Campamento

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Campamento
Informal practice commonly found in Chile
Chile map.png
Map of Chile, where Campamento commonly takes place.
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Flag of Chile.
Entry written by Armando Caroca Fernandez.
Armando Caroca Fernandez is affiliated to The Bartlett School of Architecture.

Original text by Armando Caroca Fernandez

The official definition of ‘campamento’, as used by the Chilean Ministry of Housing and Urban Planning (MINVU) is of ‘settlements, usually found in urban areas, of more than eight families living on an irregular land tenure, lacking at least one of the three basic services (electricity, drinking water and sewage system) whose homes are closely grouped together’ (MINVU 2011: 23[1]).

According to the official statistics provided by MINVU there are 657 campamentos in Chile, currently housing 27,378 families. This represents a total of 83,863 inhabitants. TECHO-Chile, the main NGO dedicated to working with slum dwellers in the country reports that 75.8 per cent of households in the campamentos do not have formal access to drinking water; 91.5 per cent do not have sewerage and 47.6 per cent are illegally connected to an electricity supply (TECHO 2015: 25[2]). Moreover, TECHO has established that 27.8 per cent of all dwellings in the campamentos are constructed using hazardous or waste materials, a figure almost 30 times higher than the national average (TECHO 2015: 27[3]).

Neither the definition nor the statistics are particularly different or unfavourable compared with many other ‘slums’ found in most countries in the developing world. Each country in Latin America has its own term for these informal settlements: they are known as ‘Favelas’ in Brasil, ‘Villas Miserias’ in Argentina, ‘Barrio Brujo’ in Panamá and ‘Rancho’ in Venezuela. To a large extent all experience the same deprivations and difficulties. However, the Chilean case has some significant characteristics that differentiates it from the others.

The term campamento literally means a ‘camp’ and is an explicit reference to the military camps of Chile, from which it acquired three distinct features- the settlement has a clear, well-defined social and urban layout; it has an internal discipline that allows for a high degree of self-organisation, and it is acknowledged as being temporary. Uniquely, the first inhabitants of campamentos made attempts at organising and providing their own systems of justice, health, education and house building (MINVU 2011[4]; De Ramón 1990[5]).

Campamentos are the latest expression of a long history of precarious settlements in Chilean cities. Each stage in the development of the settlements was uniquely named. The first, known as the ‘indian village’ (pueblo de indio), originated in the XVI century in Spanish colonial times, and referred to the towns located near the Spanish cities, where indigenous communities were forced to live in a highly-segregated urban scheme (De Ramón 1990[6]). The second type of development appeared at the second half of the XX century and was referred to as a ‘mushroom village’ (población callampa). These settlements were the equivalent of ‘shanty towns’, in so far as they were unplanned settlements of self-built houses made out of discarded materials, located near river banks, empty plots, train lines or other hazardous places (MINVU 2011[7]). In the 1960s the settlements were labeled ‘land occupation’ (toma de terreno). Commonly they were the construct of a political party and were formed ‘in a single, sudden and sometimes violent act that took the authorities and (…) the owner by surprise’ (De Ramón 1990: 13[8]).

Most of the campamentos that exist today were created in the twenty years between the end of the military dictatorship in 1990, and 2010, a period characterised by a strong State emphasis on housing, which saw the creation of two specific government policies designed to solve the housing conditions of slum dwellers.

"Cardenal Juan Francisco Fresno" campamento in Santiago, Chile, July 1984 by Marco Ugarte.

The first of these policies was the 'Chile-Neighbourhood' programme (Chile Barrio), which ran from 1997 to 2007. This programme, as part of a larger governmental policy, sought not only to provide housing for the slum dwellers, but also to improve other aspects of their lives, such as social inclusion and employability. After a period of relative success in reducing campamentos nationwide, this policy was replaced in 2007 by the ‘Informal Settlements’ Attention Programme’ (Línea de Atención de Campamentos), which continued until 2009. This programme’s objective was simpler and focused only on the provision of housing for slum dwellers. However, a subsequent survey conducted in 2011 showed that the number of campamentos had increased after 2007, not only because of the emergence of new settlements, but also as a result of the resurgence of old ones (MINVU 2011[9]).

Remarkably, since the end of the 1990s, and during four subsequent presidential periods, up to twelve official announcements have been made promising an end to campamentos (Domínguez 2011: 83[10]). Yet, in spite of said government efforts to eradicate campamentos, they are still increasing in number, as are the number of families living in them (TECHO 2015[11]). How can this be explained?

Firstly, the main reason for living in campamentos remains startlingly simple: ‘there is no other place to live’ (TECHO 2015: 18[12]). However, a number of contemporary authors define campamentos as a manifestation of a phenomenon that represents not only a housing shortage, but is indicative of more complex social processes. They suggest that it is a strategic practice undertaken by the inhabitants, who have chosen to live in campamentos in order to have access to employment opportunities available in urban centers (Brain et al. 2010[13]; Domínguez 2011[14]; MINVU 2011[15]).

This may be confirmed by a study of the demographics of the campamentos’ inhabitants: 50 per cent of the families currently resident in campamentos have lived in them for a period of ten years or less (MINVU 2011: 30[16]); the most frequent inhabitants are young people and children, the majority of whom are families at the early stages of their life (ibíd.: 40), precisely those who most need to engage with the cities’ network of opportunities. According to the ‘National Socio-economic Characterisation Survey’ (CASEN), the official national instrument for measuring the socio-economic conditions of households, in 2009, the population of campamentos was not only younger in relation to the total population of the country, but also in relation to the poor population in Chile (ibíd.: 41). Furthermore, the heads of the households in campamentos had a higher occupancy rate compared with the poorest quintile of the population (ibíd. 46).

Secondly, living in a campamento can also be a strategic way of obtaining government housing (Brain et al. 2010[17]). Paradoxically, the current social housing policy seems to support this strategy. Since the devastating earthquake of 2010, the government has made a great effort to build social housing for families who lost their homes and were accommodated in temporary housing. However, in the interest of presenting a just system, the government declared that the same programme would apply to all families living in campamentos, which in effect gave them preferential treatment in obtaining housing. As a result of this policy, some families chose to go and live in a campamento in order to gain an official recognition of need, and thus they were able to strategically improve their chances of being rehoused.

A third reason that explains the existence of informal settlements in Chile is immigration, in particular with respect to immigrants from Peru and Bolivia. While the number of immigrants does not represent a high percentage of the total population (in 2013 the figure was 354,581 out of 17.6 million people), the overall number of foreigners living in Chile increased by 130 per cent between 2006 and 2013 (CASEN 2015: 4[18]). Many immigrants choose to settle in campamentos as it permits them faster access to opportunities in Chilean cities (MINVU 2011: 50[19]; Blanco 2014[20]). This is especially so in the north of the country, as found in the city of Copiapó in the Atacama region. Mining is the dominant force in the economic and social dynamic of this city. Local inhabitants prefer to work in the mines, as it is better paid than other employment. This in turn encourages people from other regions of Chile and Latin American countries to migrate to this region in search of the employment opportunities which arise as a by-product of mining, usually in low-paid service jobs such as in restaurants, housekeeping, or hairdressing. However, the high salaries in the mining sector produce a rise in the cost of living within the city, which artificially inflates the housing rental market. As a consequence many people are not able to afford the cost of housing and therefore have no choice but to live in the campamentos settlements.

Finally, some campamentos can be explained as a consequence of their productive function. The Chilean case of informal settlements is characterised by the wide variety of geographical, cultural and economic contexts in which campamentos appear. In many of these settlements, located in rural areas or medium-size cities, the individual houses are inserted into a larger productive network, in which living and working occurs in the same space and time (Lovera 2011: 8, 9[21]). Good examples of the above mentioned networks are found in the informal settlements associated with fishing activities located in the southern part of the country. They possess both a temporal dynamism, given by the fluctuating cycles of extractive activities, and a spatial flexibility, where courtyards and common spaces ‘are not only the individual houses’ extension, but also allow for the development of crafts and serve as support infrastructure for groups of families’ (Ibid.: 18). In contrast, Government policies aimed at providing housing for slum dwellers are, by definition, based on standardised solutions, and therefore they are not usually able to maintain the flexibility and adaptability provided by campamentos.

Notes

  1. Ministerio de Vivienda y Urbanismo. 2011. Catastro 2011: Mapa Social de Campamentos MINVU, Gobierno de Chile. http://www.minvu.cl/opensite_20110523144022.aspx
  2. TECHO. 2015. Datos Duros de una Realidad mucho más Dura. Informe Encuesta Nacional de Campamentos 2015. http://www.techo.org/paises/chile/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/Informe-ENDC-2015-CIS.compressed.pdf
  3. TECHO. 2015. Datos Duros de una Realidad mucho más Dura. Informe Encuesta Nacional de Campamentos 2015. http://www.techo.org/paises/chile/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/Informe-ENDC-2015-CIS.compressed.pdf
  4. Ministerio de Vivienda y Urbanismo. 2011. Catastro 2011: Mapa Social de Campamentos MINVU, Gobierno de Chile. http://www.minvu.cl/opensite_20110523144022.aspx
  5. De Ramón, A. 1990. ‘La población informal. Poblamiento de la periferia de Santago de Chile’, EURE - Revista Latinoamericana De Estudios Urbano Regionales, 16(50): 5-17. http://search.proquest.com/openview/26a5dfc4187879e5fcedda3b164adf08/1?pq-origsite=gscholar&cbl=1816810
  6. De Ramón, A. 1990. ‘La población informal. Poblamiento de la periferia de Santago de Chile’, EURE - Revista Latinoamericana De Estudios Urbano Regionales, 16(50): 5-17. http://search.proquest.com/openview/26a5dfc4187879e5fcedda3b164adf08/1?pq-origsite=gscholar&cbl=1816810
  7. Ministerio de Vivienda y Urbanismo. 2011. Catastro 2011: Mapa Social de Campamentos MINVU, Gobierno de Chile. http://www.minvu.cl/opensite_20110523144022.aspx
  8. De Ramón, A. 1990. ‘La población informal. Poblamiento de la periferia de Santago de Chile’, EURE - Revista Latinoamericana De Estudios Urbano Regionales, 16(50): 5-17. http://search.proquest.com/openview/26a5dfc4187879e5fcedda3b164adf08/1?pq-origsite=gscholar&cbl=1816810
  9. Ministerio de Vivienda y Urbanismo. 2011. Catastro 2011: Mapa Social de Campamentos MINVU, Gobierno de Chile. http://www.minvu.cl/opensite_20110523144022.aspx
  10. Domínguez, P. 2011. ‘Campamentos, viviendas y acceso a la ciudad para los pobres’, Revista CIS, 14(1): 73-94. http://www.techo.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/dominguez.pdf
  11. TECHO. 2015. Datos Duros de una Realidad mucho más Dura. Informe Encuesta Nacional de Campamentos 2015. http://www.techo.org/paises/chile/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/Informe-ENDC-2015-CIS.compressed.pdf
  12. TECHO. 2015. Datos Duros de una Realidad mucho más Dura. Informe Encuesta Nacional de Campamentos 2015. http://www.techo.org/paises/chile/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/Informe-ENDC-2015-CIS.compressed.pdf
  13. Brain Valenzuela, I., Prieto Suárez, J. J., & Sabatini Downey, F. 2010. ‘Vivir en Campamentos: ¿Camino hacia la vivienda formal o estrategia de localización para enfrentar la vulnerabilidad?’, EURE - Revista Latinoamericana De Estudios Urbano Regionales, 36(109): 111-141. http://www.scielo.cl/scielo.php?pid=S0250-71612010000300005&script=sci_arttext
  14. Domínguez, P. 2011. ‘Campamentos, viviendas y acceso a la ciudad para los pobres’, Revista CIS, 14(1): 73-94. http://www.techo.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/dominguez.pdf
  15. Ministerio de Vivienda y Urbanismo. 2011. Catastro 2011: Mapa Social de Campamentos MINVU, Gobierno de Chile. http://www.minvu.cl/opensite_20110523144022.aspx
  16. Ministerio de Vivienda y Urbanismo. 2011. Catastro 2011: Mapa Social de Campamentos MINVU, Gobierno de Chile. http://www.minvu.cl/opensite_20110523144022.aspx
  17. Brain Valenzuela, I., Prieto Suárez, J. J., & Sabatini Downey, F. 2010. ‘Vivir en Campamentos: ¿Camino hacia la vivienda formal o estrategia de localización para enfrentar la vulnerabilidad?’, EURE - Revista Latinoamericana De Estudios Urbano Regionales, 36(109): 111-141. http://www.scielo.cl/scielo.php?pid=S0250-71612010000300005&script=sci_arttext
  18. Ministerio de Desarrollo Social. 2015. CASEN 2013 Inmigrantes, Síntesis de resultados. http://www.ministeriodesarrollosocial.gob.cl/btca/txtcompleto/midesocial/casen2013-inmigrantes.pdf
  19. Ministerio de Vivienda y Urbanismo. 2011. Catastro 2011: Mapa Social de Campamentos MINVU, Gobierno de Chile. http://www.minvu.cl/opensite_20110523144022.aspx
  20. Blanco, B. 2014. ‘Regiones del norte son las más expuestas a creación de campamentos’, La Tercera, 22. http://www.latercera.com/noticia/nacional/2014/01/680-561221-9-regiones-del-norte-son-las-mas-expuestas-a-creacion-de-campamentos.shtml
  21. Lovera, C. A. S. 2015. ‘Campamentos urbanos en un país de centros y periferias: Expresión de una pobreza sistémica’, Revista Urbano, 14(23): 7-19. http://revistas.ubiobio.cl/index.php/RU/article/view/290