There have been only two big groups of foreign migration into Colombia since the 16th century: the Spaniards that led a conquest over the territory and migrated by different groups over the next 300 years, and the Arabs since the 19th century. Other groups of migrations have been less notice and rapidly integrated to the culture due to its small numbers from Europe, the Americas and China, most of the them to the Colombian Caribbean coasts and cities like Barranquilla, Santa Marta and Cartagena.
But Colombia has not been a country of migrants. Most naturally, it has been a expelling of its own population during its most difficult times. In 2005 the National Administrative Department for Statistics (DANE) reported that 3,310,107 Colombians were living abroad, a number that represents the 10 percent of the population.
The crude image of a violent country has kept foreign migrants in a very low level, but it has been also a traditional policy for about 200 years not to stimulate foreign migrants in the country, unlikely other American nations like Argentina, Uruguay, Brazil, Venezuela, Peru and USA that promoted migration into their territory as a key of development.
At the same time, that evidence has produced a social phenomenon of cultural abortion of any migrant group into Colombia. For this reason, there are not “Chinese towns, Italian districts, Arab streets” and all those groups have been mixed with the native population during 500 years of history.
Colombia as a human corridor
It is possible that the 21rst century would have other perspective for Colombia. The traditional policies that created difficulties to foreign migrations are over, while the country is struggling to get rid of that violent and fearful panorama that filled international media.
At the same time it is not possible to forget that the Colombian territory is just at the center of the Western Hemisphere. The only South American nation with coast in both oceans and sovereignty over the Amazon basin and the Caribbean Region. In this way, the Colombian territory is touching the giant Brazil and at the same time the islander Caribbean territories of Cuba, República Dominicana and Jamaica. It has its seat on the northern Andes ranges and at the same time a great space besides the Central American bridge. Geologically, Colombia is located in a natural corridor of human waves that can be traced from prehistory.
If geologically Colombia is a natural space for human migrations, then the problem has been political. If the nation continues its development and pacification, it is easy to predict that it will be a migration destiny this century.
Destiny for Latin Americans
According to José Ángel Oropeza, chief of the mission of the International Organization for Migration (IOM), said this week that Colombia will become a receptor of migrants in the coming years, especially of Latin Americans.
The financial crisis is been already a factor to cause the return of thousand of Colombian migrants from abroad. However, besides them, many other Latin Americans will start to consider the coffee country as their El Dorado land.
Oropeza said, cited by Caracol Radio:
“Las condiciones que ofrece Colombia en seguridad y calidad de vida hacen que muchos latinoamericanos empiecen a pensar en Colombia como un destino para establecerse, realizarse y llevar su vida y su futuro”
“The conditions offered by Colombia in security and standard of living, make that many Latin Americans start to think in Colombia as a destiny for setting, realization and living for their future”
IOM recommends that the country should start to prepare itself as a receptor of migrants, as well as the return of expatriate Colombians. As Colombia has not been a destiny for migrants for several decades, rules and policies on it still poor and weak.
Does Colombia needs migrants?
However, the country needs to answer first this question. While industrialized countries seem to fight foreign migrations, why a country like Colombia should promote it?
Unfortunately, several policymakers in nations like US against migration, forget that their nation was based on the force of expatriates along their history. There is not a single group of people that can say it is the original base of the formation of a nation like USA. By other part, countries like Argentina and Venezuela gave importance to migration as a key for development since the same moment of the independence from Spain.
By its part, Colombia is made by a vast territory that is the size of Spain, Portugal and France combined, without include its maritime seas. Of such territory, half of the country is underpopulated: it is like the whole French territory were empty.
Of course, along with policies on foreign migration promotion as a contribution to its development, Colombia should continue in the worry for its current citizens to make real a best standard of life for every single Colombian. That would be the first way to build a nation of opportunities.