La Migración: Migration Vocabulary Words in Spanish
Knowing how to talk about migration in Spanish is key to discussing this complex issue that encompasses many critical topics. Migration is one of the biggest challenges facing our modern world.
Read this article to learn about why migration is a human right, how to talk about migration in Spanish, and some of the main concepts and terms in Spanish related to the social phenomenon of migration and its consequences.
Migration as a Human Right
Did you know that migration is now considered a fundamental human right? Throughout history, peoples of all colors have migrated around the world.
That’s how America and Australia were first populated thousands of years ago—and colonized again just a few hundreds years back. The Arabs migrated to North Africa and all the way to the Iberian Peninsula, where they stayed for seven centuries. And, famously, Israelis, migrated from place to place in search of their “Holy Land.”
Finally, perhaps the most important migration of them all occurred tens of thousands of years ago, when Africans left their continent to populate the rest of the world.
However, many people (and countries) still do not consider migration as a human right. The debate is ongoing, but maybe the key resides in understanding that, like other human rights, the human right to migrate can be restricted in certain circumstances.
How to Talk about Migration in Spanish
The United States is a country of migrants, built by migrants, and kept dynamic by its open-minded attitude towards migration. These days, the highest rates of migration to the U.S. are from Spanish-speaking countries.
How do you say “immigrant” in Spanish? Define migration in Spanish, translate migration in Spanish, and maybe most important of all, truly communicate with Spanish-speaking migrants to support them with the multiple challenges that the phenomenon of migration presents.
Migration in Spanish: Vocabulary Guide
Now, let’s talk about migration in Spanish, including what it means to emigrate, what’s the difference between migration and immigration, and much more.
When asking about the meaning of “migration” or “immigration” in Spanish, it’s important to first know the definition of these terms in English. Let’s then study some of the most important concepts about this topic, including their translation in Spanish.
La migración (migration) is an abstract concept that refers to the number of migrants during a given period of time.
On the other hand, la inmigración (immigration) refers to the action by which a person moves to another country.
Los migrantes (migrants) are people who leave their home country to live in another one. They’re divided into los inmigrantes (immigrants) and los emigrantes (emigrants).
These terms differ based on the point of view of who’s talking about them. For instance, el emigrante is someone who moves away, while el inmigrante is someone who moves in. This way, the same person can be seen both as an emigrante from their country of origin, and as an inmigrante in their country of destiny.
Here, there are several different concepts that it’s important to touch on at least briefly. For example, who is an illegal immigrant? What about an economic migrant?
El inmigrante ilegal or “illegal immigrant” is an immigrant without permission to live in their destination country. Another term to call this type of immigrant is el indocumentado or “undocumented,” which means that a person doesn’t have the proper documentation to live in that country.
The concept of migración económica or “economic migration” refers to the economic situation that pushes a person to migrate to a different country.
On the other hand, la migración voluntaria or “voluntary migration” occurs when a person chooses to live in a new country, without an economic need or other reason forcing them to move. Sometimes, this type of migrants are called “expats,” especially when coming from Anglo-Saxon countries.
El patrón de migración (migration pattern) refers to the overall migration tendencies in a given territory and time period.
La migración en cadena (chain migration) refers to a process of immigration where an immigrant moves to a new country first, and then others in the family follow them.
Sometimes immigrants migrate only for a set time period. There are many reasons to do something like this, for example studying in another country, getting a temporary job, or doing research for a specific time period.
In this case, immigrants may get la residencia temporal (temporary residency), which is permission given by the host country to that person to stay in the country for a specific time period.
The receiver of this permission is called el residente temporal (temporary resident).
When the residency becomes permanent, the immigrant has to apply for la residencia permanente (permanent residency) and becomes el residente permanente (permanent resident). Which is one step closer to achieving la ciudadania (citizenship).
Then you have los refugiados (refugees), migrants who are forced to leave their home countries for safety reasons. Many refugees migrate because of war or because they’re persecuted for political, religious, or other reasons in their own countries.
To obtain el estatus de refugiado (refugee status), the migrant has to demonstrate that they’re migrating due to violence or persecution in their home country.
Una crisis de refugiados (refugee crisis) is when a large number of refugees move at the same time. This usually happens during war, like in Syria recently, or a sudden surge in local violence, like in some Central American countries in the last few years.
El multiculturalismo (multiculturalism) is the “co-existence of diverse cultures” or “the way in which a society deals with cultural diversity.” In both definitions, the key concepts are “cultural” and “diversity.”
Countries with a long tradition or being net receivers of immigration developed this concept of multiculturalism as a way to understand a society formed by many different cultures. This gave way to the “melting pot theory” or la teoría del crisol that assumes that different groups of immigrants will tend to melt together and assimilate into the predominant society.
Another theory of multiculturalism is the “salad bowl theory” (la teoría del tazón de ensalada), which states that immigrants retain some parts of their own distinctive cultures.
Journeys and Scenarios of Refugees and Immigrants
Migration is one of the greatest challenges of our time. The number of international migrants is at an all-time high, and climate change will only exacerbate that tendency in the future.
At the same time, international crises like those taking place in Syria, Central America, and South Sudan highlight the need for international cooperation on this subject and funding for programs that deal with the increasing flows of refugees and immigrants.
The dangers that some of these refugees in search of asilo (asylum) have to deal with are many and varied for any Central American immigrant trying to travel across Mexico to reach the U.S. They may fall victim to by local mafias, drug dealers, smugglers, or human traffickers. They risk their lives crossing rivers, seas, and deserts without proper equipment.
Understanding Migration through Languages
One of the best ways to deal with and understand the challenges presented by migration is to learn the language spoken by migrants. A language is much more than just a means of communication, it conveys a whole culture with it. Understanding migration in Spanish is a window into the culture of Spanish-speaking countries and peoples. Ultimately, being able to discuss migration in Spanish allows you to better understand the plights of those migrating in search of a better life for themselves and their families. According to CNN, there are 41 million native Spanish speakers in the U.S. who speak Spanish in their homes.
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