Home Institution

Vanderbilt University

Publication Date

Spring 2019

Program Name

Chile: Cultural Identity, Social Justice, and Community Development


Despite Chilean government efforts to eradicate campaments, or informal settlements, the number of campamentos has drastically increased in the recent years. These informal settlements originate from the urban migration in 1940-60, but persist today due to the difficulty to access affordable housing and the lack of appeal of social housing projects. To be considered a campamento, there must be eight or more families living on unregulated land without at least one of the three basic services: electricity, potable water, or a sewage system. The department of Housing and Urban Development, the Ministerio de Vivienda y Urbanismo, recently reinforced the efforts to close campamentos in the country, with the goal of #NoMásCampamentos (no more campamentos). There are two ways to close a campamento. The first, eradication, is where the residents of the campamentos are transferred to social housing usually on the outskirts of the city. However, this policy has created many problems, as a campamento is more than a housing situation. The residents place value in the environment, the location and the social networks they have created there. This policy has been criticized for not recognizing the strife of the community, their connection to the land, and the value of their identity. The other way to close a campamento, “radicación,” urbanization, or regularization, consists of the campamento land being regularized by the state. This policy brings the hope that the state will listen to the communities voice and recognize the history and memory of the campamentos.

Currently, Manuel Bustos, the largest campamento in Chile with 2,800 families, is undergoing the process of urbanization. It represents a new emblem and a case of strong resistance where the community fights for the state to recognize their history, their identity and their memory. The original lack of basic services served as a catalyst that brought the community together, creating ties of solidarity. Through this strong community identity the majority of residents have achieved access to basic services. Now it is this unity that propels the community to fight for urbanization and the right to decide where and how to live, a choice the residents did not have before. The leadership of the community has been key, unity the 23 sectors and serving as the intermediary between the greater community and the state. Despite everything that Manuel Bustos has achieved, the funding for the urbanization only extends until 2025. Based on the current speed, there are doubts that the process will not finish in time. Nevertheless, the leadership continues fighting, sharing their story through the media as a form of resistance against the state.

Manuel Bustos is only one of the 822 campamentos in the country. The slow process of urbanization with more than twenty years in the making, even with the strong community leadership and voice demonstrates the limitation of the current policies. With the number of campamentos currently growing, the policies need to change to not only recognize the story of every campamento and the lack of appeal of social housing projects, but also to allow the process of urbanization to be executed in a more timely fashion. In order to prevent these irregular settlements, the state much examine the root of the problem, the great societal inequality and uneven distribution of resources that manifest is the difficulty to access affordable housing.


Civic and Community Engagement | Human Ecology | Inequality and Stratification | Latin American History | Latin American Languages and Societies | Place and Environment | Politics and Social Change | Urban, Community and Regional Planning | Urban Studies | Urban Studies and Planning


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