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2005 Annual Conference: Presidential Address. The Barriadas of Lima: Slums of Hope or Despair? Problems or Solutions?

Bill Chambers

Squatter settlements (barriadas) are a very significant element in the urban growth of Lima, Peru. Barriadas are residential communities formed by low income families in which the houses are constructed in large measure by the residents themselves and which are generally but not exclusively formed illegally. Many areas originally formed as barriadas have become integrated into the city as working class suburbs. Various estimates suggest that over 40% of the city started as a squatter settlement. Originally they were the product of migration from the Andes and Coast of Peru as a result of the continued primacy of Lima with its attractions and the poverty of the rest of the country. The poverty of the rest of Peru is a result of physical geography (relief, soil quality, altitude, inhospitable climate, vulcanicity, El Niño) and political elements such as land tenure, terms of trade, guerrilla movements and the coca trade. Fundamental to understanding barriadas is the invasion of land and the consolidation and progressive development of communities over long periods. Barriadas are believed by some to be the only way in which, with the acquiescence of the government, Peru has been able to cope with the housing demands of millions of its own people for social mobility. Others see barriadas more negatively as slums and problems. This is not the view of this author who has lived in and studied the phenomenon over 40 years. Recent developments in Lima suggest that far from being peripheral and a drain on the society and economy of Lima, the informal economies of barriadas may in fact be a catalyst for growth and a fundamental restructuring and reorganisation of the whole city of Lima.

Download the PowerPoint presentation which accompanies this article in the Journal Extras section.

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Volume: 90

Issue: 3

Date: Autumn 2005

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The Barriadas of Lima - This PowerPoint presentation was given in Bill Chambers' Presidential Address at the 2005 GA Annual Conference. - (members only)

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