"A dream for me": Idioms of progress among Peruvian migrants in Madrid

Alfredo Aguirre


In this article, I examine idioms of progress among Peruvian migrants in Madrid, Spain. Since the first waves of migration from Peru in the 1980s, Spain has represented for many Peruvians the possibility of realizing aspirations to socioeconomic betterment. Open-ended interviews and participant observation with Peruvians living in Madrid highlighted the importance of superación (overcoming, surmounting) in contextualizing migrants’ desires for socioeconomic improvement. As an ideology of individual and collective progress intimately tied to Peruvian histories of violence, superación promises to benefit
migrants’ communities and overcome entrenched racial hierarchies that associate indigeneity with poverty. In Madrid, I observed that desires for superación among Peruvian migrants often buttressed a moral conduct toward their family, region, and nation. I discuss the ways by which gender and nationality become important lines of difference as migrants negotiate their own
conceptions of progress in the face of Spain’s decadent modernity and hostile racism. Lastly, I investigate the relationship between superación and another powerful narrative of progress in Spain: consumerism. Analyzing an excursion through a Madrid IKEA with Peruvian migrants, I suggest that consumerism’s discourses of universalized access are in fact implicated in the same kind of class and racial exclusions that subtend superación. I conclude by pointing toward the myriad narratives and subjects of progress at play in transnational settings, and suggest that rather than subscribe to models of migrant assimilation, attention must be paid to the local contexts and articulations of progress by which migrants strive for better lives.

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.15273/jue.v1i1.8062


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