Transitory emplacements. The volatility of African migrant trajectories in Costa Rica
(Erasmus University Rotterdam)
Paper short abstract:
Following the recent increase of African migration through Central America, this paper focuses on African migrants in Costa Rica and discusses their entanglements of transit, emplacement and (im)mobility, highlighting the contradictory experiences and narratives of transitory emplacement.
Paper long abstract:
Based on exploratory fieldwork and long-standing, ongoing communication with both migrants and migration experts in Central America, this paper discusses entanglements of transit, emplacement and (im)mobility in the lives of African migrants in Costa Rica. For some years now, the number and visibility of African migrants in Central America has been increasing. Many of these migrants (wish to) travel onwards to North America, but when they do, they stumble upon different Central American countries with their own obstacles and opportunities for ongoing mobility. This paper focuses on African migrants' experiences while waiting, navigating and strategizing in Costa Rica's capital San José and the northern border town of La Cruz, where they often get stuck because of a closed border with Nicaragua. The paper demonstrates the volatility of migrants' trajectories: not only the ways in which they become (temporarily) embedded within local infrastructures of humanitarian organizations, government institutions and smuggling communities, but also the chance of sudden onward travel. The paper aims to explore migrants' experiences and narratives of transitory emplacement. It highlights the tensions, challenges and enjoyments of transitory emplacement, and the particular shape such emplacement takes in a Costa Rican context in which African migrants are relatively secure, yet always on the look-out for continuing a dangerous and uncertain trip north.
Stranded in transit. Why people stay, move or settle in a place they wanted to pass through