Home News A Decolonial Feminist Evaluation of Narratives from Nicaragua and El Salvador

A Decolonial Feminist Evaluation of Narratives from Nicaragua and El Salvador


That is an advance excerpt from Dignity in Motion: Borders, Our bodies and Rights, edited by Jasmin Lilian Diab (E-Worldwide Relations, forthcoming 2021).

For the reason that final decade of the twentieth century, globalization has stimulated totally different and different types of mobility: whereas it favors the transnationalization of capital, it restricts human mobility, particularly for weak populations. As well as, First World nations have created discriminatory narratives and insurance policies that form migration (Donato and Massey 2016). This paradox of up to date mobility has favored the emergence of analysis paradigms that search to reply to the challenges posed by such dissimilarity. On this context, students of Latin America have devoted themselves to the research of migration from totally different disciplines to grasp causes and suggest options to mass migration within the area.

Amongst these intellectuals are feminist students who’ve raised debates in regards to the significance of qualitative methodologies that take heed to and analyze the narratives of migrants, disrupting the dominant logic that makes the suitable to have a face and a voice a privilege of some. On this period wherein mass migration is portrayed by the media with agglomerated and nameless our bodies, analysis methodologies that current migrants’ tales are important to keep away from their dehumanization, denormalize oppressions, and make their resistance seen (Cacopardo 2018).

To take heed to and perceive migrant girls tales, I take the epistemological method of decolonial feminism in response to María Lugones. She proposes decolonial feminism as a theoretical framework to flow into counter-hegemonic narratives in regards to the mobilities of ladies of shade, to spotlight the a number of oppressions they expertise, but in addition their resistance and prospects of making coalitions to beat inequality and exclusion. This method makes seen these features of the tales of Nicaraguan migrant girls.

In response to the Worldwide Group for Migration (IOM), by 2012, Nicaragua had skilled three waves of emigration, however solely within the final one, which began within the 2000s, have girls represented 50 % of the migration circulation (IOM 2013). This third wave was principally shaped by financial migrants who had numerous locations: the standard locations like Costa Rica and america, but in addition new nations, akin to Panama, Spain and El Salvador. A lot of the migrant girls began working as caregivers and home staff (González 2012). By 2016, Nicaragua was the nation that expelled extra migrant girls to different Central American nations (González 2016), whereas El Salvador grew to become a most well-liked vacation spot for migrants, particularly for ladies from the border state of Chinandega.

Chinandega is the northernmost state in Nicaragua that borders El Salvador, a rustic wherein the principle labor marketplace for migrants is in caregiving and home work. In consequence, in the previous couple of years, many ladies have migrated seasonally as a result of it’s nearer and cheaper to come back and go between each nations. Additionally it is simpler in logistical phrases, as no passport is required, and since Chinandegan girls have intensive networks of transnational communities within the states of Usulután and San Miguel in southwestern El Salvador (Ramos 2009). Lastly, migrating to El Salvador is a comparatively secure choice for ladies, who can keep away from the risks of the street taken by many Central American migrants to america (González 2016). All of this has favored the continuity of the circulation of migrant girls from Chinandega, Nicaragua to El Salvador, and with this, giant regional care chains have been shaped that contain each migrant girls, in addition to substitute caregivers – usually grandmothers – who keep within the communities of origin.

These regional care chains are inclined to bolster the oppression of migrant girls and of caregivers who stay within the communities of origin, as a result of the up to date ‘caregiving system’ reproduces an ‘intrinsic contradiction between the precise wants of look after a great high quality of life and the capital replica wants’ (Orozco and Gil 2011, 23). Particularly, the ‘caregiving system’ and the logic of globalization of capital prioritize revenues obtained from migrants’ lives over their well-being (Sassen 2003). This tends to perpetuate inequalities suffered by migrant girls and primarily based on gender, race, ethnicity, socioeconomic standing and citizenship. Within the case of Nicaragua, the perpetuation of those care chains is favored by the absence of the state in offering care and by the rise in single-parent households (Espinoza, Gamboa, Gutiérrez and Centeno 2012).

Due to this fact, the maternal grandmothers usually deal with the grandchildren, family duties and typically get a job to offer kids, even when they don’t have the age or power to take action (Yarris 2017). However, migrant girls, who’re usually heads of household, steadily obtain low wages and should not have social safety. This doesn’t permit them entry to raised residing situations for themselves and their households and exposes them to labor exploitation. Furthermore, due to the generalized violence in El Salvador, Nicaraguan migrant girls are additionally uncovered to being victims of organized crime. On this chapter, I map a number of the situations of oppressions in addition to the resistance methods articulated by migrant girls on this context.

On Narrative Inquiry as Methodology

The analysis query that has led this work is: Through which methods do the infra-political and political resistances articulated by migrant girls and caregiver grandmothers contribute to the reconfiguration of their identities? How do these resistances redraw maps of energy and create new prospects for a dignified life within the face of an unjust care regime?

These questions arose from my fieldwork with migrant girls within the border space between ​​Nicaragua, Honduras and El Salvador, between 2016 and 2017. The undertaking aimed to establish wants for psychosocial and authorized consideration and help for migrant girls who returned and their households. Within the preliminary dialogues with migrant girls and their moms, I discovered that they outlined themselves as resistant girls within the face of a socioeconomic and care system that they thought of unfair. Therefore, I spotted I wanted to hunt a methodological method that may adapt to their narratives, and so I used the framework of narrative analysis methodology and decolonial feminism.

Narrative inquiry emphasizes the worth of life tales as a ‘journey’ slightly than a ‘vacation spot’ (Ellis and Bochner quoted in Trahar 2009). This methodological method highlights the relevance of being ‘delicate to the totally different worldviews of the interlocutors’, and to acknowledge one’s personal positionality – when it comes to intersectionality – that might favor unequal energy relations. As well as, narrative inquiry considers that understanding the textual content as a journey implies the encounter of ‘three widespread locations’: ‘temporality, sociality and place’ as particular dimensions that function a conceptual framework to interpret tales and method the narrator’s gaze. It is a strategy of studying to ‘assume narratively’ (Clandinin and Huber cited in McGaw, Baker and Peterson 2010, 9).

Primarily based on these concerns, I carried out open interviews with six girls from Chinandega, Nicaragua: three caregiver grandmothers and three returned migrants from six totally different communities within the border space. The interview course of consisted of a number of conversations and participant remark in group actions. To pick these girls, I used snowball sampling. On the time of the interviews, all of the caregiver grandmothers had been between 57 and 65 years outdated and had been full-time caregivers of grandchildren who’re kids of migrant girls. All of the returned migrants had been between 30 and 40 years outdated and had been the heads of households, who had migrated to El Salvador between 2010 and 2018 and had left their kids within the care of their moms.

The interview information consisted of an inventory of key subjects with guiding questions. I additionally requested some questions on to information the dialogue. The important thing themes had been childhood and youth recollections in relation to caregiving, gender and migration; grownup life, together with motherhood, mobility, work and caregiving; private and/or daughter’s migratory expertise; and return, together with notions of care, a dignified life and resistances.

Mapping Oppressions: Caregiving, Migration, Violence

The grandmothers I interviewed are Flora, Emilia and Pilar (names might have been altered). Flora and Emilia stay in a peri-urban neighborhood within the central space of ​​Chinandega. Pilar lives in a rural group close to the maritime border with El Salvador. All of them have been intraregional migrants. The returned migrants are Deborah, Marisa and Carla. Deborah lives in a rural group close to the maritime border, whereas Marisa and Carla stay close to the land border with Honduras.

Within the six narratives, there are widespread socio-historical occasions that girls interpret in several methods, however that are important for understanding their views of the world and of themselves. To be able to discover the ‘three widespread locations’ of narrative analysis, these occasions are offered:

The economic system of the banana and cotton enclaves in Chinandega in the course of the Somoza dictatorship (Sixties and Seventies)

The grandmothers bear in mind the economic system of the banana enclave as the one supply of native employment and as a spot the place they suffered labor exploitation. It was additionally a spot to realize some freedom from dwelling and household: there, they frolicked away from dwelling doing non-domestic duties and had been capable of handle their earnings partially or absolutely. The banana plantations had been additionally websites of solidarity between girls who resisted discrimination in opposition to group members for being farm staff. For Flora and Pilar, it was additionally the place the place they acquired concerned in civil teams related to the Sandinista Entrance (FSLN).

In the meantime, for the returned migrants, the recollections of relative financial prosperity and ladies independence related to the plantations had been solely inherited by their moms. By 1980, as a consequence of the Nicaraguan Revolution and the conflict, the banana and cotton plantations had disappeared and a lot of the native jobs with them. Within the narratives of the returnees, the banana plantations are related to financial precariousness, the migration of family to city facilities and an undesirable place to work because of the abuses to which girls had been subjected.

The Sandinista In style Revolution and the conflict between Contras and Sandinistas (Nineteen Eighties): Reminiscences of solidarity, grief and exile

Flora and Pilar had been concerned within the rebellion of 1979. For them, these processes had been a possibility to strengthen solidarity ties and perform duties that, earlier than the armed wrestle, had been solely designated for males: sending messages, provides transportation and logistical work with the native guerrilla. Pilar’s political participation allowed her to get a greater job within the public sector as soon as the FSLN triumphed. Flora’s employment scenario grew to become extra precarious after 1979, whereas Emilia, who was already a mom, returned to her native Honduras along with her kids, ready to acquire her everlasting residence in Nicaragua.

For the returned migrants, the Revolution is a heroic previous that they didn’t stay, however of which they’ve concepts and emotions derived from household tales. Each of their narratives and in these of the grandmothers, the Revolution is an occasion remembered with unhappiness and anger as a result of it didn’t convey the anticipated change however, quite the opposite, conflict. As well as, the conflict between the Contras and Sandinistas prompted a rise in impoverishment, starvation and exile.

Neoliberal Financial Reforms (Nineteen Nineties): Peace and ‘ghost cities’

After the signing of peace accords in 1990, some refugees in Honduras returned to Chinandega. Nonetheless, the peace didn’t convey jobs, as was presupposed to occur. Quite the opposite, due to financial reforms that prioritized capital over folks’s lives (Martínez and Voorend 2012), impoverishment and lack of entry to providers in rural and peri-urban areas elevated. In some communities, the few remaining agricultural farms closed, whereas in others the conflict devastated the whole lot.

Deborah refers to this era as marked by ‘ghost cities’, as a result of refugees who returned from Honduras and repopulated communities quickly left for Costa Rica and El Salvador in the hunt for jobs, leaving whole communities deserted. In response to Deborah and Carla, the inhabitants circulation that left the cities was blended: it was not simply males fleeing compelled recruitment into the military or whole households fleeing the conflict, however younger girls migrating alone or in teams of buddies searching for jobs.

‘After being a mom, one is a grandmother and goes again to taking part in the position of mom. However I not had the identical pressure’: Interconnected oppressions within the narratives of caregiving grandmothers

Some ‘interconnected oppressions’ within the grandmothers’ narratives marked their lives and the methods they noticed themselves and the world. Among the many oppressions that had been intertwined of their narratives had been gender violence, motherhood/being a grandmother, caregiving and migration.

For all of them, gender violence that manifests itself in bodily, verbal, psychological, sexual and patrimonial violence has been a relentless of their lives. All this violence has marked the best way they see their relationships with males of energy and with the state. Emilia instructed me:

At dwelling, we needed to be quiet. Whether or not you had been a lady or an grownup, girls needed to be quiet. We needed to do all of the house responsibilities, and if we labored exterior within the banana plantations, we needed to give the cash to our father. However my dad after which my husband spent the whole lot on liquor… Who was going to take care of me? Now they inform me that the federal government has safety packages for ladies, however I’ve by no means seen it right here. We’re like deserted.

That feeling of being ‘deserted’ and unprotected from those that exerted gender violence in opposition to her is repeated within the tales of the opposite grandmothers. Once they talked about the reason why they tolerated gender violence, they often referred to their kids. They described motherhood and parenting as a rewarding course of, however one which was not undertaken absolutely voluntarily, however slightly thought of part of the method of changing into an grownup. All three grandmothers had kids after they had been youngsters. Flora mentioned:

No one ever defined something to me about menstruation or learn how to have kids. I solely keep in mind that my boyfriend instructed me that I needed to have a baby, and I didn’t know, and once I seemed, I used to be already pregnant. Later my grandmother instructed me, ‘Effectively, my little woman. Now you must search for a secure job and study to deal with the infant’.

Early motherhood was additionally a reason behind migration for the grandmothers in search of a greater life for themselves and their kids. Normally, they left their kids within the care of their moms. Though, traditionally, this social group of caregiving primarily based on prolonged households led by grandmothers has been elementary for sustaining life in rural Nicaragua, caregivers don’t essentially consider it as the best choice. However, all of them acknowledge that each fathers and the state ought to play an equally accountable position in caregiving and within the redistribution of paid and unpaid labor. Additionally they admit that this group of care is exhausting and {that a} change is important that includes a shared accountability for the household, particularly for fathers. Pilar commented:

My grandmother and my aunt took care of me. My mother additionally took care of my cousins. It has at all times been like this. I additionally left my kids to my grandmother once I migrated, and I thank her, however I do know it’s exhausting. And it needs to be in any other case. When my daughter left, I additionally stayed taking care of my grandchildren… I do imagine that men and women have the identical capability to work, each inside and outside dwelling. What divides us is gender, however we should all assume the whole lot evenly.

The grandmothers contemplate that the state also needs to assume a part of the care wants; nonetheless, their experiences with authorities care packages has been destructive. In response to Emilia:

I as soon as went to the hospital with my two grandchildren. Because the woman had a mark on her foot as a result of she fell whereas taking part in, an official from the Ministry of the Household instructed me in a threatening means that if I didn’t take excellent care of those kids, they’d take them away from me. I used to be enraged, and I instructed him, ‘Inform the Ministry that I need to set my guidelines too. If they’ll demand one thing of me, give me one thing for these kids: a bit of assist for his or her schooling, for his or her garments. However you demand and also you don’t give us something’.

‘There, it’s Not Like in Nicaragua. One Has to Study the Regulation of The Neighborhood: See, Hear and Be Silent’: Interconnected Oppressions within the Narratives of Returned Migrants

The returnees’ narratives have widespread oppressions with these of the grandmothers, however additionally they differ within the particularities of their migratory situation. Among the many most typical oppressions are gender violence and the affect of generalized violence in migrant girls’s lives. For instance, each Deborah and Marisa migrated to El Salvador as a result of intra-family violence. Nonetheless, as Deborah relates, migration didn’t finish gender violence:

When my associate threatened me with a gun in entrance of my kids… I left the nation. I used to be terrified. I solely had $20 and felt unhealthy about leaving my kids. I believed that after arriving there, there was going to be a change, however no… I met some males who known as me ‘whore’, ‘thief’, only for being Nicaraguan. And that’s the reason I acquired concerned with my husband, the opposite one who tried to kill me, in order that they’d not assault me any extra on the street… I feel I’ve a nasty destiny.

For Carla, the immigration expertise was totally different. Her mom migrated to El Salvador when she was a baby and left her along with her grandmother. When she was 13 years outdated, her mom determined to take her to work along with her. Carla returned to Nicaragua a few months later as a result of gangs threatened her. At 18 years outdated, she had returned to El Salvador searching for a job and, since she was undocumented, she solely had entry to precarious jobs the place her security was in danger.

I instructed my mother that I wished to come back as a result of a gang member wished to make me his girlfriend. And I didn’t need to [be his girlfriend] as a result of that’s how they makes ladies prostitutes and ‘mules’[1]. And I went again with out telling her… However after [a few] years, I needed to go away once more as a result of there have been no jobs. And that’s once I began on the bar as a waitress. However that was a harmful place too. The gangs had been the VIP purchasers, they usually scared the waitresses with their weapons.

Marisa additionally labored in a bar, however left to work as a home employee: ‘[A]lthough I earned much less, it was safer for me’. Nonetheless, her security was threatened as a result of an error in compliance with what she calls ‘the legislation of the neighborhood’.

I labored and lived with my employers and had a time without work each two weeks. I washed, ironed garments, cooked, [and] sorted their kids and my son. I additionally did the procuring, cooked and served as a waitress on the patrons’ restaurant. They paid me $75 a month with out insurance coverage. However typically they gave me milk and garments for my son. The whole lot was going effectively, however once I went to stay alone, it modified.

I went to a neighborhood with a number of Nicaraguans, however there have been some gang members who had been neighbors, and at some point I noticed them doing one thing, they usually checked out me. I didn’t communicate. There it’s not like in Nicaragua. One has to study the legislation of the neighborhood: see, hear and be silent. And since they thought I used to be going to say one thing, they threw me to the police. They gave a false lead and I used to be accused of being a drug ‘mule’.

The police entered the home, put a gun on me in entrance of my kids, yelled and beat me. Though they discovered nothing, I acquired imprisoned. As a result of there, a migrant girl with out cash, who was going to take care of me?  Being in jail away from my kids and my nation was the saddest factor.

Mapping On a regular basis Resistances: Infra-politics and Coalitions

In all of the narratives, a number of and typically fused oppressions persist. Due to this fact, the potential for resistance or emancipation appears insignificant. In response to Lugones (2008), the fashionable/colonial gender system sustains these oppressions. This technique categorizes, separates and subtracts company from people by putting them in a ‘fractured locus’ within the margins of energy. However in opposition to this ‘logic of oppression, there’s a ‘logic of resistance’ that suggests the popularity of interconnected oppressions and the chances of concrete coalitions in on a regular basis life to beat it. Ladies of shade, located on the ‘margins’ – geographically and of energy – have an ‘epistemological benefit’ to study the logics of oppression from expertise and, on the identical time, articulate resistance within the liminal house they inhabit.

These resistances are infra-political, nameless, intersubjective and collective. That’s the reason ‘they embrace the affirmation of life above revenue, communalism’ (Lugones 2011, 116). These acutely aware and shared practices can result in the start of a significant political wrestle. A number of the ‘infra-political resistances’ are ‘adaptation, rejection, non-adoption, not bearing in mind’, the silences and the celebration of life (Lugones 2011, 116). All of them form the best way wherein girls perceive themselves, and their world, and facilitate the reconfiguration of their identities, that are historic and located processes, open to vary primarily based on new experiences. Within the narratives of the grandmothers and returnees, the method of ‘oppressing →← resisting’ and its affect on their discourses and practices relating to id are outstanding.

‘However After I Talked About it with Different Ladies within the Group… I Felt Accompanied’: Dialogues and Silences As Resistance

Within the interviews and group actions I witnessed, the grandmothers and returned migrants emphasised the significance of recognizing and naming oppressions so as to confront them. This suggests denormalizing oppressions which are culturally accepted as elements of life. For Emilia, the expertise of self-organized mutual help teams, shaped by grandmothers, allowed her to talk of experiences of sexual abuse in childhood. A vital a part of her therapeutic course of was feeling heard:

That’s the reason I suffered rather a lot once I was a baby. I had a tough time seeing how that was associated to me accepting violence from different males as regular. However once I talked about it with different girls in the neighborhood, they usually listened to me, I felt accompanied… It was additionally accepting the anger I felt. I additionally noticed that there have been lovely issues in life for me and my granddaughters.

Throughout her time in jail, Marisa talked to a psychologist about her experiences and feelings. That was important to really feel more healthy and planning for the longer term.

She instructed me that I used to be going to get out of jail and that I needed to be prepared for that. She talked to me about my vanity and self-care. She helped me write a plan for all times after jail. So, I began going to workshops on baking, and I managed to get the perfect place within the bakery. There, I earned cash to purchase my issues, and it felt good… However with my kids, I selected to close up. Possibly at some point I’ll inform all of them in regards to the jail, however now my silence is best for them.

‘When you might have your individual home and earn cash, nobody will cease you’: Financial independence as resistance

One of many elementary resistances within the narratives is the pursuit of financial independence. Pilar believes that this facilitated a life freed from violence and sure stability for her and her kids.

After I got here again to the nation, I purchased my land. Solely with my land I felt fulfilled. When you might have your individual home and earn your cash, nobody will cease you. This fashion, you may be free and won’t need to endure machismo… Earlier than it was not widespread for a separated girl to purchase a home to stay alone along with her kids, however I managed it, [and] there are extra of us. Now, we hope that our daughters will obtain the identical, even whether it is by migrating.

‘I prefer to Dance and Snigger to Really feel Free’: Playfulness as Resistance

Playfulness, regardless of oppression, can also be a standard resistance for the narrators. Generally, even laughter and jokes about politics and the scenario of their communities are used to simplify the tough and discover the nice within the antagonistic.

Carla: ‘I like to bop and snort to be at liberty. Even when they inform me, “Don’t dance and sing, that’s loopy”, it makes me really feel good within the face of adversity’.

Deborah: ‘And typically we simply make jokes about this nation, the corrupt ones and that. Effectively, we’ve got to snort in order to not cry’.

‘I Cry Out to God to Give me Peace and do me Justice’: Spirituality as Resistance

Within the grandmothers’ narratives, the Christian God is a supply of religious energy to beat adversity. They see God as an in depth good friend combating injustice. Additionally, some grandmothers mix Christian spirituality with the indigenous spiritual traditions of their communities. Flora and Pilar commented:

Flora: ‘Daily, I cry out to God for peace and justice for the dying of my son. I can not do justice in opposition to the gang members, however God can. I forgive them, as a result of God is merciful to me, and he’ll know learn how to do it. Speaking with God offers me a number of reduction and energy’.

Pilar: ‘For me, it’s my San Roque Indio and the folks’s Santeria. I ask him for miracles, and he does them for me. I keep in mind that a curandero from Guatemala mentioned that tough issues had been going to occur, however that the whole lot can be high quality. And now I see it that means’.

‘Even when I’m Not in My Nation, I Have the Proper to Know What My Rights Are within the Different Nation’: Data as Resistance

Along with private resistance processes, grandmothers and returnees articulated types of collective resistance and group to help themselves emotionally, demand rights and manage initiatives for group well-being. The grandmothers organized mutual help teams to debate methods for balancing caring for grandchildren with self-care and different problems with their emotional and bodily well being. Returned migrants labored collectively in each Nicaragua and El Salvador to prepare human rights workshops of their communities and lift funds for initiatives to help migrants in El Salvador. In response to Carla, all these initiatives have been impressed by data: ‘That strategy of organizing ourselves has been good and is a results of us studying about rights. I’m glad to be right here and to do one thing’.

Deborah is now a facilitator within the group of returned migrants. She shares her immigration expertise and data of human rights. For her, the solidarity networks that she managed to determine with different girls in El Salvador had been key to studying about and overcoming oppression:

I went to Ciudad Mujer[2], to a help program for migrant girls. There, they taught me about my rights and my vanity, and I shared with different migrant girls from different nations. I made buddies, and one among them who later went to america was the one who despatched me cash for my son’s meals once I didn’t have any… Now I do know that, even when I’m not in my nation, I’ve the suitable to know what my rights are within the different nation. It doesn’t matter if I’m a citizen or not. I’ve rights.


The narratives analyzed from the attitude of decolonial feminism present that the grandmothers and returned migrant girls are brokers of their very own change in complicated processes of ‘oppressing →←resisting’ that happen in on a regular basis life. These infra-political resistances have favored the articulation of discourses and praxes that help the emancipation of ladies in contexts of a number of oppressions. Within the case of those girls, these oppressions come up from questions and complaints of the state and people with energy within the socioeconomic order that maintain the care regime. Their discourses additionally query concepts of household loyalty and the suppression of feminine anger. When it comes to sensible resistances, these girls have organized mutual help teams and group initiatives to help migrants and returnees.

These are all worthwhile practices that needs to be thought of and reproduced by the state when occupied with insurance policies on care provision and integration for returned migrants. It is necessary for the Nicaraguan authorities to vary its coverage method from one targeted on welfare and short-term options to at least one that considers girls’s and communities’ experiences, capabilities and worldviews to create long-term options grounded in the neighborhood. As Carla put it: ‘Solely with this help can we construct a group the place nobody has to go away if it’s not by will’.


[1] Mulas in Spanish is a slang time period that refers to folks, normally girls, who carry and transport medicine, with or with out their consent.

[2] Ciudad Mujer (Ladies’s Metropolis) is a Program of the Social Inclusion Secretariat of El Salvador. It helps the human rights of Salvadoran girls and has some initiatives for migrant girls.


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