Published on People Move

The little Aztec girl in Vienna

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ImageSo, what is this sweet little Aztec girl doing in Vienna's city center, right next to St. Stephen's Cathedral (I took this photo using my cellphone while I was there last week)?

On this beautiful September evening, this girl has just completed a traditional Aztec ritual dance with her elders, all wearing gorgeous traditional feather crowns, some of them sitting on a puma skin, a man blowing conch shell and a woman lighting a bowl of incense. They are here in Vienna, far away from their ancestral land, apparently to plead for the return of Montezuma's feather crown that was allegedly brought to Austria a few centuries ago.

But perhaps they are here for the same reason as the Hungarian breakdancers who have just performed bone-breaking contortions to what almost sounded like classical music: to earn a living. That would be understandable.  If one could climb 343 steps of the Gothic Cathedral for a breathtaking view of Vienna, I suppose one might travel six thousand miles crossing a desert and an ocean for a better life. As the dancing stops and drums go silent, the little Aztec girl sits down on a puma skin. A little Austrian boy accompanied by a Filipino nanny approaches and puts a coin in her fishy bank.

Nearly one out of 6 in Austria is a migrant. They send out about $1.5 billion in remittances. But Austria also has a lot of emigrants to neighboring Europe and the Near East. Every country is both a sending and a receiving country. They say: migration is a part of our lives.


Dilip Ratha

Lead Economist and Economic Adviser to the Vice President of Operations, Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency, World Bank

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