The Lincoln Plawg - the blog with footnotes

Politics and law from a British perspective (hence Politics LAW BloG): ''People who like this sort of thing...'' as the Great Man said

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Friday, January 02, 2004

Bolivians head for the exits...

...some of them.

One of the likely gringo indigenophile suppositions is a sort of bovine passivity amongst the peasantry in the face of unrelenting, grinding poverty (the type represented in George Orwell's Animal Farm by the horse Boxer).

As we'll get onto, as we get into the land issue, Bolivian peasant life has never been like that: even before the white man arrived, mobility - of a kind unheard of amongst most of their European contemporaries - was an integral part of their existence.

But, it seems, today's Bolivians are also taking to the skies in search of a better future: according to El Deber of Santa Cruz (January 1), 40,000 left the departamento of Santa Cruz in 2003 for pastures new (100,000 flew out, 60,000 came back, ergo...). Brazil and Argentina are the favourite destinations, though many fly on from Argentina to Spain. Smaller numbers go to Mexico and Panama, with a view to getting into the US.

Most striking, however, is the fact that, of every ten departures, six are women, three children and only one is a man.

(Whereas the classic experience of emigration is that the man goes first, and, once he's got settled, calls for his wife and children to follow.)

But also notable is that Santa Cruz is the richest departamento in Bolivia. I suspect that these are these emigrants are educated and have enough money to make a start in Spain, the US or wherever. The sort of people that Bolivia can ill afford to lose, in fact.

(How significant are the remittances of emigrants back to their families in Bolivia? I can't remember seeing a number for this.)

The CIA Factbook has a table showing estimated net migration rates for 2003: Bolivia's net emigration comes in at 1.37‰ - by comparison, its neighbours' stats show Peru with net emigration of 1.03‰, Chile in balance, and Argentina with net immigration of 0.62‰ (Mexico manages to palm off a net 2.65‰, mostly, I suspect, on Uncle Sam).

Do Bolivian overseas migration stats historically fluctuate according to the economic and political climate in the country? Have patterns of migration changed with the availability of cheaper air travel to further-flung destination?

My hypothesis is that, of the various factors in the Bolivian polity, external migration is not one of the most critical. But, as ever - bring on the facts!

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