Every country has their own migration waves, and according to some reports Peru has already experienced five waves. Migration from South America is also a gendered phenomenon: over 50% of migrants from Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Paraguay, Uruguay and Venezuela up to 2019, were women. This piece explores the experiences of female migrants from Peru’s sixth wave of migration.
When I moved to Israel to pursue my MA in 2017 for economic purposes, I did not understand what being a migrant meant. I always saw migrants as people who had to move locations, as in they were forced to do it. Migrants for me were also people who planned to move for years, and finally made it. I always saw myself as just a traveller, passing by. Three years later, I moved back to Israel for family reunification, and I started my migrant journey. During the struggle to settle down in my new country, my husband gave me the idea to reach out to other Latinas that have migrated before and ask for advice. I decided to narrow the search to Peruvian women abroad, hoping that they would share with me, and by default, with anyone who would listen to the podcast, the key to surviving outside of Peru. I held many informal conversations with Peruvian women over WhatsApp and Zoom; every discussion would end up with us agreeing that we were knocking down stereotypes, prejudgments, cultural differences and more, but we also agreed that it was not an easy task and we wished for someone to have helped us.
In the process of understanding my migrant process and theirs, I created Granadilla Podcast: Peruvian women thriving around the world. The Granadilla part is easy to explain: it is my favourite Peruvian fruit, and is very hard to find abroad. The podcast’s slogan “peruanas rompiéndola en el extranjero” translated into English would be “Peruvians thriving around the world”. “Rompiéndola” has a double meaning in Spanish. First, it is a very Peruvian expression which means to do amazingly or succeed in whatever you are working on. Second, it means to break or tear down the obstacles, barriers and more that we as Peruvian women face outside our country.
Throughout the first year of the podcast, I have had the privilege of meeting amazing Peruvian women that are working to bring transformative change within their own communities and beyond. In Europe, we have Diana Morales, who created and directs the Pierre Janet Institute in Italy – a mental health centre offering specialised psychotherapy, wellness programmes and distance-learning courses. If we go to North America, we have Yane Valdez, in Canada, who is devoted to breaking down barriers that prevent women from succeeding in STEM fields, as well as creating awareness about Covid and immunology through her Twitter account ImmunoLatinXs. In South America, more specifically in Brazil, we have Rocio Espinoza, who through her Instagram account Piridina.pe, shares important information about drug discoveries and her PhD journey as a female scientist. These are just a few examples of what Peruvian women are doing abroad, and you can learn more about them by visiting our social media or listening to their stories through the podcast.
It is no secret that being a migrant is a challenge. If you add to this that you are Latina and a woman, things become even more complex. Racism is one of the biggest struggles of Peruvian migrants, who face prejudice based on both their skin colour and nationality. This fact has only been an extra motivation for these Peruvian women to achieve higher milestones. They are climbing up the ladder in their different fields, and they are showing the world what it means to have a Peruvian in their team.
Aware that language represents another obstacle when migrating, we therefore took it upon ourselves to learn the language of our new country. Based on the interviews conducted for the podcast, 3% of interviewees speak at least 4 languages including Spanish, 43% learned 2 more languages besides our native language, and 49% chose a second language after Spanish.
Another big challenge is the cultural differences. The Peruvian women featured on the podcast had to put themselves out there and learn about new cultures and new ways of doing things, from understanding how bureaucracy works in each country, to learning dress codes for different occasions. As the saying goes: “When in Rome, do as the Romans do”: they adapted themselves, and became one with their new nation, without leaving their Peruvian roots behind.
The future of Peruvian migration needs a feminist approach. For example, there is no research on how maternity is experienced when abroad and away from family. As Latinas, we are used to having all of our family involved in the process, but how does this work when away from home? On the other hand, security and safety are key considerations when a Peruvian woman decides to migrate. How do their lives improve when they are less worried about being assaulted returning home late at night? Throughout Granadilla Podcast’s episodes we are trying to understand what the female Peruvian migrant looks like. We know for a fact that Peruvian migrant women are shaping the future of Peru from abroad and it is time to give them the recognition and support they deserve.