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Favelas: the essential is invisible to the eye.

27/11/2010 admin 0
We often have a wrong image of Brazil's favelas, due to distortions from stereotypes and movies. Often poverty does not appear in the form of poor hygenic conditions or lack of basic infrastructures. The fact that many organizations, which had been in the opposition during the dictatorship, were recognized publicly and institutionalized in recent times, turned assistentialism into a system; these groups, now as NGOs, had been carrying out a continuous and financed work during the last decades, that improved many visible aspects of life in poor neighborhoods; but at a price paid in terms of autonomy and strength of self-organization. Communities turn dependent, exposed and unable to defend themselves. In Sao Paulo's Monte Azul, studied by Fabiana Valdoski, a group of German anthroposophists founded the Associação Comunitária Monte Azul, an NGO that monopolized all of the improvement and development of the "favela". When organized crime began to penetrate Monte Azul, since 2008, the inhabitants were no longer able to prevent it, and the NGO could do nothing about it.
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Notes from a sub-suburb of Madrid

17/11/2010 admin 0

MAD#sub is part of a research on the territorial dynamics of the sub-suburban metropolitan belt of Madrid. It is a process of micro-research-action on the forms of representation of peripheral landscapes, on cultural practices and autonomous narratives related to the transformation and lived experiences of these liminal spaces. We consider liminality as a characteristic of transitional spaces, undetermined, in which any new becoming is possible. Metropolis, and especially its peripheries, are spaces of resistance and new possible propositions, through which new ways of understanding culture and new forms of living can be built. The suburbs of these peripheries are empty spaces, far away from control systems: places where new appropriations and new attributions of meanings are still possible”. From the presentation text of MAD#sub WORKSHOP, organized in PUERTA DEL SUR, from november 19th to 22nd, by Sitesize and La Casa Encendida, Madrid.

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The slums of Poblenou

12/11/2010 admin 0
"The last gypgy settlement in Poblenou has been evicted" as was announced in Barcelona's newspapers on october 6th, 2010. But if we read better, the real news are that there had been no eviction: too many children were living in the settlement. When newspapers deal with the item of gypsy settlements in Poblenou, industrial neighborhood of Barcelona undergoing a big urban renewal process, they always approach it as if this settlements are about to disappear, like if they were pintoresque remainders of a past now gone f According to the press, "the last settlements in Poblenou" had already been evicted in 2004 in carrer Agricultura, or in the Oliva Artés factory in 2003. When they speak of gypsy settlements, they always use the word "barraques" (slums), a particulary thick term: the struggle against Barcelona's slums was one of the victories of grassroots movements in the 60s and 70s. So, these news about the gypsies and their shanty towns so close to the skyscrapers of the new "technological district 22@", more than a revival of the "barraquismo" as a phenomenon, they make us think of a revival of the uses of this phenomenon: an instrument that serves the purpose of giving an excuse to simplify the conflicts and contradictions that go along with this enormous urban renewal project. If the gypsies and their slums belong to the past, and the skyscrapers to the future, every eviction can appear as a debt with history. Social policies, are the real remainder of a past now gone. Read more
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“¿Qué sos, Nicaragua, para dolerme tanto?” (What are you, Nicaragua, that hurts me so much?”)

04/11/2010 admin 0

There are no peripheries in Managua, Nicaragua, since there’s no center. Through the whole urban sprawl, the “spontaneous settlements” (slums) and the “colonies” (gated towns) live close together, the first protected by its gangs, the others by private guards. The government doesn’t make any effort to hide the misery of its poorest population: Nicaragua lives of selling to the world its poverty, by catching funds from international cooperation, most of which ends up in the hands of the elites.

Many NGOs that now work in the enormous number of projects of “integral development” or “community empowerment” in the poorest neighborhoods of Managua, are the same organizations that in the eighties offered international and often armed solidarity to the Sandinista Revolution, against the “dirty war” financed by the US government. Now they are being financed by the same goverments – european and north american – that contributed to the failure of that historical “integral and locally directed community development project”. The governments use NGOs to open a way for international trade, and to reduce the social impact of neoliberal “structural adjustment plans”. This perverse system reflects at a microscopical level, in the human relationship between “voluntary workers” and “recipients” of the development projects. This situation is explained in “La cooperación internacional en Nicaragua. Problemas y aspectos socioantropológicos”, Stefano Portelli, 2001. The research is based on a fieldwork in Memorial Sandino neighborhood, Managua.

  • See also: María Dolores Álvarez (2000) “La ciudad ausente, políticas urbanas y espacios de socialización. Managua: paradojas de una ciudad” [LINK]
  • Gioconda Belli (1991) “¿Qué sos, Nicaragua, para dolerme tanto?”, poem [LINK]
  • PHOTOS OF MANAGUA: Barrio San Judas and Asentamiento Memorial Sandino [ALBUM]