Mobilization of Bolivian Immigrants


Fig. 5.1 Google My Maps created by Kelly Haynes

Using Alexandria city marriage records from 1973 to 1988, this map was created as a visual representation of where Bolivian immigrants lived at the time of their marriage. This is indicated by purple ‘home’ markers. These records show that all of the Bolivian immigrants lived in apartment buildings. Immigrant Alexandria research has shown that many immigrant groups tried to live near each other in a method known as ethnic enclaving. However, there was no sign of this with post-1965 Bolivian immigrants in Alexandria. The largest cluster of Bolivian immigrants is highlighted with a purple rectangle marker. Furthermore, they appeared to be live along Interstate 95 and Route 1, both of these are major highways in the state of Virgina. Therefore, it is likely that Bolivian immigrants chose to be close to public transportation.

After plotting the Bolivian marriage certificates, Bolivian businesses, restaurants, and stores were also plotted and are displayed with green ‘food’ markers. There were very few plotted in the Alexandria and most of these locations were in Arlington, a major city next to Alexandria. It is worth noting that Arlington, like Alexandria, has a large population of Bolivian immigrants as well.[1] This is an indicator that Bolivians were not migrating to Alexandria to work in familiar, Bolivian establishments. Rather, as the marriage certificates and A Nation of Nations suggests, this immigrant group moved to Alexandria because their family was in the area, they lived in apartment housing together- usually a family to one room, and worked wherever they could find jobs.

Bolivian immigrants have said that some of the reasons they have immigrated include educational opportunities and job opportunities.[3] There are many colleges and universities in the Alexandria-Washington DC metro area. There are certainly all kinds of jobs, including government jobs. One very common job for Bolivian men was construction work. You need a citation to prove how you know this one] For Bolivian women, they often worked in childcare and housekeeping positions.[4] They seek better lives for themselves as well as their families. This was seen through the popularity of the Bolivian immigrants sending remittances back to their family members left behind in Bolivia.

Fig. 5.2 “Remesas” or Remittances, by percent from the host countries to Bolivia. Courtesy of Robert C. Thornett using statistices from the Bank of Central Bolivia (BCB).


Remittances are an important part of Bolivian immigrants who go to work in other countries. They send a part of their paycheck back to their families in Bolivia. Sometimes these remittances are used for the Bolivians to pay for their expenses in Bolivia, but sometimes the remittances are saved up to bring the family members still in Bolivia to the United States. Over 25% of the nine million people in Bolivia live in extreme poverty while over half of the country lives in poverty.[5] The remittances are crucial to many of these Bolivians unable to leave the country yet.


[1] Robert C. Thornett, “Bolivia in Motion: Migration Patterns of a Nation in Flux,” (April 2009), accessed December 14, 2016.

[2] Tom Gjelten, A Nation of Nations: A Great American Immigration Story (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2015), 25-27.

[3] Emma Violand-Sanchez, interviewed by David Bearinger, Virginia Humanities, June 2013.

[4] Marie Price and Elizabeth Chaco, “The Mixed Embeddedness of Ethnic Entrepreneurs in a New Immigrant Gateway,” Journal of Immigrant and Refugee Studies 7, no.3 (Sept. 2009): 339.

[5] Robert C. Thornett, “Bolivia in Motion: Migration Patterns of a Nation in Flux,” (April 2009), accessed December 14, 2016.