This paper aims to discuss the idea that certain phenomena, which relate to the notion of culture in anthropology, are paramount in understanding some of the causes of international emigration. In order to achieve this I will use three concepts: identity, local structures of desire and imaginary geographies. With these I intend to complement comprehensively other research approaches on migration based on the study of economic or macro-sociological causes. The fourth contribution I wish to outline regards the role of ethnography in its three types – experiential, thick description and multi-sided – as a suitable means for studying international migration. This reflection is based on the results of nearly five years of research on international migration in the city of Pereira –and its metropolitan area–, known in Colombia for its high rates of emigration.