Beautifying the Slum: Cable Car Fetishism in Cazucá, Colombia


The installation of cable cars as part of slum beautification projects has begun to circulate among politicians, planners and residents as a magical solution that offers social and economic integration to historically marginalized urban areas. This paper analyzes the way in which a cable car project became a fetish for the inhabitants, politicians and planners of Cazucá, a very deprived, abandoned and stigmatized area on the outskirts of Bogotá, Colombia. The highly positive value given to the cable car project must be understood within the specific local context without judging its ‘false promises’ a priori. The promise of the cable car in Cazucá reveals at least two crucial political reasons for the current potency of such projects: a complex history of political failures and the political value cable cars have acquired nationally and internationally. We analyze how, for both residents and politicians, the mere possibility of a cable car awakened long neglected desires for visibility and created new ones, such as those related to tourism. They see the cable car as an ‘engine for social change’, a way to ensure the commitment of national and international funds, and a venue to brand the city on a global scale.