Diminished or Revitalized Tradition of Return? Transnational Migration in Bolivia’s Valle Alto (working paper #172)

Richard Jones, University of Texas, San Antonio
Leonardo de la Torre, Universidad Católica, Cochabamba (Bolivia)

Abstract: Female relatives were chatting in Don Orlando and Doña Alicia’s home in Arlington, Virginia. They had recently arrived from Santa Rosa, a village in the Valle Alto area (close to the city of Cochabamba, Bolivia). One of them approached to show us the baby she carried as a small treasure in her arms. We asked if she had brought it from Bolivia. “No,” she told us, “this one was born in the United States.” Later, at supper, Don Orlando, who divided 25 years of his life between Arbieto (his hometown in the Valle Alto) and Argentina before settling in the United States in the late 1980s, remarked that he would return to the Valley to retire and plant peaches. His wife Alicia, dressed in an elegant Bolivian skirt (which provokes tears of nostalgia among the Cochabambinos who see her at the supermarket), said that she supports him because she can’t imagine growing old in the United States. However, her daughters-in-law—wives of her three older sons as well as prosperous construction workers in Virginia—laughed at the naiveté of this plan. They said they would like to return just as much, although the most likely scenario is that they would have to stay in the United States permanently.

Work Paper #172