La chulla vida: Men, migration, and the remaking of families in the Ecuadorian Andes and New York City

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Hans C. Buechler


Men, Migration, Families, Ecuadorian, Andes, New York City

Subject Categories

Anthropology | Family, Life Course, and Society | Social and Behavioral Sciences | Social and Cultural Anthropology | Sociology


This dissertation examines the experiences of Ecuadorian men as transnational migrants in New York City and the consequences of their migration for the remaking of families in rural Ecuador. Placing men's identities at the forefront of this study, I document the gendered transformations of young men as they come of age in rural Ecuador. Young men feel tremendous pressures to both migrate to the United States and to marry women and start families before they leave. Thus, many migrants head to the United States as husbands and, in many cases, as fathers. As I contend, theses gendered relationships play a significant role in the formation of men's lives as undocumented migrants in the U.S. living on the margins of society. Using life course and consumption perspectives, I look at the ways gender constructs structures and organize migration.

Based on sixteen months of field research in the south-central Ecuadorian Andes (Azuay and Cañar provinces) and New York City (borough of Queens), this dissertation provides the first comprehensive study of Ecuadorian migration examined from both points of contact. The data from Ecuador (chapters 2, 3 and 4) focus most concretely on socioeconomic changes transforming rural villages of south-central Ecuador and the importance of these changes for catalyzing migration. For men, the pressure to migrate incorporates both long-standing societal expectations of achieving manhood through marriage and the development of an autonomous household and migrants' own desires to experience and trappings of a perceived American modernity. In the U.S., however, men find both these goals difficult to achieve and must reorient their lives and identities. In particular, the need to save money and generate remittances reveals both economic and gendered changes. Chapter 5 provides an overview of the working lives of undocumented Ecuadorians in New York City. Chapter 6 examines aspects of the spending and saving practices of migrants with special attention to gendered aspects of consumption. Chapter 7 examines transnational conjugal relationships and their centrality to the success of migrant households.


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