VIENA LATINA. A pilot project for the participative articulation of migration memory in Europe

[This project has just been selected for funding by the EU's CERV program. More information will follow soon.]

VIENA LATINA project aims to create a collective and polyphonic culture of remembrance for the post-migratory experience of Latin Americans in Austria’s capital Vienna. Combining participative research practices and creative dissemination strategies directed to various target groups, VIENA LATINA tackles a key dimension of postcolonial Europe: its multicultural societies rooted both in the history of European imperialism and in the impact of authoritarian regimes in the Global South. While the endeavor focuses exclusively on the city of Vienna, it includes citizens from various European countries and, through its dissemination program, is conceived as a pilot project to trigger similar research throughout Europe.
Through a blend of participative methods from the social sciences and the arts, and with a team formed by experienced experts and citizen scientists recruited from Vienna’s Latin communities, the community-based project will investigate this multi-faceted history and build spaces of articulation and empowerment, of communication and self-representation in the city. The historical time frame of VIENA LATINA begins in 1945, when Austrian exiles from Latin America returned to Vienna, but its focus will be on the decades since the late 1960s when genuinely Latin American immigration took up speed and volume. Many of these people fled from military dictatorships like Pinochet’s Chile – resistance activists searching asylum in the former colonial metropolis. Although Austria as such had no colonies in Latin America, as a part of Europe it was also a destination. Since the end of the Cold War, Europe’s wealth and security has attracted different cohorts of transatlantic migrants.
While Latin Americans were often seen as a “colorful” addition to the cityscape –with restaurants, dance clubs and a general “Latin joyfulness” dominating the stereotypes of perception–, their own experience vis-à-vis the new homeland was quite different. The project seeks to investigate the experience of alienation and difficult integration into the realms of work, education, culture, and political participation. The complex postcolonial relations in a former imperial metropolis, where museums holding key artefacts from the region such as Aztec emperor Moctezuma’s feather crown, coincide with everyday racism, continue to shape life in Vienna for those who originate from Latin America – end especially those who are not actually “Latin” but belong to indigenous peoples of the continent.
Through a series of interview workshops and the collection and collective discussion of documents and images from this history, VIENA LATINA will build a dynamic archive of migration memory that is designed to grow and interact with other groups in the city. Thus, the project will empower the communities to inscribe the Latin American migratory experience into the living mnemonic landscape of Vienna. With its key dimensions of participation, articulation and mnemonic empowerment, the project also serves as a pilot endeavor for other (and bigger) post-migratory communities that share a central feature with Latin Americans in Europe, such as “Arab”, “African”, or “Asian” citizens in European societies: these are highly heterogeneous groups often subsumed under a generalizing label. VIENA LATINA will dedicate a significant effort to disseminate the participative toolset developed by this project through European policy maker and stakeholder workshops.