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 completely 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 international locations have created discriminatory narratives and insurance policies that form migration (Donato and Massey 2016). This paradox of latest 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 examine of migration from completely 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 hearken to and analyze the narratives of migrants, disrupting the dominant logic that makes the precise 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 hearken to and perceive migrant girls tales, I take the epistemological method of decolonial feminism in line with María Lugones. She proposes decolonial feminism as a theoretical framework to flow into counter-hegemonic narratives in regards to the mobilities of girls of shade, to focus on the a number of oppressions they expertise, but additionally their resistance and potentialities of making coalitions to beat inequality and exclusion. This method makes seen these elements of the tales of Nicaraguan migrant girls.

In keeping with 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 stream (IOM 2013). This third wave was principally shaped by financial migrants who had numerous locations: the normal locations like Costa Rica and america, but additionally new international locations, akin to Panama, Spain and El Salvador. A lot of the migrant girls began working as caregivers and home employees (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 primary labor marketplace for migrants is in caregiving and home work. Because of this, 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 international locations. 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 hazards of the street taken by many Central American migrants to america (González 2016). All of this has favored the continuity of the stream of migrant girls from Chinandega, Nicaragua to El Salvador, and with this, massive regional care chains have been shaped that contain each migrant girls, in addition to substitute caregivers – typically grandmothers – who keep within the communities of origin.

These regional care chains are likely 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 an excellent high quality of life and the capital copy wants’ (Orozco and Gil 2011, 23). Specifically, 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 typically handle 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). Then again, migrant girls, who’re typically heads of household, often obtain low wages and don’t have social safety. This doesn’t permit them entry to higher dwelling circumstances 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 few of the cases 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: By 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 potentialities 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 challenge aimed to establish wants for psychosocial and authorized consideration and assist 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-about unfair. Therefore, I spotted I wanted to hunt a methodological method that will 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’ reasonably than a ‘vacation spot’ (Ellis and Bochner quoted in Trahar 2009). This methodological method highlights the relevance of being ‘delicate to the completely different worldviews of the interlocutors’, and to acknowledge one’s personal positionality – by way of 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).

Based mostly on these issues, I performed open interviews with six girls from Chinandega, Nicaragua: three caregiver grandmothers and three returned migrants from six completely different communities within the border space. The interview course of consisted of a number of conversations and participant statement in group actions. To pick these girls, I used snowball sampling. On the time of the interviews, all of the caregiver grandmothers have been between 57 and 65 years previous and have been full-time caregivers of grandchildren who’re kids of migrant girls. All of the returned migrants have been between 30 and 40 years previous and have 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 a listing of key matters with guiding questions. I additionally requested some questions on to information the dialogue. The important thing themes have been childhood and youth reminiscences 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 could have been altered). Flora and Emilia dwell 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 dwell close to the land border with Honduras.

Within the six narratives, there are widespread socio-historical occasions that ladies interpret in several methods, however that are important for understanding their views of the world and of themselves. With a view to discover the ‘three widespread locations’ of narrative analysis, these occasions are introduced:

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

The grandmothers bear in mind the financial 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 house and household: there, they hung out away from house doing non-domestic duties and have been in a position to handle their earnings partially or totally. The banana plantations have been additionally websites of solidarity between girls who resisted discrimination in opposition to group members for being farm employees. For Flora and Pilar, it was additionally the place the place they bought concerned in civil teams related to the Sandinista Entrance (FSLN).

In the meantime, for the returned migrants, the reminiscences of relative financial prosperity and girls independence related to the plantations have been solely inherited by their moms. By 1980, as a consequence of the Nicaraguan Revolution and the battle, 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 have been subjected.

The Sandinista Well-liked Revolution and the battle between Contras and Sandinistas (Nineteen Eighties): Recollections of solidarity, grief and exile

Flora and Pilar have been concerned within the rebel of 1979. For them, these processes have been a chance to strengthen solidarity ties and perform duties that, earlier than the armed wrestle, have 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 together 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 dwell, 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 disappointment and anger as a result of it didn’t deliver the anticipated change however, quite the opposite, battle. As well as, the battle between the Contras and Sandinistas induced 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. Nevertheless, the peace didn’t deliver jobs, as was imagined 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 companies in rural and peri-urban areas elevated. In some communities, the few remaining agricultural farms closed, whereas in others the battle devastated every thing.

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 searching for jobs, leaving total communities deserted. In keeping with Deborah and Carla, the inhabitants stream that left the cities was blended: it was now not simply males fleeing compelled recruitment into the military or total households fleeing the battle, however younger girls migrating alone or in teams of pals in search of jobs.

‘After being a mom, one is a grandmother and goes again to taking part in the function of mom. However I now not had the identical drive’: 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 have been intertwined of their narratives have 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 informed me:

At house, we needed to be quiet. Whether or not you have 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 every thing 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 totally voluntarily, however reasonably thought-about part of the method of changing into an grownup. All three grandmothers had kids once they have been youngsters. Flora mentioned:

No person ever defined something to me about menstruation or methods to have kids. I solely do not forget that my boyfriend informed me that I needed to have a toddler, and I didn’t know, and once I regarded, I used to be already pregnant. Later my grandmother informed me, ‘Nicely, my little lady. Now you must search for a secure job and study to handle the infant’.

Early motherhood was additionally a explanation for migration for the grandmothers looking for 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 most suitable choice. Then again, all of them acknowledge that each fathers and the state ought to play an equally accountable function in caregiving and within the redistribution of paid and unpaid labor. In addition they admit that this group of care is exhausting and {that a} change is critical that entails 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 consider that men and women have the identical means to work, each inside and outside house. What divides us is gender, however we should all assume every thing evenly.

The grandmothers think about that the state must also assume a part of the care wants; nevertheless, their experiences with authorities care packages has been destructive. In keeping with Emilia:

I as soon as went to the hospital with my two grandchildren. Because the lady had a mark on her foot as a result of she fell whereas taking part in, an official from the Ministry of the Household informed me in a threatening approach 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 informed him, ‘Inform the Ministry that I wish to set my guidelines too. If they will demand one thing of me, give me one thing for these kids: slightly 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 Be taught the Legislation 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 in addition they differ within the particularities of their migratory situation. Among the many commonest oppressions are gender violence and the impression of generalized violence in migrant girls’s lives. For instance, each Deborah and Marisa migrated to El Salvador resulting from intra-family violence. Nevertheless, as Deborah relates, migration didn’t finish gender violence:

When my accomplice 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 dangerous about leaving my kids. I believed that after arriving there, there was going to be a change, however no… I met some males who referred to as me ‘whore’, ‘thief’, only for being Nicaraguan. And that’s the reason I bought 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 foul destiny.

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

I informed my mother that I needed to come back as a result of a gang member needed to make me his girlfriend. And I didn’t wish 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 have been the VIP shoppers, 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’. Nevertheless, her security was threatened resulting from an error in compliance with what she calls ‘the regulation 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 purchasing, 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. All the things was going effectively, however once I went to dwell alone, it modified.

I went to a neighborhood with a number of Nicaraguans, however there have been some gang members who have been neighbors, and someday I noticed them doing one thing, they usually checked out me. I didn’t converse. There it’s not like in Nicaragua. One has to study the regulation 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 bought 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 of resistance or emancipation appears insignificant. In keeping with Lugones (2008), the fashionable/colonial gender system sustains these oppressions. This method categorizes, separates and subtracts company from people by inserting 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 probabilities 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 area 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. Among the ‘infra-political resistances’ are ‘adaptation, rejection, non-adoption, not considering’, 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 alter primarily based on new experiences. Within the narratives of the grandmothers and returnees, the method of ‘oppressing →← resisting’ and its impression on their discourses and practices concerning id are outstanding.

‘However After I Talked About it with Different Ladies within the Neighborhood… 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 with the intention to confront them. This means denormalizing oppressions which might be culturally accepted as components of life. For Emilia, the expertise of self-organized mutual assist 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 so much once I was a toddler. 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 locally, they usually listened to me, I felt accompanied… It was additionally accepting the anger I felt. I additionally noticed that there have been stunning 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 long run.

She informed 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 shallowness 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 very best 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 someday I’ll inform all of them in regards to the jail, however now my silence is best for them.

‘When you will have your personal 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 will have your personal home and earn your cash, nobody will cease you. This manner, you can be free and won’t need to endure machismo… Earlier than it was not widespread for a separated girl to purchase a home to dwell alone together 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 wish to Dance and Snigger to Really feel Free’: Playfulness as Resistance

Playfulness, regardless of oppression, can also be a typical resistance for the narrators. Generally, even laughter and jokes about politics and the scenario of their communities are used to simplify the troublesome and discover the great within the hostile.

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. Nicely, we have now 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 power to beat adversity. They see God as a detailed buddy preventing injustice. Additionally, some grandmothers mix Christian spirituality with the indigenous non secular traditions of their communities. Flora and Pilar commented:

Flora: ‘Day by day, I cry out to God for peace and justice for the dying of my son. I can’t 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 methods to do it. Speaking with God offers me a number of reduction and power’.

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 do not forget that a curandero from Guatemala mentioned that tough issues have been going to occur, however that every thing can be nice. And now I see it that approach’.

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

Along with private resistance processes, grandmothers and returnees articulated types of collective resistance and group to assist themselves emotionally, demand rights and manage tasks for group well-being. The grandmothers organized mutual assist 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 tasks to assist migrants in El Salvador. In keeping with Carla, all these tasks have been impressed by information: ‘That strategy of organizing ourselves has been good and is a results of us studying about rights. I’m joyful 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 information of human rights. For her, the solidarity networks that she managed to ascertain with different girls in El Salvador have been key to studying about and overcoming oppression:

I went to Ciudad Mujer[2], to a assist program for migrant girls. There, they taught me about my rights and my shallowness, and I shared with different migrant girls from different international locations. I made pals, and certainly one of 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 precise 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 angle of decolonial feminism present that the grandmothers and returned migrant girls are brokers of their very own change in advanced 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 assist the emancipation of girls 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. By way of sensible resistances, these girls have organized mutual assist teams and group initiatives to help migrants and returnees.

These are all invaluable practices that needs to be thought-about and reproduced by the state when fascinated about insurance policies on care provision and integration for returned migrants. It will be significant for the Nicaraguan authorities to alter its coverage method from one centered on welfare and short-term options to 1 that considers girls’s and communities’ experiences, capabilities and worldviews to create long-term options grounded locally. As Carla put it: ‘Solely with this assist can we construct a group the place nobody has to depart if it’s not by will’.


[1] Mulas in Spanish is a slang time period that refers to folks, often girls, who carry and transport medication, 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 tasks for migrant girls.


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