This paper examines female migration in the Spanish Empire in the 18th century Spain, focusing on the causes of women’s rural-urban movement and the roles they played in the destination cities, especially within migrant communities. Compared to men, women were much less geographically mobile, and the longer the distance the ... (Show more)
This paper examines female migration in the Spanish Empire in the 18th century Spain, focusing on the causes of women’s rural-urban movement and the roles they played in the destination cities, especially within migrant communities. Compared to men, women were much less geographically mobile, and the longer the distance the smaller the share of women in the migratory flow. Yet, despite patriarchal constraints and relative exclusion from the labor market, women did move to the big city, many of them in search of wage employment. The question is what made moving away from home possible – a move which supposedly lessened patriarchal control.
Women of all classes participated in three general flows: the most common short-range movement to nearby towns and cities; mid-range movement from rural villages, especially in the north of Spain, to the big cities of the center and south; and transatlantic crossing to urban destinations such as Mexico City or Buenos Aires, in which only a tiny fraction of women was involved. Employing a comparative perspective of both sending areas (in Spain) and receiving cities (in Spain and Spanish America), the paper revolves around two key questions: First, What pushed women out of their rural homes? And second, To what extent was their migration process – from departure to arrival and employment in the big city – constrained by patriarchal agents, such as father, brothers and fellow-countrymen?
To address these questions I examine multiple datasets of migrants, both men and women, residing in various cities in Spain and Spanish America. Information on migrants was culled from various types of quantifiable sources, key among them was marriage applications, which documented a common investigative procedure carried out by the Catholic Church to prevent illegitimate matrimony. As marrying couples brought witnesses, usually paisanos and paisanas (compatriots from their rural home), these records also contain information about migrants’ social networks. Using specific birthplace stated in these documents, I employ a GIS analysis of male and female migrants’ geographical origins to discuss endogamy (among paisanos-paisanas), single vs family migration, and women’s chain migration. Furthermore, to address the origins of female migrants – the types of places and families they came from – I focus on Galicia and the Basque Provinces, two key sending areas in the north with contrasting social features in terms of family structure, landholding patterns and relative poverty. By these comparisons of multiple sending and receiving zones, we may better understand the conditions that made female migration possible, in the face of strict social constraints. (Show less)