Society for Economic Anthropology
Oral Presentation Session
Underlying the growing number of unemployed individuals, foreclosed properties, home evictions, and persistent indebtedness in Spain (as elsewhere) is the perception that debt is inherently necessary to achieve any form of social mobility. In the early 2000s, this perception was heightened among Ecuadorian migrants who worked an array of low-skilled jobs in Spain, and purchased overpriced homes in Barcelona’s periphery through expensive subprime mortgage loans. The combination of a new currency, financial deregulation, one of the world’s highest incoming migration rates, and a country that historically painted private property as a superior form of tenancy, made Spain an ideal site for a housing bubble that changed the way people related to finance and to housing. In this scenario, Ecuadorian migrants, contributed not only with their labor to the construction of Spain’s housing bubble, but also participated in it through their purchase of high-priced loans. In this paper I examine the way in which over indebtedness and mortgage default permeated the life of Ecuadorian migrants when neither foreclosure nor bankruptcy were available to insolvent debtors. The paper ethnographically documents the way in which upward mobility is generated among the Ecuadorian migrant community in the context of Spain’s economic boom and bust. More specifically, I am interested in the interstices between indebtedness and mobility aspirations revealed by home purchase and affected by gender differences and geographical location among this group of migrants.