The nation-state construct is in crisis. The current migration wave is the biggest challenge for Latin American republics since they were born. Not only the migratory laws and the concept of citizenship are being questioned, but also all political and economic ideologies are falling down, unable to meet the populations’ needs and demands. 

As countries are struggling to keep order and impose sovereignty, frontiers seem to blur.  Armies and weapons can’t stop the hordes of people who are crossing rivers, mountains and deserts to find peace and a better future for their families. In Latin America, a continent in which fragility is a constant and stability just a desire, a region in which social turmoil took over, the pandemics is the final blow for countries that were already experiencing crisis. 

Honduras, El Salvador, the Dominican Republic, Haiti and Venezuela, the poorest, the most exposed to the environmental risks of floods, tornados and hurricanes and to structural problems such as unemployment, inequality, and violence1 are the starting points for large groups of people fleeing mainly to Mexico and the United States and, in the last decades, to the Southern Cone. 

However, massive migration does not only complicate Latin America. In Europe, a continent in which social and economic issues seemed to run more smoothly, the waves of immigrants escaping war and hunger in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, the Maghreb2, Senegal, Nigeria, and other nations reached its territories, looking for prosperity and security. This placed more demands on governments and states. Germany, Italy and Spain either hardened their migratory laws or sent troops to deter newcomers. Nonetheless, they ended up opening doors to these immigrants who settled down in makeshift houses like the chabolas in Spain.3

As the weather change is striking from the Arctic to Antarctic the chances of taking things back from the point in which the current sanitary crisis started go away, even for prosperous countries. In the specific case of America and the Caribbean, the environmental and economic crisis going out of control has caused the current wave of immigration to move from north to south in a desperate attempt of survival. Within the signs of environmental crisis, we can identify the drought, floods, tornados, hurricanes, pollution and other phenomena that affect the continent. The drought alone is causing massive human displacements looking for grazing lands for their cattle. On the other hand, floods, tornados and hurricanes bring destruction every year from the United States to Central America and the Caribbean, these last two areas being the poorest on the continent. The consequences of weather change are numerous and unstoppable. Nevertheless, there is hope that a common international effort might reduce their impact while finding solutions that create better living conditions for all kinds of life. 

1.See Cord, L.; Genoni, M. et

2. See Augustyn, A. in

3. See Gorney,

Regarding the economic reasons for migrating, there are multifactorial realities to address. Evidently, the poorest countries in America are more prone to experience the lasting effects of the environmental disasters. This happens because they also have structural problems such as extreme poverty, violence, corruption, malnutrition, less access to education, poor sanitary conditions, inequality, among other factors4 that do not let them go back in track when unexpected natural events take place. 

To make things worse, the population that is below the poverty line and the most vulnerable groups inside a nation, in which we include the less well off, most women, aboriginal people, Afro Latinos, and the elderly, do not have access to bank loans since they do not have assets or steady incomes. Therefore, migration becomes their only strategy to move forward. A more thorough analysis comes from the study of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP). The nations that contribute with more migrants in the continent depend heavily on the remittances they receive from nationals living abroad. 5

The current scenario raises several questions on immigration. If this continent was populated more than 12,000 years ago by peoples coming mostly from Africa and Euroasia, leading to the appearance of the aboriginal groups that inhabited these latitudes in prehistory and before the arrival of the European conquerors in the 15th century, should we look at the present migratory wave as something that is part of our human nature? Or should we instead give our best to save the nation-state, borders and identities as we know them? How are pivotal themes like jobs, pensions, health system, education, defense and politics going to evolve in a continent where the only certain thing is uncertainty? Is it time to revisit the nation-state concept and think of a macrozone or a coalition, with local differences but with a single government, perhaps? Neither the Bolivarian Republic nor neoliberalism are feasible given the animosity they bring for their association with the left and Capitalism, respectively. Answers are needed soon. When migrants are putting pressure on the world it is time to revisit our systems and look at more innovative models. Nevertheless, since countries and societies devoted a large part of their history to write constitutions, legal systems and give their societies an order that would model their citizens’ behavior, a new system would have to include the elements of this old organization that worked. In view of all that, let us look at the past to understand who we are and let us see with objectivity what our real projections and possibilities are.

5. See Cord, L.; Genoni, M. et al. in

6. See Cord, L.; Genoni, M. et al. in


Augustyn , A. (Ed.). (n.d.). Retrieved February 16, 2021, from

Cord, L., & Genoni, M. e. (2015). Shared Prosperity and Poverty Eradication in Latin America and the Caribbean. Retrieved February 16, 2021, from

Gorney, C. (2019, August). African migrants in Europe trade one hardship for another. National Geographic. Retrieved February 16, 2021, from


When analysts talk about migration in America, they usually skip the fact that our continent is a land of migrants. Science has stated that for centuries and new archaeological findings have added more evidence to the discussion. As far as we know, most scientific theories state that human life in America appeared in Prehistory, around 38,000 years ago, when the Bering Land Bridge began appearing between northeastern Asia and northwestern North America, joining both regions with drylands. That was the most recent event involving Bering (since other events happened at more remote times) and the one that allowed living creatures, plants, animals, and men who were chasing big beasts like the mammoth to pass from Asia to America, according to most theories, more than 12,000 years ago. They found the Beringia crossing and then took the MacKenzie corridor to set out to the South. 

Other theories state that these individuals bordered Greenland or the crossing of the North pole, among other paths, to reach our territories and that some might have used boats to do it. Then, after thousands of years, they finally stepped into the end of the continent in South America. However, evidence found in Monte Verde, Chile, in the 1970s threatened all the conventions reached by scientists worldwide and suggested that the migration might have happened long before, around 18,000 years ago.  Likewise, other voices aver that the groups of people who first inhabited this continent took other routes and that they might have sailed from Oceania to these territories. Finally, considering the evidence found in Chile, some scientists conclude that the migrants might have come from different lands and used different paths to arrive in American soil at different times in history. Regardless of that, after the arrival of these individuals an admixture process originated the aboriginal tribes, cultures and civilizations that the European conquerors found in the 15th century, whose physical characteristics after thousands of years differed from their supposedly Asian ancestors.1  

In general, the trends in immigration during the Prehistoric period implied the development of activities performed by hunters and gatherers and eventually led to the practice of agriculture which led as time passed by to the settlement of migrants and the appearance of densely populated urban centers. These areas in places like Mesoamerica, the Andes and other regions meant the development of advanced cultures like the ones located in current Mexico, Peru and Colombia.2

With all the previous information in mind, a new revision of the national cultures becomes necessary since the origin of some of our typical traits may be in distant lands and ages. As some authors point out, the seed of the most advanced Neolithic American cultures like the ones previously mentioned is in the Nile valley and Mesopotamia in Northwestern Asia. Therefore, it was in Africa where migration to all the continents began and eventually ended up stepping into the American continent.3

1. See Salzano, F and Sans, M. in

2. See Adhikari, K., Chacón-Duque, J. et al. In and Dussel, E. in

3. See Dussel, E. in

Looking at this background, we may speculate that the encounter between men from the New and Old World in 1492 that is described as a clash of civilizations was technically an encounter between cultures with a common root. Certainly, time, distance and progressive admixtures contributed to the abyss that separates the European culture from the aboriginal groups. The environment also appears on the picture when we analyze the geographic differences we find between both continents. In turn, these traits created what authors like Olstein call divergencies4, term that explains the different development both continents had. The existence of large mammals, a larger variety of plants, and its geographical position favored Europe, what progressively fostered or hindered the diffusion of products or germs, and the division of labor and specialization that increased the gap between territories.

Ironically, this abundance receded as the population in Europe increased. The extensive exploitation of lands, rivers and seas depleted the resources and an important migration wave from the Old World began. The international context also fueled the adventure. The quest for new lands, treasures, and resources was pioneered by the two Iberian powers, followed by Britain, France and the Netherlands. For the European powers it was also urgent to find new routes to reach the products from Asia and skip intermediaries. Finally, to add to this, the Iberian nations were desperate to pay their debts after they expelled the Muslims. This long conflict together with the other wars the crowns were fighting in commercial and territorial fields against their European enemies were responsible for the impoverishment of the crown’s treasures. In the specific case of the Spanish Empire, the monarchs had to struggle with the expenses that keeping the noble men implied. 

This context of war and competition was the one that modelled the character of the European conquerors: They were trained to fight and arrived in a continent in which they found almost no opposition. The admixture process in our continent was complete with the African slaves that were brought to the new lands. 

To sum up, there were three groups involved in the admixture process that happened in the continent. Other groups that are mentioned are the ones coming from Asia and Polynesia, but they settled down in countries like Peru, Brazil, Guyana and Suriname mainly.5 Even though it is hard to tell the exact number, estimates about the total size of the aboriginal population by the time the conquerors arrived reveal the existence of tens of millions of souls, distributed across the continent.6 An interesting observation deals with the influence of the Semitic-Christian cultures in the formation of our identity. The extensive Muslim invasion of the Iberian Peninsula7 had enduring consequences on the cultures and identities of these nations. Therefore, the Muslims also contributed to the formation of the local and national identities in Latin America through their participation in the construction of the Spanish identity for seven centuries and, to be more accurate, long before since the cultures were the first migrants come from have a Semitic origin.8

4. See Olstein, D. in

5. See Adhikari, K., Chacón-Duque, J et al. in

6. See See Adhikari, K., Chacón-Duque, J. et al. In; Dussel, E. in and Salzano, F and Sans, M. in

7. See

8. See

On the other hand, the forced migration of African slaves from the 15th century on meant the introduction of about 10 million people who were taken to Brazil, as well as to British, Spanish and French colonies.9 Logically, we may not forget the contribution of most recent groups of immigrants to the genetic configuration of Latin America. They are the ones who came long after the colonial period and the Independence and may be traced back to the period after World War II, from areas like the Mediterranean region and Eastern Europe, as well as from Africa and Asia. 

These historical and anthropological antecedents are also supported by genetic studies carried out in the continent. The evidence proves that the Latin American genetic pool is made up of mostly the three groups that mixed after the discovery and conquest in the 15th century. Furthermore, the current population Latin American population inherited diseases like type 2 diabetes, obesity, gallbladder disease, rheumatoid arthritis, asthma, and prostate cancer among others being the Native and Latino populations more frequently affected than people from European ancestry. Other worth mentioning illnesses are breast cancer and melanoma.10

With these antecedents in mind, we can state that migration is a phenomenon that is closely attached to the birth of the continent, a process that in its first stage was led by the Iberian powers, constituted mainly by men and attached to the religious organization of the Catholic Church. In a second wave, the one headed by other European forces like the British, French and Dutch a more commercial approach was evidenced. The most striking feature of this wave was its capitalist spirit. Thus, even though there was a religious force struggling to break the Catholic monopoly, the connection between this force and the state was less clear. In the 20th century a third migration wave involved European war refugees fleeing to America to save their lives whereas in the present time, the environmental and economic justifications for the migrating process correspond to motivations that have more lingering consequences on societies. For that reason, governments and states will have to adapt and find creative solutions. Obviously, in the nearest future Latin Americans will go through a new admixture process that will contribute to the already diverse origin of our citizens and will put more challenges to the different nations. Let us see what comes out of all this. 

9. See Adhikari, K., Chacón-Duque, J., et al. In

10. See Salzano, F and Sans, M. in


Adhikari, K., Chacón-Duque, J., Mendoza-Revilla, J., Fuentes-Guajardo, M., & Ruiz-Linares, A. (2017, August). The Genetic Diversity of the Americas. Annual Review of Genomics and Human Genetics, 18. Retrieved February 16, 2021, from

Augustyn , A. (Ed.). (n.d.). Retrieved February 16, 2021, from

Cord, L., & Genoni, M. e. (2015). Shared Prosperity and Poverty Eradication in Latin America and the Caribbean. Retrieved February 16, 2021, from

Dussel, E. (n.d.). A history of the church in Latin America : colonialism to liberation (1492-1979) . 1981. Retrieved February 16, 2021, from

Gorney, C. (2019, August). African migrants in Europe trade one hardship for another. National Geographic. Retrieved February 16, 2021, from

Olstein, D. (2017). Latin America in Global History: An Historiographic Overview. Estudos Históricos, 253-272. Retrieved February 16, 2021, from

Salzano, Francisco Mauro, & Sans, Mónica. (2014). Interethnic admixture and the evolution of Latin American populations. Genetics and Molecular Biology37(1, Suppl. 1), 151-170.