Tuesday, October 17, 2006



Juan and his fiancée, María are a neat couple; they indicated their willingness, a few months ago, to become members of our church. We were thrilled; they flowed with us easily, understood our philosophy of ministry and were potential leaders in the youth ministry. A week ago they told us that they were marrying soon and leaving for Spain in November. Juan got a promising job offer with a remuneration that no employer in Bolivia could possibly match; Bolivians provide cheap labour in highly competitive European capitalist economies.

There are literally thousands of “Juans” and “Marias” who’ve left Bolivia for Spain. The pace of emigration has surged dramatically because of Spain’s impending decision to demand visas from visitors and guest workers from Latin America. The other reasons are the lack of good job opportunities and the current instability in Bolivia. Lengthy queues of people carrying files with travel documents are a common sight at the government immigration office and travel agencies.

There appear to be some “pluses” in this mass exodus. Immigrants and guest workers send remittances to their loved ones in Bolivia. Some single young men and women with no family responsibilities have been blessed by a new environment and the availability of jobs and opportunities. Hard cash from abroad not only helps needy Bolivian families but also serves to inject movement in a financially strapped economy. This could explain the reticence on the part of the Bolivian government to put into place policies that discourage emmigration. Another “plus” is the growth of the Spanish Church. A mission director said recently that Latin American emigration has helped to fill Christian Churches in Spain.

Here’s the bad news. Emigration has contributed to the disintegration of the Bolivian family. Husbands and fathers, after spending many years in Spain, have been known to abandon their wives and children in Bolivia for other women. Teenagers and children are left with relatives while their parents leave for greener pastures. Some emigrants make provision for their families to join them after years of hard labour while others simply abandon them. Spain these days is'nt exactly a model of moral rectitude. Franco’s conservative Spain died in the 70’s. Modern Spain is very permissive; they champion gay marriage in Europe. It’s not hard to see well intentioned Bolivians falling to temptation in such an environment.

And so is this Bolivian exodus a good thing? The massive brain drain will ultimately worsen Bolivia's economic plight; the absence of a parental figure in the home will breed a generation of dysfunctional children. The Lord in bringing good out of evil never justifies the evil. Yes, the Christian Church in Spain appears to have benefited from this migration but this is not a license to put a positive spin on the breakdown of the Bolivian family nor does it absolve the Bolivian government from its responsability of removing barriers to job creation. Some have improved their well-being after having migrated to Spain. In terms of long term national development, however, this exodus is NOT a healthy development.

Pray For Bolivia.


Anonymous said...

At the macro level, it does not augur well for Bolivia's future. But at the micro level of survival of individual families, sometimes this new mobility is the only way out of poverty.

Bolivian Beat said...

Very well put..Blogpastor...the differentiation between the Macro and the Micro certainly helps one put things in perspective.