Academic journal article Journal of Comparative Family Studies

Transnational Family Life among Peruvian Migrants in Chile: Multiple Commitments and the Role of Social Remittances

Academic journal article Journal of Comparative Family Studies

Transnational Family Life among Peruvian Migrants in Chile: Multiple Commitments and the Role of Social Remittances

Article excerpt


Most of the literature on migration and transnationalism has focused on migration from the South to the North. By focusing on Peruvian migration to Chile, this paper explores some of the characteristics of the social reproduction of transnational families across two neighboring countries in the South and in doing so it aims to contribute to an emerging debate on South-South migration.

It is estimated that approximately 3 million Peruvian are currently living abroad.1 After decades of migration, today countries such as the USA (Berg 2005; Paerregaard 2005), Spain (Escriva 2005), Italy (Tamagno 2002; 2003) and Japan (Takenaka, 2005) are host to consolidated Peruvian communities which originated from various regions and social classes in Peru. Changing economic and legal environments in the recipient countries at times created and in other times restricted, opportunities for new Peruvian emigrants. In the 1990s, as migratory controls in the North tightened and the pressure to migrate increased in Peru due to political instability and economic crises generated by the Fujimori government, countries in the South became popular destinations among Peruvian emigrants (Berg and Paerregaard, 2005). Relatively more prosperous countries in the South-American region such as Argentina, Chile, and more recently Ecuador, emerged as alternative destinations offering economic opportunities, particularly for lower class migrants

Peruvian migration to various parts of the world makes a good study case to explore dynamics and processes specific to the South which are shaping migrants' transnational family lives. A regionally informed analysis needs to consider, for example, the extent to which geographical proximity between Chile and Pera favors "back and forth" mobility among migrants and their families in Peru as compared to more distant destinations in the North. Paradoxically in the case of Chile, its advantage of geographical proximity is weakened by economic and legal restrictions to migrants' mobility.

Focusing on the structural conditions framing migrants' transnational family lives, this paper highlights the emotional experiences of migrants and the efforts they make in maintaining their place within their families back home, on a par with their material contributions to those families' livelihoods. It will demonstrate how emotions and remittances, financial as well as immaterial, are intertwined in a situation in which migrants try to maintain family relationships in two neighboring countries simultaneously, with all the concomitant complications.

It is common knowledge that migration increases the possibility of partners' splitting and the setting up of new families in the host society. Very often these events also interfere with the continuity and regularity of migrants' remittances. In contrast with other destinations, Peruvian migrants in Chile are mostly of lower-class extraction and from the northern coastal cities in Peru (Núñez and Stefoni, 2004). Another distinctive element is the high number of women, who migrate in their own right and are outnumbering men (Martinez, 2003). Are the migrants' class and gender backgrounds exerting any influence on the relationships they maintain with their families back home? In an attempt to answer this question, this paper examines the emotional side of family dynamics that span across national (but rather close) frontiers and the influence of contextual socio-cultural and economic factors in shaping these dynamics. By focusing on the emotional meanings of remittances, this paper brings into light often invisible processes that run parallel to migrants' transnational family lives, and at the same time ponders on whether the identified dynamics are specific to South-South migration.2

Transnational Family Lives

The analytical lens of transnationalism provide of a particular way of theorizing sociocultural, political, economic, religious relations and social networks that span across national borders (Faist, 2000; Portes, Guarnizo and Landlot, 1999). …

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