Constructing Differences: Religion and Migration

Two distinct trajectories appear to be in place regarding the migration from Seaca to Spain: either temporary migration, regulated by contracts between Romanian workers and their Spanish employers, or migration that is independent of finding jobs through formal channels. For the first, migrants usually spend 3-9 months abroad working in agriculture, at farms owned by natives. They usually repeat this experience as often as they get the chance. Typically, these departures take place once a year and, with the money gathered this way, the household is sustained for the whole year, until the next working period. In the case of unregulated migration, people leave for work and, once they arrive at the destination, they try to find jobs by relying on tips, advice and opportunities provided by friends and family already settled there.

These two separate avenues of migration lead to distinct economic behaviours and distinct patterns of investment and resource allocation at the origin. While the long-term migration generates more revenue for the migrants, short-term, contract-based departures only produce enough income for the households of the migrants to get through the rest of the year. One should note, though, that there are further distinctions to be made here. The Roma migrants invest large amounts of money in housing—mostly imposing two/three-story buildings, but Adventists seem to be more efficiency oriented, in that the money spent in the household for building a larger, better equipped house is limited and the goal usually is to reach comfortable standards of living. Once this goal is achieved, investments are made for funding entrepreneurial initiatives or for buying equipment for the practice of household-based agriculture. The distinctive ways of spending remittances can be associated with the issue of status within the peer group: for Roma, displaying the success is socially desirable, whereas for the Adventists being sober is an important religious norm.

The network-based character of long-term migration, depicted through formulations such as ‘one of them left, and afterwards he dragged others and finally many of them ended up in Spain’, can be traced back to Adventism. Thus, the religious affiliation of individuals is seen as a catalyst for the decision to migrate. As one of the respondents explained, this is due to the fact that Adventists, unlike the Orthodox, have a vivid religious network that spans across national communities and across national borders.16

The religious orientation of individuals appears to make a difference in the case of unregulated, long-term migration, where the decision to migrate implies the commitment to adapt to the conditions of the destination, find work and integrate in the recipient community. As pointed by previous studies, Romanian migration to Spain is dependent on the existence of networks (Serban and Grigoras 2000). In the case of Seaca, the first to migrate were the Adventists. Once there, they offered information and support (Serban 2011) to their relatives and their friends in order for them to become migrants as well. This way, more and more individuals found the necessary resources to leave for work and, in doing so, they became factors of the expansion of the network. Even though Adventists were the first to experience migration, due at least partially to their religious networks, and even though the social network supporting migration consists mainly of Adventists, the Orthodox have also turned to this network either prior to migration, in order to get advice for their future experience, or at the destination, in order to obtain access to different services or facilities—a job, proper housing, medical care. It was not uncommon for people, regardless of their religious orientation, to go to Adventist gatherings in Spain in order to receive support from the participants.

The Adventists are the ones who migrate. This statement that appeared in various interactions actually refers to Romanian migrants: in the com?munity, all the Adventists are Romanian and they are associated, in the collective narratives, with migration.17 The distinction between Adventists and Orthodox in what concerns migration from Seaca is accompanied by the distinction between Roma and Romanians: long-term migration, as opposed to contract-based migration, is a trajectory chosen by Roma as well. Most of the long-term, non-contract-based Romanian migrants are Adventists. Among the Orthodox Romanians, there are only a few families who worked abroad.18 In this case, women are the ones who migrate for predetermined periods based on work agreements. This can stand for deep differentiations between Roma and Romanians. Also, religious differences seem to be less dividing than ethnic differences: Romanians, regardless of their religion, relate to the experiences of other Romanians, while referring to Roma as totally different cases. On the other hand, the discursive association of Adventists with migration points to the fact that, even though religious difference is not as deep as ethnicity, religious affiliation is also a criterion in structuring local the social space.

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