Latin American Urban Development into the 21st Century

Towards a Renewed Perspective on the City

According to UN-Habitat, Latin America is the most urbanized region in the world. Over three quarters of its population resided in cities at the turn of the twenty-first century, a proportion that is estimated will rise to almost 85 per cent by 2030. By comparison, just over 36 and 37 per cent of the populations of Africa and Asia respectively were urban dwellers in 2000. In many ways, this state of affairs is not surprising.

Urbanization and urban culture have long been features of the Latin American panorama, with the Mayas, Incas, and Aztec—to name but the best-known pre-Columbian societies—all associated with the construction of large urban centres, even if none of these societies were urban per se. At the same time, however, the region’s contemporary urban condition is very much a consequence of twentieth century developments. Industrialization and the introduction of capitalist modes of production in rural areas from the 1930s onwards triggered a process of concentrated urbanization that seventy years later had led to a majority of the societies in the region crossing the urban threshold, as well as the emergence of over forty cities with more than one million inhabitants. This rapid urbanization fostered a particular quality and distinctiveness about the Latin American city.

The unprecedented urban growth that characterized Latin America from the 1930s onwards gradually transformed the utopian urban imaginary, and promoted a much more negative conception of cities, which manifested itself in a variety of guises over the years, from the popular theory of ‘over-urbanization’ in the 1940s and 1950s, to the currently predominant vision of the Latin American city as a ‘city of walls’.Understanding the broader patterns of Latin American urban development research is critical, however, especially if we are to conceive of cities as part of the solution rather than part of the problem—something that is particularly important in a world that has inexorably moved beyond its urban tipping point.

To this extent, this book offers a range of perspectives on contemporary urban dynamics in the region, drawing on empirical examples from Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, and Mexico. It begins by offering a broad-brush overview of regional urban development trends, before exploring changing concerns and predominant issues in order to illustrate how the underlying imaginary of the city has critically shifted over the past half century. Focusing particularly on the way that slums and shantytowns have been conceived in the Latin American urban imagination, it highlights how thinking about cities in the region has been subject to a pendulum movement that has seen them become increasingly considered as fundamentally fragmented spaces rather than unitary systems within which the majority of the region’s population now resides. It then outlines how this particular vision has had critically negative ramifications for urban development agendas, and calls for a renewed vision of Latin American urban life, before providing an overview of the contributions to this book.

Table of contents
  1. Part I: Introduction
    Re-thinking the Latin American City
    Dennis Rodgers, Ravi Kanbur, Jo Beall
    More Working Paper | Latin American Urban Development into the 21st Century
  2. Part II: Reconceptualizing Urban Fragmentation
    Urban Violence, Quality of Life, and the Future of Latin American Cities: The Dismal Record So Far and the Search for New Analytical Frameworks to Sustain the Bias towards Hope
    Diane E. Davis
  3. Part II: Reconceptualizing Urban Fragmentation
    Cocaine Cities: Exploring the Relationship between Urban Processes and the Drug Trade in South America
    Ignacio A. Navarro
    More Working Paper | Cocaine Cities
  4. Part II: Reconceptualizing Urban Fragmentation
    Mobility Challenges in Santiago de Chile: Improving Diagnosis and the Need to Shift the Understanding of Urban Inequality from Fixed Enclaves to Mobile Gradients
    Paola Jirón
    More Working Paper | Challenges for Latin American Cities
  5. Part II: Reconceptualizing Urban Fragmentation
    The Vecino as Citizen: Neighbourhood Organizations in El Alto and the Transformation of Bolivian Citizenship
    Helene Risør
  6. Part II: Reconceptualizing Urban Fragmentation
    Separate but Equal Democratization?: Participation, Politics, and Urban Segregation in Latin America
    Dennis Rodgers
    More Working Paper | Separate but Equal Democratization?
  7. Part III: Reconnecting the City
    Irregular Urbanization as a Catalyst for Radical Social Mobilization: The Case of the Housing Movements of São Paulo
    Lucy Earle
    More Working Paper | Irregular Urbanization as a Catalyst for Radical Social Mobilization
  8. Part III: Reconnecting the City
    On-Street Upgrading?: Assessing the Consequences of Allocation and Regulation Policy in Santiago de Chile’s Ferias Libres
    Lissette Aliaga Linares
    More Working Paper | Socio-Spatial Implications of Street Market Regulation Policy
  9. Part III: Reconnecting the City
    Of Guns, Ideas and Taxes: Understanding the Political Logic of Violence-Reducing Policy Innovation in Three Colombian Cities
    Francisco Gutiérrez Sanín, María Teresa Gutiérrez, Tania Guzmán, Juan Carlos Arenas Gómez, María Teresa Pinto
    More Working Paper | Local Government, Taxes, and Guns
  10. Part III: Reconnecting the City
    Public-Private Co-operation for Gas Provision in Poor Neighbourhoods of Buenos Aires: Assessing the Impact on Housing Improvements and Health
    Cynthia Goytia, Ricardo Pasquini, Pablo Sanguinetti
    More Working Paper | Public-Private Co-operation for Gas Provision in Poor Neighbourhoods of Buenos Aires
  11. Part III: Reconnecting the City
    A New Way of Monitoring the Quality of Urban Life in Latin America
    Eduardo Lora, Andrew Powell
    More Working Paper | A New Way of Monitoring the Quality of Urban Life
  12. Part IV: Conclusion
    Towards a New Research Agenda for 21st Century Latin American Urban Development
    Dennis Rodgers, Ravi Kanbur, Jo Beall
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'Digging deeply and deftly into many of the most complex and urgent issues in urban Latin America – violence, mobility, segregation, participation, drug trade, informality, mobilization – contributors to this sophisticated and highly-informative volume unearth the contours of a new trans-disciplinary research agenda for the new century.' - Javier Auyero, Joe R. and Teresa Lozano Long Professor of Latin American Sociology, University of Texas, Austin, USA

'This book brings together an impressive group of talented researchers to revitalise our understanding of urban Latin America. The chapters offer conceptual, empirical and policy analysis of the city, original in approach, comprehensive in scope and impressive in depth. The book should be an essential resource for readers already familiar with the region and those coming to it for the first time.' - Gareth A. Jones, Reader in Urban Geography, London School of Economics and Political Science, UK

'This highly informative book offers readers a unique opportunity to learn about the complexities that characterize Latin America's contemporary urban development from the vantage point of different disciplines and methods, stimulating the researcher's interest to better understand why certain processes happen the way they do and why some interventions work and others do not.' - Nora Lustig, Samuel Z. Stone Professor of Latin American Economics, Tulane University, New Orleans, USA