Villa miseria


Villa miseria

A "villa miseria" is a form of shanty town or slum found in Argentina, mostly around the largest urban settlements. The term is a compound noun made of the Spanish words "villa" "village, small town" and "miseria" "abject poverty"; a direct translation to English would be "Miseryville". The name was adopted from Bernardo Verbitsky's 1957 novel "Villa Miseria también es América" ("Villa Miseria is also [a part of] America").

These settlements consist of small houses or shacks made of tin, wood, and/or other materials (whatever can be found). The streets are usually not paved — narrow internal passages may communicate the different parts. The villas miseria have no sanitation system, though there may be water pipes passing through the settlement. Electric power is sometimes taken directly from the grid using illegal connections (which are perforce tolerated by the power companies).

The villas range from small groups of precarious houses, well inside the urban grid, to larger, more organised communities with thousands of residents. In rural areas, "villas miserias" might be made of mud and wood.

Villas miseria are found around and inside the large cities of Buenos Aires, Rosario, Córdoba and Mendoza, among others. At the turn of the millennium they already comprised a relatively large part of the total population of their respective cities.

These shantytowns are also euphemistically called "asentamientos irregulares" ("irregular settlements") or "villas de emergencia" ("emergency villages"). In most of Argentina, the unqualified word "villa" usually refers to a "villa miseria".

The villas draw people from several backgrounds. Many of them are migrants, coming from poorer provinces or from impoverished rural areas near the cities, especially during Perón's first government, and a smaller number are recent immigrants from neighbouring countries (especially Paraguay and more recently Bolivia). Others are local citizens who have fallen from an already precarious economic position. In most cases, of course, the villa miseria is populated by the children and grandchildren of the original settlers, who have been unable to raise their economic status.

Villas miseria are considered by most citizens as havens for criminals from minor thieves to drug dealers.

Argentine painter Antonio Berni dealt with the hardships of living in a villas miseria through his series "Juanito Laguna", a slum child, and "Ramona Montiel", a prostitute.

tatistics and programs

The 2001 census and the ARRAIGO government program provide revealing figures: over a population of almost 36 million, about 13.6 million (approximately 2.7 million households) had difficulties in their access to property; of these, 37% correspond to homes in irregular settlements. The ARRAIGO program estimates that, in 2004, between 500,000 and one million homes were located in irregular settlements, with 100,000 on government property.

According to July 2004 estimates, there are about 640 "precarious neighborhoods" in suburban Buenos Aires, comprising 690,000 residents and 111,000 households. The population of the villas miseria in the city of Buenos Aires proper doubled during the 1990s, reaching about 120,000 as of 2005.

Attempting to address this problem, President Alejandro Lanusse had the National Housing Fund (FONAVI) established in 1972. An amalgam of long-standing national housing programs and lending facilities previously managed by the National Mortgage Bank, FONAVI helped coordinate slum-clearance efforts and, since then, has put up over 25,000 housing units a year (both single-family and multi-family types).Argentina: From Insolvency to Growth. World Bank, 1993]

Granting deeds on a lease-to-own basis, the fund mostly provides for households in Argentina's lowest income bracket and, thus, has historically tolerated a collection rate of less than 5%. The fund, one of Latin America's most significant, is underwritten largely by national fuel and other excise taxes.

References

* [http://www.cohre.org/downloads/MissionReport-argentina.pdf "El derecho a la vivienda en Argentina"] , Informe misión de investigación, 2004 (in Spanish), Centre of Housing Rights and Evictions ( [http://www.cohre.org/ COHRE] )

ee also

* Favela
* Barrios
* Colonia (border settlement)
* Poverty
* Argentine economic crisis (1999-2002)


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