Colombian Migration in the Kingdom of Sweden

By Bacca, Renzo Ramirez | The Journal of Latino - Latin American Studies, Spring 2006 | Go to article overview

Colombian Migration in the Kingdom of Sweden


Bacca, Renzo Ramirez, The Journal of Latino - Latin American Studies


Introduction

The evaluation of Colombian migration and its process of social interaction abroad is a complex task. It is known that one of the main reasons why Colombians migrate is the search for better salaries and higher living standards. In recent decades, Colombians have chosen, as their preferred destinations, countries like Venezuela, Ecuador, Panama, and the United States. That migration has also been influenced by widespread violence and absence of personal safety (Urrea, 1986). Emigration has sparked the interest of private organizations and public institutions interested in assessing, from a macro and quantitative perspective, the impact it has on the national economy and the country's demographics (Inter-American Development Bank, n.d. and 2003; Global Hoy, 2004; Roldan, 2004; Universidad Autonoma de Madrid and Universidad Pontifica Comillas, 2003).

It is beyond the scope of this article to purport a macro study of Colombian migration; instead a concrete case will be examined. Thus, the study of Colombians resident in Sweden or the Konungariket Sverige (Kingdom of Sweden) will enable us a better understanding of the phenomenon. The lack of previous work on this area was one of the main motivations for this research. In this respect, the general objectives are to explore, understand, and explain the process of Colombian migration and integration in Göteborg (Sweden).1 In particular, it will attempt to answer the following questions: What were the causes that motivate migration? What is the process of integration into Swedish society? What difficulties did immigrants face during their first years?

In order to address the questions, above mentioned, it is necessary to examine the context of Swedish migratory flows and policies. Factors considered in the present analysis were limited to the exploration of the activities of the Colombian community, assessment of meeting places, study of women's roles, and status of refugee families. It also analyzes the recent community's participation in the labor market.

Method and Sources

The lack of supporting documentation forced the use of precise methodologies that could create evidence material in order to be systematically analyzed as primary sources. The starting point was the development of a written questionnaire. The final questions were chosen after an initial period of discussion and experimentation with several of the project's early collaborators.2

The research was directed at native-born and nationalized Colombians and at the children of bicultural (Colombian/Swedish) families. The questions were selected according to the following critical aspects: emigration, integration, residents' social status, and cultural behavior. Questions that could affect the privacy or sensibilities of the respondents were avoided. In the same way, conversations and open-ended interviews with members of the community were created. The purpose of these was to obtain life stories and in particular, to address issues related to the already mentioned societal characteristics. In brief, the methodology was basically ethnographic, which is here understood as the observation and analysis of specific human groups devoid of the influence of a previously developed theory.3

Background: Migration Flows and Policies

Sweden's immigration history, particularly from its neighboring countries, goes back to times immemorial. At different historical periods, several ethnic groups created immigrant communities that, for a while, maintained their cultural identity but that ended up embracing the values and culture of Swedish society (Adolfsson 2005; Dalhede 2001). Germans, Finish, Walloons, and Jewish, among others, have had a relevant presence in Swedish cultural, technological, administrative, economic, and political life (Reuter, 2005). From the end of the eighteenth and until the first decades of the twentieth centuries, there was little immigration if compared to the large Swedish exodus to the Americas (Lext, 1977). …

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