Still beat down under the weather. Ugh. This is awful. The congestion. The congestion. This is not a recent picture.
But Randy McDonald asked me about immigration to Venezuela, so I’ll talk a little about immigration to Venezuela. Venezuela has experienced several waves of immigration, but the big ones from Europe came in the 1950s and the 1970s. In the 1950s, Europeans migrated because of the oil boom. Roughly 450,000 people acquired legal permanent residence during this wave. The new democratic government in 1958 restricted migration (not unsurprisingly) and net migration turned negative during the period. Then in 1973, with the second oil boom, immigration again spiked upwards. By 1976, Venezuela had 270,000 resident Spaniards, 223,000 Italians, and 107,000 Portuguese. Now, these numbers have to be interpreted carefully: they also include, for example, 79,672 Americans, most of whom did not settle down permanently. Nor are the figures comparable with the permanent residency figures also presented above. But they are what we have.
In 1976, at its peak, the various European nationalities (counting only those born overseas, not their Venezuelan-born children) made up about 3 percent of Venezuela’s then-population of 13.1 million. It was a large migration, but it wasn’t transformative. On the other hand, it did transform the nature of the country’s elites. The European migrants were remarkably successful, going on to found myriads of small businesses. In fact, it has been the descendents of those migrants, mostly Italian, who suffered the most from the government’s recent nationalization of the oil service companies. (More on that in another post, when I’m feeling better.)
One interesting question about immigration is: how quickly (if at all) do the children of immigrants lose the cultural predilections of their parents? Jewish-Americans, for example, continue to vote Democratic at far higher numbers than their income or occupational status would predict. Does this apply to Venezuelans?
Francisco Rodríguez of Wesleyan and Rodrigo Wagner, a grad student here at Harvard, have used the Maisanta list to ask just that question. Maisanta, you’ll recall, was a list published by the Venezuelan government containing the names of everyone who had signed a 2004 recall petition against Hugo Chávez. The list contained ID numbers, which can be cross-referenced against income data in the Venezuelan Social Security Institute database. They then used people’s surnames to trace them back to various Italian regions. They had to eliminate non-regionally-specific surnbames like Rossi, Russo, Ferrari, Esposito, Bianchi, Romano, and Colombo. So, given all the potential objections to the methodology, what did they find?
Nothing. There is no relationship between the political predilections of their parents’ region-of-origin in Italy and the predilections of Italian-Venezuelan voters today. Inasmuch as Italian-Venezuelans have overwhelmingly achieved middle and upper-class status in Venezuela, they have also assimilated to the political predilections of those groups.