After several events, the first of those reported in a previous post, last Saturday was the final chapter of “Caracas, integration in process”. This program, organized by a group of NGOs, aim to the “Completed City”, a city without barriers or boundaries between the formal and informal areas.
Although the idea includes the whole city, and in a sense all the cities, this time the efforts were concentrated in La Palomera, a small and relatively well-off informal settlement in South- east Caracas.
Community members, urban activist and citizens met in Bolivar Square, in the town of Baruta. Just in the middle was a huge model of La Palomera. In scale 1:200, a puzzle measuring more than 3.00 meters each side, the model was impressive. A model like that is normal inside a Design Studio (just maybe not so big), but to have it in a public space was special. People are always interested in models, and this was no exception. The inhabitants observed and looked for their houses or special places. The foreigners, people from other sectors, studied, maybe for the first time, how informal settlement is organized, and how it is connected with the rest of the city.
After a few introductory speeches, we all started our way to the top, through the stairs, deep inside the settlement. Parts of the model were carried, as an offer; drum music made the procession joyous. Along the way we stopped in small squares or at the houses porches featuring exhibitions and videos.
At the top the model was assembled again, and several events started: a talk with the founders among the inhabitants, games, exhibitions and communal activities. The main event was the reading of the “City Manifest” in the most significant place in La Palomera: the “Cruz de Mayo” square. After that, a traditional meal, a “sancocho” was shared.
The whole thing was loaded with symbolism and meaning. The organizers, both community members and activist, wore identical t-shirts: the Complete City t-shirts.
One of the exhibitions featured the small gardens inside La Palomera, and their proud owners. The model, sit at the top, merged its profile with other informal settlements over the surrounding hills.
Unlike the initial event, when the neighbors were mostly spectators to an affair maybe not fully understood, now everybody mingled around. Part of one of the initial questions is more than answered:
Which are the strategies for an urban, social and symbolic integration?
The process did not propose any construction, and the urban part of the question is still without responde. But undoubtedly the social and symbolic aspects were more that fulfilled.
I’m not fan of these symbolic approaches. I’m too much practical, and the needs inside our informal settlements are too pressing. I feel we should be building stairs, pipes, walls, squares, and that our efforts should not be dispersed.
But maybe I am wrong. Sat in front of one little house was a lady with a toddler. When I passed in my way up, I heard the lady say to the child:
“Look at these beautiful people. This is what we need. You should be seeing other things.”
I’d like to think that she meant “things” other than the poverty, other than the exclusion and its limits.
Pictures courtesy of Enlace Arquitectura. More in @ enlace_arq