Since the late 1990s Chile has been a popular destination for Peruvian guest workers. There are more jobs to be had, and anyone prepared to work hard is able to earn more in a week than they could earn in a month in Peru.
Those seeking a better future are willing to pay the equivalent of a month’s wages to get across the border illegally. The Chilean capital of Santiago alone has more than 80,000 Peruvian immigrants living there. The vast majority are women. In order to provide a better future for their family, they leave their own home and children behind to work in the homes and take care of the children of someone else. Almost all the money that they earn thousands of kilometers away is sent back to Peru.
Newcomers in Santiago from Peru can go to a special center for immigrants. One of the biggest problems is obtaining a residence permit. In 2007 some 15,000 illegal Peruvians had their status legalized by a ‘general pardon’. The Peruvians are one of the largest minorities in Chile. They live together in the old neighborhoods in the heart of the city and are set apart by having their own celebrations and traditional foods.
Almost all the immigrants say they intend to go home some day, but have no concrete plans to do so. The Peruvian economy is running well at the moment, but as long as wages are higher in Chile than at home, they won’t consider leaving.
This story is part of Via Panam, Kadir van Lohuizen’s project about migration in the Americas.