Globe, Migrants, Multiculture, United Kingdom

The challenges facing British Latinos

Every generation faces a different challenge.  And this is certainly true for British children of Latin-Americans who wish to return to the country of their parents.


Ramón Lafée


The language, the residency papers, adapting to a different culture; these are just some of the difficulties that the previous generation of Latin-American immigrants had to face on arriving in the United Kingdom.

Today, their children enjoy the open road forged by their ancestors; however they are also confronted with other challenges, and more than one has the desire to do what their parents did…but this time to go back to Latin-America. In order to know exactly how they are seen in this country and how they consider the reality of a future in England, The Prisma interviewed a number of 20 to 30 year olds from Latin-American communities in London. Over-all, 16% confirmed that they did not have plans to emigrate and wished to continue living in the United Kingdom, in spite of the difficulties.

60% said that yes they did wish to start a new life in the country of origin of their ancestors, and 22% did not know what to do.

What is certain is that there was a strong tendency in the responses of those interviewed towards rediscovering the country of origin of the family.

Within these figures, the countries of origin of the 16% were nations such as Venezuela, El Salvador, Bolivia and Spain that still suffer from economic and social problems.

Whereas, the 60% who wished to return to the land of their parents corresponded to countries including Colombia, Costa Rica, Peru, Chile, Argentina and Brazil. A universal law corroborates: in that economic and social development is a source of attraction for immigrants. This is because, although this second generation has better amenities, their future is not entirely in their hands and the tendency is to continue the evolution of their parents: to go to another continent in search of a better future, but in a land and culture that will not be as alien as it was for their ancestors.

Raúl ‘Here and There’

Son of Uruguayan parents, he considers himself to be British before anything else.  Born in London, he has lived all of his 21 years in this multicultural city.

Despite being brought up in an environment where Spanish is spoken, he speaks it with a marked accent and not perfectly, his life has been forged in English and his contact with the language of his parents is next to nothing outside of the home.  His wish is to study Philosophy at Cambridge, an aim which requires excellent qualifications and, above all, a great financial effort to be able to accomplish it.

‘Thank God I have the necessary grades to enrol in the university, but the subject of financing of my studies is what is worrying me and my parents the most’ says the young man.  The crisis has affected everyone’s plans, including my future.  If I managed to get into the university and to finish the degree, the dilemma of finding a job would then come. ”

“Yes, today it is difficult to find a job in your subject area, and in five years time it will be worse.  I don’t see an improvement in the crisis which we live in, and what is in play is my work life.  My parents achieved it in their day and today they work in the pharmaceutical industry.  Now I have to face the same challenge, a challenge that is presented in a different way but is the same case of getting out in front and surviving in the world.’

And like his parents, Raúl sees his future on the other side of the Atlantic.

‘I admire my parents for having the bravery to leave everything behind and to start their life from zero, maybe I will also have to face something similar within the next few years.  Latin-America is changing, it is leaving behind its political problems and for the most part its economies are growing.  I would like to finish my degree, go to the land of my family, and to make the most of my Spanish and my university degree.  It is doing what my parents did, but in reverse,’ he points out with a nervous smile.

Oswaldo ‘Uncertain’

Oswaldo, a school friend whose Ecuadorian parents came to live in the United Kingdom more than 25 years ago, thinks that his future depends on how things develop day to day.  The 21 years-old youth is optimistic about the future.

Without yet being clear about what degree to study, on finishing school he decided to work for a while in a souvenir shop in Oxford Circus.  ‘For me the situation is not only about deciding what or where to study, it is also about seeing how to pay for my education’ observes the young man.

‘My parents have more than twenty years of experience working as cleaners and with a lot of effort they will manage to create their own business in the same field’, he assures us.

‘It fills me with pride knowing that they are their own bosses.  As for me, I would like to do more than that, like for example, get a better education, but the reality sometimes weighs heavily on the conscience’.

For him, going to Ecuador is an option that he has not wholly considered. ‘It is a possibility that is there.  I know that I have family there and that the country has improved a lot, but I haven’t thought about it seriously’ Oswaldo states.

Raúl and Oswaldo are a typical example of how the crisis has affected the life plans of young Latin-Americans.

Rosa and Rafa ‘With their art’

These two Spanish plastic-artists have lived in London for more than a year.  She works in a café and him in a theatre in the West End as an usher.  However, they have reasons not to return to Spain.

‘We have finally found the financing for an art magazine and Rosa will soon have an exhibition of her works in a small museum in the city.  In Spain we would never have been able to have sufficient state support, but here it has worked.  Returning with the crisis and unemployment at 21% is too risky, what is more we have seen the protests of ‘15 M’ with people in the squares and streets.  It is not a good time to go back’, they both remark.

Julia wants to re-photograph Santiago

This Chilean girl works as a freelance photographer.  She lives in Brighton sharing a flat with two friends and spends most of her time in London for work.

Her words summarise it all: ‘I have been saving to return to Santiago for a year.  Chile has changed a lot and the truth is that I have not been back for years, not even for holidays.  My parents have already made their life here and we say that I have too, but I want to live this adventure and my decision is made.’

Alexandra’s children have tied her down to this country

This young Venezuelan, with a degree in Law, thought about returning to Venezuela 10 years ago.

‘I had recently graduated and didn’t manage to find a job using my degree.  I thought about returning but revalidating my Venezuelan studies was quite complicated and it would take time, so I thought about leaving it a few more years before thinking about it again.  Now I am married with two children of 5 and 6 years old.  Between work and the household responsibilities I hadn’t thought about going back again until this interview,’ confirms Alexandra.

‘My life is already made here, and what’s more, Venezuela is not the best place for my children to grow up in due to a lack of safety, that friends of my parents tell me, is terrible’.

Luis Daniel and Panamanian cooking

A chef for three years in a bistro in the City, this Panamanian has already got his return ticket to Panama City for the end of the year.

He states that ‘despite having been born here, I have never stopped going back to Panama and I have always spent at least one month a year in the city.  Last summer I decided to take the big step.  My dream is to open my own French restaurant there.’

‘I owe much to the United Kingdom, I am what I am thanks to my experience here, and all of this learning is the foundation for my new life in the land of my parents,’ he explains.

Andrea ‘In search of the jungle’

She wants to leave the concrete jungle for the real thing.  ‘Three years ago I was on holiday in San Jose staying with my grandparents and I fell in love with the peace and quiet and the closeness to nature’ comments the young daughter of Costa Ricans who work in a company that imports wine.

‘I liked it so much that I have plans to spend a year there, maybe also to make a career change to do something that really fascinates me such as ecotourism.  There are many plans, some risky, but if things don’t turn out as I think I can always come back, that is the worst that can happen’ indicates Andrea, full of optimism and emotion.

Sandro ‘Other latitudes’

This young Brazilian is a mechanical assistant, but he has been unemployed for a few months and works in a pub in Camden as a barman.  He has always dreamed of the tropics and the home of his parents.

‘I have made my mind up about returning.  Here I don’t see much of a future and despite the fact that I am going to have to leave all of my friends behind and above all my father; I am making the right decision.  I have a plan in mind to start by giving English classes which there is always much demand for everywhere, and from there see what I can do.  The flight is very expensive and I have to work all summer to be able to finance it.

I won’t have many expenses apart from that as I will be staying with my aunt and uncle in Bahia.  I am not scared of changing my life.’

Gustavo ‘Career and love are universal’

‘I have a great advantage.  IT is the same here as in any other part of the world, and so I won’t need validation or qualifications to do my job’, says this computer engineer who works in the IT department of an insurance company.

He only has one motive for leaving the United Kingdom.  ‘I have an excellent job and I am happy, but last summer I was in Asuncion in Paraguay where my parents are from and fell in love with someone. All of this year she has been in constant contact and I am thinking of going next week to spend a month with her to see how things go between us’ he comments excitedly.

‘I still haven’t told her, but if it all goes well I am willing to move to Paraguay to be with her.  I am sure that I will find work quickly in my job area.  What’s more, the climate is much better and the warmth of the people is incredible.’

Johanna: an Aztec archaeologist

Research into the past has its methods and formulas.  ‘I don’t know if it is because of the Indiana Jones films or the love of my parents land and its historical legacy, but I want to start my Archaeological career in Mexico’, says Johanna, 19 years old.

‘My parents are opposed to the idea, saying that I will have better opportunities here, but I want to start from the beginning there.  I have some money saved here for the airfare thanks to my work as a salesperson in a department store, but it is my parents who have the last word, so that I have their financial backing to fulfil my dreams.  Maybe I will return to England in the future, but only destiny will be able to decide this.’

(Translated by Emily Russell – Email: – Photos: Pixbay

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