The Villa Lugano encampment was just one of a series of land invasions by thousands of people in late 2010 that have pushed the Capital Federal to the brink of crisis, in Argentina. A shortage of low-income housing, which has been intensified by high inflation and a boom in immigration, has caused people to take over land and buildings that are abandoned and do not belong to them.
On Dec. 7 2010, the police tried to oust about 200 squatters from Indoamerican Park, the city’s second-largest park, not far from Villa Lugano. Two people were shot dead. Two weeks earlier the okupas*, mostly Bolivian and Paraguayan immigrants fleeing desperate slums, moved onto a soccer field on federal land, insisting they had no other options. Neighbourhood residents, fearing that a crime-ridden Villa Miseria**, was springing up in their midst, wanted them evicted, as a federal judge ordered. Okupas not only refused to leave, but their numbers then swelled to 5,000. A judge called off the police on Dec. 9 and ordered the government to provide food, water and chemical toilets. The next evening, with no police around, protesters rushed the park with sticks and stones. Guns were fired and a third squatter died. On Dec. 11 the government sent the military and the police to remove any remaining residents in an orderly fashion, while the city and federal government agreed to create more housing for the poor. The next day, squatters moved onto the soccer field in Villa Lugano. A judge ordered their “peaceful eviction” on Dec. 13. (The New York Times, 26 Dec 2010)
While the government refused to carry out the order, the clash, with its fiery street theatre, became a symbol of government inability to resolve one of the worse spates of social unrest in years. Aside from the okupas and their neighbours, President Kirchner, facing an election battle next year, may be in the toughest spot. The land grabs are her first major challenge since her husband, former President Néstor Kirchner, died in October.
Home-to-be Soon is a mapped and documented database of 100 buildings and land, all around the city of Buenos Aires. While Argentina seems to be recovering from the 2001 financial bankruptcy, the gap between rich and poor is still vast. Due to the bouncing economy and high inflation, most of these buildings, neighbouring Villas and rough barrios, have been abandoned by their owners. They are now turning into edificios tomados and casa tomadas, sheltering many immigrants and low-income families.
By presenting this interactive database, I am inviting you to take over your desired home in Buenos Aires, the beautiful city of fair winds, while I challenge the issues of immigration and settlements that Kirchener's government is facing.
Click here to enter the project
* Okupas, a Spanish slang for squatters, occupants
** Villas are referred to Villas Miserias, should not be mistaken by villas, as a small town.