- Adoptive Migration: Raising Latinos in Spain by Jessaca B. Leinaweaver
In this fascinating book, Leinaweaver sets out to study international migration to Spain in the context of its conflicting discourses about immigration. Her analysis focuses on Peruvian adoptees and immigrants, an area that Leinaweaver is well familiar with, and one that represents a high percentage of both immigrants and international adoptees in Spain. If the diversification of Spanish society brought about by immigration has been amply discussed and publicized, the growth of international adoption in Spain had failed to receive the same amount of critical attention. The numbers of international adoptions represent less than 1 percent of the annual births in Spain, but it is significant that in the period between 1998 and 2004, the number of international adoptions grew by 273 percent (15). If we take into account that in 2010 immigrants represented 14.1 percent of Spain’s total population, and even factoring in the decline in immigration that has resulted from the current economic recession, the significance of discourses surrounding international adoption becomes evident. International adoptees are far from becoming a sizeable group, but, as Leinaweaver indicates, they elicit ambivalent responses from Spaniards and immigrants alike. Leinweaver’s goal in Adoptive Migration is precisely to discuss international adoption as a subgroup within immigration trends in order to understand how all groups involved negotiate notions of national identity, ethnicity, and race.
The first chapter, “Adopting the Ideal Immigrant,” provides a review of current literature on international adoption and emphasizes the issues of economic disparity and uneven distribution of wealth that lead parents [End Page 213] in countries like Peru to place their kids for adoption. Leinaweaver carefully deconstructs the general preference for infants over older kids in international adoption, a trend that she explains as an expression of concerns among Spaniards that regular/older immigrants may not properly acculturate to their host country (39). She also describes at length how the lengthy wait that adoptive parents “endure” is construed by them as a labor of love to compensate for the abandonment of the adoptee in his or her home country (35–38). This type of discourse obscures the fact that in many cases adoption may be a conscious effort on the part of the biological parents of the adoptee to facilitate the kind of upward social mobility for their children that globalization has made impossible for them in their home countries (31).
Chapter 2 explores how Peruvian immigrants to Spain often articulate a similar compensatory discourse to justify having left their children back in their home country. Spanish children, many immigrants interviewed by Leinaweaver argue, are spoiled, and consequently the immigrant’s kids are better off in their home country. Spanish policies regarding family reunification that disqualify immigrants as economically incompetent to care for their kindred and consequently render them unable to bring their own kids to Spain work to reinforce the discourse of parental abandonment around which the legality of international adoption is structured (57–58).
Chapter 3 discusses the preference of adoption agencies for providing international adoptees to couples of mixed heritage. Leinaweaver argues that this preference reveals a belief in the transmission of what she terms “national substance” that is better facilitated if one of the parents belongs to the country of origin of the adoptee. Leinaweaver’s explanation of the concept of national substance is a bit obscure in this chapter, but as the study progresses it becomes obvious that it designates a biologized notion of culture that is prevalent among Spaniards’ perceptions of immigrants.
Chapter 4 explores the issues raised by domestic adoption of immigrants’ children, which Leinaweaver refers to as undomesticated adoption. This kind of adoption is particularly interesting for the anthropologist because, unlike international adoption, it does not allow parents to erase the child’s origins. Faced with an extremely low birth rate, the Spanish conservative government considers domestic adoption of immigrants an opportunity to normalize immigrant populations while continuing its anti-abortion campaign (85–87). Despite this nefarious political context...