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Brandeis University

Publication Date

Fall 2011

Program Name

Bolivia: Multiculturalism, Globalization, and Social Change


In this project I studied the effects of migration on family relationships and pre-existing power structures when Bolivians migrate from Cochabamba to the United States. To investigate this topic I interviewed families of migrants, both those who had left for the U.S. and those who stayed behind in Cochabamba. I complemented this field study by interviewing professors of sociology (from the Universidad Católica in Cochabamba and the Universidad Mayor de San Simón) who specialize in themes of external migration. By learning about the relations within nuclear families and with other migrants in the U.S., the interviews afforded me a greater understanding of international social networks, the relationships between migrants of different generations (albeit within the same family), and the necessity of creating transnational families to maintain anterior relationships.

Ultimately, every household I interviewed had successfully converted to a transnational family and became more close-knit after the migration of one or several members to the U.S. However, this was an unexpected trend within my research data and actually contradicted the findings of most academic writing on the subject. Despite this, after analyzing my informants’ patterns of response and the diverse effects of migration on each family, I realized that it wasn’t solely the process of migration that contributed to changes in the families’ dynamics. In the words of sociologist Leonardo de la Torre Ávila the processes of migration serve as a “pressure cooker” for preexisting situations. Therefore, while I learned that it is impossible to fully predict the outcome of a specific migrant’s experience, their preexisting familial situation can greatly affect what comes to pass.


Family, Life Course, and Society | Inequality and Stratification | Place and Environment | Work, Economy and Organizations


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