Publications and Research

Document Type


Publication Date

Spring 3-2016


Based on testimonials of migration journeys of indigenous Cañaris from southern highland Ecuador, this paper examines strategies of mobility and social networking employed by migrants and facilitators in the human smuggling market. Following a series of economic crises in the late 1990s, Ecuadorian transnational migration increased significantly, with a 55.5 percent increase to the United States between 2000 and 2008, and staggering 12,150 percent increase to Spain between 1998 and 2005. This article focuses on the growth of a regional migration industry in the southern high-land region, and pays special attention to the roles of indigenous Cañari migrants and migration merchants. The guiding questions are: how does indigeneity figure in mobility strategies; in what ways is indigenous identity strategically employed in the migration journey; and how might indigenous migration merchants contribute to the expansion of migration? As migration routes become increasingly dangerous, migrants and human smuggling actors employ more innovative and riskier strategies. I contend that while indigenous identity may be used strategically and allow migrants to forge new transnational social networks, indigenous migrants struggle for legibility in the face of ethnic and linguistic discrimination, in communities of origin, along migratory routes, and in migration destinations.



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