According to the United Nations, Latin America is the most urbanized region in the world. Almost four out of five Latin Americans live in cities and towns, attracted by the work, educational and cultural opportunities offered there. Their growth has often been rapid and unplanned, leaving them increasingly vulnerable to natural disasters. In Bolivia, Oxfam and its partners have been working to mitigate the effects of landslides on the housing built on its steep slopes (Read more). In Haiti, problems continue with the apparent lack of effective use of foreign aid to rebuild the capital following the catastrophic 2010 earthquake (Read more).
Some of the disasters afflicting the region’s cities are man-made. In Brazil, the destruction of houses and mistreatment of local inhabitants is revealed in a recent report (Read more). Another video focuses on the attempts to remove the favelas in the run-up to the 2014 Football World Cup and 2016 Olympic Games (Watch video). In Saõ Paulo, the largest conurbation in South America, as in many other cities of Latin America, the rapid growth of recent years has led to huge problems of pollution, but the existence of a lucrative private health care market is depriving most paulistanos of adequate health care. (Read more). Modern São Paulo, with its traffic jams and helipads is the focus of a blog by LAB Editor Sue Branford, at present travelling in Brazil (Read Sue’s blog here). Also from Brazil is a photo essay on the often difficult lives led by maids in big cities, in this case the port of Belém, at the mouth of the Amazon (View here), while a report in Portuguese (Read more) looks at the plight of domestic workers in Brazil.
But cities also produce movements and innovation that help meet these challenges. In Buenos Aires, the inhabitants of a traditional middle-class neighbourhood have been fighting against the imposition of speculative-led high-rise towers (Read more). Many Colombian cities have been transformed in recent years, thanks to energetic, far-sighted mayors. Enrique Peñalosa, one of those credited with introducing many of the positive developments in the capital, Bogotá, insists that the cities of the future must take care of their green areas, and be more responsive to the needs of their pedestrians (View here).
Similar moves have been made in San Salvador, where central parks and squares have been remodelled to make them safe and attractive to local inhabitants and visitors (Read more). In the same city, there have been recent attempts to control the gang-led violence that has blighted them in recent years. A truce has been established with the main gangs or maras; an interview in Spanish with the mediator Raul Mijango reveals the challenges this move has brought with it (Read more). LAB published more on this topic earlier in the year, in articles by Sonja Wolf (Read more; and here) In Honduras, President Porfirio Lobo seems to prefer a more radical solution to the problems of its cities- to construct three new ones from scratch, using foreign investment and granting them near-autonomy. This plan has been heavily criticised both within the country and abroad (Read more).
The public spaces in Latin America’s cities are increasingly under threat. In Buenos Aires, it is young artists who are helping reclaim them as a shared resource (Read more), while in Panama City, the painted buses that have offered visual excitement on its main thoroughfares are finally being put out to grass (Read more).
LAB’s new website
We hope you are enjoying our new website and find it easier to use than the old one. We’re still learning how to use it and it will take us a while to develop fully some of the pages (e.g. Partners and E-Library). In future, we will tend to group most of the articles relating to the current newsletter theme in the Focus on… column in the centre of the Home Page, while news articles will be posted as they come in under Latest Articles (the newest will always be at the top of the column). Of course, all articles can still be found on the News page and you can use the Filter drop-down boxes under the heading News to locate quickly articles on a given region, country or theme.
We have a much improved ‘What’s On?’ events listing on our News Page, and we hope to feature events around the UK as well as major events elsewhere and in the Region. It is now much easier to upload details of your own event. Simply find the relevant date in the calendar on the What’s On page and click the [+] sign to the right of the date. You will be presented with a form to fill, giving details of your event. When you are ready, click Submit. We will check the details and then post the event. If you need any help please send and e-mail to email@example.com
We hope in the coming days to publish news articles on:
•The Venezuelan elections
•President Santos’ apology to the people of the Amazon basin
•A massacre of indigenous people in Guatemala
•The assassination of (another) Honduran lawyer who has defended small farmers
Keep an eye on the Latest Articles column on the Home Page of our website (www.lab.org.uk).