Home Institution

Lehigh University

Publication Date

Spring 2012

Program Name

Argentina: Social Movements and Human Rights


Informal housing settlements in the suburbs of the City of Buenos Aires and their residents, hereby referred to in this report as villas and villeros, respectively, have historically been stigmatized for reasons real and arbitrary. The inundation of negative imagery about the villero population, as propagated by the mainstream society and its apparatuses—the government and the media, among others—often has grave consequences for the collective consciousness of the villeros themselves. My hypothesis in carrying out this investigation is that the control hegemonic society has over the labeling and identification of marginalized populations obscures the latter’s ability to form a positive collective identity. Instead, the processes of identity construction for marginalized groups are tainted by external labeling and often arise out of a need for the marginalized groups to prove themselves to mainstream society.

This study seeks to examine the processes of identity construction for the youth of Villa Tranquila in Avellaneda, located right outside of the southeast limit of the City of Buenos Aires. The participants in question are beneficiaries of the Envión Program, implemented by the municipal government of Avellaneda to promote social inclusion of the youth through their own personal and creative development. In 2011, this particular group of youth produced a short film entitled, “Primero, la verdad” (“First, the truth”), which seeks to present the daily life of the villero population in a new light.

The following analysis approaches the film itself as a representation of the youth by the youth in order to glean how they perceive themselves, how they perceive those who live outside the villa, and lastly, how they believe the “outside” conceives of them. Some protagonists of the film and others involved in its production were interviewed to assess the process of identity negotiation and development during the making of the film and after its completion.

Taking into account the theoretical framework of double-consciousness as an affliction of marginalized populations, I argue that the villero youth involved in the study attempted to reclaim their identity through their film and succeeded in that exploit on a micro-scale. That is, they broke away from the one-sided stigmas imposed on them by mainstream society, and instead offered a portrayal of their multidimensionality, finally conveying an image of themselves that they uphold. However, the static social hierarchy persists; therefore, a complete liberation from negative external identification remains unaccomplished.


Civic and Community Engagement | Community-Based Research | Inequality and Stratification | Social Psychology and Interaction


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