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The Ulysses syndrome: an illness of immigrants

February 12, 2008

I came across an interesting article Monday in the Ecuadorian daily El Comercio on what some psychologists call the Ulysses syndrome, which is an illness that inflicts some immigrants when they live separated in faraway lands from their loved ones.

The article continues: Norma lived in terror and in hiding. This 45-year-old single mother left her 11-year-old son in 1999 when she migrated to Madrid. When she moved to Spain, she didn’t know anyone never mind have have a place to sleep. She was an illegal alien.

The woman was afraid that the police would find and deport her. “It was that way nine years ago,” she admits. I would never go out for a stroll. I’d forget to board a metro at stops because I was in another world thinking of my child.

It took some time for the Ecuadorian to find work. She eventually got a low-paying job that paid 300 euros ($435) a month working four hours a day. She’d wire money to her family in Ecuador, pay debts and lived in extreme conditions.

This is one example of the Ulysses syndrome.

Immigrants cannot sometimes figure out why they feel depressed. Psychiatrist Joseba Achotegui of the Universitat de Barcelona describes the illness in the following manner, according to an article in the Naples Sun Times: It comprises loneliness, as family and friends were left behind; a sense of personal failure, and a survival struggle that takes over all other priorities. The syndrome is characterized by physical symptoms like headaches, and psychological symptoms like depression.

Those who are critical of immigrants and accuse them wrongly of being lazy and that they don’t want to learn the local culture, nothing could be further form the truth. The only way an immigrant can survive in a new country is by NOT being lazy and learning the ropes of the new culture.

14 Comments leave one →
  1. February 14, 2008 11:11 am

    It’s a rough road, and someone always waiting to make a buck of your hide using one pretence or another, but what better pretexte than someone who doesn’t have permission to work.
    Immigrants are used, and abused from the bottom to the top echelons of power. They’re a usful tool- supplying the market with cheep labour, no medical, no rights, and all the while the politicians playing bothsides of the political devide, while pandering to business labour markets.

  2. nemoo permalink
    February 14, 2008 9:51 pm

    You’re right, Sean. Having been an immigrant most of my life, I though the article on the illness as an interesting one to share. Many thanks for your comment.
    Talk to you soon, E

  3. intternetnetsi permalink
    November 5, 2008 6:14 am

    Ah, criminal having somekind of mental illness. No i dont feel pity.
    She had no right to even go to other country, pick better examples.

  4. DeTant Blomhat permalink
    November 10, 2008 11:22 am

    Heres another example of a young woman living in terror and hiding:
    http://www.iltasanomat.fi/uutiset/kotimaa/uutinen.asp?id=1614574
    What syndrome do you call this? Multiculturalism syndrome?

  5. Al Prieto permalink
    February 10, 2009 7:42 pm

    There is a lot of true to this story and a wonderful novel written about it by a countryman from Colombia named El Sindrome de Ulises or Ulysses Syndrome by Santiago Gamboa. It described the tales of himself and everyone he knew during a time of his life in Paris, France. A great story worth reading for anyone looking to understand the adventures and life of an inmmigrant.

    • Enrique permalink
      February 10, 2009 10:02 pm

      Hi/hola Al Prieto, many thanks for your comment on the Ulysses Syndrome. The problem with many of the “developed” countries is that they have no idea how many people from countries such as Colombia suffer in order to send money to their relatives. The Ulysses Syndrome explains this phenomenon very well.

  6. Jay permalink
    November 23, 2010 3:59 am

    i moved from the uk to argentina 7 years ago. i see poverty every day and understand why people move from here to the first world countries. i think that until you see how some people live no one should jugde them for trying to make a better life, even if it ilegal.

    • Enrique permalink
      November 23, 2010 8:10 am

      Hi Jay and welcome to Migrant Tales. I hope you are having a good time in Argentina. Poverty is one of the most terrible things that has grown in strength in Argentina. I totally agree with you: Why stay in a country that does not offer you a chance to make a living? Didn’t our European ancestors do the same thing when they emigrated to the Americas not too long ago?

      We would be fascinated to hear more about your life in Argentina, the culture shock and how immigrants from neighboring countries like Bolivia are treated.

  7. March 22, 2011 1:04 am

    Illegals are far from invisible, even in San Francisco where they abound. If our economy started really sinking, they’d be chased out fast, simply because they’re a threat economically, even at a very low level. That they clash with our culture and bring in a lot of unwanted elements – sexual domination over women, drug trade, gangs, killings, unsafe streets, etc. – well, we the locals are supposed to say we don’t care, in the name of Multiculturalism. Well, we do care, and we hate what has happened to California. The average European here is always thinking of where he could go, when things get really bad. But where? Idaho, Montana, New Zealand?

    Even if one Ecuadorian thinks she is under the radar cleaning houses, people are aware of her, and are only by official sanction allowing her to live amongst them. She may consider that she is doing herself and family good, and that no doubt, but it is selfish to the max, with no awareness of the others around her. Poor woman — millions like her in that macho land – the Spanish conquistadores who invaded and raped the Indian women to create her ancestors are definitely to blame for her poverty!

    • Enrique permalink
      March 22, 2011 8:00 am

      –Poor woman — millions like her in that macho land – the Spanish conquistadores who invaded and raped the Indian women to create her ancestors are definitely to blame for her poverty!

      Mary you sound like those who are constantly bashing Muslims in Europe. The ethnic group may change but the same issue remains irrespective of the geography: demonizing to justify a negative attitude. Hispanics are some of the most disenfranchised people in the United States. Your assessment of “macho culture” is a bit outdated. In urban parts of Latin America women are forced to work just like the men. Today they have to work to keep the family afloat financially.

      By the way, California means in ancient Spanish hot (cali) oven (fornia).

    • Enrique permalink
      March 22, 2011 11:22 am

      Mary, here is a disturbing article in the BBC on how British stag parties abroad fuel the sexual exploitation of women. A modern-day form of acceptable rape? A horrible read. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/8457172.stm

  8. JusticeDemon permalink
    March 22, 2011 1:12 am

    Ever stopped to think why most of the major population centres in California have Spanish names?

    Didn’t think so.

  9. Maria permalink
    April 5, 2011 1:08 pm

    o__O Shocking article Enrique, I was reading something similar, about how poor Iraki women have flown away from Irak after the occupation, sometimes lured by relatives to Syria, where they are exploited as prostitutes, most of them are less than 16.

    I wonder where do these people come from? why do humans have such a great potential for creating all this evil.

    When I read these things I am convinced that the human species are a cancer for this planet…

  10. Mark McGreevey permalink
    June 26, 2011 6:37 am

    The name “California” has nothing to do with “hot oven”, although that’s a tempting and easy guess due to the desert climate inland. No, it has to do with the macho heritage of the Spanish: in the 1500’s, a travel-adventure-fantasy novel was written, with one story therein about an imaginary island full of only women. This typical Spanish sailor’s sex fantasy included a Queen, called “Kalifa”, based on the Arabic for ruler, “caliph” in English. How could it be only women? Once a year, these women went to another island, slept with those men, then came back and bore children nine months later. If they were boys, they were killed. The name of this female island was “California” according to the fantasy writer. It was a well-known story and a common fantasy, akin to seeing mermaids at sea.

    When the Spaniards sailing north along Baja California tried to make maps, they thought it was a big island. As a joke, they called it “California”, knowing full well that the Indians had men and boys, too.

    They just liked the idea and had a good laugh.

    As for the millions of people sneaking in here, read our crime statistics. The two Mexican rapists who killed teenage girls in 1982 USA were finally found, outside a bar in Tijuana. This kind of item is in the news everyday here. If a white woman like me goes to the Mission District (Latino ghetto in SF), the police will stop me and ask me if I know where I am – only an idiot white tourist woman would walk there, and they think I’m lost! I know this because they’ve stopped me,a nd I live in SF all my life, go shopping in the Mission, and know exactly where I’m going. The worst features of low-down macho Latin culture culminate there. Young blonde women from Europe get in big trouble going there, looking for “bohemianism”.

    Tell me, Enrique, what is the real origin of this nasty habit of harassment by Latin males who are guests in USA? Can you explain their arrogance, their disregard for our laws? Why are they taught such disrespect, calling every white woman a “puta” as she walks by? Is there a good and solid explanation for their pathetic brainwashing? Are they all johns and pimps in their own minds, and all women (except their pathetic mothers) are “putas”? I’ve had Brazialian teenage (rich kids) tourists on my bus call me, their tourguide, a puta, when they got on!!!!

    The first dirty moth it came out of was a dark boy in the back fingering a very dark girl. I grabbed him, called him a “hijo de puta” because there was no way a boy of that age should know what a puta was unless he lived with one, his mother. No “hijos de puta” on my bus, I declared, and if there were any others with such filthy mouths, let them get off right now. I shoved him off right at Union Square and told the driver to shut the door. The US tour leader (female, white) who had had no control over these filthy young male mouths for days was astounded at the effect: they shut up and listened. All they need is a good slap to remind them, verbal or physical, that their filthy thinking belongs south of the border. Try it in North America on a white woman and WHAM! We fight back, because they are scum who don’t belong here with us, only in the gutter where their brains live.

    Sorry Enrique, you as a male haven’t a clue as to the spiritual pollution these scum bring us, since you were never a victim of it. If you think we white woman of California cannot speak out about these issues, then you’re wrong. We’re fed up and disgusted and loud and nasty as a RESULT of their behavior. BABALUUUUUUUU! Finland, defend your girls and women! Don’t let filthy male brains into your country, and fight verbally back against harassment, embarass and hit the mouths that spew filth at you. These males can’t take humiliation, use insults loudly and indicate that the man’s mother and lower body parts are subhuman at best. Strike at his most important possession – not his brain, that bit of flesh hanging down.

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