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Guayaquil is Ecuador’s largest city and the country’s economic capital. The city has 3,000,000 inhabitants, from which 600,000 live in informal cities. In the year 2000, the under the administration of Leon Febres-Cordero, later followed by that of Jaime Nebot (who still continues in office), the “Malecón 2000”, an urban reform and beautification scheme geared to the “urban regeneration” (the term used is “la regeneración urbana”) of the city began. Although the Malecón 2000 began with the restoration and renovation of the waterfront, aiming to attract more foreign investment, the work has resulted in the upgrading of various informal and marginalized communities (or “invasiones” as they are called here). Usually, these interventions are accompanied by a legalization of the land (thus the government acquires the right to intervene), a provision or formalization of basic services (water, sewage, and electricity), and finally, by the restoration of the surrounding facades.

The question is, how far can theses “Skins and Signs”* interventions go? (* Please refer to my categorization under the tab “about”). Do they stop at bettering physical environment, or are they designed and planned in a way as to also be sustainable (for and by the residents of the community, as well as by the city’s administration), and become the catalysts for the socio-economic and political transformations necessary in the creation of an inclusive and integrated city?

I have had the opportunity to visit a couple of these beautification and “regeneration” interventions:

– El Malecón del Salado (Waterfront renovation and boardwalk)

– Las Peñas and Cerro Santa Ana (Restoration and re-formalization of the oldest neighborhood)

– La Playita (An urban beach front created in the Southern edge of the city)

– Viernes Santo (Water Park in the Southern edge of the city)

In the next couple of posts, I will describe each project and my observations in more detail.

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