Home Institution

University of Virginia

Publication Date

Spring 2014

Program Name

Argentina: Regional Integration, Development, and Social Change


The villas of Buenos Aires began to form in the 1940’s as immigrants poured into the city from Argentina’s interior and from neighboring countries like Paraguay and Bolivia. These villas formed in precarious conditions without adequate government assistance, which has led to difficulties with public services such as running water and electricity. Estimates say that over 300,000 of the 3 million residents in Buenos Aires live in villas today. Unlike most villas located in the southern outskirts of the city, Villa 31, which was the first villa in the city, is a community of 30,000 residents located in the center of Buenos Aires sandwiched between the port, the city’s train station and the neighborhood of Retiro, one of the wealthiest in Buenos Aires. Villa 31’s location in this valuable area of the city has made it the object of numerous attempts at dislocation. At the same time, this history of dislocation and residents geographical isolation have led to a large presence of organizations and social movements within the villa.

In Argentina there has been research into what constitutes an “identidad villera”, essentially, how do residents of the villas define their social identity in relation to their conditions. The concept of an “identidad villera” will be investigated here by exploring residents’ perception of their social identity in Villa 31 through interviews. Making links between the literature describing villera identity and the interviews, this investigation will try to articulate what types of identities and communities exist in the villa. Specifically, it will examine identities of resistance in the villa, the types of community sentiments felt by residents, the concept of pride in the villa, and conversely, the concept of shame in being from the villa and the effect discrimination has on it. My conclusions were diverse and inconclusive as to what constitutes a villera identity, although there were a few general trends. First, long-term residents are much more likely than more recent residents to form their identity around resistance to their social subordination and to have a distinct sense of pride in Villa 31. Second, while a sense of community exists in Villa 31, the community groupings tended to be divided amongst neighborhood, nationality and various community centers. Finally, a constant among all residents was that discrimination contributes, albeit in different ways, significantly to the construction of their social identity.


Civic and Community Engagement | Family, Life Course, and Society | Inequality and Stratification | Place and Environment | Politics and Social Change | Public Affairs, Public Policy and Public Administration


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