Un blog apasionado, incondicional y sobre todo inútil sobre esos objetos planos, inanimados, caros, arcaicos, sin sonido estereofónico, sin efectos especiales, y sin embargo maravillosos llamados libros.

domingo, 11 de junio de 2017

Urban nomads

I am an exile; citizen of the country of longing.
Suketu Mehta, Maximum City: Bombay Lost and Found

I was born in “delegación” Benito Juárez, one of the 16 municipalities of Mexico City. I spent practically my whole childhood in another municipality, Iztapalapa, right next to Benito Juárez. But then I started to migrate: besides Mexico City, I have lived in four cities of the country, all of them capital cities: San Luis Potosí, Guadalajara, Aguascalientes and Toluca. Now I am back, I live in the same city where I was born. More than eight of every ten people in Mexico live under this same condition. On the contrary, according to the INEGI Intercensal Survey 2015, 17.4% of the residents of the country were born in an entity other than the entity in which they live in. “The entities with the highest percentage of population born in another entity are: Quintana Roo, with 54.1% of its residents ...; Baja California, with 44.1; Baja California Sur, with 39.6 and Estado de Mexico with 33.7 percent. At the opposite end, Chiapas, with 3.4%, is the entity with the lowest percentage of population born in another entity, followed by Guerrero, Oaxaca, Tabasco, Veracruz and Guanajuato” (INEGI, Principales resultados de la Encuesta Intercensal 2015 Estados Unidos Mexicanos).

This same statistical instrument allows us to know that only two years ago one million (1'007,063) people whose place of birth is another country in the world, lived in our country. The number of foreigners among us seems small (even of this million, four out of ten already had a Mexican nationality) and it is small, considering that one million inhabitants doesn’t even reach 1% of the residents in Mexico (0.84%); however, people living in such situation have doubled in the last fifteen years.

Mexico is one of the countries with the lowest percentage of immigrants in its population. Of course, there are cases with much lower percentage: for example, Cuba reported in 2015 just under 13.5 thousand immigrants living on the island, an insignificant 0.12% of its total population. Even the 713.5 thousand foreigners living in Brazil make up only 0.34%. On the contrary, among the countries in America, French Guiana and Canada, 39.5% and 21.8% of their respective total populations are men and women born in other countries; in the Canadian case, we are talking about 7.8 million people. Across the globe, according to 2015 data, the top ten of the countries with highest relative percentage of immigrants in their total population were: the United Arab Emirates (88.4%), Qatar (75.51%), Kuwait (73.64%), Liechtenstein (61.82%), Andorra (60.12%), Macao (58.28%), Monaco (55.37%), Barein (51.14%), Singapore (45.39%) and Luxembourg (43.97%). This means that in eight nations of the world the majority of its habitants were born outside their borders. In absolute numbers, the United States still is the country with the largest number of immigrants worldwide (46.6 million people, 14.49% of its total population), followed by Germany (12 million), Russia (11.6 million), Saudi Arabia (10.2 million) and the United Kingdom (8.5%). Obviously, money is appealing. 
Looking at the phenomenon trough larger regions, less than two out of every hundred people in Central America, South America, Africa and Asia are immigrants; in Europe ten out of a hundred people have such a condition, and in North America there are 15 and 20 in Oceania.

In his book, The Secret Life of Cities (Penguin Literature Random House, February, 2017; Spanish edition), Suketu Mehta states "... in the last quarter century, the world's emigrant population has doubled. “Today a quarter of a billion people live in a country different from the one they were born in – one out of every 28 humans. If all the migrants were a nation by themselves, they would constitute the fifth largest country in the world”. And the phenomenon, he says, has just begun: "As war, injustice and climate change push us away from our native country, the phenomenon that will define humanity of the twenty-first century will be mass migration." Suketu Mehta talks from experience. He was born in 1963 in India, in Ganges delta, in the City of Joy, Kolkata or Calcutta, and when he was very young he migrated with his family to the other end of the subcontinent, Bombay or Mumbai, at the coast of the Arabian Sea. Years later, in 1977, they moved to the other side of the planet, to New York City. "In the pursuit for happiness, sometimes greedy, sometimes altruistic, my family has traveled all over the world ... How do we maintain a certain sense of continuity? Like all emigrants, we seek consolation from this incessant movement, by telling stories and recollecting memories as an antidote to displacement”. It is unquestionable that Suketu Mehta has done so: in 2004 he published the book Maximum City: Bombay Lost and Found (Pinguin), a textual recovery of the city. Now, in The Secret Life of Cities, the perspective is broader: it seeks to provide a narrative understanding of urban life in the globalized world, from the most accurate point of view, the one of those who had just arrived.

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