Villa 20, Buenos Aires 🇦🇷
Most of Buenos Aires’ “misery villages” are located in the south of the city. Villa 20, housing almost 20% of the city’s total population, is built directly opposite a shopping center, the Olympic Village (from the 2018 Youth Olympic Games), and a defunct amusement park known as Parque de la Ciudad.
The land in this area began to be occupied in 1948, but the population decreased dramatically due to slum eradication measures taken by the military dictatorship. Since the 1990s there has been further growth and densification.
In 2010 and again in 2014 land invasions took place in the adjacent open land bordering Avenue General Francisco Fernández de la Cruz, resulting in renewed attention to the plight of Villa 20 residents. The invasions were initially violently put down, but in 2014 residents were allowed to stay, after becoming highly organized and developing participatory processes for development. This was coupled with a renewed interest by City and State governments in upgrading informal settlements, in part to improve the southern side of the city, which was (is) the worst in terms of indicators of housing.
The participatory framework that was put in place by the City and the residents was lauded as successful in guaranteeing a democratic decision-making space for the population. This not only resulted in a largely successful upgrade to housing in the Papa Francisco region (adjacent to the Avenue) but also in a surprisingly effective response to the Covid-19 pandemic.
There are still enormous challenges in integrating the neighborhoods, as reflected by the golf course and shopping center in a gated square just out of reach across the Avenue. Unfortunately rampant inflation and economic slowdown due to the pandemic will probably blunt the appetite for new capital improvements in the near future. But the effectiveness of becoming organized is clearly a lesson for other activists.