Monday, January 26, 2009

villa 31, or area 51

The Economist and The Yale Globalist offer two takes on the Buenos Aires Mayor's fight against Villa 31, a squatter community in the downtown area of the Argentine capital. As the Yale piece points out, "The central location of the Villas [31 and its neighbor, known as 31 bis], next to one of the city’s main transportation hubs and surrounded by valuable downtown real estate, is one of the most desirable in the city." Which seems to be why Mayor Mauricio Macri is proposing to crack down on the community.

The Buenos Aires Herald editorializes in favor of Macri's recent effort to prevent building materials from being brought into the neighborhood. The editorialist concludes,
No country or city can tolerate a society within a society, regardless of whether it is privileged or unprivileged — otherwise it becomes impossible for all citizens to have equal rights and responsibilities. How can anybody dream of a 'bullet train' heading out of Retiro Station with Villa 31 right next to it?
But, despite the rhetorical slight of hand--no society within a society, whether rich or poor--the sad logic of development, endorsed by the paper, says the luxury uses staywhile the lower income community goes.

Hasn't anyone thought of allocating money to work with the residents to make the homes that are there meet local codes? (The buildings in the photo I've posted above (it comes from the Yale article, courtesy of the Taller Libre de Proyecto Social) are all made of reinforced concrete and brick, and hardly seem to merit the derision the Mayor and his minions are casting their way.) There are solutions that won't destroy the neighborhood and push out the residents. They don't want a city within the city....just the right to the city that every resident should have.


Anonymous said...

Hi Robert,
I'm currently writing my thesis on villa 31's plight and was hoping you could send me any information you have gathered yourself or through people you know that would help me. Anything you know regarding self help housing and the governments policies would be brilliant.
My email is

Many Thanks


Anonymous said...

Hi! I was just google-ing and came across your post. Thank you so much for reading my article (I wrote the piece in the Yale Globalist).
The Taller Libre de Proyecto Social ( is working to provide better housing in the Villa 31 for the current residents, and other Universidad de Buenos Aires groups have drawn larger scale plans to urbanize the area for the current residents (not pushing them out).
If anyone else, besides Stuart above, has questions or would like more information, they may contact me at aliseitz at gmail dot com.
I enjoy the blog - thanks for writing!

Quincy McKittrick Long said...

Hello! I came across this blog because I am working on a project regarding uneven development (formal and informal) in Buenos Aires (specifically during/after Menem) for an undergraduate Urban Studies course. I am focusing on Puerto Madero and Villa 31, and was excited when I realized that this blog is written by Robert Newirth because we have studied your work (Shadow Cities) in my class. Thank you for your perspective on these places: it is certainly a refreshing alternative to some of the more popular distopian visions of 'slum' settlements. Is there any more information in this blog about Buenos Aires?

Thanks so much,
Quincy Long

Melms said...

I am also currently working on my thesis about the urbanization of villa 31. It seems this matter has been drawn out for a few years now. I was wondering if anyone would be able to share with me any additional information about the urbanization project or possibly contacts you have involved with the villa. I am planning on traveling to Buenos Aires this June and would really appreciate any help!