21
Boletín de Coyuntura, Nº 23; octubre- diciembre 2019; e-ISSN 2600-5727 / p-ISSN 2528-7931; UTA – Ecuador; Pág. 21-26
1
Universidad de Especialidades Espíritu Santo. Facultad de Artes Liberales y Ciencias de la Educación. Guayaquil-Ecuador. E-mail lauracruz@uees.edu.ec. ORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0003-2891-2426
2
Universidad de Especialidades Espíritu Santo. School of International Studies. Guayaquil-Ecuador. E-mail atusev@uees.edu.ec. ORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0003-3794-9669
Fecha de recepción: 17 de octubre de 2019 Fecha de aceptación: 10 de diciembre de 2019
Laura Cruz- Mera
1
; Aleksandar Tusev
2
The resilience of Venezuelan immigrants in Ecuador
La resiliencia de los inmigrantes venezolanos en Ecuador
Resumen
El estudio actual tiene como objetivo general evaluar los niveles de
resiliencia que poseen los inmigrantes venezolanos que residieron en
Ecuador desde enero de 2018 hasta noviembre del mismo año. La
resiliencia, en psicología, es el proceso de buena adaptación contra la
adversidad, trauma, tragedia, amenaza o tensiones signicativas t de
alto estrés. Integra varios factores como la autoestima, la autonomía,
la creatividad, el humor, la autoconanza, el apoyo social y la empatía;
Estos fueron analizados a través de una herramienta psicométrica de-
nominada "Inventario de factores personales de resiliencia". Este estu-
dio se realizó con una muestra de población de venezolanos que viven
en el refugio provisto por la organización Hogar de Cristo en Guayaquil.
Los resultados demostraron que existe un nivel medio de resiliencia
general de acuerdo con los puntajes promedio. No obstante, al analizar
los resultados de los factores individuales, se observó que los factores
mejor calicados fueron la autoestima y la autonomía.
Palabras clave: Inmigrantes, resiliencia, adversidad, autonomía, au-
toestima
Abstract
The current study has as a general objective to evaluate the levels of re-
silience possessed by Venezuelan immigrants who resided in Ecuador
from January 2018 until November of the same year. Resilience, in psy-
chology, is the process of good adaptation against adversity, trauma,
tragedy, threat or signicant tensions regarding interpersonal conicts,
health diculties and high stress situations. It integrates various factors
such as self-esteem, autonomy, creativity, humor, self-condence, so-
cial support and empathy; these were analyzed through a psychometric
tool denominated “Personal factors of resilience inventory”. This study
was done with a sample population of Venezuelan nationals who live in
the refuge provided by the Hogar de Cristo organization in Guayaquil.
The results demonstrated that there is a medium level of general resil-
ience according to the average scores. Nonetheless, when analyzing
the individual factor results, it was observed that the highest rated fac-
tors were self-esteem and autonomy.
Keywords: Immigrants, resilience, adversity, autonomy, self-esteem
Introduction
Forced migration is becoming an ever more common theme in today’s
globalized world. There are currently, 25,4 million refugees worldwide,
as stated by Amnesty International (2019). International Humanitarian
crises have increased from 16 events to 30 in the time period between
2005 and 2017. Around 16,2 million people were newly displaced by
conict and violence in 2017 alone; this amounts to 44,000 people be-
ing forced from their homes every day. Nearly 70 million people are
currently displaced worldwide, most of them within their own borders,
Syria being at the top of the list of countries with people internally dis-
placed by conict, with 6,8 million; followed by Colombia, with 6.5 mil-
lion; the Democratic Reublic of the Congo, with 4,5 million; Sudan, with
2,1 million; and Iraq, with 2 million (United Nations Organization, 2018).
Venezuela is facing its largest humanitarian crisis of its history. In every
conict, in every situation, thousands of people are aected; some lose
property and family, others even lose their lives. In the face of such
calamity, what distinguishes those that most persevere and overcome
these challenges over those that do not? Why do some people "stag-
nate" at one point in their lives, without the ability to move on, whereas
others nd a way to overcome? Psychologists have studied these cas-
es in detail, and point to a key factor to help answer such questions:
"Resilience”, derives from the Latin verb resilio that gives a notion of
jump, jumping back;, also the quality of being able to recover success-
fully from injury or disaster (Cohen, 2017; Cyrulnik, 2017; Rutter, 1990).
The situation in the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela is critical. This has
been traced to the death of President Hugo Chávez, leaving the government of
the republic in the hands of Nicolás Maduro. Venezuela is in the midst of
an economic and political crisis aggravated by shortages of medicines
and food, rising crime rates and an authoritarian government (Council
on Foreign Aairs, 2018). The current government has taken steps to
consolidate its power, holding much-questioned elections to replace
legislation. The president's actions have been met with massive pro-
tests and international condemnation and these have threatened to del-
egitimize the most recent election campaign. One of the consequences
of this uneasiness felt by citizens with the government has been mani-
fested in a massive migration, mostly forced and the proclamation of an
interim president by the Venezuelan National Assembly, Juan Guaido,
making Venezuela the only south American country to have two presi-
dents. Moreover, Guaido has been internationally recognized by over 14
countries whereas President Maduro has the support of 6 countries in-
cluding his own government. This has sparked an international conict
among countries that support Guaido and those who support Maduro
and the eect these alliances have on migration reforms and status.
The number of Venezuelan immigrants in Latin America went from
89.000 to 900.000 individuals in 2 years, indicating a 900% growth.
Around the world, Venezuelan mobilization increased by almost 110%
between 2015 and 2017, from 700.000 to more than one million (UN
News, 2018).. From January to August 2018, 115.690 Venezuelan mi-
grants entered Ecuador. The country received around 240.000 Vene-
zuelan immigrant since 2015 until 2019, from which more than 100.000
have obtained regulated legal status and a residence identication
card (Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores y Movilidad Humana, 2019),
13.535 applied for refugee status between 2014 and 2018 (Coor-
dination Platform for Refugees and Migrants from Venezuela, 2019).
This has resulted in a humanitarian crisis in Ecuador. Many of them
have managed to get ahead and prosper in this country; others are still
looking for possibilities and waiting for opportunities. And they are the
members of this group, the so-called resilient individuals.
The term resilience is the process of good adaptation to adversity, trau-
ma, tragedy, threat or signicant strong tensions such as problems in
interpersonal relationships and family, health problems or situations of
high stress at work or nancial. In colloquial terms, it is the "bouncing"
of a dicult experience or situation (American Psychology Association,
n.d.). Resilience is integrated by several factors that vary from author
to author, but those that are repeated are self-esteem, autonomy, cre-
ativity, humor, self-condence, social support, and empathy. The set
of these factors are those that create a resilient personality capable of
facing situations. Self-esteem, according to Nathaniel Branden (1990),
comprises two components: a feeling of personal competence and a
feeling of personal worth. In other words, self-esteem is the sum of
condence and self-respect. Empathy is the ability to understand the
needs, feelings, and situations of others, putting oneself in their shoes
and thus being able to respond correctly to their reactions and understand
their emotions (Balart, 2013). Autonomy refers to the ability to set limits
and rules for oneself without the inuence of external or internal pressures
(Moderna: Modelo de Desarrollo Económico de Navarra, n.d.). Finally,
creativity is the capacity of the brain to reach new conclusions and solve
problems in an original way (Huerta, Rodríguez, In Castro, & In Escobar, 2014).
URL: http://revistas.uta.edu.ec/erevista/index.php/bcoyu/article/view/845 DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.31164/bcoyu.23.2019.845
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The resilience of Venezuelan immigrants in Ecuador
L. Cruz, A. Tusev / Boletín de Coyuntura, Nº 23; octubre- diciembre 2019; e-ISSN 2600-5727 / p-ISSN 2528-7931; UTA – Ecuador; Pág. 21-26
The study of resilience in Venezuelan refugees and immigrants would
contribute to a better understanding of the situation they live in after
their mobilization. Mental health is an important part of the development
of people, especially those who have come to live a traumatic expe-
rience, as is the case of the crisis in Venezuela. The new information
gathered in this study will contribute to improving the services currently
available to refugees in Ecuador by non-governmental organizations,
international and national agencies, and specialists in mental health and
shelter.
This study will involve the use of a psychological tool developed in
Peru by the psychology PHD professor Ana Cecilia Salgado. She has
a background in research and is a professor at Santiago de Loyola
University and at Marcelino Champagnat University, in Lima (ORCID,
n.d.). The psychometric tool called “Inventory of Personal Factors of
resilience” and Salgado created this inventory in 2005, to create a con-
temporary way to measure Resilience stating that this is one of the most
researched variables nowadays, due to the implications it has in the
prevention and promotion of the human development (Salgado, 2005).
This tool was specically developed to evaluate personal factors of re-
silience in children aged 7 to 12 in Peru.
This Psychometric tool was featured in a study carried out in Arequipa
Peru, “Dierences in Resilience, based on Sociodemographic factors in
students age 8 to 12 from marginal zones” by Virgilia Quishpe and luz
Vera, where they tested high school students to determine if the Socio-
economic factors had an inuence in the level of resilience the children
would develop (Quispe & Vera, 2017).
General objective: To identify the levels of resilience of Venezuelan mi-
grants and refugees who travel and settle in Ecuador, due to abandonment
by the government and the economic, social and political crisis that the
Bolivarian country is experiencing.
Specic Objectives: To analyze the levels of resilience presented, taking
into account the variable of schooling present in each individual. Com-
pare the results obtained with relevant data and studies carried out
in the country. Investigate possible variables that inuence and give a
deeper perspective of the factors that comprise the development of
resilience.
Literature Review
Refugees
Refugees are people who have ed war, violence, conict or persecu-
tion and have crossed an international border to nd security in another
country. Moreover, they are protected under international law, in the
1951 Convention on Refugees (United Nations High Commissioner for
Refugees, n.d.). This denes them as: "Someone who is unable to re-
turn to their country of origin because of a well-founded fear of being
persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a
particular social group, or political opinion. (United Nations High
Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), 1951, p. 6). According to ocial
gures of the UNHCR, by the end of 2017, there will be 25,4 million refugees
among men, women, and children registered around the world.
According to UNHCR (2017), there are three types of migrants: refugees,
displaced persons and asylum seekers. Refugees are those who, be-
cause of life-threatening persecution, such as war, have been forced to
cross borders to take refuge in a host country. Displaced persons are
those who have had to ee their homes for causes similar to those of
refugees, but seek refuge in the same country, in more secure areas;
and asylum seekers are those who have applied for refugee status to a
country other than their own, but who have not yet received a denitive
response (United Nations Agency for Refugees, 2017). In most cases
these groups are a product of forced migration: the movement of people
in which the pressure that it causes is observed, and the threat to life and
their survival is due to natural causes or at the hands of people (Interna-
tional Organization for Migration, 2018). This denition ts the situation
that Venezuelan refugees are facing today.
According to the study conducted by the Dutch intercultural psychi-
atrists, Ortal Slobodin and Joop TVM de Jong (2014), it is clear that
psychological problems among refugees and asylum seekers are not
rare, especially since the prevalence of trauma-related issues is very
high within the crisis boundaries and the adversity of experiences asso-
ciated with forced migration. What this study concluded is that there is
a shortage on guiding frameworks that are available to researchers and
clinicians, interested in the intervention and work with these vulnerable
individuals. The idea of looking into refugees’ mental health was also
proposed by Lindert, Carta, Schafer and Mollica (2016) in their study.
This study looked at the experiences and traumatic events they may
have been subjected to, such as war trauma, persecution, humiliation
or torture among other human rights violations. Usually, before they
are being forced to ee, individuals may experience physical assault,
extreme fear, loss of livelihood; the destruction of their communities,
separation of families, friends and cultural systems. According to this
research, the impact and eect of these stressors on the mental health
of the individuals has a relation with the violence and traumatic events
they had been exposed to. Considering this, females and unaccom-
panied minors are even more likely to develop a wide variety of issues
due to their large exposure to dierent events and feelings (Lindert, J.,
Carta, M. G., Schäfer, I., & Mollica, R. F, 2016).
On the other hand, there is the situation with migrants. The International
Organization for Migration (IOM) denes migrants as: any individual who
moves or has moved across an international border or within the same
country, outside his or her usual place of residence independent of:
(1) his or her legal status; (2) the voluntary or involuntary nature of the
displacement; (3) the causes of the displacement; or (4) the duration of
his or her stay" (2018).
Resilience
When it comes to the concept of resilience, some authors state that it
has many aspects and denitions depending on its core use. For ex-
ample, Fletcher & Sarkar (2013) consider resilience under the two core
concepts of adversity and positive adaptation. Their study reveals that
resilience is required as a response to dierent adversities, from ongoing
daily hassles to major life situations, and also that positive adaptation must
be appropriate to the adversity examined. On the other hand, there is
the other conceptualization of resilience, leaning towards it being the
interactive inuence of psychological characteristics within stress and
stress processes (Fletcher & Sarkar, 2013).
Resilience is exposed as an adaptive capacity of any system. These
can usually be assessed by observing its response when encountered
with disruptions or challenges. As expressed by Woods (2017) in his
book on resilience, as an adaptive capacity, resilience has limits or
boundary conditions that are tested by disruption, since these are the
ones that would tell, where the limit of the resilience lies. therefore, how
the individual will adapt.
When it comes to resilience, studies associated to refugees and im-
migrants, research to date has predominantly focused on factors that
make individuals more vulnerable for developing posttraumatic stress
disorder (PTSD) and /or psychological distress, as exposed in the study
titled “Resilience as a Protective Factor against the Development of
Psychopathology among Refugees” where the authors indicate that
very few papers have studied potential protective factors such as resilience
(Arnetz, Rofa, Arnetz, Ventimiglia, & Jamil, 2013). By “protective factor”
it refers to a quality that is developed or possessed before the time of
the situation, enabling the individual to have a resource to rely on and
that would protect their psyche by the time, and after, the situation happens.
What was found was that a resilience-oriented approach, putting more
focus on studying the protective and recovery-fostering individual
assets is what is needed with the large numbers of re-settlers arriving
from conict and unstable zones, rather that utilizing a symptom-oriented
approach (Arnetz et al., 2013). Leaving to the understand the great im-
portance of the resilience factor in the adaptation skills that individuals
in this vulnerable circumstances need.
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The resilience of Venezuelan immigrants in Ecuador
L. Cruz, A. Tusev / Boletín de Coyuntura, Nº 23; octubre- diciembre 2019; e-ISSN 2600-5727 / p-ISSN 2528-7931; UTA – Ecuador; Pág. 21-26
meal, a bed, water, showers, migration advice and internet access for a
limited time before they prepare to continue on their journey (R. Borges,
personal communication, March 13, 2019). This organization has been
working in Guayaquil for about a year and a half, when the migration situation
was at its peak. Borges comments that a common characteristic that
the Venezuelan immigrants have when they reach Guayaquil city is that
they come running away from a crisis, with no access to human rights;
they come from long and exhausting journeys on foot or hitchhiking,
looking to get to Peru and Chile. Ecuador is not their destination any-
more. According to Borges, who is also a specialist in coaching and an
immigrant himself, resilience plays an important part on the determina-
tion of whether or not the individual will prosper in their journey. It is their
capacity to make a possibility of a better outcome, from an adversity (R.
Borges, personal communication, March 13, 2019).
Methodology
The design of this study presents a non-experimental, transactional
structure of a descriptive nature. The study was carried out with the
beneciaries of the Hogar de Cristo Organization, where migrants from
Venezuela come to Ecuador in search of support and temporary shelter
assistance. Hogar de Cristo Organization in Guayaquil was selected for
convenience since this is a non-governmental organization that works
together with other organizations in search of a better quality of life for the
neediest in Ecuador and in recent years has been inserted in providing
and supporting assistance to refugees and asylum seekers worldwide,
including those of Venezuelan origin with their action Techo para el Camino.
This location is located in La Atarazana area, behind the Bolivarian Tech-
nical Institute ITB.
The study consisted of the evaluation of a focus group of migrants who
entered Ecuador from January 2019 to March 2019. During this period
the migratory waves have intensied, more citizens have mobilized. In
the same way, several countries, where migrants go, have changed
their migration policies. Countries such as Panama, Nicaragua, and
Colombia are now applying for sealed visas for Venezuelans to enter
(Noticiero Digital, 2018). This means an increase in the number of citi-
zens entering Ecuador.
For the most accurate assessment of resilience levels, a question-
naire was administered to 50 people with migrant status, ranging in
age from 18-60 years of age. The tool used was the Personal Factors
Scale (Salgado, 2005) made up of 48 items that evaluate the dimen-
sions of Self-esteem, Empathy, Autonomy, Humor, and Creativity; using
a two-choice response method, YES or NO. For this study, the tool was
modied by reducing the factors evaluated to Self-esteem, Autonomy
and Creativity due to the high relevance these three factors have in the
development of resilience when migrating to a dierent country as a
result of a humanitarian and political crisis.
The evaluation and rating of this instrument are given by the following
method: in each of the factors mentioned there are three categories
of the score, being high, medium and low; the range of direct score
on each scale is 1-10. In addition, a joint total resilience score is given
through the ve normative scores establishing the following categories:
very low, low, average, high, and very high.
Among the variables implemented in the study are sex, age, and level of
schooling. The latter provides a view of the economic and social status
of those evaluated, giving us a perspective on another important factor
in the study of resilience.
A study conducted by students at National University of San Marcos in
Lima, Peru, “Personal factors of resilience and self-concept in primary
school students of Metropolitan Lima” had the objective to establish the
existence, or lack thereof, between the resilience factors and self-con-
cept in students from primary schools in Lima using the inventory of per-
sonal factors of resilience (Matalinares et al., 2011).
Supportive Methodology
As part of the methodology in this study and in order to provide a qualita-
In terms of resilience in the context of an armed conict or a humani-
tarian crisis, as it was exposed in the study by Siriwardhana, Ali, Roberts,
& Stewart (2014) the global burden of forced migration due to armed
conict, and in this case, to economic and political instability, is increas-
ingly recognized as an important issue in global health. Involuntary mi-
gration or forced migration is a factor that generates a higher risk in the
development of mental disorders in the individuals that attempt them.
However, since resilience is dened as the ability of a person to successfully
adapt to or recover from stressful and traumatic experiences, it has
been stressed as a key potential protective factor for those migrating as
a consequence of the countries situation as is the case of the Venezuelans
in Ecuador.
For Clinical Psychologist Jenyfer Aguilar (personal communication,
March 19, 2019), resilience is the capacity of an individual to take psychic
tools to enable them to accommodate and adapt to their location and
situation. As an expert in Human rights, Jenyfer has been working for
the Jewish service as their Social Psychologist since October 2018, she
is the one in charge of reviewing the status of each immigrant that stays
in “Techo para el Camino”. She believes that there is a correlation in the
level of schooling a person has and their level of resilience, which will be
revised further on this study.
Venezuelan situation
For almost a decade, the world had been the witness of the Venezuelan
crisis that erupted from an economic downturn and led to its ramica-
tion into an, overall, humanitarian crisis. This ramication has created
a direct correlation with the changes in the migration patterns in Latin
America and the Caribbean, both voluntary and forced. John (2018), in
her economical study of the Venezuelan crisis, stated that due to the
growing political upheaval Venezuelan migrates are looking for better
and safer opportunities and living spaces. Poverty and crime have es-
calated to levels never imagined in the country. There is a real fear of
becoming victims of human tracking in the region and its borders, with
cases of sex tourism, and smuggling having been conformed. As such,
individuals see eeing as their only solution. As John states, Venezuela
was once a thriving economy where people had a good life; they are
now struggling to survive. This is a great example as to why it is relevant
to talk about mental health in Venezuelan immigrants. Their background
and their history has not prepared them for a crisis.
When it comes to culture shock or stress caused by the dierences
in culture of the immigrant and the host country, it is said that if they
are from similar cultural backgrounds, the shock is lessened as are the
possibilities of developing any mental disorder (Schwartz et al., 2018).
Cultural stress theory states that immigrant groups in host environment
contexts that are more culturally similar to them would report a less
negative context of reception, compared to immigrant groups settling
in countries that are more culturally dissimilar. However, it was found
that immigrants from Venezuela, settling in Colombia would face more
discrimination and negative connotations than those who decided to
settle up north in the United States, leading to questioning their levels of
resilience and adaptation capacity.
Venezuelan situation in Ecuador
Ecuador has never been a signicant destination for immigrants, but as
of the last decade, it has become an attraction for migrants because
its economy is dollarized. The current situation is represented in the
evolution of the non-Ecuadorian population, as it was shown by the last
two censuses; this population grew from 104.130 in 2000 to 194.398 in
2012 (90% increase). Most immigrants come from Colombia and Peru.
Colombian citizens represent 49% of the total foreign population in Ecuador,
and 98% of the refugees are recognized by the Ecuadorian State
(Cerrutti & Parrado, 2015).
As for Venezuelans, the currency is one of the main incentives they have
for coming to Ecuador, but not as a nal destination. The Venezuelan
born coordinator of “Techo para el camino” (A roof for the road), part of
the Organization Hogar de Cristo, Ronald Borges, described the place
as a refuge for the immigrants and refugees, where they can have a