Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Migrants in Chimbote

Chimbote like so many of its surrounding cities in Peru, is a collection of cultures and ethnic groups that equates to a city finding itself in the ellipses of the question: What is the culture of Chimbote? Unlike cities within the mountains whose women are identified by the top hats and colorful skirts, or the Inti Raymi festivals in Cusco, Chimbote leans towards a community of people who have brought bits of their identity with them and created a new style which can be defined as “Chimbotano,” or as the locals often refer to each other as Pata Salada.

Located along the coast of Peru, Chimbote has become one of the largest cities in the Ancash region. The city is home to over 400,000 people, a large portion whom live in extreme poverty. However for many, Chimbote holds the promise of a better life: educational opportunities, and an expanded job market. Its origins date back to the early 1940s with the opening of several fish factories and later on an iron and steel plant which drew in quite a bit of income. The increase of income attracted families from the mountain sides seeking employment leading to a large migration -- movement of people to a new area or country in order to find work or better living conditions.

However, over the years the city has seen quite a bit of devastation. A terrible earthquake, overfishing of the bay, and corrupt politicians has led to social and economic difficulties. Such difficulties include low-employment, corrupt government agencies, and an underfunded educational system. To clarify, quite a few of these institutional issues are a nation wide problem and not just unique to Chimbote. Despite the economic and government difficulties, Chimbote continues to offer more opportunities than would otherwise be found in many mountain cities or villages. Thus the migration of families from the hillsides to Chimbote and Nuevo Chimbote continues.

Often when families migrate they move in parts. For instance, the father will leave first to secure a job prior to relocating the remaining family members. This often creates a division amongst close knit communities for they have to redistribute labor positions. According to an article from The Mountain Institute called “Migration from the Mountains: Peru” they write that “Two things are true about migration for mountain communities: 1) Migrants will have better access to education, jobs, and an increased access to resources. 2) When migrants leave, the division of labor in their home communities’ changes.” How migrant communities adapt to their new environment differs. Surrounding the cities of Chimbote and Nuevo Chimbote one can find invasiones or invasion zones, located amongst the sand dunes, inhabited by migrants. Over time as these communities grew in size and claimed recognition by the state, these areas have received landownership rights, access to water, electricity, and schools. Though there is an unofficial designated living area, the communities acceptance by residents and the government at large reflex its complexities.

The acceptance of immigrants, those who decide to permanently reside in a foreign country and migrants, often depends upon the government’s ability to support them in the form of job assistance, schooling, and housing. Chimbote strives to accommodate new inhabitants but due to social and economic difficulties a lot of the work is left up to the families. Unfortunately, there is some discrimination directed towards migrants. Derogatory words such as “cholo” and “cerrano” are sometimes used to imply that someone is uneducated and unrefined. Though there are insensitive people, the majority of Chimbotanos are welcoming and supportive of the migrant communities.

As alluded to earlier, the migration process is not always easy and varies from person to person. Age is often a factor when it comes to how quickly and effectively one adapts to their environment. As a result children who are brought up in their new community tend to stay and make roots. However, when migration does not meet the needs of the family changes have to be made. The high unemployment rates have forced many family and individuals to search for economic opportunities elsewhere, even to other countries such as Chile, Argentina, and parts of Europe. This process is called emigration: the act of leaving one’s own country to permanently settle abroad or for an extended period. These family members tend to send money back to their family residing in Chimbote. It is apparent that a city’s economy is often a driving factor for the movement of people be it migration or emigration. Whether community members are looking for a chance to improve their living standards or leaving to support their families from afar. This leaves cities like Chimbote in a constant state of change. Whatever external factors that cause a family to relocate is a challenge in and of itself. However government run agencies and welcoming locals can ease the transition process and better support these families which in turn has the potential to benefit Chimbote at large.

Written by IWM Selena Mitchell

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