Yvonne RIAÑO, Department of Geography, University of Neuchâtel, Switzerland, Switzerland
Lorena IZAGUIRRE, Department of Geography, University of Neuchâtel, Switzerland, Switzerland
Cross-border trade is a historically common practice in various continents, since all international border areas represent lucrative zones of exchange and trade, often illicit and clandestine. While the Anglo-Saxon literature has pioneered the study of transnational migrant entrepreneurship, it has paid less attention to cross-border trade, whereas on the European side, studies on migrants-traders have thrived. In Latin America, cross-border trade has historically been a substantial source of income for both men and women, being linked to subsistence and informal economy practices. Despite the importance of suitcase trade for the livelihoods of thousands of Latin Americans, and the fascinating socio-economic and socio-political dynamics they comprise, they have so far, with a few exceptions, received scant attention. We contribute in three ways. First, by redirecting the gaze to South America and addressing the question of how suitcase traders create and maintain transnational social spaces (TSSs) through their cross-border practices. Second, we develop a novel and practicable approach to study TSSs from the perspective of (a) spatial mobility practices; (b) social practices; and (c) social meanings. Finally, by contrasting two distinct case studies, we respond to the call for more contrasting analysis in migration and mobility studies. Our empirical study focuses on two case studies. The first examines the practices of suitcase traders informally moving between the towns of Cusco (Peru) and Sao Paulo (Brazil), and traveling across the Peru-Bolivia and Bolivia-Brazil borders. The second explores the practices of suitcase traders informally moving between the cities of Cúcuta (Colombia) and San Antonio (Venezuela) on the Colombia-Venezuela border. We investigate a total of 38 traders and use the methods of ethnographic observation, biographic interviews, mental maps, and Minga workshops.
Keywords: cross-border trade|informal mobilities|transnational social space|Colombia|Peru