all other considerations. raising the issue and offering valuable inputs and 93 . drug trafficking and organized crime (OIM 1997. s.pamphlets on a wide range of issues: follow-up to the Regional Migrations Conference and the Central American Commission of Immigration Directors. temporary migration. such studies offer an important contribution in a key area. etc. They proclaim the unquestionable right of nation states to deny entry to their territory to citizens from other countries and criminalize migration. It has focused particularly on informing.” while a broad study by Abelardo Morales has covered the more general labor situation. s. Several of these studies emphasized the human rights of migrants and defense of the right to migrate. Given the enormous number of migrant women working as domestics in Costa Rica. including women. The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) is another multilateral organization whose growing interest in migrants has been sustained over time. awareness-building. showing their weight in the labor markets and documenting the conditions for the exercise of their rights. 2000.f a. international conventions on migrant rights.

It must be noted. suggesting programs and forecasting tendencies (INEC-FNUAP. however. 1998. for example. something within its purview that it should facilitate as a UN organization. 1985. The studies conducted by the Latin American Social Sciences Faculty (FLACSO).. 1999. cultural changes. which is much more concerned about the many Nicaraguan immigrants in its own territory than about its few conational emigrants. Given the micro level of such work. deserve particular mention. the regional challenge remains a pending issue. the volume and composition of international migrants. it’s not possible to draw any general conclusions. that the possibility of conducting comparative studies among the different countries—such as US researcher Edward Funkhouser’s work (1995) on remittances in El Salvador and Nicaragua— is hampered by the fact that the different country offices of the research financing entities do not coordinate their activities. migratory policies and women migrants. 2002). 94 . as.” published in envío in May 2000. such as cultural and gender aspects (Cranshaw & Morales.advice to policy formulators in a context in which population issues are not the flavor of the month among state officials. Central American academia is also beginning to use thematic combinations (Mahler. etc. Although gender crosscutting has been more widely explored by US academics. Mahler & Pessar. agricultural labor. One example was the article by Guatemalan anthropologist Ricardo Falla. each Central American nation tends to study its own migrants. communication.d. This fragmented. They do. especially all those produced in its Guatemalan and Costa Rican centers. Baumeister. Sarah Mahler’s analysis of gender and power in transnational arenas. with the exception of Costa Rica. Rosales.). In all of the institutions mentioned. As a rule. female adolescents. nationality-based treatment of Central American migration has only rarely been surmounted. UNFPA still faces the challenge of conducting regional studies. 2004). however. although much of this production has been limited by consisting of case studies restricted to small territorial extensions. emotional relationships. crossborder communities. THE NEED FOR REGIONAL STUDIES Academics have produced a range of quite varied issues: migrant networks. UNFPA has financed studies on internal migration. Mexican academics have studied this region more than Central American ones. offer possible inputs for national migratory policies and explore new areas marked by very revealing themes. n. Palma. Its studies aim to offer an overview. and among those who have failed to do so are organizations whose multinational nature might have led us to expect a more complex geographical vision. 1999. “How Dollar Remittances Transform a Village.

DIVORCE. At the very best. Renunciation of their work’s political influence is displayed above all in the fact that academic researchers and consultants are not disseminating their own studies. ACADEMICS. nuances. tones and approaches. is that they have to adapt to different bosses in order to remain in the market. dissemination mechanisms. The lack of financing and minimal free time have noticeably reduced academics’ interest in migration issues. accepting themes. The main problem facing both freelance consultants and university researchers.. There is a growing divorce between academics and journalists.. and academics are increasingly reluctant to descend from the pulpit of the Alma Mater to the pedestrian pages of a newspaper. the same factors reduce their interest in any effort over and above their most essential obligations.CONSULTANTS. RENUNCIATION. strict hours and administrative costs that put university researchers at a disadvantage compared to their freelance colleagues. with a teaching load. In fact. But the financing organizations’ predilection for independent consultants often works as a displacement mechanism. with their best-trained intellectuals shifting to the more lucrative consultancy market. 95 . then shelved. Journalists rarely have the chance to construct their own point of view around the academics’ findings. They have avoided certain aspects of labor dependency—being subjected to a given space and timetable—only to be landed with an accentuated ideological subjection. They have to tailor their products to the funders. The consultancy market includes professionals highly trained in migration issues who are often more qualified than their university counterparts. Have they forgotten that Marx and Keynes alternated the production of their macro-theories with journalistic advocacy? THE INTERESTED AND THE NEGLIGENT: UNCRITICAL REPEATERS OF CLICHÉS. charging very favorable prices. The universities contribute their part to that by imposing inflexible labor practices on their academics. activating and reinforcing emigration from the universities. the studies are presented at forums to the already initiated and converted. but there is a double lack of incentive for Central American intellectuals to publish in scientific journals.. They lose sight of their role in building up the perception of migrants and relegate their political potential. and opinion pages have been almost totally abandoned to non-specialists.. Another audience for the researchers’ work could be their academic peers. censure. time periods. Some jump from one theme to another. JOURNALISTS: DEPENDENCY. Whom have these organizations hired to carry out their studies? Most institutions interested in studies on migrants hire consultants. meanwhile. because that form of labor insertion coincides with their requirements: quick products according to pre-agreed dates and prices. changing emphasis and reconfiguring their thesis with chameleon-like aplomb.

so those of us who can’t speak the language currently in vogue in academia are excluded from the methodological instruments. and uncritical—hence highly dangerous—reception of certain concepts and positions. lack of access to updated and qualified information. our continent was considered a place where culture was produced. Second. and we have to respond to the immediate paying client. First. As a result. The most prestigious ones are in the industrialized countries and many of them are written in English. in which the latter are more frequently referred to as remittances used for consumption. In addition to being part of the Third World. Latin America was also part of the Spanishspeaking world when Spanish was no longer an academically hegemonic language. Once a concept has been set rolling. which need to be exposed to the light of criticism. no methodological innovation. UNPRODUCTIVE REMITTANCES Let’s look at just three of the most successful views about migrants. with those interested disseminating certain points of view while the negligent either repeat them out of convenience or fail to question them out of indifference. The origin of academic segregation was revealed by social scientist Walter Mignolo. in turn. while political sciences were mainly attributed to the Second World and the Third World became primarily the domain of anthropology. the narrowing of interest to politically convenient and fundable subjects. it is hard for most academics to access the acclaimed academic journals. In line with this tripartite division of the world according to areas of study. as using it demonstrates that one is au fait with 96 . who has little interest in any points that might be scored in the academic field. subsistence or simply for family well-being—devoid of the adjective “productive” that might lend them a little dignity and get them included in policy texts. This combination of financial dependency. financing and materials—new articles and books—that would help us situate our arguments within the context of recent debates. who explains that the ethno-racial and epistemological foundations of colonial power and colonial differences clearly influenced the geopolitical distribution of the world and consequent distribution of scientific work. The result of all of these factors and tendencies is that little is known about the research of Central Americans on migration. This. the First World became the area where sociology and economics were studied. but not scientific or academic culture. has led to the dissemination of erroneous perceptions about migrants. molded to the interests of some and negligence of others. it is quite common for it to be repeated by many people. the academic public is not the main target of our products. THE FALSE DICHOTOMY OF PRODUCTIVE VS. abandonment of perception-sculpting. analysts have often blessed and repeated the distinction between productive and unproductive remittances.First. In fact. minimization of intellectuals’ political role and academic segregation has led to avoidance of taboo subjects. it’s not so easy to stop it. repetition of old clichés.

builders of communities and pioneers in different territories and cultures. which is a notable advance. But they never mention the need to guarantee migrants’ human rights. SCULPTING POSITIVE IMAGES: PIONEERING. They regularly organize forums on this highly attractive theme and have even gone as far as to propose the need to reduce the cost of sending remittances. nostalgic people. Without knocking the economic role of remittances. have repressed their self-interest and therefore refused to subject themselves to the principle of the economy. to quote the French thinker Piere Bourdieu (2003). remittances invested in health are unproductive because it is 97 . IS THERE SUCH A THING AS AN UNPRODUCTIVE REMITTANCE? In addition to excluding family investments in health. “Have you thought of researching productive remittances?” The FAO and the IDB are very interested in productive remittances. their other dimensions need to be examined as well. the much-lauded but distorted distinction between productive and consumption remittances leads to policies that reinforce a form of neoliberalism that is more effective for being more underhanded. According to this discourse. Remittances are rarely presented in their most human dimension: an impressive manifestation of family solidarity. dissatisfied souls. When those of us who research migration explain what we’re working on during forums and conferences. This would avoid attributing to migrants a calculating mentality that operates in the mental schemes of the analyst more than of those who. education and food from the category of productive remittances. These are some of the images that should be sculpted and that we should help disseminate. there’s always some international agency representative just waiting for the chance to ask. as if an economically productive population wasn’t also a healthy. educated and well-fed one. or even as restless. remittance-sending migrants should be applauded and studied as supportive. This distinction presents as normal something that is nothing more than a sociopolitical (de)formation answering to a determined correlation of forces: the neoliberal political configuration stipulating that investment in health and education should be private. if only to ensure a greater volume of remittances—productive ones. BUILDERS. of course.. Before being applauded and studied as homo economicus.the issue and can correctly employ the technical jargon.. SUPPORTIVE. because they stress the more existential aspects of migration and would help reposition the economic dimension according to multiple relations.

propensity to save and calculations.19-20). it cannot explain what makes the object of the calculation possible (Ibid. development economism reduces migrants to money senders. the relegating of the primitive economy and its non-commercial coexistence to prehistory unconsciously led to “a weighting of the scales in favor of a marketing psychology.. such as purchasing a tractor. understanding it as a socially conditioned event that cannot be explained by abstract economic theory alone (2003. it is worth recalling Bourdieu’s antidote to the a-historical vision of economic science: reconstructing the genesis of the economic agent’s economic dispositions.23). According to Polanyi. In this case. above all. it cannot account for the conditions that turn a migrant into a remittance sender. As with the issue of natural disasters once developmentalist thinking loses sight of the fact that disaster mitigation is not just about land use planning and suitable productive infrastructure. the productive remittances concept means that international organizations would like to see the money emigrant relatives send back home cover the costs of provisions and medicines—the minimum threshold— and still come in sufficient quantities to compensate for the hardly democratic distribution of credit as well as the non-existent insurance against natural disasters and inoperative disability and retirement pensions. they are crunched into being an instrument to sustain a socioeconomic model—neoliberalism—underpinned by an individualist ethos that assumes the dismantling of institutions that implement actions of collective interest. for within the relatively short period of the last few centuries everything might be taken to tend towards the establishment of that which was eventually 98 . In this case. The only remittances that can be lauded are those earmarked for other areas. Polanyi proposed that the social profile not be subordinated to economic progress. pp. because strictly utilitarian calculations cannot account for practices that remain immersed in non-economic matters. ECONOMISTIC REDUCTIONS Economist Karl Polanyi (2003) examined these economistic restrictions several decades ago. In the end. p. because that really is an extraordinary investment. That is the great paradox of remittances: essentially part of a tradition of solidarity and collective ethics.“natural” for a family—not the state—to invest in health. In this respect. demonstrating how certain policies are privileged by exalting the mercantile economy and conditioning social transformations. we’re talking about migrants’ inclination to send money home. His idea was first to find the essence of historical coexistence and exchange to ensure that economic pragmatism not annul the essential values of human life. burdening their remittances with social functions that unburden the state and isolate them from the social conditions in which they are generated.

for example. Many Anglo-Saxon academics are currently basing their research on the supposition that remittances are not a monothematic package independent of context. These perspectives demonstrate that emigrants also play a leading role in other events and are viewed from other perspectives that form part of a wide spectrum of migratory themes. The supposition behind this approach is that illegal migratory flows are closely related to the worst kind of criminal activity and are only possible thanks to the worst kinds of criminals. is submerged in his social relationships. hence similar to these other illegal activities and equally deserving of punishment. pp. his social assets.established.. 99 . Some social analysts have reformulated the definition of remittances to include elements that are not strictly economic. irrespective of other tendencies which were temporarily submerged. ideas and values that accompany the migratory process. a course which was consistently avoided… “The outstanding discovery of recent historical and anthropological research is that man’s economy. Sandra Nichols (2002). stresses the importance of the knowledge. his social claims.” (2003. skills and technology migrants bring back with them. the IOM has presented migrants as victims of illegal trafficking carried out by networks linked to drug trafficking and organized crime. fashionable with certain state officials and sometimes reiterated by researchers. as a rule. But Central American research on remittances has very rarely taken up such approaches. i. the more complex conceptualizations that reveal the existence of other kinds of transfers and their links to the economic dimension have barely reached Central America.e.93-94) THERE ARE ALSO “TECHNOLOGICAL” AND “SOCIAL” REMITTANCES” While the economistic reduction of the concept of remittances—of which the distinction between productive and unproductive remittances is just one manifestation—has been dissolved in other parts of the world. he acts so as to safeguard his social standing. He does not act so as to safeguard his individual interest in the possession of material goods. In some of its documents. THE FALLACY OF COMPARING “COYOTES” WITH DRUG TRAFFICKERS The use of denigrating adjectives to describe migrant traffickers is common in the media. He values material goods only insofar as they serve this end.” And Peggy Levitt started using the term “social remittances” in 1998 to describe the spread of various kinds of social practices. a market system. some of which are not even so recent. The corrective of such a ‘short-run’ perspective would obviously have been the linking up of economic history with social anthropology. which could be termed “technological remittances.

“The Nicaraguan authorities point out that the phenomenon of illegal trafficking in people is closely linked to drug trafficking and there are important connections between traffickers in irregular migrants and drug traffickers. Unfortunately.” (OIM. thus offering a kind of community service. For many politicians and researchers. the boom in international migration is coinciding with nationalist fever (Castells. most “coyotes”—as the traffickers are known—operate individually and at a low cost. disguised private houses that put up irregular migrants and provide them with transport and false documentation. To sculpt an efficient criminalizing image of the traffickers. but the vast majority of these are linked to the aforementioned networks.” is based on the implicit supposition of a nation state’s unquestionable right to deny entry to migrants arbitrarily and massively. The proliferation of the black myth about illegal migrant trafficking undoubtedly represents a partial victory for a certain anti-migration sector. There are also local networks. the IOM report on illegal trafficking in Costa Rica says that “Illegal international migrant trafficking networks have been detected that both operate from South America to the United States and are organized to bring extra-regional migrants from Asia.” The report stresses that they are “criminal networks dedicated to the trafficking of migrants. the migrants are forced to transport drugs as part of the payment. 1999). As a result. 2001) In reality. For the most part. The networks have access to hotels. Many transfer kin and neighbors. Africa and Eastern Europe into the region. reality does not correspond to the melodrama of the IOM reports and those who repeat them. such as robbery and rape. the descriptions need to be taken to an extreme and the events dramatized and associated with the worst-case scenario. 2000) According to the Nicaraguan counterpart report. the nation is an unquestionable symbol and not a social construction with specific functions limited in time and subject to evolution. 100 .” (OIM. while some traffickers do commit many abuses. But what does the relative indifference of researchers to the dissemination of this image demonstrate? That they are not aware of the negative effects of certain images? Or is it the financial conditioning of research studies. or even the mere classifying of certain movements as “illegal. under the pretext of controlling traffickers in migrants.Its manifest consequence is to justify repressive measures to control migration. then. In many cases. The criminalizing of illegal migrations. and not by coincidence.” And it melodramatically emphasizes that “national and international networks trafficking in irregular migrants are growing and specializing with every passing day. indicating that it’s only possible to reflect on topics that obtain funding? THE MYTH OF NATIONALISM The reports on illegal migrant trafficking also fuel and reinforce the myth of nationalism.

And this is the prevailing position among the Central American governments. but not the right to self-assertion of a privileged cultural way of life. action and the transformation of the reality being researched through the investigative101 . But in others. And that is possible because the nation of citizens finds its identity not in common features of an ethnic-cultural kind. has sought to unravel the foundations of nationalism. In certain countries ideological affinity—identity based on an ideological option—allowed very positive experiences in this sphere. setting national security against human rights.622). EFFORTS AGAINST XENOPHOBIA IN COSTA RICA Nationalism is expressed not only in state and economic interests. He feels that the democratic right to self-determination includes the right to preserve the political culture. Fortunately. giving rise to what Habermas (2000) calls “welfare chauvinism. “Men permanently seek a sense of our being alongside others. the myth of nationalism was imposed. something that transcends the herd instinct and is more spiritually gratifying than the force of material needs.643). Sandoval’s research is notable for its methodological innovation. The most prioritized of our human aspirations is knowing we belong to a superior unit that is at the same time endowed with and provides meaning. multiple ways of life can coexist in complete equality. based on an archeological excavation of how that country’s nationalist self-image was constructed and what roles it plays. as in the case of Nicaragua’s reception of Salvadorans. which constitutes the concrete context for citizens’ rights. Combining research.620). But these must be cloaked in a common political culture that in turn remains open to the impulses that might come from new ways of life contributed by immigrants (p. p. Habermas (2000) leans towards a concept of the state and law that is open to migration. but rather in the praxis of citizens who are actively exercising their democratic rights of participation and communication (Habermas.” (2000. In the context of constituting a democratic rule of law.” which heightens the conflict between the universalist principles of the democratic rule of law and the individualist pretensions of integrity of the ways of life in which one has grown up (p.31) The tension between citizenship and national identity was demonstrated in Central America during the eighties by the enormous volume of intra-regional refugees generated by the region’s armed conflicts. p. who has endured the crossfire between Basque separatist terrorism and the Spanish state’s nationalist violence. The work of Carlos Sandoval García (2004) and Alexander Jiménez Matarrita (2002) are particularly important. but also in perceptions broadly disseminated among the bulk of the population. 2000.Spanish philosopher Fernando Savater. a group of intellectuals in Costa Rica—the only country in the region with a positive migratory balance—is producing anti-xenophobia studies.

It could prove even more useful if synergy can be generated with studies that use qualitative methodologies to examine testimonial aspects of migration in greater depth and apply theoretical frameworks that help transcend the mere factitiousness of the data. natural disasters. processing and analyzing data is an initiative of the different countries’ immigration departments and the IOM. and links among migration. It could also generate information at the service of better causes than migration vigilance and control. transcends time and space limitations to reach more long-term conclusions rather than being restricted to the local sphere and a determined time. which is advised by the Latin American Demography Center (CELADE/CEPAL). is and will continue to be enormously useful. theories. and the adjustment of each Central American country’s legal framework to international conventions and protocols on the rights of migrants. criminalizing. We researchers should fight for a migratory policy that encourages research linking development policies to migration. This program for storing. statistics and other events. development strategies. SEEKING RELEVANT THEMES AND LINKING THEM TO DEVELOPMENT It is essential to identify relevant research topics to enrich national censuses and surveys and contribute to the design of migratory policies. This will help focus attention on the appearance of new facets. nationalist and economistic perceptions of migration. such as free trade agreements. policies in neighboring countries and those of transit and destination. decentralization. The use of information from the Migration Information and Statistics System in Central America (SIEMCA). WE CAN PLAY A VITAL ROLE Analysis of the created interests. Key issues for orienting the formulation of migratory policies include: labor supply and demand. monitors respect for migrants’ human rights.persuasion of those being interviewed. social and cultural events. proposes non-controlling measures to deal with migration. His aim is to break methodological and discursive clichés. international commitments. apathy. shows how migration is related to other economic. and adapts the concepts of experienced academics in this field. etc. Research can play a vital role in changing perceptions and adjusting policies to changes in migration and its consequences. 102 . expose the sterilizing and pernicious function of those stereotypes and sculpt new images that could lead to a gratifying and enriching social coexistence. dangerous repetition of clichés and new lines of research that are molding perceptions about migrants suggests—sometimes even requires—new inputs as part of the monumental challenge of changing the xenophobic. the human rights of deportees and migrants in transit. concepts. political. his work offers new possibilities for migration studies as well as research in general.

And at the heart of everything there will always be that question. “And what’s this for?” They demand a relatively immediate utility. that call to action: “And now what?” 103 . Only then will it be possible to produce an agenda derived from a non-mercantile conception of the contents and findings of research studies. influence and application of the findings. there needs to be greater financial independence and a more ethical conception of applying the social sciences that includes transforming research and action. the interviewees ask. they ask. Latin American intellectuals experience the demands of political commitment much more than academics from industrialized countries. That makes the possibility of replacing politically interested and socially perverse perceptions quite a challenge.“AND NOW WHAT?” For this to happen. “And now what?” And when we do an investigation. When we researchers present migrants with our findings. It is the capacity and commitment to dismantle those perceptions and produce others—like ethical sculptors—that guarantees epistemological and political effectiveness.

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wrote the following passage a few days before taking his own life.15) EVERY SINGLE HOUR AIDS is hitting Latin America and the Caribbean hard.3% prevalence rate for Caribbean countries is the second highest in the world. “Diseases are the product of nature and therefore. where it was responsible for the death of 36.to 24-year-olds are living with HIV/AIDS in Latin America and the Caribbean. 15 Latin Americans and Caribbeans die from AIDS-related complications every single hour. but AIDS itself seems more like a state secret. driven to despair by the multiplying symptoms of his deteriorating health: “I see that I am almost at the end of this presentation.000 on the mainland and another 53. In other words.000 15. and I haven’t talked much about AIDS. Approximately 740. are not perfect. like everything natural. BEFORE NIGHT FALLS\ The fight against this masked plague has mobilized many good intentions and inspired devastating reflections. can be fought against and even eliminated.000 people in 2004. AIDS is a perfect illness because it is removed from human nature and its function is to finish off the human being in the cruelest and most systematic way possible. Cuban writer Reinaldo Arenas (2005). it is unlike any other known illness. Nobody really knows. I have truly never known of such an invulnerable calamity.T he acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) has earned a prominent place among the cruelest scourges to afflict humanity. while around 240.” (p. I don’t know what it is. AIDS also caused 95. I can state that if it is a disease. The AIDS-related illnesses are treated. Over 2.1 million people are living with HIV in Latin America and the Caribbean. the 2. AIDS is currently the main cause of death among the 15-44 age group in the Caribbean.000 deaths in Latin America. I’ve visited dozens of doctors and it’s an enigma to them all. which is actually my end. The bottom line of its global impact so far is truly terrifying: 25 million deaths in 25 years and 40 million people infected with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). That same year. which causes AIDS. 2006). This is equivalent to 33 people per hour.000 in the islands were infected with HIV in 2004 alone. According to UNICEF (2005). I can’t do it. Each year 3 million people with AIDS die and another 4 million people are infected with HIV (Kraus. who contracted HIV as an immigrant in the United States. 107 .

and the Office of Human Rights Defense Ombudsman doesn’t have a seat on the Nicaraguan AIDS Commission (CONISIDA). In addition.900 Nicaraguans infected with HIV. much less any effective treatment. 61% of those surveyed thought AIDS is a terrible disease to which they are not exposed. an estimate it considered the “floor. 49% said that if a person has AIDS. particularly in the face of persistent erroneous ideas about forms of transmission. 48 y 53). Nicaraguan Ministry of Health figures as of March 2005 show 1. In addition to the paltry amounts earmarked for public sector spending on health. discrimination continues unabated. such as the Ministry of Government’s project to train its prison officials to increase awareness among inmates.” was calculated at somewhere between 24. two other factors also require special attention. 2005).to 19-year-old female teenagers living with HIV in several Caribbean countries is five times higher than the number of male teenagers with the virus (UNICEF. 108 . In one recent study carried out in three municipalities.while the number of 15. which contains all of the executive branch’s strategies in the areas corresponding to it. there’s also limited governmental interest. The highest possible value.327 are between the ages of 14 and 35. Second. In addition to the vulnerability implied by Nicaragua’s poverty levels. pp. institutional and educational impediments to tackling AIDS-related issues. which isn’t even enough to treat less complex and more traditional illnesses. NICARAGUACS FINANCIAL. and 16% stated that AIDS only affect homosexuals and sex workers. which in 2000 was already mentioning the figure of 4. Awareness of the risk of becoming infected with HIV is notably low among the majority of the population. the minimal health service coverage in the Caribbean coast region prevents any reliable knowledge of the true incidence of HIV/AIDS in that extensive region of the country. INSTITUTIONAL AND EDUCATIONAL LIMITATIONS Nicaragua has serious financial.692 Nicaraguans with HIV/AIDS.240 people. First. of which 1. It has been widely recognized that the notable level of sub-registry in Nicaragua is a real problem. Cultural-educational limitations appear to be an even greater obstacle than lack of financial resources.41. or “ceiling. it is because he or she had sinful sexual relations and 20% believed that one has to have had intercourse several times before being able to acquire the virus (Fundación Xochiquetzal. doesn’t even mention HIV/AIDS in the lengthy section on the health sector. But very different figures were released in an official report by the Joint United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS). which translate into attitudes of rejection.160 and 36. of the actually affected population. the National Development Plan. Despite some still dispersed initiatives. 2003. Given such attitudes.” or lowest possible value. 43. anti-retroviral treatments could end up a privilege for the most wealthy if the commercialization of generic medicines is in fact prohibited or substantially limited by the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) with the United States.

Nicaragua had no set of legal standards governing detection. encourages a pernicious slide of the unit of analysis—and therefore of culpability—from “risky practices” to “at-risk groups. confidentiality. Protection and Defense of Human Rights. prevention measures. its subsequent regulatory law has been identified as an obstacle to the encouragement of non-discrimination by establishing repressive measures—such as fines and the closing of hospitals—that do nothing to help create a propitious climate for HIV prevention and suitable treatment for those living with the virus. What better way of justifying panic in response to migrants than presenting them as particularly inclined to HIV infection? What better reason to increase both fear of people 109 . Let’s take a closer look at just one of those threats: the dangerous association of migrations and AIDS. response mechanisms for dealing with the epidemic or human rights protection until December 1996.” At the heart of this slide is contempt towards minorities: people living with AIDS. But due to a contradiction all too familiar in Nicaragua. Not only Nicaragua’s legislation. has an educational prevention function and includes the ethical principles of non-discrimination. etc. That vacuum was partially filled by Law 238 on the Promotion. they were not looking to create new criminal categories. their networks and certain multilateral agencies such as the United Nations Population Fund did as lot to ensure the crystallization of these laws of “global legislation. sometimes co-opting the best of intentions. ethnic groups. The kind of unqualified association between migration and AIDS that often underlies all discriminating forces and appears in their analysis is prejudicial both to migrants and those living with AIDS. which. THE PERVERSE ASSOCIATION OF MIGRATIONS AND AIDS NGOs. informed consent and personal autonomy. for benign or perverse reasons. of international rights that frequently find themselves swimming against the current of prejudices that are encouraged by the powers that be and end up imposing micro-visions and cosmovisions.” But there are many threats are getting in the way of the conversion of that formal normative advance into common sense. but also that of other Latin American countries and most of the planet. is an expression of legal globalization. the handling of clinical results. The original law’s promoters were seeking to protect the rights of people living with HIV and AIDS by informing and building awareness among the population.THE LAWS OF “LEGAL GLOBALIZATION” There have been significant legal advances with respect to HIV/AIDS. a dominant vision and culturally consecrated practices. migrants. This law guarantees the human rights of the whole of society with respect to the threat of AIDS.

the reduction in the purchasing power of their salaries.” But why fear small groups? To start with. for dark reasons.” That obsession with purity. Illinois. California. the association between migrants and AIDS allows a slide towards a doubly-reinforced fear.living with AIDS and their segregation than assuming them to be mobile populations. the states with the highest number of Latinos are California. the deterioration of public services—they become infected by a virus that produces an itch for ethnic purity and begin to look for scapegoats to be exterminated. while people living with AIDS appear as a fear-provoking factor and are associated.d. such as that of Reinaldo Arenas. Appadurai (2006) has a term for this as well: “fear of small numbers. as demonstrated by his memoirs. 2004). Certain majorities are interested in being clearly discernable from the minorities. New York. deported or controlled. while those with the highest number of AIDS cases are New York. their identities become what anthropologist Arjun Appadurai termed “predatory. it wasn’t there that he contracted HIV. Pennsylvania. the UNIDOS Network of Capacity Building Assistance Providers (2004) insists that proximity to AIDS epicenters is a risk and demonstrates a correlation in the United States between states with a high AIDS prevalence and those with high migration levels. quoted by UNIDOS Network of Capacity Building Assistance Providers. Florida. Georgia and Maryland.5% of the population that is Latino (US Census Bureau. a migrant with AIDS.). New Jersey. bodies transporting the virus from region to region? Perhaps with the best of intentions. nor can it be. n. It is quickly forgotten that while his sexual conduct was considerably more risky in Cuba. with the locations. six of the nine states are the same for both categories (US Census 2000 & CDC HIV Surveillance. Arizona. appearances and styles of immigrants. This relationship has been demonstrated in emblematic cases. When they feel threatened by phenomena for which they have no explanation—such as globalization. In other words. because they’re associated with big 110 . is enough to make a large part of the 70% of the US population that is white—and non-Latino—feel threatened by the mere 12. Thus migrants shift from being at risk to being a propagating risk. Texas. Illinois. neutral in a world in which there are majorities who fear both migrants and AIDS. Many studies and preventive efforts have focused on the relationship between migrations and AIDS. Possessed by this virus. INFECTED BY THE VIRUS OF ETHNIC PURITY Associating migrants with AIDS is not. running the risk of bolstering the worst causes despite the best of intentions. the terror that their whiteness could start to be tainted yellow. brown or black. The different kinds of majorities and minorities have not always existed. New Mexico and Colorado. New Jersey. In descending order. Texas. Florida. Presented with no further analysis on why those states have a greater AIDS prevalence.

then secretary of Health and Social Services. EPIDEMIOLOGICAL AND MIGRATORY CONTROLS Migrants and AIDS appear in the discourses where public health and the health of the social order intersect. this line of thinking has been preached in declarations such as a charming one in 1987 by Dr. Bowen. In an earlier essay entitled ‘Dead Certainty’ Appadurai wrote “I develop a detailed argument about the ways in which social uncertainty can drive projects of ethnic cleansing that are both vivisectionist and verificationist by dismembering the suspect body in their procedure. That is. For the same reason people living with AIDS are subjected to the strictest epidemiological controls. 1996. Fear is what drives the treatment to which both categories of people are subjected. mixtures. The profile of migrants is studied and their traffic penalized because those bodies in continuous movement have to be controlled. the body under suspicion. all heterosexual relationships are also homosexual (Sontag. AIDS makes every sexual act promiscuous and therefore dangerous—unless it is in a long-lasting. p. and media representations create profound doubts about who exactly are among the ‘we’ and who are among the ‘they’”. minorities can grow to such an extent that they could make today’s majority into tomorrow’s minority. As demonstrated by US writer Susan Sontag.5) 111 . (Appadurai. given that somewhere through the long chain of third parties. Latino migrants multiply faster due to their higher birth rates and the family members who follow them over. and demand a control over conduct that translates into control of the body and sometimes into control of bodies. And just like a suicide bomber—a brutal example of a dangerous minority as one person who blows himself or herself up destroys several hundred—each person living with AIDS might infect an infinite number of others with a virus that multiplies and crosses borders from body to body. 2006. while the small group of Latinos residing in the United States have millions of family members in their countries of origin. Second. unfailingly monogamous relationship—and also makes it deviant. p. And the few people living with AIDS are part of a group that already has 40 million members worldwide. they seek incertainty by dismembering the suspect body. This feverish desire to classify and tabulate is linked to idea of social uncertainty.groups: the Muslim minorities in India. Otis R. This species of uncertainty is intimately connected to the reality that today’s ethnic groups number in the hundreds of thousands and that their movements. cultural styles. Accounting technologies are also often manipulated and placed at the service of fear. the United States or England belong to a gigantic Muslim community.154). which urged people to remember that if you have sexual relations with another person you are also having sexual relations with everyone that person has had sex with in the last ten years.

All of this suggests that migrants not only end up in the AIDS epicenters. SURVEYS AND FIGURES THAT PROPAGATE PREJUDICES The building of profiles. The study by the UNIDOS Network of Capacity Building Assistance Providers (2004) found that 81% of agricultural workers in the United Status are foreigners and 77% are of Latin American origin.). particularly blacks and Hispanics (p. over eight times more than the 0. It is assumed that migrants are more open to contracting HIV due to new styles of living and sexuality. with 48% saying it was acquired from mosquito bites. distinguishes them even more from “us. added to a marked ignorance of sexually transmitted infections and how to prevent them. the classifications and tabulations of many “we’s” are aimed at ensuring that certain groups and individuals are not like “them”… so they won’t become infected by AIDS or migration. a type of more expensive citizenship. Some studies insist on the migrants’ ignorance. 112 .” (p. skinheads. Other analyses focus on perceptions.155).11) Construing “them” as migrants. 1997). one within the realm of health and the other within the realm of illness. It is not always true that migrants know less about AIDS than native populations and in some countries they actually know more. 33% that it was transmitted in public restrooms and 29% that it was contracted through mouth-to-mouth kissing. But we don’t know whether that relatively small group of farm workers was the object of a more painstaking analysis—or vivisection. "Illness is the dark side of life. The National Commission to Prevent Infant Mortality in turn estimates that 5% of farm workers are living with HIV/AIDS. And in this field we have a mixture of findings that range from case studiesto conjecture.AIDS helps make such a distinction possible.6% figure for the total US population in 2004 (Ibid. According to Sontag (1996) .. Most of the studies either fail to mention this or fail to mention any substantive differences they might have found. Those tabulations have produced thousands of studies that associate AIDS and migration. verification—than the gigantic native population or even of other specific groups. Added to this risk factor is the migrants’ behavior (Organista et al. All living people have this double citizenship. members of other ethnic groups and people living with AIDS. etc. but are also effectively AIDS carriers. as shown in the above table. measuring knowledge about AIDS and its prevention to issue judgments about the vulnerability of certain groups. One survey of migrant workers revealed the most extraordinary beliefs related to HIV transmission. such as hippies.” Sontag notes that in the United States AIDS has increasingly become an illness of the urban poor.

. But these kinds of study. rape and sex workers. which most abound as they are based on a small sample of migrants.CONJECTURES THAT PROPAGATE THE VIRUS OF PREJUDICE It is said that migrants have frequent contact with sex workers because of their distance from their partners and their rejection of sexual abstinence. For the most part. The rape of migrants en route to their destination is also included among the factors that propagate the spread of HIV. The same study showed that 44% of them said they had sexual relations with sex workers. the Survey of Condom-Related Beliefs and Perceived Social Norms in Mexican Migrant Laborers revealed that less than half of the males said they used condoms when they have casual sex (sex with someone you just met) (Organista et al. A large number of studies propagate the virus of the dangerous association between AIDS and migrants. 1997). fall into the 113 . One. this assumes that AIDS is in the environment and stalks migrants in the form of needles. Some use accounting techniques to study behavior. with the married men more likely than the bachelors to use a condom. It is stated that poverty makes migrants more likely to have contact with infected sex workers and to share needles when injecting drugs. although the propensity of migrants to fall into such sexual or drug-related practices or to become infected with HIV after being raped is never compared with that the native population.

2006). public safety and governability. 63% were unemployed and 37% said they didn’t have to worry about AIDS because they weren’t homosexual. No other link would highlight so effectively their epidemic nature and threat to public health.000 in the city of Los Angeles and over 100.trap of the “half-table fallacy” by failing to show the study group in relation to the broader population universe in which it is inserted. and Treatment Services estimate the number of youth gang members at 39. Prevention and Treatment Services. In the previous 12 months. Prevention and Treatment Services. The police see youth gang members as a problem for social order. 2006). Gang membership is presented as a highly contagious illness and treated as a public health problem by the Pan-American Health Organization. Might they be infected with HIV? That would be a triply lethal cocktail of threatening minorities: migrant AIDS-carrying gang members. their level of knowledge and their risky behaviors. MIGRANTS AND YOUTH GANG MEMBERS: A SURPRISING STUDY IN LOS ANGELES Youth gangs are another minority associated with AIDS and migration. sexual promiscuity. including drug use.3% admitted using drugs. the survey again fell into the “half-table fallacy”: the situation of these young gang members was not compared to that of native and/or non-gang youths living in the same neighborhoods. 25. The City of Los Angeles AIDS Coordinator’s Office and the Center for HIV Identification.3% had been tattooed outside of conventional and safe establishments (AIDS Coordinator’s Office & Center for HIV Identification. 65% had had casual sex.6% had had sex with multiple partners and 87. Many of the gang members are migrants and one survey revealed that 63% of those interviewed in Los Angeles were Latinos (AIDS Coordinator’s Office & Center for HIV Identification.2% had medical insurance. But after providing all of this data on the reckless game of Russian roulette with HIV. rejection of condoms and fondness for tattoos. Even lacking any study on HIV among this population. No other association could better or more forcefully persuade people of the dangerous nature of youth gangs. these organizations took for granted a greater AIDS propensity among gang members given their attitudes towards HIV. 48. 60% had been in prison at some point in their life and 39. Furthermore. 2006).000 in the county. Only 24. only 48% of them had completed secondary school. Although the average age of the 300 people interviewed in this study was almost 21. Prevention. 114 . Prevention and Treatment Services. none of the 144 youth gang members who agreed to take a blood test came out HIV positive (AIDS Coordinator’s Office & Center for HIV Identification. Almost 60% of those who injected drugs said they had shared needles with other people.7% had had sex while on drugs.

For researcher Daniel Hernández. the limited evidence. all of which translate into weak analyses and findings. 2002) The same study goes on to argue that “this relation among gender-based vulnerability. Women’s triple vulnerability to the epidemic (biological.” (Mora. written by a “gender and development specialist” who works for a UN agency: “The results show that the majority of migrants are young people who travel alone and adopt risky practices that favor HIV dissemination in urban frontier contexts where the sex trade is commonplace. occasionally. to sex with men. mobile populations and frontier situations becomes particularly visible in relation to HIV/AIDS. But as the focus of attention slipped and analysis became corrupted by the data gathering process. DECEITFUL FORMULATIONS REGARDING “DANGEROUS MINORITIES” These weaknesses in the gathering of information. And once again. we witnessed an involution that is bringing back the idea of at-risk groups in which migrants are persistently presented as particularly prone to HIV transmission. 2002) This demonstrates the making of another dangerous association. have not stopped the production of pompous and regrettable formulations. Studies carried out on the southern Mexican border with sex workers.POMPOUS. epidemiology stopped talking about at-risk groups and incorporated the notion of risky practices (Delor & Hubert. this implies a reversal of the conceptual advance achieved in the relationship between discrimination and HIV by reinforcing the idea that mi- 115 . epidemiological and social) is accentuated both among women who cross borders (female migrants and sex workers. traders who provide services to male migrants) and among the partners of temporary or permanent male migrants.” (Mora. Let’s take a look at one example. one in which migrants appear closely linked to another dangerous minority: sex workers. no comparison is made between the situation of migrants and that of other groups. Why don’t any of these researchers aim in another direction? Has anyone seriously researched the relationship with sex workers of the upper and middle classes? THE INVOLUTED LEAP FROM FROM RISKY BEHAVIOR TO AT-RISK GROUP Once HIV was isolated and identified as the cause of AIDS. truck drivers and the migrant population highlight the relationship between high population mobility for economic reasons and increased HIV/AIDS dissemination. the generalizations based on very localized case studies and the conclusions based on conjecture. It is also interesting to note the indirect vulnerability experienced by housewives whose partners cross the border and resort to sex workers and. 2000).

under the guise of “groups that maintain risky practices.21) But when it comes to waging the battle outside the semantic arena. Costa Rica (0.6%). n. René Leyva and Mirka Negroni (2004) clearly explain this distinction: “While risk points to a probability and evokes an individual behavior. then Guatemalan. Panama (1. one can’t help noticing that El Salvador’s rate is the same as the US rate even after an annual average of 11. Some try to save the migrants’ reputation by distinguishing between risk—with its connotation of individual guilt—and vulnerability. vulnerability is an indicator of inequity and social inequality and demands responses in the sphere of the social and political structure. Let’s take the case of Central American migrants. Guatemala (1%). In practice. These studies ignore the fact that the risk is unequal for the migrants depending on whether the environment they are leaving has a greater or lesser degree of prevalence than in their country of destination. helps propagate HIV (Hernández. It is considered that vulnerability determines the differential risks and should therefore be what is acted upon. Mario Bronfman.5%). to the practical use of the concepts.6% rate. ARENCT TOURISTS A RISK? The best intentioned studies linking migration and AIDS often take it for granted that migrants end up in the most risky environments.” (p. is now applied to migrants as well.2%). a concept that alludes to social conditions. In other words. Obviously any complete analysis would have to consider both the rates for specific locations and individual behaviors.6%) and Nicaragua (0. like homosexuals and sex workers. People devoted to such affectations would say that doing business with sex workers is a risky behavior and only having the option of accessing the poorest and sickest of them is a factor of vulnerability.d.grants represent a new risk group that. If those deportees were located 116 .539 Salvadorans were in 1992-96. the risks are not always the same.).” This label. with its 0.468 in 2003-2004. But that’s not always true. a behavior cannot always be pigeonholed exclusively as “risky” or “vulnerable” without making distinctions that verge on the ridiculous. 11. El Salvador (0. Belize has the highest AIDS rate (2% of the population).215 in 1998-2002 and 15. We would appear to be returning to the primitive notion of risk groups. And if considering such factors presumably obliges us to suppose that migrants are living in more dangerous environments than the national average—as in the case of the farm workers in the UNIDOS survey—and have more risky behaviors. the study of the risky behaviors of vulnerable groups ends up criminalizing those groups more often than not. In their document on Movilidad poblacional y VIH/SIDA: contextos de vulnerabilidad en México y Centroamérica [Population Mobility and HIV/AIDS: Contexts of vulnerability in Mexico and Central America]. previously applied to Afro-Americans and homosexuals. If we take the United States as the destination. According to ONUSIDA estimates.6%). followed by Honduras (1. Belizean and Honduran migrants end up in an environment that is on average less risky.

5 billion in Costa Rica in 2005 (Consejo Centroamricano de TurismoSecretaría Técnica. The ideologies of terror. wild sex with hot.in the epicenters of HIV influence and couldn’t help but adopt reckless practices due to the ignorance.S Department of Justice. Could they be a high-risk factor? Of course they could..803 Salvadorans (Castillo & Corona. they appear as a vector of the danger. of which 746.108 were from the United States (Consejo Centroamricano de Turismo-Secretaría Técnica. but of the migrants themselves as the risk. What better justification for booting them out of the country or stopping them from entering than considering them a public health threat. While it would be foolhardy to suppress tourism. why didn’t their return have a greater impact on El Salvador’s AIDS/HIV rate? Costa Rica’s HIV/AIDS prevalence is the same as those of El Salvador and the USA even though it only has 72. but as we’re talking about groups.167. given that they were already a threat to the social order? Article 54 of the new Costa Rican migratory law is the best example of the convergence of such a double segregation: “Foreign people will be rejected at the moment they attempt to enter national territory and they will not be authorized to enter. As in castling. 2004).494 migrants in the United States—compared with 833. particularly US tourists? Nobody has dared even think about stigmatizing a social group that generated US$1. so small. where at the very least are the manuals advising prudence and safe sex on the part of tourists and their potential partners? They certainly aren’t being produced by the Central American Integration System. so big!” proudly displays these buoyant figures on tourism. 2006 b).. liquored-up natives. a group that flows towards Costa Rica more than to any other country in Central America. their vulnerability is offered as a factor in the propagation of social and somatic pathologies. produce certain at-risk groups and exclude others. 2003. machismo and sexual appetites that stereotype Latino migrants. but who’s criminalizing tourists. UNMASKING THE POWER We can thus conclude that there are at-risk groups and there are at-risk groups. whose brand new web site “Central America. Costa Rica receives over a million tourists a year. In 2005 the figure was 1.659. we are led to think not of the migrants’ risky conditions. let’s turn our attention to tourists. 2004)—and just 526 deportees in 2003-2004 (U. if they are found to be in any of the following 117 . Immigration and Naturalization Service. with its promise of easy. Instead of presenting them as vulnerable within a dangerous environment. although many know that certain members of that collective group arrived after having their appetites whetted by shows like the Entertainment Channel’s Wild On program. even if they possess a visa. 2006 a). So where does this HIV infection level come from? Many factors are obviously at play. If accepted at all. with their slippery argumentation.

These issues and their inter-relations deserve further study. This is a form of social and ethnic cleansing peddled as a prophylaxis. 118 .situations. aimed at rejecting and controlling migrants in the United States. we might discover yet another face of unjust power. And once the masks have been removed. 2006) The Sensenbrenner bill (2005). also includes repressive measures in this respect and many people have already been deported for having AIDS.” (Asamblea Legislativa de la República de Costa Rica.. b) Carrying. suffering from or having been exposed to infectious/contagious or communicable diseases that could imply a risk to public health.. which would help unmask the perverse backward slides and supposedly technical treatments that either innocently or maliciously conceal the political interests at play.

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All that remains of his ephemeral trip are the telegraphic notes from a diary titled he “From San Francisco to New York by way of San Juan and Grey Town Isthmus. tunnels and ramparts in an infinite confusion of tangled vines. caimans. the coffee and hot tortillas. (Coronel. The number of US residents of Latin American origin has risen over 50% between 1990 and 2002. enchanted bends. In these disconnected jottings. WHAT WILL THE UNITED STATES BE LIKE WHEN WHITES ARE NO LONGER THE MAJORITY? Nicaraguans are part of the flood of Latin Americans into the United States. when he was 51. far above the 13% average growth of the total US population over the same period. the carved jícaras. pp. the dark grottos. the procession of riders on their nags. adopting Anglo-Saxon cultural patterns. fresh atmosphere and garlanded trees. the two volcanoes like circus tents. Twain tells of his admiration for the beautiful route. the fresh. But today it is our own who. drizzly climate. 10 years after publishing The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. It is said that Latinos are the most numerous minority in the United States and many predict that they will soon exceed all other minorities put together. Will these Latinos totally assimilate. the terrace of climbing plants that covered a hill like a veil. the parrots flying above the trees. or will the Latin culture increase its influence over time? What cultural impact do these immigrants have now and will they continue to have in their communities of origin? What impact will the remittances they send back have on their home communities? Will bilingual education become generalized in the United States? What will the United States be like when whites are no longer the majority? Will Latinos be able to win more political space and have an effect on 121 .M ark Twain traveled Nicaragua’s Río San Juan in 1886. the pretty native women with ruffle-trimmed skirts. the beautiful lake whipped up by the wind. 1985..” which never gelled into the planned book. the caimans sleeping in the sun along the river bank. which never abounded with such qualities and is increasingly bereft even of the parrots.. This and other related facts spark many questions.16-17) All this richness Twain described was already coveted by many of his countrymen. the vine-festooned trees that seemed like ancient ivy-covered fortress towers. are leaving Nicaragua. coveting the stability and quality of life of Mark Twain’s homeland and its opportunities for education and employment.

including demography. And it is no accident that many of the research experts are descendents of Latinos searching for their own roots or looking to improve the conditions in which their ethnic group is developing. From then on. and has fed the controversy about whether these academics are the most suitable people to be conducting such investigations. anthropology and even several branches of law. Mignolo. it exemplifies the opening up of US academia to the popula-tion’s multicultural reality. Latinos. Transnationalism. which despite having emerged from a particular discipline are now shared by all the social sciences. remain with the lowest wages and scant participation in politics. sociology. This resurgent debate is based on the distinction between outsiders and insiders introduced by sociologist Robert K. Latinos living in the United States have become one of the subjects most covered by US university research centers and by the most disciplines. magnetic pull on various disciplines—as a simple effect of their numeric importance. For others. ASSIMILATION AND “WHITENING” Migrant studies have generated many new concepts. the whole 122 . political science. like the majority of Afro-Americans. Some see this growing interest in Latino migrant studies—new concepts.immigration and naturalization laws? Will such influence translate into more openings for new migrants or will we see the reinforcing of the wall along the Río Grande? Will the first. research centers. Merton (1972) three decades ago to highlight the advantages and disadvantages of researchers either belonging or not belonging to the group being studied. Latino migrants jealously guard migratory control or will ethnic solidarity blossom? Will interracial marriages among Anglo Saxons. This is also the case in studies of Asians and other groups. firmly established. The most suspicious see the appearance of Latino studies as a specific field as yet another expression of colonialist epistemological distinctions. whiteness and assimilation are perhaps the best known and most controversial. and are on the research agendas of thousands of academics. history. however. living in marginalized neighborhoods and occupying a disproportionate number of prison cells? NEW CONCEPTS: TRANSNATIONALISM. up until 1970 studies were divided by zones distributed according to East-West distinctions. Asians and Afro-Americans increase? Will the currently low educational levels of Latinos improve? Will Latinos break down residential segregation more easily? Will Latino women change the traditional macho aversion of Latino men to sharing household chores? Will the fact that immigrant Latino women earn as much as their husbands give them greater decision-making power in the home and help roll back the patriarchal system? Will Latino crime rates drop over time—as happened with the Irish and Italians once they were assimilated into the established population—or will Latinos. According to social scientist Walter D.

There are some 20 million people of Mexican origin living in the United States. The Central Americans included 655. sociology and economics concentrated on the First World. And thus Latino studies were reduced to just another object of the academic curiosity of certain sciences. so that. One of the consequences of the geopolitical ompartmentalization of the world was the distribution of scientific work. as Mignolo explains. We Central Americans. roughly since peace in Nicaragua heralded the end of the various wars in the region (Camarota.69 million were from Central America (4. This substantial shift in the colonial epistemological difference had serious consequences for Hispanics/ Latinos in academia and for Latino studies as an emerging field. 217. Over a million of these Central Americans emigrated in the past 12 years. 2000. while the Third World became primarily the domain of anthropology.000 Salvadorans.7% of all recorded US residents born abroad. Mexicans were already within what is now US territory before the country conquered it. some 70. US Immigration Studies Center data from March 2002 indicates that in under two years the Central American population had grown nearly 28% to 2.000 Guatemalans and 90. which is 6. we show up most notably in research on political refugees and youth gangs. According to Immigration and Naturalization Service data. of which nearly 1. or the participation of Latino women in trade organizations. 16 million (51. The US census for 2000 recorded some 35 million people of Latin American origin (12.5% of the total population). many of them illegal. despite more interesting themes such as the retreat of male domination over Latino women in a country with less machismo. And when we do.000 Nicaraguans. Of the approximately 31 million people living in the United States who were born abroad. are only just beginning to appear in the research agendas. 165. In accord with the tripartite division of the world by areas of study. 335. Because this gush in the Central American migration stream is relatively recent. Latin America was not only the Third World.000 Salvadorans.16 million.000 Hondurans and a little over 177.000 Nicaraguans (US Census Bureau. in contrast. but also a Spanish-speaking world at a time in which Spanish was no longer an academically hegemonic language. 372.8% of the total Latinos in the United States). but not science or academic culture (Mignolo. THE NUMBERS TELL THE STORY Tons of paper and oceans of ink have been used writing about Mexicans. not all of its consequences are yet visible.10-11). pp. Latin America was considered a territory that produced culture. The Second World was mainly given over to the political sciences. 2002). In fact.7%) are Latin Americans and over 10 million are Mexican or Central American.000 Guatemalans.planet was taken as a field of study according to a new North-South axis.000 123 . 2000 a).

their nation’s most ambitious individuals. improvised beneficiaries of the welfare state. But Latinos continue heading north. US News and World Report.000. The media’s role in shaping the image of migrants was documented and analyzed by Leo. Time. The New Republic and National Review. Chávez in Cubriendo la inmigración: Imágenes populares y la política de la nación.. Newsweek. But Latino migrants often get the worst rap: they are variously deprecated as people who hitched their wagon to a nation that others had already built and raised to the rank of empire. expressions and clichés have emerged to classify immigrants. whose effects have left us eating dust in the race for development. they are presented as daring pioneers (particularly the women). What is the original sin in Latin America’s case? How does one explain our backwardness compared to US development? 124 . R. This is no kind of life. they are described as people who. the generators of crisis on the Mexican border. and which is now only possible for him in the United States. so on my last trip I decided to stay. people who don’t settle for having been born on the wrong side of the line that divides passports into those that open doors and those that close borders. They represented 13% of the 5 million people illegally in the United States in search of “the American dream. decided to change countries. I’m here illegally. PURGING OUR “ORIGINAL SIN” OF ANARCHY AND TYRANNY Why do they go to the United States? Some think they go to purge their countries’ original sin. Is this the American dream? No! This is the American waking nightmare!” Nonetheless it is something he is prepared to endure to achieve the living standard he yearns for.” one Salvadoran living in Boston told me. has been or might be said. the best resource a country can lose. Many theories..Hondurans were illegally residing in the United States in 1996 for a total of 660. On the positive side. criminals disguised as political refugees. unable to change their country. “I came to do business. a marathon to which we came untrained. tripped up a lot and wrangled with other runners while the United States snatched all the medals. speak no English and work in a mechanics garage. American Heritage.” HOW THEY ARE SEEN AND TALKED ABOUT “I had a visa and came into the United States legally whenever I wanted. usurpers of jobs typically reserved for blacks and refused by Asians due to their discretion and work ethic. because I have several trucks that I used for commerce in El Salvador. The situation started getting uglier and uglier. unruffled by anything that is being. were slow out of the blocks. ugly protuberances on the face of America. leaving the trucks to my sons. All these versions have been disseminated and turned into clichés by US publications such as The Atlantic Monthly. More poetically.

US political philosophy took a Copernican turn. 2002. the historic legacy of a more settled democracy in the United States than in Latin America led to a political culture of consensus that stimulated investment and business. the United States stopped talking so much about liberty and equality and put more emphasis on imperial expansion. must also be included to explain our position and our development level with respect to the United States. allowing a US leadership based on democratic systems in which all citizens began to enjoy the same rights after the Civil War. p. It was around that time—13 years after his trip up the Río San Juan—that Mark Twain suggested changing the US flag by making the bars black and replacing each of the stars with a skull and crossbones (Galeano. the United States had already swallowed over half of Mexico. Theodore Roosevelt. 1984. and later in the Spanish-American War to annex Cuba and the Philippines (1898). The Latin American countries vacillate between disorder and authoritarianism: between “anarchy” and “tyranny.306). but he was followed by voracious Presidents. burdened by the creation of authoritarian regimes and political systems characterized by disorder and instability and fundamentally scarred by a lack of credibility. THE US “ORIGINAL SIN” IS IMPERIALIST EXPANSION The problem with this approach is that it presents broad-brush histories of North and Latin America. somewhere between the war of independence (1776) and the Monroe Doctrine (1823). devotee of the virtues of the powerful races. Barely a decade before the civil war that abolished slavery. According to North. whose most representative expression is the Doctrine of Manifest Destiny. order with an authoritarian system. Afterward came President McKinley. like two creatures that inhabit separate airtight compartments. Lincoln may have struggled heroically to free the slaves. Meanwhile. based on participation and a low-profile government leadership role in economic affairs. describing them as isolated. According to North. Latin America lagged behind. 125 . who claimed that God had commanded him to take the Philippine Islands. favored the practice of political consensus while the excessive discretional economic attributes of the authorities in the Spanish colonies must have acted as an incentive for competition and dissension (North. proclaimed that in nine out of ten cases the only good Indian was a dead Indian and he wasn’t so sure about the tenth one. In less than a century.” to use the more expressive nomenclature of Nicaragua’s José Coronel Urtecho. pp.9-10). Without trying to evade our responsibility. there are three types of political systems: order with a democratic system.Nobel laureate in economics Douglass North suggests that the political culture of the British colonies. Sooner rather than later. the thesis about displacement of the East-West axis by the North-South one and the emergence of the US hegemonic determination. unconnected processes. and disorder.

Nicaraguans)—as a way to buttress the broader economic objective of satisfying the demand for productive labor supplied only in part by Puerto Ricans and Mexicans (2001. politicians or Marines reaped sizeable benefits. 51) THE HARVEST OF EMPIRE: MASSIVE IMMIGRATION The United States quickly figured out how to turn both the tyranny and the anarchy of the Latin American states to its own benefit. the powers that be in the United States don’t recognize it as an historical boomerang. 50.XIV).Other voices in the United States had already spoken out against this unbounded expansionism. heads of big business. the work of comparatively few individuals who are using the incumbent government as a personal instrument. What makes this duty more imperious is the fact that the country that has been trampled is not our own and that ours is the invading army.” Military imperialism paved the way for commercial imperialism. I do not believe it premature for honest men to rebel and make revolution. When oppression and theft are organized. writer Henry David Thoreau. but as he explained to his Cabinet. Our authoritarian institutions unquestionably played a distinguished role in Latin America’s underdevelopment. denounced the war that resulted in the annexation of California and Texas: “We are witnesses to this Mexican war. New York and Florida house 60% of all Latinos who have settled in the United 126 . A LEGENDARY HALO AND A HEROCS BEARING US geophagy determined the ports of entry for Latin American immigrants: California. Dominicans. Franklin Delano Roosevelt did not doubt for a minute that Somoza was a son of a bitch. particularly by environmentalists. This is the thesis of Puerto Rican-US journalist Juan González in Harvest of Empire: the Latin American immigrants being received with such ill will in the United States are an inevitable effect of the empire’s political investment in Latin America. traders. but the gringos who came as filibusters. because at the outset the people cannot have consented to this measure (…). Texas. making pacts with whichever caudillo came to power or pitting one elite group against another to reap easy fortunes from the chaos of fratricidal Latin American wars. In his Civil Disobedience.” (Thoureau. In fact.46. viewed as a ne’er do well by his American contemporaries but venerated today. Now that our emigrants are fleeing the authori-tarianism of the South and colonizing the North. p. Some US contribution could always be found behind the prolongation. pp. when an entire country is unjustly trampled and conquered by a foreign army and subjected to martial law. Salvadorans. 1975. González sees the flow of Latin American migrants as directly connected to the growth of the US empire and responding to its needs—be it the political need to stabilize neighboring countries or the need to accept their refugees (Cubans. “he’s our son of a bitch. exacerbation and even perpetuation of Latin America’s “natural” propensity to political disorder or authoritarianism.

.States. like bringing over more family members to share the burden of maintaining those who stay at home and are sometimes entirely dependent on the remittances sent back to them. As Juan González observed. has now crashed the garden. I was effusively told about their relatives’ fascination when they return. the hours of intense work. a fate that befell California and Texas 35 years later. first philharmonic orchestra. Their relatives are unaware of the price of being a legend: the bills that have to be paid.XII). They even say our skin glows.” Both the men and the women are very skeptical about what they have accomplished. Central Americans have preferred the big cities: Miami. p. the cost of living. conferring upon them a certain legendary mien and hero’s bearing. I don’t know where it comes from. playground and place to make quick fortunes. never at a tropical pace. but here you aren’t aware of it and there it invades the whole house. “We don’t know why they get so excited about everything to do with us. first ripples of the independence struggle and even Pope John Paul II’s first Mass on US territory. Latin America. But they have also come here to traditional Boston. This impression reaches beyond the money and gifts they bring back with them and the remittances most of them send home faithfully every month. Florida was annexed to the United States in 1820. Meeting with a group of Central American immigrants in Boston. We don’t know where such admiration comes from. From 127 . and the strategies one has to employ. first university. kitchen and living room of the world’s most powerful nation (2001. the men are viewed as incredibly prosperous and the women as remarkably beautiful. a region the United States once considered its back yard.. Even the smell on our clothes. The United States turned out to be far from the imagined Shangri-La where the streets are paved with gold.. New York and Los Angeles. all of which springs from the far-off lands to which they owe their fortune. They touch our hair and say it’s softer now..an immense. None of the migrants I spoke with laud their current situation. documented in The Air-Conditioned Nightmare? Miller’s port of entry upon his return was precisely Boston: “. “WE ARE A PUSHY MULTITUDE PROPELLED BY THE DELIRIUM OF GREED” What would these immigrants think of US writer Henry Miller’s views on the contrasts he encountered on his trip to Europe. Latino migrants can now be found everywhere. with its colonial architecture and its pride in having the first of everything: the first port. A myth has grown up around migrants in Central America. useless structure created by pre-human or sub-human monsters propelled by the delirium of greed. a halo encircles them. first high school. the never surmounted double day for women.. first museum. the burden of being a third-rate citizen in the supposed land of opportunity.

Why terrifying? Because in no other part of the world is the divorce between man and nature so total. although in a few years they will doubtless begin to express their particular views about the country that received them. for the moment. while many of his friends ended up in Nazi concentration camps. had not refused to take them in when Hitler was willing to trade them for ransoms offered by their Jewish-American relatives. that we’re free of prejudice and hatred. in the Museum of the Holocaust in Washington. agitators and others of that ilk (Miller. Received in the United States to escape the Nazi horror. and will continue to be by the millions. 128 . They are in no position to engage in battles against the bastions of the system. by Jacques Maritain.the topographical point of view the country is magnificent and terrifying. that we love liberty. members of the European elite. Boredom reaches its pinnacle here. even Maritain was careful to mention. as a kind of mea culpa.. in which the French philosopher never tires of enthusing about the inexhaustible US virtues.17). color knows it must adapt. Lady Hunstanton.. we say we’re democratic. This is verified. in North America. distinguished men of science. 1968. temporary migrants. Gringophobes and gringophiles there have been. fearful of receiving an avalanche of migrants. that when good Americans die they go to Paris.. Psychologist Bruno Bettelheim (1983). where one can also find Bertolt Brecht’s self-reproach for having survived thanks to his fame. barely sullied by even insignificant vices. religious stooges. Citizens. they go to America. But the Latino. cannot afford the luxury of being so opposed to the system for reasons of elementary survival and even mental health. DIFFERENCES OF OPINION ABOUT THE “WONDERS” OF THE UNITED STATES There are thousands of conspicuous viewpoints about the United States. journalists. charged that many Jews could have been saved if the United States. those aspiring to residency and visitors alike have offered their opinions. however. in his comedy A Woman of No Importance: Lord Illingworth:-They say.- It would be hard to find viewpoints more bursting with accolades than those described in America. In reality we are a pushy and greedy multitude whose passions are easily inflamed by demagogues. One of the most delightful came from playwright Oscar Wilde. where do they go to?Lord Illingworth: -Oh. Central Americans have yet to distinguish themselves in US literature or in the media. In no other part of the world have I found such a monotonous and inert life substance as here.Lady Hunstanton: -Indeed? And when bad Americans die. that express laws existed in the United States during that period ordering that shelter be given to those who were persecuted only if they were notable citizens. It is our custom to consider ourselves an emancipated people. p. Color imposes silence. who spent the war in a concentration camp.

They are disproportionally represented among professionals with PhDs. a figure significantly below the 25. while 36. 2001.7% of the Europeans. barely 5.6% corresponding to all US-born residents of that age and an astounding contrast with Asian and European immigrants (45% and 33%. Most likely it is due to this large number of highly educated Asians that 32 % of the scientists who work in California’s Silicon Valley are immigrants. and an Empire with much more reason. Asians constitute the best educated sector of immigrants. According to the US census for 2000. 129 ‡ .* Once they get to the United States. Any country would. what might Central American immigrants dare hope for? Will their situation improve over time or will the only improvement be that they progress from being the most uneducated migrant group to being the least educated settled group? * † Calculations based on information from INEC.7% of rural Nicaraguans over 25 years old have attended either secondary school or university.‡ This serves to further decrease the limited education level among Nicaraguans who stay at home. Data from the most recent living standard survey by Nicaragua’s National Institute of Statistics and Censuses shows that barely 6.5 GENERATION” KNOCKS ITSELF OUT Given all this. with educational levels far superior to those of native born Americans.5% of Central American immigrants over the age of 25 have a university degree. Do we offer that? The statistics of our national censuses demonstrate that Central America’s emigrants have higher than average schooling levels. 2001 b). respectively (INEC. while overall (migrant and non-migrant) figures for both geographic segments are 60% and 90%. with schooling levels well below the native labor force. These statistics were confirmed by a Nicaraguan household survey indicating that 35% of urban and 57% of rural Nicaraguans over the age of 25 who emigrated had not made it to high school. who then join the lowest-skilled segment of the US labor force. however.2% of Nicaraguan emigrants who left from that same rural sector had reached those education levels (INEC. The best from here are the worst over there. THE “1. they join the ranks of the least educated immigrants. p. 10% of the Asians and 4.THE BEST HERE ARE THE WORST THERE It should come as no surprise that the United States wants the best. These are the two sad faces of the migratory process: our countries are losing their best prepared citizens.352).7% of all native-born residents. 2001 b).† With 34% of Central American immigrants 25 years old or over not even having completed ninth grade. respectively). they are the least-educated regional group residing in the United States (Suárez-Orozco. a category shared by only 12. Calculations based on information from INEC.

p. that the promised land isn’t opening the same doors to them that it does to others and that they must always fight with a handicap. and they often join gangs. electronic appliances and the like. those who have always been marginalized? Some media are anticipating a new struggle. about making a pact with the socially plausible. it is referred to as an “invasion. US writer Susan Sontag observed that when people of color or poor people move into middle-class neighborhoods. The second generation is probably finding that the system does not reward their efforts as much as expected.74). They see that TV offers what their pocketbook denies. and that while the “bad ones” are locked up. then the Italians. The hypothesis is that the former know they need to go the extra mile if they are to adapt and carve out a place for themselves. African-Americans are seen as welfare parasites. First it was the Irish. and they also have more knowledge of the difficult circumstances they left behind. and very soon. African Americans have always been there. Everybody knows there are more African-Americans in jail than at university.Segregation has had a strong impact on educational performance. this time between black and brown. Perhaps trading in stereotypes is about assimilating. Who are we closest to in our middle-ground pigmentary identity? Will we ally with those who are well established or with the minority.” a metaphor used to describe cancer or military action (1996. Those who justifiably say that comparisons are always hateful and often unfair forget to say that they are also hard to avoid and help forge group and individual identity. the mystique of the outsider who has to earn respect in an adverse setting through talent and hard work. too soon. Spatial segregation has been permanently on US research agendas ever since the 19th century. so they take what they can get: a good time. We Central Americans are neither white nor black. the “good ones” are on football or basketball teams. migrants’ children who were born outside of the United States but raised in it. A correlation has been found between being a migrant and academic success among those who belong to what is increasingly termed the “1. Latinos began to share these disparaging stereotypes about US blacks. baggy “cholo” pants. The fraction is to contrast them with the second generation—also children of migrants but born and raised in the United State—whose academic performance is notably inferior. and now it is the Latinos. 130 .5 generation”. CENTRAL AMERICANS: NEITHER BLACK NOR WHITE Segregation is a drag on even the best pioneering spirit. but the art of opening doors appears less related to being assimilated than to the migrants’ efforts to hang on to that adventurous spirit.

who have always enjoyed numerous advantages under the US laws that protect political exiles (Camarota. And on top of all that.” Historians studying immigration to the United States have begun to recognize that race has played a critical role in facilitating the adaptation of European immigrants and continues to do so. The study of whiteness. the Salvadorans also have a comparative skin advantage. is “non-official. the 869. shows how the racial status of being white became one of the attributes needed to obtain US citizenship. recently dusted off by historians. a field born in the nineties. just edging out the Guatemalans (54%) (Camarota. or of their traditional industriousness. which only talks to the North to lavish praise or beg for handouts. they have 30% less access to social welfare programs than the Dominicans. has revealed that the integration into established US society of European immigrants and their descendants is partly determined by their positioning as whites. Without underplaying the importance of war and demographic growth in pushing Salvadorans out of their country. While 26% of Dominicans and 24% of Mexicans live in poverty in the United States. then. Recent historical research has emphasized that racial barriers such as the 1882 law excluding Chinese triggered a new migratory filter: one based on nationalities of origin.COMPARATIVE ADVANTAGE IS IN THE COLOR OF ONECS SKIN The problem always boils down to skin tone. barely edged out by the Cubans. A NEW CRIME: POSSESSION OF THE WRONG FACE The pre-existing suspicion of non-white immigrants skyrocketed after the attacks on the Pentagon and New York’s Twin Towers on September 11. According to March 2002 data from the Immigration Studies Center. That period. Similarly. 2002). the fact that they are the whitest among the Central American immigrants puts them in a more favorable position for assimilation.000 Salvadorans are the sixth largest immigrant group in the United States. that horrendous event 131 . The Irish claim to their status as Americans was based precisely on being the opposite of black. as opposed to blacks. who are from an earlier migratory wave. For example. This may be one of the reasons Salvadorans have conquered more space in US society than other Central American immigrants. despite being at a disadvantage in many areas. It must also be recognized that the Salvadoran government has fought more than any other Central American government for the rights of its emigrants. The recognition they enjoy. infinitely more than the Nicaraguan government. 2001. only 12% of the Salvadorans find themselves in the same situation. Asian immigrants struggled for acceptance at a distinct disadvantage at the end of the 19th century. only 56% of Salvadorans receive public health care services. 2002). which definitely opens doors for them.

which leads me to believe that someone with Arab features would face a higher average of checks. Central Americans who want to establish themselves in the United States have to come to terms with these gaps. to dispel any suspicions of discrimination. They also forget the genocide in Hiroshima and the many psychopaths as blond as butter who have gunned down their fellow citizens in the United States to adjust their maladjusted personalities. In the eight flights I took during my stay in the United States I was subjected to the special security check twice. while the descendents of English. The reenactment in which I took part—dressed as a Scotsman—was at Fort Ouiatenon. The Salvadoran government. a kind of historical representation in which the descendents of Scottish immigrants dressed up like their ancestors of over two centuries ago. used the occasion to do away with the bothersome airport union and saturate all passenger security check posts with military personnel. “Reenactments” and museums are two fabulous forms. “REENACTMENTS”: A CELEBRATION OF WHITENESS Many things are forgotten in this history. for example. thanks to selective memory about what happened at home and abroad. particularly Blacks and Hispanics (1996. as well as the successive battles.that people in the United States now call simply “9-11. It commemorated the building of the fort. which I learned was just about average. 132 .155). airport security checks reached paranoid extremes in the United States. ipso facto clogging up all the country’s airports. I participated in one of those reenactments. On each flight the security agents physically check 25% of the passengers. Naturally. if they ever knew about. and there was no way to avoid our Central American airports chiming in with a servile tropical echo. in the town of Lafayette. p. some 60 miles north of Indianapolis.” In its aftermath. French or Canadians did the same. Susan Sontag observes that AIDS has increasingly affected the urban poor. 25% of the flights. they always check a white person alongside a non-white one. the massive introduction of AIDS into Honduras by US soldiers and its propagation in the brothels that sprang up around the banana plantations of the two transnational giants: Standard and United Fruit Company. which means that they do a detailed search of 20 passengers and their carry-on for an 80-passenger plane. The idea of reenactments is to reproduce in order not to forget the hard conditions of the nation’s beginnings. After the events of September 11 and the serial killings by the famous Washington sniper—who as luck would have it turned out to be not one but two Jamaicans—terrorism has turned into a “sickness” affecting Latinos and Muslims. all during the 18th century. People in the United States have many resources for recalling and teaching the history they want to remember using few instruments and employing great creativity. The object of suspicion was my face. People in the United States tend to quickly forget. the armies that alternated possession of it and its final annihilation.

There are Latino foundations and associations that work to keep Latino identity alive. tin or with any taint of modernity was prohibited.To the delight of around a hundred thousand spectators. In this reenactment of history. particularly those great losers. All were obliged to observe very precise rules. in which Nicaragua and El Salvador are very much present. Not those referred to by the current government census—whites who came and settled centuries ago—but the indigenous population. one of the daughters exclaimed. and were so authentically outfitted and so imbued with their role that they gave the impression that they had just stepped out of the past. in which each group of actors represented its ancestors. Are these the traps of assimilation? It’s a sign that a very active and creative 133 . military marches. The wall murals in San Francisco are one of the most outstanding efforts. the Central American family that had invited myself and a friend to lunch asked me to explain some details of Nicaragua’s history for the edification of their adolescent children. he knows so much about our politicians and business leaders. born and raised in the United States. New Orleans cuisine.” She had very rapidly taken on US history as her own reality. They were the only ethnic group not represented by their own descendents. over a plate of exquisite. the real native Americans.” A RACE AGAINST TIME: WHO WILL WE BE IN 100 YEARS? Will we Central Americans be participating in similar reenactments in these lands in 100 years? Or will we be represented by blonds with makeup to imitate our natural tan? Will we have our own acts of commemoration or will we forget history? There are tendencies in both directions. when I mentioned Taft. I asked my hostess—a very perspicacious woman who loves US history and is proud of her Scottish roots—why there were no indigenous actors. an act like this celebrates and creates a sense of nation around “whiteness. I think they are commendable initiatives running against the tide. mom. One day. They were only allowed to prepare the food the old-fashioned way and serve it in rustic metal plates at roughhewn wood tables. She immediately responded: “Because they would feel offended if they were invited to an act like this. But at times. But the perspective of the losers was completely missing. the indigenous population of that time was represented by white people with heavy bronze make-up. Old dances were performed and old songs from various countries were sung. among other undesirable US personalities of pernicious influence on the avatars of Nicaragua’s history. Philander Knox and Commodore Vanderbilt. there were three days of parades. At one point. “Look. a dynamic similar to what must have been established in the United States to better govern so many cultures. migrant streams and nationalities. canoe races and the firing of cannons and muskets in an atmosphere of camaraderie that united three thousand actors. Any object of nylon.” But of course. The singers were often old. plastic. and of course very spicy. many of them children.

” Days later. applaud 134 . including sandals and chairs of wood and goat horn. Even more fabulous is a royal pectoral dating from 1630 BC that contains miniscule incrustations of multicolor stones and crystals in a gold and silver setting in the form of an eagle. among many other wonders. represents 40% of world military spending.” The destructive aim of US foreign policy is simply terrifying. PRESENT SIMPLIFIED AND FUTURE IMPOSSIBLE All the technology to show history in an interactive form and all the money to buy relics and finance costly excavations is worth virtually nothing if unaccompanied by serious interpretations that allow the lessons of ancient history to be applied to current history. “And to think that this is the civilization that we. where he had served. we found El Greco’s unparalleled portrait of Friar Hortensio Félix Paravicino. Bush is promoting. Sagan (2000. No less admirable is the Procession of the Offerers. if the Soviet Union has already been defeated. are prepared to destroy. painted in 1609. a pureblood Bostonian friend took me to see the city’s Museum of Fine Arts. my friend observed. a country barely 225 years old. in the house of a US Army officer in Jackson. I went cold when I heard our host refer to Egypt. PAST IMPERFECT. The gigantic statues of Egyptian divinities sculpted in imperishable granite enraptured us. all these figures have been further altered by the “preventive wars” George W. Libya and Cuba total some $27 million. Mississippi. North Korea. It is a mixture of ignorance and the desire to dominate. which is over three times that of all these countries combined. noting that Russia’s annual military budget is around $30 billion. THE DESTRUCTIVE AIM OF US FOREIGN POLICY While I was in Boston toward the end of last year. US scientist and science popularizer Carl Sagan lamented the $264 billion that goes to his country’s army compared to the $17 billion earmarked for its entire package of civilian scientific and space programs. When we passed the section on Mesopotamian culture. as “that piece of crap. Today. overflowing with relics that are also over four thousand years old. finely carved in wood over four thousand years ago for the eleventh Egyptian dynasty. Iraq. Surrounded by mummies and tombs that US archeologists had removed from Egypt out of love of science. US military expenditure. Not long before his death. Syria. p. I thought of what a great advantage it was for people in the United States to have such an array of masterpieces ranging from antiquity to modernity for their own cultural expansion and spiritual solace thanks to deals cut with unwary Eastern governments.283) questioned why such an immense sum of money. There. What use is the whole fabulous Museum of the Holocaust to those who justify. China’s is similar and the combined military budgets of Iran.economic and political relationship between the migrants and those they left behind in Central America is in a race against time.

I met with a group of Latin Americans in the spacious parish dining hall of a Latino neighborhood. burial place of Bartolomeo Vanzetti and Nicola Sacco. political parties or unions in their countries of origin. Sacco and Vanzetti committed the double sin of being immigrants and early union agitators. Italian immigrant unionists executed on August 22. Perhaps they should try to hit the appropriate keys that activate the sometimes rich historic sensibility of many US citizens. The Central Americans are navigating that sea and trying to defend their rights. John Steinbeck’s novel. just as many in the United States forget an imperfect past that reduced and virtually annihilated the native population and embrace a present of Manichean simplification with racist overtones and an impossible future of white dominion exercised by a multicultural nation that does not know what it has within. particularly the art of lobbying. It was very near the cemetery. 1927 for robbery and murders they did not commit. what doors to knock on and how to impact public opinion. POLITICAL REFLECTION BEFORE THE TOMBS OF SACCO AND VANZETTI While still in Boston.” they told me. seeking new forms that suppress or leave behind centralist caudillismo. but what stood out in nearly all was their pride in belonging to a powerful union. A janitors’ strike had just shaken Boston. Colombians. to those who do not want to understand the new anti-colonial struggles or the rights of immigrants? The cow quickly forgets it was once a calf. Many changes had to occur in the United States for unions to achieve the power they later acquired and a political culture free of such repression. Puerto Ricans and Dominicans and we talked about many things. None of these immigrants had belonged to grassroots movements. And they can demand wage increases based not on Central American standards but on those of US citizens. In Dubious Battle. “Back home you couldn’t do it because they would immediately send the army out. jailed or executed. making the front page of local newspapers as well as getting prominent coverage on the TV news. demonstrating the bosses’ intransigence and political manipulation. which glorifies the US war of independence.or actively participate in new holocausts? What good is the Museum of American History. so had no previous experience in such disputes. tells of a strike by Mexican migrants in the California apple orchards. Will we witness the transfer of technology in that area toward Latin America? Among the cultural remittances Central America receives. political polarization and the resulting apathy? 135 . There were Central Americans. Now Central America’s immigrants can demand higher wages without being flogged. That relatively favorable institutional context has allowed them to appropriate the technology of political participation. will we assimilate the ability to negotiate? Can some new organizational gene be introduced into our political DNA? Some protein that revitalizes political participation. They are learning what instruments to use.

mainly Central 136 . where tens of thousands of Latinos. their hands are still tied by a great many cords. AND MAQUILAS FROM NORTH TO SOUTH We are a long way from cloning these experiences.000 or more per year. Nearly half of all white people in the United States earn $35. and will be a permanent threat. factories are stampeding to Latin America in search of cheap workers. 2000. is part of their development strategy and can move at the dizzying electronic speed of a bank transfer. The first race is illegal. It is therefore unreasonable to expect all the struggles to be waged in the United States and that on top of sending remittances the migrants will also take responsibility for significantly affecting policies in their countries of origin. 5). compared to only 23% of Latinos (US Department of Commerce. moves through the desert. p. more (28%) work as laborers (DCESA. It is being played out in the United States. but not the war. A fight without quarter between tamales and hamburgers. The second has the approval of the Central American governments. Economics and Statistic Administration [DCESA]. Although many Central American immigrants (23%) work in the service sector. a long stretch of the institutional route has already been leveled in the United States: the very stretch we are just setting out on in Central America.000. p. THE PALATE IS THE LAST THING TO GO Mexican painter and sculptor Francisco Toledo waged a furious battle to keep McDonald’s from setting up one of its franchises in Oaxaca’s main plaza. Although undocumented migrants end up dealing with very adverse circumstances and face an obstacle course in defending their rights. 2001. The average annual salary of Central Americans with a full-time job does not quite hit $18.41)—many of them in the very plants that are migrating—and thus face the threat of unemployment and falling wages. Toledo won the battle. among them their desire to assimilate successfully. Although they are making and can make many contributions.MIGRANTS GO FROM SOUTH TO NORTH. partly because the migrants don’t know how far they need to travel to build that institutionality where the force of arguments replaces the billy club and not only money speaks. Another problem is that Central America’s migrants will have to succeed in their own struggle before exporting organizational skills. across the Río Grande and runs smack up against the immigration barriers. Mexico’s cultural heritage against the emblematic company of fast food and bad culinary taste. their economic limitations and their obligations to the boss. While the poor rush off to the United States in search of better wages. It is big capital’s counterattack. The problems of falling wages due to the excess labor force and of the migration of US assembly plants to the lands and labor markets of the third world are yet to be resolved.

But it only twists it during the migrants’ schizophrenic workday. enriching the poor and impoverishing the rich. and was impressed by the country that made everybody equal. Although the majority of Nicaraguans who 137 . and kosher food in Israel. curried chicken in the United Kingdom. ethnic origin or class position? The Central Americans who go to the United States haven’t all arrived in the same conditions. Craving their own food. As Spanish writer Vicente Verdú noted in a recent article. to respect the Hindus. they would sell their soul for baho. The identity roots of food run inexplicably deep. Or in Norway they transcorporatize their unit of worship into a McLaks. Nearly a century and a half before the appearance of the New Institutional Economy and well before Douglass North attributed the progress of the United States to its democracy and egalitarianism. Need has the face of a heretic and twists the arm of those promoting their own culture. based on salmon instead of beef.” Could it be that the nostalgia industry will soon be offering the migrants McTamales? For those who stay behind in Central America. paying third world wages out of first world profits. For its part. It gets the same double advantage that the Nicaraguan upper class gets with its domestic employees.. thirst for chicha. Mergers churn out multimillionaires and professionals wave their PhDs to earn a place at the apex of the middle class and be able to frolic in the meritocracy. Tocqueville underscored the importance of institutions in the development of society. They want what is traditionally theirs. Will there be an ethnic alliance or a class alliance? What carries the greatest weight: color. hunger for tortillas.. How long will it continue to be “theirs”? The palate seems to be the last thing to go. like the mortally ill but stubbornly surviving capitalist system itself. American Apartheid. Feta cheese in Greece. but they also offer Niçoise salad in France. WHICH WILL RUN DEEPEST. The New Slavery. “They always serve the Big Mac. Latinos who participate in this festivity now humiliate semi-skilled Anglo-Saxons. Or into a Maharaja Mac in India that uses lamb instead of beef. These newer studies of US society have very suggestive titles: Created Unequal. fried chicken in Singapore. paying $4 a day rather than the $8 an hour it offers in the United States. Central American migrants prepare their nacatamales. McDonald’s. has an unlimited capacity to adapt. but many other things will be left along the road. Today other viewpoints abound regarding the egalitarianism preached by the US Constitution and the Bill of Rights. They celebrate Purísima (the Immaculate Conception) and any patron saint festival they can remember. At home. pupusas and gallopinto. as if hidden away in the catacombs. McDonald’s shows its cultural respect only by adapting its salaries accordingly.Americans. work in McDonald’s franchises. ETHNIC OR CLASS ALLIANCE? In 1831 Alexis de Tocqueville visited the United States.

increasingly turning it into Little Managua. which may or may not include mediations for ethnic solidarity and subsequent support for political.” While they settled in Miami’s most luxurious area. unions and associations will be vital in defining which tendency prevails. The two groups felt bonded by a common episode in both of their histories: their flight from “communist regimes. they could be chips in the “every man for himself” game. did the huge wave of poor migrants appear and move into Little Havana. the middle-class professionals who followed moved into neighborhoods corresponding to their position. It all remains to be seen. led by Hope Portocarrero de Somoza. The future of solidarity is being played out among these interests. Only in the final years of the revolution. gender. which while close to what a legislator made in Nicaragua during those Sandinista years was ridiculous by US standards. churches. wife of the “last Somoza. race. ethnic identity.” The Cubans organized banquets with influential senators and pushed through massive naturalizations for their Nicaraguan allies. including class. Just as easily. when the crisis became very acute. EVERYTHING REMAINS TO BE SEEN Many interests are at stake among Central American immigrants today that are causing variances in the identity mechanisms. 138 . They offered them jobs as domestics and in other services at $100 a month. But the middle-class Nicaraguans had a peculiar way of helping their own undocumented and poorer compatriots. Class interests won out over ethnic solidarity without a fight.left during the eighties entered the United States with refugee status. social and economic projects in the nations of origin. Out of pure political affinity. The role of the media. political affiliation and religious creed. the first to arrive were members of the Somocista elite. the Cubans in exile supported the early Nicaraguan arrivals and shared their connections with the Republicans.

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