politics

Fiebre en la Ciudad

balham health centre

Ayer mi hijo de un año tuvo fiebre. Volaba sobre 38. Estábamos preocupados y con poco tiempo que perder.  Una opinión de un doctor era necesaria.

Pero viviendo en un lugar que no llega a ser del todo familiar no es tan sencillo. Vivo en Londres sin auto, ajustado de plata, y  todavía no entiendo del todo cómo funciona el sistema de salud.  Finalmente llevamos al peque al hospital del barrio y un especialista nos dio la receta y dosis necesaria. El peque está bien y nosotros ya con ganas de pegarnos una siesta descomunal.

En realidad la clave de nuestra tranquilidad fue tener el pequeño centro de salud en nuestro barrio. Es más, es la cantidad de servicios y la calidad de ella que nos dio a nosotros, que vivimos más apretados acá en el Reino Unido, tranquilidad. Si no me equivoco, esto se llama calidad de vida.

Pensando en mi otra ciudad, Santiago, sé que es conocida por tener áreas con poca infra pública para la salud. Y la que hay no siempre tiene una gran gama de servicios y tratamiento disponibles. Creo que después de experiencias como la mía se me hace cada vez más difícil entender la falta de compromiso tanto del sector privado como del público para abastecer a lo que impacta tan fuerte en la calidad de vida. Realmente este aspecto le da sentido a los temas de “Well Being” y “Health” que tanto se habla hoy en día. Esta idea de estar esperando a que el sector privado comience a encontrar rentable un sector de bajos recursos es como tratar de encajar una pieza de lego cuadrada sobre una redonda… (Me refiero a que no encajan). Tal como vamos, polarizando los ingresos, no creo que es el consumidor del sur y oeste de Santiago se conviertan en grupos atractivos para inversión privada de un momento a otro.

Si bien vivo como clase media-alta en Chile, no es así en Londres. Y tener acceso a buena salud simplemente nos cambia la vida. Es pasar por la urgencia de encontrar una opinión de calidad, que no te genere crisis financiera, que entiendan mis problemas de transporte las que me renuevan mis “votos” por un sistema diferente de distribución de recursos en Chile.

Courtesy of Duncan Crary

Hecho de menos este tipo de análisis en el desarrollo urbano. Un análisis que provenga a partir de vivir en la ciudad y de experimentar como funciona en realidad.  Es mas bien una perspectiva como el del ventanal, mas que “top-down” como dicen por aca (mapa de Santiago).  Sin tener nada en contra de este plano, pero me cuesta ver los problemas que pasamos para obtener cosas si no nos ponemos en un plano mas a “nivel de suelo”.

La ciudad es diversidad, y lo duro comienza porque se vive muy distinto dependiendo de que familia provengas, de cuanto ganes, de quien conozcas. Es esta manera de estar permanentemente tratando distinto al “otro” la que veo reflejado en el desarrollo urbano, por mucha norma que sigamos produciendo para regularla. De la misma manera que llegue a Londres en búsqueda de un grado más competitivo educacional (que claramente me dejara en una elite, lo se)  a esta ciudad (y Santiago) gente también llega para encontrar estabilidad y certeza. Y siento que producimos una ciudad donde muchos simplemente se “pierden” buscando estas dos cosas tan elementales. Por eso me hace sentido que Friedmann (2010)  compare la urbe con un laberinto. Al menos para algunos lo es.

labyrinth image Courtesy of Google Images

Does the “right to the city” make sense?

“right to the city” documentaries

Have a look at this trailer. It’s a movie that will be shown soon at Ritzy, Brixton. I believe it proves the notion is applicable and pertinent. More importantly, it should transcend in how we perceive and produce a city.

Some parts of the documentary can also be seen here:

http://documentarystorm.com/dark-days/

(Un) even urban development after the Chilean earthquake

 

source: DiarioUChile

source: DiarioUChile

Hugo Romero, recently given a national prize in geography for his contributions to research, remarked on the unsolved issues regarding urban development after the earthquake. He firstly signals the lack of information which may help evaluate more precisely the extent of the segregation pattern. Nevertheless, Hugo leaves clear such catastrophic events can also exacerbate already divided or segregated cities. link

Ethnic geographies: the case of Los Angeles from Soja’s perspective

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(Images of Los Angeles: Courtesy of Daily Mail and Google Maps)

Among the various discussions Soja (2000) suggests in his book Postmetropolis is his notion of an Exopolis (p250). He highlights the relevance of processes which de-centers cities, expands them, and provides a new reality to so many of the city dwellers. Soja’s analysis begins with Los Angeles, which is represented in the above images. Recently a publication of the Daily Mail (2010) evidences some of his views of cities as assemblages of enclaves (Soja, 2000:252). The newspaper published a series of maps which evidenced the divisive pattern of cities from an ethnic perspective. The revealing geographies of ethnic enclaves reinforce the importance of Soja’s question: what processes are involved in this form of city making? 

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1315078/Race-maps-America.html

After a description of a city which emerges as a consequence of racial, class and gender divisions, Soja also provides details of various mechanisms through which democratic citizenship and the right to the city is possible to obtain.  Among the selected examples is the BRU/NAACP lawsuit against the Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA). The BRU and NAACP, by using the civil rights legislation, argued that “particular populations if transit dependent bus drivers were being discriminated against by the policies and investment patterns of the MTA” (p257). From this brief description of the lawsuit, three elements arise as relevant to allow a closer to democratic outcome of L.A.’s urban development. First, it is the capacity to organize (in this case Unions). Secondly, the capacity to form agreements and coalitions, or forms of sharing knowledge and resources. This allows to access higher levels of knowledge, technology and form part of expensive processes which otherwise are not obtainable by poorer sectors of society.  Thirdly, institutional mechanisms which allow a relatively adequate environment for transparency and accountability.

EXOPOLIS EXAMPLES

Soja applies a critical appraisal of the expansion of the city. He leaves aside the successful discourses of real estate developers, and looks into the evolution of places beyond the “edge city”. this means areas sprawled or build considerably far from the traditional L.A. inner city. The map provides a general view of those places suggested as running down middle class areas. he uses four aspects to evaluate and build his arguments: housing (the cost of them and who can access them), jobs (their amount, cuality and distance), transport (commuting time and effects over people and neighborhood sustainability) and environment (lost grassland and wetlands prior to developments, loss of connectivity among central and distant urban areas).  Indeed, much of the issues which might have characterized inner city (poverty, lack of individual investment on property, public fiscal deficit, scarcity of economic initiatives, loss of job concentration, far from jobs, exodus of residents, increasing sense of insecurity, etc) are also present in areas such as Lancaster, Palmdale, Moreno Valley and Antelope Valley in general.

Far from a positive outcome, thee places suggest a difficult outcome to the form of urban expansion, which may well be applied to many cities around the world. this expansionist model is reflected in the urbanization of the world. The fact is that most people live in cities today. just recently we tilted over the 50% of the world’s population living in urban environments. with this fact in mind, Soja’s perspective raises the question how are we living in cities today? Although the diversity of cities may shade the possible applications of Soja’s L.A. picture, the Exopolis effect can be identified in most countries which have restructuring processes. urbanization is after all a phenomena which is closely linked to economic growth. Indeed, and places such as those mentioned as conflict previously, also indicate the fragility of urban economic development.

 

Looking back to go forward: Latin American Gentrification?

shattered glass

Reviewed: 08/11/2013. Image2: The city as a shattered mirror of styles. Courtesy of 123RF. Retrived from www.123rf.com/ 25/10/2013.

In  two recent articles, Francisco Sabatini (2007) and Francisca Ward (2012)  mention that Santiago serves as a good example of what they consider Latin American gentrification. Both authors separately claim this entails a form of expanding the city which historically does not involve displacement of lower income groups by higher income ones. Various aspects are positive regarding this perspective about how gentrification and city expansion relate. Firstly, there is an attempt in finding a new form of gentrification which takes into account the processes of a particular city within a specific region. Secondly, it is an alternative reading of the consequences of horizontal urban development, looking at how social relations are affected during the city’s transition from a city to a mega city. Much of Santiago has actually been developed in the last 70 years, which makes the city relatively “young”. During this period of expansion (and still expanding but at a lower rate today),  Sabatini et al.’s identifies no significant gentrification process at a city scale. Thirdly, it offers a well studied phenomena at a city scale, built over evidence-based data which covers much (if not all) the metropolitan area.

Although the title of the original article alludes to history, the theory sidesteps various issues. This article will look at three. Firstly, Sabatini et al’s theory implies imagining a city where higher income groups expand in areas which were not used by lower income groups previously. And a valley of Santiago, which is vast, without relevant previous history of occupancy. Nevertheless, this could be answered by including a commonly known event of Santiago’s history: the program Operacion Sitio (Garces, 2002). Operacion Sitio was developed during the Allende’s presidency. It is a program based in the popular practices of squattering and building self made housing (today known as informal settlements or Tomas). Although the program is a form of political propaganda, it allowed poorer sectors of society to “occupy” a variety of areas in the valley. The provided areas or sitios (plots of land drawn on the ground for each family) covered most sectors of the valley of Santiago. Some of them in the north and east, areas which today are occupied by the wealthiest groups. 

Eventually, most of the north and east sitios were evicted during the Pinochet Regime. Among the range of strategies, probably the most known one is Programa de viviendas básicas de erradicación de campamentos. This eviction program served both as a repressive and dispersal mechanism which left the previously occupied lands north and east of Santiago available for real estate firms. Pobladores were evicted in general to the south and west of the Valley. The evicted areas were eventually developed by through the Chilean PPP model, which allowed a flexible and segregationist form of catering income groups. The evicted areas were provided to (and still is) the mid and high income groups predominantly. Therefore, the supply side of the urban expansion and policy environment are significant variables to associate gentrification and urban expansion.

Additionally, projects which came after the pobladores’ eviction such as the Benjamin Vicuhna Mackena  (BVM) provide a different reading to the inner-city shaping process. The BVM suggests a relevant re-ordering of social relations based on strategic inner city physical transformations. This re-organization of space and uses undermine a simplistic view of significant past displacements in Santiago. It also evidences the active role of the state to set the basis of how the spatial structure of social relations are to develop in the next decades.

I we look even further back in history, de Ramon (1991) shows the displacement of the urban poor between center an periphery has been going on for a while in Santiago. Santiago in the 1900’s was formed of a center and a few surrounding towns. By that time a significant number of poorer urban groups  were been displaced from periphery to central areas, due to rising land prices in the surrounding towns (Providencia, Nunoa and Las Condes for example). The conventillo/cite legacy is an evidence of this displacement in Santiago Centro. By the way, the cites were built through the real estate firms sector of the time, based on financial programs designed by the state to “improve living conditions”of the poor. Eventually, in the 1920s and 30s, most of the Conventillo enclosures of poor would be bulldozed by the state, obliging those living in them to once again look for shelter in the peripheries. It was by 1950s that land take overs or “Tomas” alarmed the elite mid and high income groups, due to its level of social organization and resistance to evictions.

The trigger of these house-centered social movements were a mix of class and state led displacements, which left with little chance to live either in central or periphery areas. Such displacements will continue in the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s with a varying degree of acknowledgment by elites and the state in the struggle to live in the city. It was really during Allende that location and particpative aspects changed radicalley, but came back to almost null participation during the dictatorship.

Still today, the remaining Conventillos are slowly displaced by urban regeneration, as well as the young professionals seeking trendy parts of central Santiago to live in. state-led programs will continue to be a relevant variable to explain location outcomes of the poor urban groups; not just through an effect of seeking low rent sectors due to rising land prices. All these historical accounts make it hard to separate in Chile a pure class displacement from institutional displacement, specially when the state forms a class in itself. We could even classify most of the state interventions in the last century as: (2) assisting the accommodation of displacement, (2) initiating the displacement; (3) or a mix of both.

Secondly, the first point is useful to highlight that cities are a significant part of how we build and perceive a common history which shapes the identity of urban dwellers. Changing the perception of how the city was developed justifies how ongoing processes treat different groups in society. There are various dangers to generalizing a city’s history as Sabatini et al’s et al’s article provides. It does not consider the city as a multiplicity of agendas and actors (Mcfarlane, 2011), which do not necessarily agree upon an agenda, and sometimes just have to “go along” (Holman, 2007) with one. History shows the city as a site of social tensions and political disputes. A city where various mechanisms and systems (not necessarily based on land markets) operate to solve differences among urban dwellers; not necessarily in participation or democratic terms, even during democracy. Santiago, far from being a unitary element, is formed by different styles of urbanization, like a shattered mirror, representing different interests and forms of city building. Many identities within the same entity.

Thirdly, a non-conflictive city is a reading of the city that Sabatini et al’s article suggests. But this reading is relative if we consider the wide range of displacements programs that have structured Santiago. Indeed, the city is also about how one group perceives the “other” and they do about it. Therefore, the “otherness” as Harvey mentions (1996) should be subject of inquiry too. In this sense, the perception of a conflict-less expansion of a city may make sense to some groups, think tanks and policy makers. But taking into account the previous examples it does not represent the experience nor the collective memory of all Santiaguinos.

Sabatini et al’s discussion could, for example, take a direction towards understanding how much has government-led displacement shapes Latin American cities. The answer may lie in Lopez and Shin’s (ongoing) research regarding gentrification in Latin America. Other aspects that could be included (or not-excluded) in the perception of how Latin American cities develop is find out why inner city migration exists. This issue may carry us to question how involved should a government be in gentrification. And how much should be decided by the supply-side of the housing industry (both public and private sectors), as suggested by Lopez (2011). Lopez suggests that who structures local markets and how matters in gentrification, specially in central Santiago. As much as Sabatini et al. suggest the expansion of the city has more to do with a general demand-side or social force driven gentrification, avoiding the variable of supply -side or public-private partnership could mislead us from a relevant underpinning factors of gentrification in this city.

Finally,  what is proposed in this article is that focusing on process, as Sabatini et al does, is crucial to understand and evaluate the outcome of the city. Nonetheless, how the concept used to analyze the processes is carved out should be looked at more in detail. As it is defined, it also interprets the type of events that are observed. If gentrification is defined differently, or linked to a broader processes, such as displacement processes in general, a wider range of events may emerge in the study of urban development. Events such as the ones provided in this article. They may not even be labeled just as gentrification: forced eviction, forms of enclosure, dispersal tactics and repression. Recognizing them does provide a different insight on the observed process: urban expansion. Therefore there is a discretionary element to how theory is carved out that should not be missed.

This article proposes that the issue brought by Sabatini et al. has an alternative approach to generalize about cities. Lopez & Shin’s research propose one, which is extensive and covers many cities within a region. Comparative work is a key aspect. This research suggests that history is relevant, but how events are selected to build generalizations should also form part of research. It is after all a process of conceptualizing the “other”. The issue here is making a general reading of the city which does not support the process of excluding through discourse the multiplicity of urban experiences in Santiago. Although this informal article and Sabatini et al’s published article use similar periods of time, the conclusion of the displacement processes in Santiago are significantly different. Looking back can provide an understanding how the social relations are set out in territory today. But to go forward researchers should include (at least) what are the limitations in how data is selected and generalizations built.

Cerrojo means a lock in Spanish . And a lock is what people today are finding when exploring how far they can get through democracy.

Enclosureis the term that inspires the name of this Blog. It makes reference to the question in social science how the “part” and the “whole” relates.

All disciplines attempt answering this question. More specifically, I pay attention to what keeps change from happening (Harvey, 1996). And when change (such as social movements) is successful, how it manage to influence upwardly.

I invite everyone who (does and does not) share  similar interests  and thoughts to have a go. My undergrad is architecture, I also studied economics for some time, Political sciences and specializing now in urban issues.

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

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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)

2013/10/13

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.

Informal settlements and space: what could a government report tell us about their geography?

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Recently, data regarding the perseverance of informal settlement has been gathered in Chile by the current government. Graphic 1 and Map 3 shows several hundreds of informal settlements recently mapped.  According to this source, informal settlements tend to concentrate around specific regiones in Chile, close to the largest urban agglomerations, and within the economic macro-region of the country (circled in blue). Although the concentration of poblaciones (informal settlements) in specific regions of Chile is clear, they are also scattered within, around and in the outskirts of the city itself. This provides evidence of a spatial relation between the economic macro region and development of informality (expressed as settlements). It also suggests a relation between urban development processes and social exclusion processes. The dispersal of settlements around large urban areas could also be related, as suggested by César Leyton y Cristián Palacios[1] as an outcome of current policies of deviation, which bounce-off the attempts of pobladores to access the city. According to the authors, it perpetuates policies which were directed at pobladores (informal settlement dwellers) as a form of ordering the city according to class during the Pinochet military coup. Today, the dispersal of poblaciones may resemble a form of reducing migration pressures by providing housing out of the areas where major rent potentials can be obtained.

In a post from last year, Valeria asked what Informality means. Looking back at my answer, I do have some modifications to make. I still sustain that a good simple approach is Informal is whatever is not formal. Nevertheless, Valerias question is a central one to various authors. Much of the work done today to approach the issue of increasing numbers of poorer areas of the city is identifying the “external” factors which induce them. Indeed, Roy (year), Robinson (year), Sugranyes (year) and many other authors all sustain an view that the term “informal” is a social construction. Indeed, by focusing additionally on these agents apparently outside the place where less resourced groups live evidences quite a different cause of poverty.

“Informality” as Sugranyes mentions, may be a term that we can agree upon to talk about the same thing. But it also comes usually from a group which has access to power and resources. Therefore, the outcome may eventually end up reinforcing the traditional and conservative policies directed towards the poorest in society. unfortunately, this approach makes sense and it is a valid interpretation to why “informality” is expanding.this approach may be ore helpful in clarifying how, those in power, define what is part of their world and what is not. .

It is relevant, therefore, to disclose in what ways this relation is built, or constructed. And my current PhD work goes towards looking at the institutional construction of this relationship. I’ll edit this answer the coming days, but main ideas are in place…


[1] Becerra, M. Las olvidadas erradicaciones de la dictadura. Retrieved 2013/09/26 from: http://www.elciudadano.cl/2012/12/17/61685/las-olvidadas-erradicaciones-de-la-dictadura/