Virtual Issue on Latin American Cities

Jul 25th, 2012


Picture above: Demolition of Favela Villa Nova Jaguaré and new housing development, São Paolo (photo by Yuri Kazepov, 2009);

Latin American Cities NEW 720 x180

Pictures from left to right: Junction of Av. Vinte and Três de Maio, São Paolo and Downtown, Rio (photos by Yuri Kazepov, 2009); One of several deterioriated 1970s tower blocks in the Soldati neighborhood of Buenos Aires (photo by Ryan Centner, 2006)

Latin American Cities

Virtual Issue

Over the past ten years IJURR has sought to expand its coverage of Latin America cities, developing a critical urban scholarship that does not simply apply North American or European urban and regional theory to the region, but rather views Latin American cities on their own terms and uses their experiences to contribute to a more thoroughly global understanding of urban and regional phenomena. Inevitably, IJURR’s track record has been uneven, and much more can and needs to be done. This collection of articles published in IJURR reveals both the strengths and the current limits of the journal’s engagement with cities in the Southern Cone of Latin America.

Latin American cities have long been both global and massive. Through the nineteenth century and into the early twentieth century, immigrants from Southern Europe (and elsewhere) arrived in huge numbers in Buenos Aires, Montevideo, São Paulo and Santiago, whilst other Brazilian cities had large populations of former slaves brought from Africa. The population of Buenos Aires reached one million in 1905. Within ten years Rio de Janeiro’s population had also reached one million by 1913, by which time the population of Buenos Aires was rising towards 2 million. The political, economic and social lives of these cities were forged in an era of globalization.

Massive rural-to-urban migration in the twentieth century meant that Latin American cities remained among the world’s largest. Mexico City and São Paulo now have populations of more than 20 million people, and Rio and Buenos Aires have populations of more than 10 million. Bogota, Lima and even Santiago are creeping towards 10 million. About seventy cities in a total of twenty-one countries have populations of more than 1 million. And a new era of globalization has exposed Latin American cities to international flows of capital, people and ideas.

The papers in this virtual issue reflect IJURR’s concern with social justice and especially the politics and distributional consequences of public policies. Most of the Southern Cone has been governed by at the national level by presidents and parties from the left or centre-left: Concertación in Chile, the Partido da Social Democracia Brasileira (PSDB, Social Democratic Party) and Partido dos Trabalhadores (PT, Worker’s Party) in Brazil, the Unión Cívica Radical (Radical Civic Union) and the Peronist Partido Justicialista in Argentina, and the Frente Amplio (or Broad Front) in Uruguay. The major cities of the region have generally been the strongholds of left and centre-left parties. These governments have pursued policies that entail a mix of democratic innovation, state intervention and market liberalisation. Understanding this mix is a major challenge to critical urban scholars of the region.

Kanai and Ortega-Alcazar examine how the distributional consequences of culture-led urban regeneration in cases from Buenos Aires and Mexico City depended on political circumstances as much as fiscal constraints. Van Gelder probes how and why tenure security really affects households in poor neighbourhoods in Buenos Aires, and shows that both tenure legality and perceived security are closely correlated with households’ investments in improving their housing, but apparently not because legality improves access to credit, as is often assumed. Tironi, analysing survey data, argues that the quality of community is higher in public housing villas built by the center-left Concertación governments in Chile since 1990 than in the public housing poblaciones built in the 1960s. In his account, the reduction in material poverty has not been achieved at the expense of social cohesion. Posner contests this finding, arguing that post-1990 housing policies exacerbated social stratification and undermined social cohesion. Lopez-Morales examines the effects of the liberalisation of building regulations on gentrification and social housing in Santiago. Salcedo and Torres’s ethnographic research in a poor walled and gated neighbourhood in Santiago suggests that such neighbourhoods are not isolated enclaves. Auyero shows how residents of slums in Buenos Aires experience deepening marginalization. Centner examines the diversity of forms of belonging to the city in Buenos Aires, and identifies distinct forms of citizenship. Avritzer and Hernandez-Medina contribute to the substantial literature on Orçamento Participativo (OP, i.e. participatory budgeting) in Brazilian cities. Rolnik examines some of the limits to policy reform in Brazil, and Fernandes and Novy document the muted effects of the international financial crisis on Brazil.

Most of these papers were written in explicit engagement with urban theory originating in the global North, testing the value of standard explanations in the case of one or other city in the region. Goldfrank and Schrank provide a broad, comparative analysis of the political economy of municipal government. Their paper was published in the “Urban Worlds” section of IJURR. This section is dedicated to papers that step back from case-studies and provide a broader, critical perspective on a topic or literature. IJURR especially welcomes submissions for the “Urban Worlds” section that draw on research on diverse Latin American towns and cities to challenge head-on theories derived from the global North. Topics as varied as urban regime theory, social cohesion, neoliberalism and democracy are all ones where cities across the global South can pose fundamental challenges to theories from the global North. We look forward to a time when our urban theory is derived as much from studies rooted in Buenos Aires (or Cordoba or Mendoza) as in ones rooted in Chicago or Los Angeles.

Much of the best work on Latin America is, of course, done by scholars whose native language is either Spanish or Portuguese. IJURR makes a special effort to accommodate scholars for whom English is a second or third language. Indeed, neither of IJURR’s current editors is a native English speaker. IJURR publishes in English, but it can usually review submissions written in Spanish and Portuguese, and has a small budget for translating into English papers that are accepted for publication. More generally, IJURR’s copy-editors help to ensure a high quality of English in published papers. Our reviewers are asked to judge papers on the quality of the research and the analysis, and not on whether the English is perfect.

At present the IJURR Editorial Board has one member from Latin America: Raquel Rolnik (University of Sao Paulo, Brazil). Beatriz Jaguaribe (of the Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro, Brazil) and Gianpaolo Baiocchi (Brown University, Providence, USA) are Corresponding Editors. Marcus Melo (Universidade Federal de Pernambuco, Recife, Brazil) recently retired from the IJURR Editorial Board, and is now a member of the journal’s Advisory Board.

This Virtual Issue of IJURR for RC21 Buenos Aires conference on “Social Justice and Democratization”, focuses on Cities in the Southern Cone of Latin America. It showcases IJURR’s publication of articles on cities in Argentina and Chile, plus four very topical papers on Brazil.

Jeremy Seekings,
IJURR Advisory Board
August 2012

The Prospects for Progressive Culture-Led Urban Regeneration in Latin America: Cases from Mexico City and Buenos Aires
Miguel Kanai and Iliana Ortega-Alcazar

Legal Tenure Security, Perceived Tenure Security and Housing Improvement in Buenos Aires: An Attempt towards Integration
Jean-Louis Van Gelder

Microcitizenships: Fractious Forms of Urban Belonging after Argentine Neoliberalism
Ryan Centner

‘This is a lot like the Bronx, isn’t it?’ Lived Experiences of Marginality in an Argentine Slum
Javier Auyero

Targeted Assistance and Social Capital: Housing Policy in Chile’s Neoliberal Democracy
Paul W. Posner

The Lost Community? Public Housing and Social Capital in Santiago de Chile, 1985–2001
Manuel Tironi

Gentrification by Ground Rent Dispossession: The Shadows Cast by Large-Scale Urban Renewal in Santiago de Chile
Ernesto Lopez-Morales

Gated Communities in Santiago: Wall or Frontier?
Rodrigo Salcedo and Alvaro Torres

Democracy on the Edge: Limits and Possibilities in the Implementation of an Urban Reform Agenda in Brazil
Raquel Rolnik

Reflections on the Unique Response of Brazil to the Financial Crisis and its Urban Impact Avritzer on participation in participatory budgeting in Brazil
Ana Christina Fernandes and Andreas Novy

Social Inclusion through Participation: the Case of the Participatory Budget in São Paulo
Esther Hernandez-Medina

New Public Spheres in Brazil: Local Democracy and Deliberative Politics
Leonardo Avritzer

Municipal Neoliberalism and Municipal Socialism: Urban Political Economy in Latin America
Benjamin Goldfrank and Andrew Schrank