Latin American Poverty in Spain
The late 90’s and early 2000s saw an influx of Latin Americans immigrating to Spain. The reasons for this immigration are varied and the phenomenon is undeniable. From 1990 to 2005, the population of immigrants in Spain increased from 58,000 people to 569,000 people. The most popular reasons for this wave of immigration include global, economic crises and dangerous dictatorships. Notably, these waves of migration had significant impacts on Spanish culture. Latin American poverty in Spain came about due to a multitude of factors, including economic collapse and political instability. Understanding the effects of immigration can help to better understand the overall effect of migration on global poverty.

Top 3 Reasons Latin Americans Emigrated

  1. Economic Crashes. The crashing of the Latin American economy played a major role in the immigration of Latin Americans to Spain. Countries hit especially hard include Argentina, Brazil and Peru. There were plans to promote the security of the economy at the macroeconomic level, including being more open to trade and interaction with other countries. Also, these plans involved having pro-market policies. There was a belief that these policies would lead to the growth of Latin American economies, though the opposite was the case. As a result of these policies, there was a growth in hyperinflation in the late 80’s, leading to a general crisis across the entire region. Though the economy recovered in the early 90’s, the latter half of the decade proved to be destructive when there was an abrupt decrease in internal, capital flows to the region. These issues continued into the early 2000s. These economic crises corresponded with levels of mass emigration to other countries, most notably Spain and the U.S.
  2. Political Instability. There were several dictatorships in the 20th century that contributed to the economic devastation and the lower quality of life in Latin American countries. This, in turn, also contributed to Latin American poverty. Numerous dictatorships affected this balance. Countries such as Ecuador, Guatemala, Chile, Honduras, Uruguay, and many others felt these effects. Dictators completely altered the way of living in the region. Though there were many writers and artists discussing the effects of the dictatorships (which are still felt in these countries today), the effects ultimately proved too much for some citizens. Shortly after the end of these dictatorships, many people immigrated to other countries. Statistically, the most populous countries for migration were the U.S. and Spain.
  3. Terrible Quality of Life. The decline in Latin Americans’ quality of life was due to a combination of political instability and economic devastation. According to Venezuelan immigrant Rosa (name changed for privacy reasons), her move to Spain from Venezuela was a result of a combination of the two issues. Migrants chose to pursue better economic and political opportunities elsewhere.

Top 3 Things to Know About Latin American Poverty in Spain

  1. Primary Groups of Immigration. Three main groups of immigrants live in Spain — Argentinians, Ecuadorians and Colombians. These groups were the most impacted by the financial crises and dictatorships in the Latin American region. Researchers noticed that these countries felt the most impact by these issues and had the highest levels of emigration. All Latin American immigrants were legally welcomed into Spain through the passage of various forms of legislation intended to help boost the Spanish economy.
  2. Assimilation into Spanish life. Immigrant assimilation into Spanish life has taken on different forms for these migrants. For example, Rosa first migrated to Spain three years ago because of the dictatorship of Nicólas Maduro. Because of the dictatorship, she could not find or hold a steady job and sought better political and economic opportunities in Spain. She described her assimilation as “easier” because she is half-Spanish. One area of immediate struggle for Rosa is the ability to communicate with Spaniards. There are different vocabulary words to represent the same idea and Sandra had to learn the appropriate words to communicate with others. Further, it is culturally appropriate for people to rest in the middle of the day — which was not typical for Rosa.

    Though Rosa was able to transition relatively smoothly, other immigrants fare differently. Ecuadorian immigrants in particular typically reside in one district of the city of Seville. According to previous census records, these immigrants live in urban neighborhoods and make the least amount of money, through low-level jobs. Immigrants have also been shown to contribute the most towards higher crime rates in Spain. Psychologists attribute this to difficulties with assimilation due to the poorer neighborhoods, schools and jobs.

  3. Women & Children. Women and children are disproportionately affected by immigration effects. In particular, children attend worse schools and are more likely to commit crimes. For example, the rates of crime for Ecuadorian immigrants in Spain has continued to increase throughout the years. This, in turn, contributes to the overall levels of Latin American poverty in Spain. Because these immigrants have been living in mostly urban neighborhoods and have been working the lowest-level jobs, they are viewed as more likely to commit crimes such as robbery and petty larceny.

Ending Latin American Poverty in Spain

Latin American immigration is a cultural phenomenon, studied and investigated throughout the entire 21st century. Argentines, Colombians and Brazilians were the primary groups that experienced the highest levels of immigration and the highest effects of immigration. Understanding the dynamics between immigrants and native citizens can inform better responses to Latin American poverty in Spain.

Alondra Belford
Photo: Flickr