Wellbeing, Space and Society (Dec 2023)

Migration and integration of middle-class Venezuelans in Costa Rica: Drivers, capitals, and livelihoods

  • Sophie McManus,
  • Clara Irazábal

Journal volume & issue
Vol. 5
p. 100151


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The current Venezuelan crisis has spurred one of the largest mass migrations in Latin American history, with estimates of more than 7 million migrants leaving Venezuela (UNHCR, 2023). Most Venezuelans leaving the country are economically disenfranchised migrants fleeing to neighboring countries with limited economic resources. However, there are upper- and middle-class well-educated Venezuelans migrating to other parts of Latin America whose socio-economic status allows for a different migration experience. This paper draws on qualitative research conducted in 2020–2022 which investigated the dynamics of the upper- and middle-class Venezuelan diaspora settled in the suburbs of San José, Costa Rica. Specifically, the research focused on the migration and integration experiences of Venezuelans in Escazú and Santa Ana, modern, upscale suburbs, due to their rapid increase of Venezuelan population. This paper draws on 14 semi-structured interviews in an effort to contribute to the theoretical understanding of the migration and integration process and answer the questions: (1) What are the factors influencing migrants’ decisions to migrate; (2) what capitals do migrants have and how do they mobilize them; and (3) what do the personal accounts of migration decisions and experiences reveal about the overall well-being of migrants? We build on the Push/Pull Plus Migration Drivers (Van Hear et al., 2018) and the Sustainable Livelihoods Framework (Sen, 1981; Chambers, 1983) as analytical frameworks. Findings suggest that our composite framework provides a useful lens through which to understand the decision to migrate for upper and middle class Venezuelan migrants to Costa Rica, and sheds light on the initial stages of their integration process. The addition of cultural and political capitals as assets relevant for understanding migration livelihoods is critical in migratory contexts and shed light on the ways in which migrants navigate the formal and informal integration process. More research is needed on the roles well-being and trauma play in all phases of the migration and integration processes.