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The oil boom of the s provided the Ecuadorian state and foreign investors with significant revenue, but steep decreases in oil prices in the s resulted in an economic downturn and foreign debt. Ecuadorian Indians, who never saw any profit from the oil industry, suffered declines in standards of living, job opportunities, demand for products, and available government services. His successor Rodrigo Borja Cevallos attempted to address inflation and widespread unemployment through an austerity program and state intervention, but his efforts were futile.

The horrendous economic conditions in the country, which overwhelmingly impacted the lower class indigenous population, influenced the creation of organizations that could provide disenfranchised members of the population with political agency. At a convention of indigenous representatives in , CONAIE developed and agreed upon a political agenda that centered around economic policy and responded to IMF policies, including the absolution of indigenous debt, freezing of consumer prices and tribal exemption from land taxes.

Other notable priorities included indigenous rights, such as land titles from the government for tribes, protection of archaeological sites, as well as funding for bilingual education. Plurinationalism suggests that indigenous groups have their own ethnicities, cultures, histories, and distinct political rights, including legal rights to ancestral territory as well as separate lawmaking and governmental structures within the federal government framework.

Despite the distinctions between different tribes, CONAIE has successfully united the indigenous population around their shared goals, history, marginalization, and desire for respect and progress. The formation of an allied political bloc through the creation of CONAIE is a notable accomplishment, given that no collaborative efforts between all of the indigenous groups in Ecuador had existed previously. Beginning with the uprising, CONAIE gained respect by organizing and staging large, nonviolent indigenous mobilizations, generally in protest of federal policies or in celebration of indigenous culture.

The government conceded 16, square kilometers of land to tribes after the protest, and changed the terms of a controversial neoliberal agrarian reform law after the protest. Where the series of uprisings in the s gave CONAIE political clout, the national elections elevated it to an important political constituency.

The emergence of CONAIE onto the political scene between and prompted the mobilization of a marginalized but essential community in Ecuador and has put indigenous political rights on the national agenda. By utilizing mass uprisings as well as political channels, CONAIE has facilitated the entrance of tribes into official governmental processes and strengthened the leadership and solidarity of indigenous groups. In the context of migration, intersectionality illuminates the complex reality of migrants seeking to control their identity and negotiate their relationship with dominant social and political groups see, e.

Intersectionality as an analytical approach avoids essentializing differences and deepens analyses of the ways identities, social position, and political strategies are negotiated and mutually constituted, potentially liberating subaltern communities from rigid categorizations Jordan-Zachery Citizenship, defined here as inclusion as full members of society, often requires that those who are marginalized claim, fight for, and perform citizenship through their everyday practices at home and work.

They must negotiate with both the state and society how their own identities shape their access to rights and protections, rather than relying on formal legal equality Caldwell et al. An experiment of citizen reactions to a migrant speaker where race and accent were varied, for example, suggested that antimigrant attitudes were not simply the result of discernible differences, such as foreign accents Hopkins Rather, social sanctions are often triggered when the behaviors and values of migrants who are marked as different are perceived to contradict host society expectations McLaren Anderson , 2, 6—7.

In this negotiation of the community of value, nationality is not only a binary category of citizen and foreigner but also a hierarchy of sorts. The second cluster of work on migrant integration and belonging, which I call the bargaining explanation , emphasizes the negotiation of institutions and formal policies by different groups within society Engbersen and Broeders ; Van Meeteren, Engbersen, and van San Much of this literature argues that the availability of electoral power, political allies, and other formal institutional sources of political leverage are key determinants of migrant inclusion, participation, and security, as these resources delegitimize xenophobia and provide institutional paths for contestation Dancygier ; Okamoto and Ebert My work departs from this focus on formal institutions and strategies for two reasons.

Indigenous Mobilization in Ecuador

First, the nature and dynamics of migration within the Global South problematize a universal focus on formal institutions. South—South migration now accounts for a larger proportion of global migration than South—North flows, especially for refugees, 86 percent of whom are in the Global South Rango and Laczko Equally important, governance in the Global South affects migrant behaviors differently than in the Global North. This is true in large part because informal strategies may influence human security in the Global South more than do formal legal protections that have little impact in the hands of a weakly institutionalized state Polzer Second, visible political participation strategies by migrants in a range of receiving contexts may spark a backlash that can escalate conflict, creating a dilemma for migrants and allies alike concerning which strategies to pursue.

Allies among the host population and NGOs can act as brokers between migrants and the state, providing important resources while avoiding or diminishing the backlash that might accompany more overt direct migrant participation and contestation De Graauw Building on these two literatures, then, this article seeks to understand how migrants negotiate identity differences that set them apart from the dominant society and adapt informal modes of coexistence and participation through networks and non-state brokers. By political invisibility, I mean that migrants are expected not to make claims or political demands on the government, especially using public, collective action to demand rights to which they claim to be entitled because of international treaties, domestic law, the constitution, moral claims, or other reasons.

A violation of these expectations is likely to result in greater hostility and sanctions from the host population toward migrants. The controversy over the public wearing of headscarves by Muslims in France is an obvious example of this phenomenon Saas The more visible the markers of difference that set migrants apart from the host population and contradict acceptable norms of behavior Hainmueller and Hopkins , the more likely they will result in exclusion from the host society Thomsen, Green, and Sidanius In place of the social contract of citizenship, the informal relationship of mutual dependence that connects migrants to the host state affects their safety, livelihood, and acceptance as members of the political community Bosniak Susan Coutin observes,.

According to this implicit contract, when migrants contribute to a society through their labor, the society incurs certain obligations to them, such as the obligation to recognize them as full social and legal persons. Coutin , By performing the actions expected of valued members of the political community, migrants seek to gain full community membership, or at least an approximation of such membership, through de facto acceptance by the host population Anderson In sum, migrants who are seen as distinct from the host population by differences of accent, language, race, or cultural practices often face a set of informal expectations in the host society that attempt to exploit their economic capacity while making other aspects of their identity invisible, especially social practices and political claims.

The remainder of this article develops this argument through the empirical case of Colombian forced migrants in Ecuador, an important example of South—South migration. Economic migration between Colombia and Ecuador predates this refugee surge, as Ecuadorian cities like Santo Domingo and Quito have hosted Colombian merchants and entrepreneurs for many years. The unprecedented escalation of Colombian human mobility over the past 15 years, however, is attributed mostly to the increase in forced migration resulting from the conflict UNHCR During the same period that it became a primary Latin American receiving country for forced migrants, Ecuador was also a major sending state of emigrants.

Indigenous migration dynamics in the Ecuadorian Amazon: a longitudinal and hierarchical analysis

A financial crisis in compelled over 10 percent of the Ecuadorian population to emigrate, mostly to Europe and the United States Herrera, Cristia, and Alicia The Ecuadorian government under Rafael Correa — promoted a discourse of universal citizenship, under which migrants are provided a basis to claim protection and a say in the decisions that affect them by virtue of their humanity, rather than by virtue of their physical presence or legal status in their country of origin or destination Moreno Defiende Over the past decades, the Ecuadorian state has also employed a boundary-blurring strategy that extends autonomous group rights to indigenous and Afro-descendant populations and a boundary-shifting strategy to redefine individuals in these groups as rights-bearing members of the community of value.

This article draws on data from five surveys carried out in Ecuador and described in Table 1 , in addition to extensive qualitative data. The combination of different data sources — multiple surveys of Colombians and Ecuadorians plus interview and focus group responses — provides empirical richness and depth complemented by more systematic evidence of how broadly various attitudes and experiences about migration apply within the two populations.

As part of a larger project, I conducted more than interviews with migrant leaders and officials of NGOs, state agencies, and international organizations plus two focus groups of forced migrants in Quito during 14 months of fieldwork spanning to In addition to these qualitative data, I draw on data from the surveys summarized in Table 1 , two of which were carried out by others and three of which were conducted by my research team.

Both surveys are conducted regularly, but these specific years were selected because of the number and relevance of immigration-related questions. My original Migrant Networks Survey MNS provides detailed evidence about the self-reported attitudes and experiences of a larger sample of migrants in Ecuador, at least 95 percent of whom were Colombian.


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The questions 6 used in this survey were developed and validated with feedback from refugees, NGO leaders, and other stakeholders. Migrant respondents were recruited in each town to complete the MNS survey, with the help of local organizations and by identifying neighborhoods with high concentrations of migrants.

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Evidence from the MNS survey and from interviews in the provinces provides a more complete picture of migrant integration in both Quito and smaller border towns than do national aggregate data, as social and political expectations can differ across these localities. The data on Colombian migrant perceptions are much harder to collect than Ecuadorian attitudes, so drawing on multiple sources helps compensate for some of the limitations of any one survey, particularly small and non-random samples 7 resulting from the trade-offs involved in surveying difficult-to-reach populations under the constraints of limited resources Bloch The data described above illustrate how Colombians are expected to contribute economically to Ecuadorian society, while remaining socially and politically invisible to avoid negative social sanctions and backlash.

Both Ecuadorians and Colombians face difficult economic conditions, with many working in the informal sector for low and unstable wages, but the scope of the problem is much worse for Colombians. In comparison, 43 percent of full-time Ecuadorian workers earn less than minimum wage Marinakis The expectation of political invisibility underlies the strategies that migrants choose in attempting to meet their collective needs.

Advocacy by Colombian migrants during the constitutional assembly in was important in achieving progressive policy gains and protections, but much of this negotiation involved migrants sharing testimonies or providing input at hearings with agendas set by the state, the United Nations, and Ecuadorian NGOs, according to a leader of the Association of Colombian Refugees in Ecuador ARCOE. These political strategies did not violate the invisibility bargain because they took place behind closed doors and relied on host society NGO allies for political cover.

In contrast, those migrants with more visible differences or whose political demands were more overt have had less success. Among Colombian migrants, organized self-advocacy seems to have declined since , due to resource constraints, the transience of leaders, and the fear of engaging in visible collective action, as leaders of multiple refugee organizations noted. The political invisibility expectation also influences the Ecuadorian host society reaction to these strategies. Some Ecuadorians, for example, frame any overt Colombian involvement in politics as inappropriate and as a presumptuous sign of ingratitude.

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Indigenous Mobilization in Ecuador | Modern Latin America

Colombians have started getting involved in politics, because they are smart and well-prepared… I think they are ungrateful, coming to our country, being welcomed, and then taking over. We as Ecuadorians are the ones who have the right to decide how we will be governed. Similar sentiments were articulated by Ecuadorians in , when a large group of Colombian farmers crossed the Ecuador-Colombia border into the town of San Lorenzo to demand that the Ecuadorian government criticize Colombian glyphosate spraying in the region.

The same behavior that would be ignored or excused for a mestizo Ecuadorian, for example, might result in social rejection or trigger persecution if done by a Colombian, even more if the person is Afro-Colombian. The same coping strategy may take on different meanings, however, depending on the context, personal characteristics, and social capital of those carrying it out. The ways in which the social invisibility expectation is navigated across multiple forms of difference are discussed in the next section, which traces the connections among race, class, gender, and accent to analyze their role in shaping migrant acceptance and integration in the host society.

In Ecuador, social hierarchies are reproduced in everyday practices, and racial relations in particular are characterized by an internalized set of rules that privilege those in power by helping them find employment and housing, move freely, participate politically, and exist in public space without their visible differences inhibiting success Cervone The recent phenomenon of large-scale immigration into Ecuador adds additional marginalized social categories to the existing categories of indigeneity and race and complicates the negotiation of ethnic identity and political agency by minority groups.

Such negotiations, of course, have long and deep historical roots De la Torre The large cities, in contrast, became spaces that concentrated political and economic elites who constructed an exclusive community of value that implicitly linked whiteness and mestizaje with political power and legitimacy.

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This remains true today for Afro and indigenous Colombian migrants, who experience marginalization along and across lines of race, class, and nationality when they come to Ecuador. Given these intersecting forms of difference and the stigmatization of Colombians in Ecuador, how does one tease out the relative importance of these factors in their experiences of belonging and exclusion? Compared to other social categories, migrants are the target of particular distrust in Ecuador.

Ecuadorian Latinobarometer respondents , for example, reported lower levels of trust toward foreigners than toward indigenous people, Ecuadorian nationals, or poor people. When trying to tease out the weighting of different forms of difference within the migrant population, however, economic class takes on more importance. Colombians are often stigmatized as being associated with crime and conflict while US, European, and Chinese migrants are associated with investment or tourism.


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  6. Although Colombians are more similar to Ecuadorians by phenotype, language, geographic proximity, and religion than these other groups, negative stereotypes associated with their nationality seem to be more salient in producing social exclusion. The next two sections attempt to tease apart the ways in which accent and race interact with gender and class to shape the possibilities for social inclusion or marginalization of Colombian migrants in Ecuador. Language and accent are key markers of difference that set migrants apart in many countries, although there is a debate about whether the presence of a different accent or language, or the values and social meaning given to it, increases prejudice and discrimination Munro ; Hopkins In my MNS survey, 73 percent of migrant respondents in Ecuador reported that they had felt discriminated against while living in Ecuador.

    A Colombian woman in Esmeraldas, for example, reported in a interview that when she was out to dinner with friends and dressed in business attire, a man at the restaurant heard her accent and asked how much she charged per hour, implying that she was a prostitute. Notably, this woman was a college-educated consultant working for an international organization. As this example shows, negative nationality and sexualized stereotypes can be activated by accent markers that cut across class lines. These sorts of responses to different accents frequently lead Colombians to stay at home, to communicate mostly with other Colombians, or to remain silent in public, especially in close proximity to police and other state agents Korovkin According to one female Colombian asylum seeker in a interview in Quito,.

    I stopped selling empanadas in the streets because I am afraid. The migration police would often come by, and if they hear a Colombian accent, they would ask to see our documents.