Villa Oculta (Villa 15)
On the southern edge of Buenos Aires lies the slum Villa Oculta, or Villa 15. Villa Oculta means “hidden city”. According to Centro Conviven, a project by students of Social Work of the School of Social Sciences of the University of Buenos Aires, the slum has been known as the “Hidden City” since 1978 when the military dictatorship built a wall around the slum to keep it from view. The slum is composed of a heterogeneous population of Argentinians, Paraguayans, and Bolivians created a mix of diverse cultures. The residents of Villa Ocults are in extreme poverty and suffer from many of the typical problems of slum life: overcrowding, a lack of stable housing, and exclusion and marginalization in part due to the wall surrounding the community. These residents also lack acess to basic services like education and healthcare. Residents do not own the land the live on and therefore have no right to it.
In “Misery in their midst”, The Economist profiles the Villa 31 providing insight to the past, present, and future of the neighborhood. Villa 31 is located between the largest railway station in Buenos Aires, the port, and a city bus terminal and bordered on the west by gleaming skyscrapers. The villa covers 37 acres with a highway that bisects the villa. This proximity has sparked tension between villa residents who enjoy the prized inner-city location as most slums were forced to move outside Buenos Aires city limits. Wealthy portenos however, claim Villa 31 is home to criminals who terrorize commuters at night. The area became populated because of increasing growth in the port and rail industries and immigration from the Argentine countryside and neighboring countries. Villa 31 has historically not been included in any establishment or urbanization plan.
According to "Censo de Hogares y Poblacion Villas 31 y 31 Bis" (Census of Population and Households Villas 31 and 31 A), when dealing with slums, the solution according the to government has always been erradication. Villa 31 was nearly eradicated under the miliraty dictatorships of the 1970's but has slowly increased in population since the 1980's. Just over 40 families refused to move from the site in during the eradication and kept the land from being swallowed up by other uses. There have been several calls by politicians to remove the slum and gentrifying the area but the city government is powerless because much of Villa 31 is built on land owned by the national government.
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|Villa||2001 Census||2009 Census|
|Villa 31 A||1,147||35.4||3,978||32.6||4,214||53||14,187||53.7|
|Source: Censo de Hogares y Poblacion Villas 31 Y 31 Bis, City Government of Buenos Aires|
The video above is the trailer for a documentary on the lives of people living in Villa 31. The film follows the lives of a former security guard who started a radio station, an immigrant family from Paraguay, and a gang of criminals that make a living through crime. The short video has good shots of life in Villa 31.