Women who care in two lands

30/12/2019 - 11:11

Chain of care. Interview with the creators of the webdocumental 'Caring between lands'. A transnational and urbanized phenomenon, which demonstrates the tension between the needs of people and the needs of markets to accumulate capital.

‘Caring between lands. Who are you, the life when women migrate?’ is a documentary produced by La Directa i CooperAcció that addresses the escape of care associated with the migration of women from the Global South and how this transfers the family environment, affects the community and the territory. The highly feminized natural-goods defense also suffers from the fact that women have to move away. The interview was answered chorally by the writers Anna Celma, Berta Camprubí, Núria Gebellí, Estela Marcos and Meritxell Rigol.

Who gives the voice ‘Caring between lands’?
More than giving a voice, we could say that it puts voices to a phenomenon. The ones in the documentary are voices of migrant women and their surroundings, through which we try to explain what this sounds like most of the care chains.

“There are cases where migrating is not the only option, but the only one.”

What are the main causes of their migration?
What motivates the decision to migrate is diverse. But it is true that the decision to move away from your country or territory of origin is the aspiration to improve the quality of life for your families (children and the elderly), and not just thinking about what’s best for oneself. Having relatives in charge in the country of origin, who are totally or partially dependent on the remittances sent to them, is in fact one of the pieces of exposure to labor abuse that many migrant women live. It is also true that in addition to the so-called ‘economic’ migration (migration that can be observed both from a global southern city to a global North and from a countryside to a city within the same country) there are cases In which migrating is not an option, but the only one. This is the case of displaced women, for example, as a result of conflicts or the presence of economic activities of transnational companies that break the traditional productive fabric of the territory and dynamize the forms of subsistence where they are established. And we also find women who migrate to preserve their lives and are in exile because of their social and political activities. Beyond what causes them to migrate, when they become migrants, the place reserved for them in the cities where they often arrive is home work and care. Work that is socially questioned as real work and in which women, working in isolation, inside homes, are exposed to multiple forms of abuse.

How did you organize the inverse path of Latino migrant women arriving in Catalonia for your documentary?
It is easy to cross the streets of Latin American women ‘s neighborhoods with the elderly every day. There are thousands who could give their own experience to the phenomenon we wanted to explain. What was not clear to us was whether they would open the door to their homes in their home country, to see what happens when they migrate, and to be able to draw, through it, some examples of the ways that care chains take; the chains to sustain the life that the migrations of women trigger. From Barcelona we contacted with organizational spaces for home care workers. We talked to some who shared their experiences and found common ground. Due to the conditions of the project, the chain to be traveled had to be Colombia-Catalonia. Asking about our surroundings, we located a busy woman as a caregiver from Colombia. We told her about the project and she contacted her family, who lives in a very humble neighborhood in Bogotá. The doors were opened in Tarragona and in Bogotá. María’s was a central story of the documentary. A sample of women caring on both sides of the Atlantic. Given the weight and impact of internal migrations, from the countryside to the city, we had to locate and make visible the stories of local care chains. Internal migrations that sometimes represent a first step in a subsequent international migration (even more economically and emotionally more expensive).

“Abya Yala’s escape from care is due to a still colonial relationship between the global northern countries and their not so many former colonies.”

Is there a dependency relationship between caregiving in the countries where migrant women come from and the imposition of an economic model that impoverishes the territories of the global South?
Absolutely. The economic model imposed on the global south, in this case we are talking about the Abya Yala or Latin America, is a capitalist, neoliberal model based on an extractivist colonial logic. This model loots the territories and precludes the lives of peoples and communities, especially rural ones, who in recent decades have continued to undergo a process of rural exodus that displaces them from their origin, most often in the so-called ‘cords’ misery ‘of the cities: the peripheries, the favelas of Brazil, the’ young peoples’ of Peru, the communes of Colombia, the ‘villas’ of Argentina, etc. This impoverishment forces migration, which in most Latin American countries is clearly feminized (70% of the migrants from Honduras and El Salvador, for example, are women), due to the screaming effect that has created the healing crisis in the West. The entry of women into the labor market and the aging population have created this crisis, which creates a labor gap that the West is not yet ready to recognize and dignify. Finally, the massive displacement of women from the Abya Yala is read as an escape from healing, as they also performed essential tasks out of love and affection in their territories, with their families. Abya Yala’s escape from care is due to a still colonial relationship between the countries of the global north and their not so many ex-colonies.

Who is responsible for the migratory flows of women who have been displaced from their territories?
Where we went in the previous question, these flows are the responsibility of a global system that exploits the population and territory of most of the world to allow the consumption, privileges and amenities of a minority. A global system that, from the beginning, does not allow the existence of rural and community lifestyles that are based on self-sufficiency and autonomy. Who is behind? Factual powers, a few families like the Rockefeller or Rothschilds who have created mechanisms and institutions to maintain power such as the United States Federal Reserve, the IMF, or the World Bank.

What are the transnational care plots and relationships between the countries of the global North and South?

In the industrialized countries of the global North, especially in Europe and the United States, there are a number of factors that lead to a deficit in care: demographic aging; entry into the women’s labor market; lack of responses from the Welfare States; family-social model: organization of households and the private family-based nuclear field, with an increasing tendency toward atomization and individualism; lack of co-responsibility; etc. At the same time, the global North and the capitalist system base their wealth on an extractive economy. A development model is being implemented in the countries of the Global South, for example, in Latin America. This ‘development’ is based on the extraction of resources and raw materials – the commons – from Latin American territories. Extractivism and development are two sides of the same coin, which cause riches in the industrialized countries of the North and impoverished in the non-industrialized countries of the global South. To support the system there are a whole host of racist, sexist, empowerment, ageist and colonial structures that are the pillar of globalized capitalism.
This model allows thousands of transnational companies to make extractive macroprojects that plunder commons in rural areas each year. Water, minerals, fossil fuels, monocultures, foods, etc. are the natural resources that are extracted on a large scale. This generates effects of high violence for the natural and for the people: pollution, alteration of the territory, floods, desertification, deforestation, drought …

At the same time, it breaks the balance of local economies and activities, to the point of impeding communities’ self-sufficiency and self-sufficiency. This impact in rural areas creates opportunities for the population and, in particular, forces women to enter the labor market. When they do not find alternatives in their territories of origin they are forced to a migration from the rural to the urban environment. In turn, care deficits when leaving. Other women – family members and close relatives, or paid employees – must take care of migrant women. Be it healing for children, the elderly or the sick … or in the territory, the community and nature.

Against this background are the national and transnational plots of care. Due to a capitalist socio-economic model, which is neither sustainable nor responsible for nature, the countries of the Global South suffer a high migration flow. First, from the rural environment to the urban areas.

“When migrating, women often leave their caring relatives in the country of origin.”

Increasing populations in cities creates socioeconomic stress, as the volumes of displaced people from the countryside to the city can often not be assumed. Lack of employment and / or livelihoods generates cheap and precarious labor. Conditions and labor rights are often cut short, so urban populations are also impacted by the demographic change caused by migrations. Against this backdrop, with no opportunity in the countryside or in the city, economically disadvantaged people consider migration as a way out of the vicious circle. From the last thirty years the migratory phenomenon of the South to the global North has become more and more feminized. In the last decade, almost half of migrants have been women. They migrate transnationally, to neighboring countries or to other continents, to find better working conditions and to help sustain life in their homes. When migrating, women often leave their relatives in their country of origin. Children, parents, sick people, etc. with whom they have no chance or will to regroup. When women migrate abroad, another care deficit is created, this is especially urban. Again, other women take on the care, whether paid or not. If the caregiver is paid in the country of origin, he or she will probably be precarious and perpetuating a chain of rights infringement that begins in the countries of the global North and reaches the remotest places in the countries of the global South.

Is defending land caring work?
Yes, absolutely. Understanding that healing goes beyond people and also includes territories is a necessary step to take from the global North. To protect the commons, nature, is to preserve life in all its forms. As explained in the third chapter of the Interdepartmental Care webdoc, land defense goes hand in hand with cultural resistance based on a relationship of harmony with nature. For example, ancestral communities, such as the Yanaconian people of Colombia, engaged in low-intensity agricultural and livestock activities, are front-line in caring for the land, but also in caring for the community itself.

This is also the case with Luz Myriam Restrepo, one of the protagonists of the documentary, who before his forced displacement was engaged in artisanal fishing on the Magdalena river. In 2009, the fight against the construction of a hydroelectric dam on this river, one of the most important in Colombia, was started. The transnational project is from the Italian company ENEL and the Spanish company Endesa, under the acronym EMGESA. Restrepo is vice-president of the Association of Affected by the Quimbo Hydroelectric Project (ASOQUIMBO), made up of hundreds of inhabitants of the Huila department. The construction of the dam alone resulted in the forced displacement of 28,000 people who lived in the area and who were in direct connection with the Magdalena River.
From this self-managed and assembly platform, Restrepo and the rest of the members work as environmental and social advocates. They claim to recover their river, their modus vivendi, but especially claim that the territory is protected from the impact of megaprojects such as the Quimbo hydroelectric dam. In fact, the area is doubly affected, because a few kilometers away there is a second dam, that of Bethany. All the flooded lands were agricultural, very fertile; With the artificial marshes built there, the ecosystem of the fauna and flora has been completely altered. Several communities have also been destroyed as some villages in the area were flooded, losing the historical memory of the place and its relational links. Forced migration has broken communities and separated families.

In particular, the life of Luz Myriam Restrepo has been totally affected. Losing her livelihood, she was forced to migrate from the rural area where she lived to the department capital, Neiva. There she works as a household worker, in precarious and difficult conditions. The most difficult thing for her, she says, is being able to take care of her two daughters. While living on the shores of the Magdalen River, although her daughters had to travel to the nearest village, Hobo, to go to school every day, Luz Myriam had the flexibility to decide her working hours. So they could share more time together. She is currently forced to work from six in the morning to seven in the evening. She has been robbed of her right to care for her family, but also to take care of her land, her river.

Similar witnesses are found in El Salvador. In Chapter Four of the Career Between Territories webdoc, Sara García of the feminist group Kaqow, explains that women who protect the earth are protecting communities. “We are women raped, criminalized and discredited. This means that women leaders can not walk calmly, for all that it involves fighting for our rights, “says Sara García. He claims that financial assets in El Salvador are prioritized over the welfare of the population: “We have been sold the idea that there will be ‘development’. In the end, people do not understand that ‘development’ is for companies. There is a plunder of natural goods, an expropriation of lands … And a division of communities and leaders is generated “, as well as the persecution and criminalization of people who defend the human right to natural goods. Like water. “These lands had historically been coffee houses, farms, ancient forests … it was a water recharge area, thanks to the forested mass. After the rearrangement, companies and industries settled there, monopolizing the water, “which has become scarce and prized in El Salvador, says García. So, in conjunction with her women’s group, Garcia is advocating for life by protecting some of the commons that have been preserved. Such as a community supply water basin, on a farm that drinks from the Chacalapa river. The members of Kawoq are part of the thousands of Salvadoran women who defend rain, water and life.

What is the link between the struggle for the labor rights of domestic workers and the defense of natural rivers and commons?

We are talking about two struggles, which we have seen in the research of the documentary, are led by women. And they are because women are the people who are directly linked to the two issues. On the one hand, the struggle of female domestic workers is led by women, as almost all paid household tasks are performed by women. Be it in the global North, as in the home countries of many women who come to work on these tasks.
On the other hand, the defense of the territory in Latin America is closely linked to women, because for practical purposes it needs the natural resources to carry out the tasks of the day-to-day life of the home. For example, water is a necessary good for living in a home. From nourishing all the people and animals that live there, to washing dishes or cooking. This is explained by Sara García, one of the women members of the Kawoq collective, a grassroots Salvadoran organization, feminist and non-mixed, made up of peasant women and defenders of the territory. That is, women are the link between these two struggles, as they are the main affected and at the same time the leaders of social movements.

Once in Catalonia, who cares for the caregivers? And of family members who live with them while they are working in the care of other homes?

Indeed, Sindillar / Sindihogar has used this concept, of caring for those who care for them, on the banner of the last 8M. They claimed their right to be cared for, taking into account that they spend most of their day caring for others. In addition, often, these networks of struggle, also end up becoming networks of support and care. In Sindillar, they also use the term ‘mimopolitics’, which show that caring is also a way of politics and a part of struggle.
As for those who take care of family members while they work, we have seen that almost always the care tasks are completed by other women in their immediate environment. The situation is especially complicated when these workers have migrated away from their homes or are working on an inmate basis, where other women, usually family members, have the main responsibility.
It is also important to say that they may not directly care for the caregivers but they do so indirectly and equally as necessary. María Osorio, one of the protagonists of the documentary, values ​​her desire to return to Bogotá to take care of her father, but at the same time she is aware that in Spain she can earn more money to contribute to the family. It is a way of looking after from a distance, where human capital is not provided but monetary.

Fotograph: Montse Giralt