Finding past forms enclosure: the case of Santiago de Chile.


Image 1: retrieved from Google Maps, 10/10/2013.

Some time ago, the journalist Mauricio Becerra interviewed two Chilean researchers,  César Leyton y Cristián Palacios, about their collected data regarding past urban policies of Santiago. What is original about this study is its focus in the types of enclosure (Swyngedouw. 2011) and cleansing practices that the military coup of Chile, and the supporting political coalition, implemented in Santiago (and maybe other Chilean cities). Their findings highlight policies which were designed to disperse and segregate the poorest to specific areas of the city. Have a look at  the article (in Spanish), it signals where further research could be continued.

Extract from article, reply by Cesar Leyton: “The dictatorship took the Benjamín Vicuña Mackenna (BVM) project at the end of the century to a massive scale. The BVM model is liberal. a segregative social model attributed to scientific conceptions such as “hygienic” spaces, understood as the process of separating de sick and the poor from the rich and healthy so as not to affect the model of production which was developing with the industrialisation. BVM talks of building a sanitary wall which divides the city and builds around the informal settlements (barriadas) where the migrants from the country (or fields) would live in, as well as in the north, areas such as the Chimba. The idea was o establish a new order, a reorganization of the neighbourhoods in the south, demolish the conventillos and “ranches”, finish with the African horde as they were called at than time. It is a large scale project that the BVM will be conceiving as a wall in practice, as a boulevard which divides the spaces through a large artery, an 11 km wall which eventually becomes te Americo Vespucio Highway, Campor de Marte (now  Parque O’higgins) and Mapocho river in th north, up to the cemetery…” (translated by author)


Probably one of the original approaches this research has is identifying the agency not as a specific actor or institution, as ANT or assemblage theory have provided in existing literature. They highlight what is called Geopolitics as the relevant ideology or theory justifying the design of urban policies. a form of though which characterizes the military education, where the state, its role and the relation it should have with its inhabitants are defined.  geopolitics emerges as the logic behind the cleansing policies, which operate at various levels of urban policies. In part they are directly opening spaces to zoning which have a segregative effect.

Other policies with which geopolitic interacted were Hernando de Soto´s theories. By the 70´s, urban rate of migration was already high, and the access to housing, transport, jobs, health and education were building up as a crisis. Therefore a formalization approach ha to be developed. This was a chance to expand the application of de Soto´s theories too. Much of the solutions provided to the new Santiaguinos was based on economic incentives and a place with a house from which entrepreneurship and self-sustaining processes should naturally emerge. With an new economics, the chances would eventually trickle-down to most of the Chileans.

For those concerned with space (such as geographers an architects), forms of enclosure could be related to this form of thinking the world. It opens up a new perspective regarding the elitism which hs perpetuated in the design of Santiago historically. The relation between the “part” and the “whole” (as suggested by DeLanda (2006); Harvey, 1996) is reflected in the relation between the physical design of the city and this specific ideology (among other schools of thought) promoted through the dictatorship.

The image which is displayed in this article reflects various elements used in the past and today to separate society. it is possible to observe both built and natural barriers used as segregationist elements. what is included into the map, apart from those elements recognized by Becerra´s interview, is the slopes of the Andes to the east of Santiago´s valley, and the Cerro San Cristobal. both are relevant elements which geographically, are sued to separate areas of Santiago, marking development areas from those which slowly decay in time with a mid and low income sector of the urban society. the new highways which evidence the asymmetries of power within the city (it passes under the ground level in high income areas, and over the ground level in low income boroughs) are a new set of conditions which perpetuate physical segregation tools. the development of gated communities also form a relevant instrument which may be affecting how Santiago´s urban society literal and physical develops its relations.

Not less relevantly, Geo politics coexisted amongst other ideologies, intertwining and producing a distinctive “Chilean” form of policy making during the dictatorship. Neo-liberalism in Chile as observed today was decided at east two years after the coup began. And connections between other coups in the region (even with the apartheid) established eventually. Therefore, geopolitics is used also as a tool to link with other regional main stream ideologies, connecting military institutions, n becoming a a mainstream thinking elements which may also have permeated into the supporting political parties.

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