Reversal of fortunes sends Spaniards to Latin America

Fri Nov 2, 2012 11:23am EDT
 
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By Gabriel Stargardter and Paul Day

MEXICO CITY/MADRID (Reuters) - After joining the euro in 1999, Spain's economic boom made it the land of opportunity for millions of Latin American migrant workers.

But since the decade-long boom turned to bust roughly four years ago, many of those immigrants have returned, joined by a growing number of disillusioned Spaniards who hope that Latin America, with its developing economies and low cost of living, has more to offer.

Spaniards are traditionally reluctant to emigrate and they are among the least likely in Europe to go abroad for work. But with the unemployment rate at 25 percent, more Spaniards are ready to leave behind the comforts of home.

"Europe has gone down the toilet," said 45-year-old Xavi Berdala, a former photographer from Barcelona who moved to Mexico in July to open a pizza restaurant. "People now see Latin America with more respect, more possibilities."

Roughly 370,000 people emigrated from Spain in 2011, 10 times more than before the economy tanked in 2008.

Although about 86 percent of them were naturalized immigrants born abroad, there is also a growing number of native Spaniards saying "ya basta" ("enough is enough"). Over 50,000 left last year, up 80 percent since before the crisis hit.

More than 9,000 went to Latin America, up from about 3,600 in 2006, said Jesus Fernandez Huertas of Spanish think tank Fedea, citing data from the national statistics office.

The reasons for leaving are clear. Spain's economy is in recession for the second time since 2009 and half of all residents under 25 who are looking for work can't find a job.   Continued...

 
Spanish migrant Olmo del Paso packs his rucksack at the house where he is staying in downtown Madrid October 22, 2012. Del Paso is a cameraman who left Spain for Uruguay this month after being jobless for over two years and being forced to move back into his mother's house in the small northern town of Palencia. When a hotel in Montevideo, Uruguay, offered him a job as caretaker over the summer months, the 34-year-old bought a one-way ticket and packed his bags. After joining the euro in 1999, Spain's economic boom made it the land of opportunity for millions of Latin American migrant workers. But since the decade-long boom turned to bust roughly four years ago, many of those immigrants have returned, joined by a growing number of disillusioned Spaniards who hope that Latin America, with its developing economies and low cost of living, has more to offer. Picture taken October 22, 2012. REUTERS/Andrea Comas