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Lafayette College

Publication Date

Spring 2017

Program Name

Chile: Cultural Identity, Social Justice, and Community Development


Migration to Chile has been increasing every year since the end of the Pinochet dictatorship. The recent migration to Chile is feminized and centralized to the urban center of Santiago and surrounding areas. Current migrations trends in Chile are also including a wider range of immigrants, especially an increase of afro-latina women. These women tend to experience more discrimination, racism and sexism than the average Chilean woman. Previous studies and colonial theory demonstrate a history of the sexualization and exotification of migrant woman, especially in women of color due to the processes of colonization, euroization and racialization. Many migrant women are stereotyped as highly sexual and others are stereotyped as unsexual, sometimes resulting in the conformation to those stereotypes in the workplace or in Chilean society. This investigation aimed to understand the range of experiences of all types of migrant women and how they personally experience their migration to this country and the presence of sexualization and exotification. My question of investigation is: how do migrant women in Santiago from a range of countries perceive the sexualized and exotic construction of their own bodies? This is an exploratory study that was approached with subjectivity and is grounded in personal experiences. To address the question of investigation, the investigator informally and indirectly interviewed women from a range of ethnicities about their experiences as immigrant women in Chile in locations in the center of Santiago including in “Plaza de Armas” and in “cafes con piernas”. The interviews conducted were normal conversations with questions about the daily lives of the subjects. Participant and nonparticipant observations were also conducted in locations in and around “Plaza de Armas”.

The results of the observations and interviews were divided into sub-themes for analysis. The results included: general observations about the migrant spaces in Santiago to set context, expectations and the shock of realities for these women in comparison to their origins and expectations, their perceptions of Chile in relation to their ethnicities and gender, perceptions and prejudices of chileans and migrant men of migrant women and my personal interactions with Chilean society as a foreign and ethnic woman. In terms of conclusions from observations that converse with previous studies and theoretical frameworks, afro-latina women seemed to conform to their expected sexualized and exotified roles and peruvian women, for example, seemed to conform to their expectations of desexuality and motherly roles. Many of the women did not have overly negative or overly positive experiences or opinions about the discussed topics or about Chile. Some felt like they were looked down upon by chilean society and racialized. Others did not expect to work in the jobs they encountered when they arrived in Chile. In terms of conclusions explicitly supporting exotification and sexualization, longer and more in depth conversations are needed with the subjects in order to gain a deeper insight into those parts of their experiences. The treatment and perceptions immigrants affect the lifeblood of all societies, but especially affect their well-being and autonomy.


Community-Based Research | Family, Life Course, and Society | Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies | Latin American Studies | Women's Studies


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