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Macalester College

Publication Date

Spring 2015

Program Name

Argentina: Social Movements and Human Rights


The following study explores the processes of change in Barracas, a neighborhood in the southern zone of Buenos Aires. Barracas is the oldest neighborhood of the city, steeped in a rich history and comprised of a population that holds a strong collective identity. In the past couple of decades there have been extensive urban renewal projects applied to the area, bringing with them a struggle for the residents to maintain their identity and control over the future of the neighborhood. The questions this investigation seeks to answer are: What are these changes that have recently come to Barracas? Why were they done there? How does the community react to this process? Most importantly, this study asks, in a neighborhood full of history and culture, maintain a collective identity when it is being bombarded by change carried out by outside forces? These questions will be answered through the follow process. First, the general history of Barracas will be detailed in order to give a deep context to the following section. Next, the more recent neighborhood history will be explained, highlighting modern policies enacted by the city government that have greatly impacted Barracas. There theories from the field of urban studies that relate to the city experience and identity creation in historic territories will be explained. These include: gentrification, ‘Right to the City’ and the ‘Creative Class’ theory. The following section will describe a recent state-driven project, the ‘Metropolitan Center of Design’ and the effect is has had on Barracas. Next the work of four neighborhood organizations will be presented through information gathered from extensive interviews with their directors. Their perspectives on Barracas’ collective identity, the recent changes that have happened, and what they do in order to preserve the identity of their neighborhood will be described. Through this process the three theories will be applied in order to paint a thorough picture of how the residents of Buenos Aires’ oldest neighborhood interpret, experience and respond to large changes in the urban territory in which they reside. It will be concluded that, as Barracas navigates through profound changes in its’ landscape, the community continues to work to unite in the process of preserving a strong collective identity. They are working through organizations, like those described in this investigation, to assert their right to the city; their right to be active participants and dictators of what the future of Barracas will look like.


Community-Based Research | Family, Life Course, and Society | Inequality and Stratification | Latin American Studies | Politics and Social Change | Social and Cultural Anthropology | Urban Studies and Planning


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