Labour migration – its effect on indigenous youths living in Cañar, Ecuador.
Background: During the last decades, labour migration has had a major impact on Ecuador. It’s estimated that about 10-15% of the Ecuadorians has emigrated the last 25 years. The emigrational stream has merged from several periods of economical crises, affecting especially those in the middle and lower socioeconomic class – amongst them the indigenous people. In search of better opportunities for work a considerable amount has chosen to emigrate illegally, leaving their children behind.
Object: This paper concerns labour migration and its effect on indigenous youths living in Ecuador, in the province of Cañar. I have selected three of many areas in which the emigration is thought to have an effect on their lives: culturally, academically and emotionally.
Methods: The methodological approach is qualitative. It is based on interviews with nine pupils from an indigenous school in Cañar, girls and boys, both with emigrant parents and non-emigrant parents. Observations in the classrooms, a questionnaire on the parents emigrational status, and data on marks and behaviour of 43 pupils are also used to describe the material.
Results: Through the histories of the youths I find a great variety of emigrational effects: Academically some students failed to pass classes due to the separation with parents; others gain more motivation in their studies. In any case the remittances make it possible for them to study in the first place. Culturally some might loose practice of their native language; while others – through reinforced relationship with grandparents as substitute-parents – strengthen their connections to their indigenous culture. Emotionally emigration makes a painful distance between the youth and its parents; and at the same time, in many cases, it reinforces the relation to other members of the family.
Conclusions: The emigrational effects on the youth indigenous are diverse and complex. The emigrational process is gradual and creates transitional forms. All together it shows youths of emigrants as a heterogeneous group, not to be generalized. Our tendency to identify them only as victims is a simplified image that does not take into account the diversities of the effects of migration.