02. Trajectories: Why? How?

Migration policies to Europe may very according to the country, visas can be troublesome in different degrees according to one’s nationality, in general terms a person can travel to France as a tourist for a limited amount of days, this person will either need a visa granted by a French representation abroad or it can also be waived in some cases. Holders of either Brazilian or Peruvian passports can have free mobility in the Schengen area[1] for 90 days within a period of 180 days. Entering a country as a tourist does not allow a person to work or to have any remunerated activity in it whatsoever, on the other hand it opens the possibility for some to migrate illegally.

Giovanna’s story, similarly to that of many who are in Villa Biron has roots in her days back in the country where she was born. She had to go through transformations to reach a body she deemed adequate for her to withstand the social pressure of the status quo. Because of her transition[2] she had he education hindered by external factors, such as people who did not want to let her go to school because they deemed her unfit to be with the others. The labor market was also ruthless, she had opportunities denied when she started to identify as a woman instead of a man, regardless of her working abilities, she was told that she was drawing too much attention, she said.

Being ostracized out of home became common to her and also to the other Peruvian women we interviewed. Some of them were even exploited by their own families that cut ties with them after they started to change their bodies to adequate their external image to the one they had of themselves. This context led them to the streets where they had to fend for themselves and adapt even more to the logics and perils surrounding a life they had to live in order to survive. This kind of story however, is common to many people who try to undergo a transition, which may make them victims of a Cultural Anesthesia[3] as pointed by Feldman (1994), meaning that people exposed to those narratives tend to become impervious to the horrors and gravity it entails. Both Malkki (1996)[4] and Rajaram (2002)[5] comment on what the aforementioned author calls a Anonymous Corporeality, those who live a story just become less relevant as individuals and have their problems in a relativization of who they are. They are just a representation, an allegory of themselves, as the author point out.

For some, prostitution became the only viable way for them to make a living, in an underworld that is marginalized by society, its system of exploitation that symbolically reflects symbols the patriarchal and capitalistic status quo that embodies what is expected of those who are born with different genitals. After struggling with their social environment they saw in migration a way for them to break through from where they were. To venture in a different country can be a risky, but the prospect of seeking a refuge far from the difficulties they had to endure seems to be a way o fleeing from their persecution.

In order to move they needed enough money to be able to pay for both the housing and plane tickets, which could be a daring quantity of money for those who were already having a hard time to live in their own countries. A few of the Peruvian girls managed to do it through people with whom they would indebt themselves and pay with their work upon arrival. This system is devised in such a way that the person would have a debt much higher than the one that is necessary for them to travel and pay for rent. Not to mention that that to work, they would have to become prostitutes in a place completely unknown to them, without speaking the language and without protection, which means that they would have to fend for themselves, pay for a spot where they could work, pay exorbitant amounts of money for their housing, hence their debt would slowly diminish and they would have no guarantee that they would not be robbed. Living and having a remunerated activity on a tourist visa is illegal by itself, being tourists they had no right to open a bank account, having to store their money however they could. Making it easier for those pimping them to steal from them and making them helpless.

However it is important to know that solidarity plays a role and turns their ephemeral and marginal presence in what is for them, non-places, as a site where they can eventually become able to create a network, and through this network they meet people that can eventually lead them to other places. This is how our interviewees first got in touch with each other, this network and similar trajectories took them to Villa Biron, where, despite the animosity and violence that can be around it, it can still be a space of hope. It becomes a place; Casey (1996) points out to that in a mention of Merleau-Ponty[6], it is said that places are intertwined with those who live in them, also they go from a mere space to be turned into a place only because of the human factor.


[1] European Comission (2017), Migration and Home Affairs: Visa Policy. Available at: https://ec.europa.eu/home-affairs/what-we-do/policies/borders-and-visas/visa-policy_en

[2] Transexual.org. A Primer on Transition: The basics of changing your biological sex. Available at: http://transsexual.org/basicsoftransition.html

[3] Feldman, A. (1994) ‘On Cultural Anesthesia: From Desert Storm to Rodney King’. Americam Ethnologist 21: 404-418.

[4] Malkki, L. (1996). Speechless Emissaries: Refugees, Humanitarianism, and Dehistoricization. Cultural Anthropology, 11(3), 377-404. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/656300

[5] Rajaram, P. K. (2002). Humanitarism and Representations of the Refugee. Journal of Refugee Studies. Vol 15. No. 3. Oxford University Press

[6] Casey, Edward S. (1996) How to get from Space to Place in a Fairly Short Stretch of Time. Phenomenological Phenomena in. Senses of Place. School of American Research Press.


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