LATIN AMERICA: Identity and Dual Citizenship

Latin America cannot be properly understood without the mixture of heritages from all over the world. Photo (c)  The Economist 2015Latin America cannot be properly understood without the mixture of heritages from all over the world. Photo (c) The Economist 2015

Migration is a deeply entrenched concept within Latin America. Whether it is people crossing a border to establish themselves in a foreign land or a State receiving an influx of citizens from other nations, the region and its more than 600 million inhabitants cannot be properly understood without the mixture between heritages from all over the world.

Due to the evolution of international private law, many countries in Latin America have changed their legislation in order to enable the concept of dual citizenship. However, these changes have been implemented relatively recently.

With the exception of Uruguay and Panama (which established legal mechanisms for acquiring a different nationality of other than that by birth in 1919 and 1972, respectively), all other countries in the region adopted the concept of dual citizenship in the last two decades of the 20th century.

Allegiances in a Multicultural Environment

Answering a question such as the meaning of identity is bound to encounter many difficulties, considering how subjective this concept can be. Photo (c) Battleface 2017

Answering a question such as the meaning of identity is bound to encounter many difficulties, considering how subjective this concept can be. Photo (c) Battleface 2017

As technological advances continued and people started to travel more often and in larger quantities, the number of Latin American citizens with dual or multiple nationalities, increased as well. In a thoroughly researched report published in 2009, Gabriel Santos explains the Constitutional provisions on the matter for each of the region’s countries. This, however, does not give us the whole side of the story.

Answering a question such as the meaning of identity is bound to encounter many difficulties, considering how subjective this concept can be. Citizens from different age groups and life experiences might have vastly dissimilar points of view on dual citizenship. As the following small qualitative research proves, youngsters have a more relaxed attitude towards their attachment to their home nation.

The aforementioned questionnaire attempts to shed some light yet not be conclusive evidence on what cultural identity in Latin America means. The respondents are natural-born citizens of Argentina, Brazil or Mexico, hold dual citizenship with Spain, Portugal, France or Italy, range between the ages of 25 to 35 and have lived abroad at least once in their lives.

Attachment to the Motherland and the Adopted Home

Half of respondents see the passport of their adopted country see it only as the essential paperwork that provides them with new job opportunities. Photo (c) Revista Sur 2015

Half of respondents see the passport of their adopted country see it only as the essential paperwork that provides them with new job opportunities. Photo (c) Revista Sur 2015

The first question was: “How identified do you feel with your country of birth?” Over two thirds of the respondents answered: “Half attached”. Some of the reasons were the adoption of new traditions from the newly adopted nations or because they have been living abroad for a long period of time.

The second question was: “How identified do you feel with the country from which you hold dual nationality?” Answers were much slightly more varied.

Approximately, half of respondents feel attached to their second nationality, whilst the other half see it only as the necessary paperwork that provides them with a wider range of job opportunities.

Nationality in the Globalization Era

Young Latin American citizens with dual nationality are part of a generation where free movement, interaction with other cultures and proficiency in several languages has become the new norm. Photo (c) New America 2016

Young Latin American citizens with dual nationality are part of a generation where free movement, interaction with other cultures and proficiency in several languages has become the new norm. Photo (c) New America 2016

The third question was: “How do you think people see dual nationality in your country of birth?” All respondents conclusively agreed that this was a positive trait and is associated with economic success. The fourth question was: “How do you think people see dual nationality in the country from which you hold dual citizenship?” The majority agreed that it was seen as something positive as well. Nevertheless, they acknowledged that citizens from their adopted countries might look down on someone not willing to adopt the customs of the country or learn the language.

The final question was “Would you seek to acquire a new nationality or renounce any of which you already possess? Why?” The vast majority of respondents agreed that they would get a new nationality but only if this helped them with their career progress. Respondents were also almost evenly split in the scenario of renouncing to either of their citizenships. As previously stated, they would only consider this option if it was an absolute necessity.

Young Latin American citizens with dual nationality are part of a generation where free movement, interaction with other cultures and proficiency in several languages has become the new norm. Although they are aware of their roots, they tend to see borders as something more restrictive than beneficial. These youngsters are a valuable contribution to both their home and adopted countries because they bring different cultures closer together. As argued in an article published by The Economist in August 2017, dual nationality should be feted, not mistrusted.