The capacity to aspire of the rural youth and migration to cities: the case of suan, colombia

Lopez-Muñoz, Laura (1); Ingelaere, Bert (2) (2018). 'THE CAPACITY TO ASPIRE OF THE RURAL YOUTH AND MIGRATION TO CITIES: THE CASE OF SUAN, COLOMBIA' Paper presented at the annual conference of the HDCA, Buenos Aires, Argentina 2018.


The unfair distribution of resources and lack of opportunities for rural inhabitants have created urban-rural poverty gaps in Colombia. This scenario has impacted on the rural youth’s perceptions, who consider that life in the countryside inhibits their social mobility.


The case of study in this research is the rural municipality of Suan, located at the northern of Colombia, in the southern of Atlántico Department. A high number of young people in Suan aspire to migrate: to establish in capital cities of the country, such as Barranquilla or Bogotá, or to migrate to other countries such as the United States and Canada.


Young agents in Suan have faced adverse situations that hinder their development, and impact on their perceptions of available options to succeed in the town. Youth’s aspirations to work in the countryside are limited because of the low modernization levels of this sector in Colombia, and due to the lack of knowledge about its economic avenues. These limitation of opportunities, as well as youth’s perceptions on corruption and patronage in the town’s politics, have had a negative influence on what Appadurai (2004) have called “the capacity to aspire”. These elements evidence that, as Hart (2016) argues, constraints of capabilities are linked to constraints of aspirations.


Remoteness of Suan from Barranquilla, the capital of the Department, and the consequent limitation of study and job’s opportunities, have created a sense of fatalism, and have held down agents’ capacity to imagine a better future in the countryside. The youth in Suan often show a pessimist and conformist mentality, what some of them call “mente de pobre” (mentality of the poor). In this regard, Ibrahim (2011) suggests that individuals are unable to be or do what they value and have reason to value when they suffer from fatalism or “aspirations failure” (Ray, 2002; 2006).


On the other hand, the mirror effect” was found as one of the main determinants of the capacity to aspire of the youth in Suan. Although the family is their own mirror, a tension exists because they do not want to be exactly like their family members in the future. Furthermore, being exposed to urban people and environments has had a pivotal repercussion on youth’s capacity to aspire to an urban future. When young Suaneros have the possibility of visiting near cities or meeting outsiders, they find alternatives ways of living. At the same time, having access to other ways of life through TV and social networks has created an image to these young people about what a good life is. Migrating to urban scenarios seems to be the most efficient option to improve their lives for many young people in Suan.


Narratives and discourses found in Suan demonstrate that young agents in town are aware of their subordinate position in society, and many of them can link their current opportunities with future possibilities. However, a restricted capacity to aspire to a better life in the countryside was found parallel to a more developed capacity to aspire to an urban life.

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