Home Institution

Smith College

Publication Date

Fall 2022

Program Name

Chile: Cultural Identity, Social Justice, and Community Development


In the Mega Fire of Valparaíso in 2014, more than 1,000 hectares were burned, leaving 12,500 people not only without their homes, but without their neighborhood. 15 people were killed and more than 500 people were injured. This socio-natural catastrophe was a clear demonstration of the marginality and abandonment in which the peripheral sectors of the urban configuration of the city find themselves. Given that most of the communities that live in these sectors have their homes as a result of “tomas de terrenos”, which is the unauthorized occupation and habitation of land, entails a significant level of vulnerability as a result of belonging to an “informal habitat.”

Through the use of interviews, open sources, other academic studies, and participating observations this essay will reflect on the spatial component of marginalization and explore the state abandonment of the ravines of Valparaíso in order to understand the strategies of resistance and resilience against these two phenomena’s, in the context of the Mega Fire. The research will focus on one of the impacted neighborhoods, el cerro Las Cañas, and their use of community organizing in order to recover their space. That said, this study finds that there is a need for an inclusive system where those who experience the most exclusion can decide where and how they want to develop their lives without the risk of losing everything.


Emergency and Disaster Management | Human Ecology | Inequality and Stratification | Latin American Studies | Urban Studies


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