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What may be learned from the Ecuadorian emigration for the debate on Venezuelans in Colombia?

The Ecuadorian emigration to Spain allows asking several opportune questions to try to understand the challenges of the current Venezuela emigration to the neighboring Latin American countries. Is this producing the same stigmas towards Venezuelans in Colombia which happened to the Ecuadorians in Spain 17 years ago? Who makes or repeats these stereotypes of whores or hopeless erring migrants? Where do these fears and speeches come from? How can we learn from other migratory processes to not repeat mistakes and have a better social, occupational or cultural integration? (Massal, 2009; Sassen, 2003).

Migration are usually perceived as an unstabilizing element for the receiving countries, although every society has its own unique manner to react in face of this challenge, according to its own history or migratory trajectory (V. de Wenden 1999). Being Colombia an emigration country which is turning into an immigration country, being on the receiving end of a substantial part of the Venezuelan migration, it is relevant to ask how the country has received this incoming population.

For now, there is certain institutional and social uncertainness in face of the size of the phenomenon and sometimes untruthfulness, but there are also examples of solidarity. The uncertainness may come from several aspects: how long is this going to take? Are they going to stay and for how long? How will they integrate? What repercussions will it have for Colombian society which has its own social and economic challenges?

These questions, however, are recurring in all migratory processes (Roll y Gómez 2010). Therefore it is pertinent to recall experiences perhaps forgotten of Latin American countries which had a similar migratory crisis (Massal, 2010).

Ecuadorians in Spain: A forgotten process?

The migration from Ecuador to Spain suddenly increased between 2001 and 2002, as a result of the economic and bank crisis of 1999. Despite the cultural and historic links between Ecuador and Spain, this migration suffered several obstacles, although with differences according to the social categories of the migrants (Pujadas y Massal, 2002).

Therefore, the Ecuadorian migration could be characterized in three categories. A peasant/working class population which arrived to work in the fields, initially for short periods of times, but then they began to stay, as leaving and coming in again was turning to be risky. Secondly, a more qualified and young labor force, sometimes students, established generally in the large cities which looked to obtain residency or double nationality, but that also traveled to save money to return to Ecuador and support their families. Thirdly, the Ecuadorian women population grew (as in other Latin American countries) as they replied to an important social need in Spain, whose population was turning old: taking care of the elderly.  These women migrants had difficult occupational and migratory conditions, for not having occupation protection.

There were several stigmas in the migratory process, both in the media and political realms. The main stigmatization was directed at the peasants which were perceived as an unstable, difficult to control population and suspicious of trafficking with IDs. Also, the women faced the stigma of being perceived as prostitutes or human trafficking coordinators or ID traffickers by marriage business deals.

However, in the news, the Ecuadorians are related to the Colombians as victims or accomplices of their trafficking networks. It is important to highlight that this occurred in a country with shared linguistic and cultural roots.

Reflections and teachings for the Colombian debate

The main response on how we can learn from what happened and apply it to the emigration of Venezuelans to other Latin American countries in general and particularly to Colombia is to strive for a better understanding of migration as a process and migrants as people, as xenophobia sentiments grow in populations or regions most separated of the migration or more ignorant of the reasons for which they migrated and the stages of their migration process.

This knowledge should be built between the academia, the media and the authorities, based on clear and trustworthy information. The greatest challenge is that this information is scarce when new migration waves increase, due to the lack of current reliable information and diagnosis. Therefore, the need to look retrospectively into similar processes in similar countries.

Migration is an issue which has several legal, political, social and cultural dimensions, a complexity which links it to sensible populational management processes, but also to the capability of the receiving society to organize to help in said integration according to its own interests and aspirations.


Massal, Julie. (2010). Migración y derechos humanos: tensiones y desafíos. En Roll David y Gómez Diana. Migraciones internacionales: crisis mundial, nuevas realidades, nuevas perspectivas. Bogotá: IEPRI, Universidad Salamanca, “Iberoamérica Soy Yo”, Universidad Nacional, pp. 257-278.

Massal, Julie. (2009). La migración en contexto de globalización: desafíos estratégicos e implicaciones para los derechos humanos. En Jaramillo Grace (comp.), Relaciones internacionales: nuevos horizontes. Quito: FLACSO-Ecuador & Ministerio de Cultura, 1a ed., p. 215-241.

Pujadas, Juan José y Massal, Julie. (2002). Migraciones ecuatorianas a España: procesos de inserción y claroscuros. Revista Iconos. Quito, Ecuador: FLACSO, 14, p. 67-87.

Roll, David y Gómez, Diana. (2010). Migraciones internacionales: crisis mundial, nuevas realidades, nuevas perspectivas. Bogotá: IEPRI, Universidad Salamanca-“Iberoamérica Soy Yo”, Universidad Nacional, pp. 257-278.

Sassen, Saskia. (2003). Contrageografías de la globalización. Barcelona: Ed. Traficantes de Sueños.

Wihtol de Wenden, Catherine. (1999). Faut-il ouvrir le s frontières ? Paris: Presses de Sciences Po.


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