The gated community motto: Come and live in a lie while ignoring life!

The papers, books and studies related to the urban development of gated communities in the Global South have provided lots of information by problematizing the history and politics behind the imaginary of these projects. Urban developers all over Latin America, Africa and Asia are building hundreds of communities and apartment buildings that imitate European and Western Styles of construction, lifestyle, norms and regulations. This morning I got my hands in one more of these advertisements for a housing project located in a recently developed dormitory city near Guatemala City, Guatemala.

The community is called “Residenciales Pasaje Español” and the development aims at replicating the lifestyle of a Spaniard ideal of a community  (while, of course, ignoring reality about Spain’s complexities).  The advertisements are all directed at the appeals of the growing middle-class market in Guatemala which is backed by a search for: affordable housing, accesible parks, gated walls around the housing project, 24/7 private police service, white houses that offer access to parking spaces for family-sized cars.  All of this providing a “theme-park” feeling that enables you to transport yourself from the violent and insecure life outside of the gates.

plano del proyecto

Guatemala City and the dormitory cities around it are inhabited by aprox. 3.5 million people with more than 1 million cars and the figures are quickly rising. Many of the gated communities are 1 or 1.5 hours away from most of the office and industrial areas and traffic jam is a constant worry for this people. Alienated from crime and lack of rule of law, these gated-communities offer an escape from public worries to taxpayers and an excuse to ignore the country’s multiple problems.

torres de luz

But as any other theme-park there are many flaws and dangers in the aim to replicate the “ideal society”.  The complex is located straight next to a line of huge power towers that represent a health menace to the people that will live in the houses. Also, the gated-community is surrounded by hundreds of new houses and dozens of new gated-communities that once completed and sold will represent an increase in the traffic jam outside of the “housing dream”.

Perhaps it is still time to Rethink the future of our cities. We still have time to further problematize our development model and think about the contradictions behind these city-building dystopias. And bring to light more information regarding how these gated-communities further weaken collaboration, cooperation and citizenship in our societies…

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Jefferson: The Civil must always be in complete control of The Military

Lady Justice Takes the Bus
Image by djking via Flickr

The ideas of the Founding Father‘s were an inspiration across the breath of Europe and Latin America. Even now, more than 200 years later, the words of the great Thomas Jefferson should and must be remembered now that the new governments we elected continuously impulse the centralization of agricultural, commercial and industrial production.

“But the true barriers [bulwarks] of our liberty in this country are our State governments . . . Agriculture, manufactures, commerce, and navigation, the four pillars of our prosperity, are the most thriving when left most free to individual enterprise . . . standing armies in time of peace should be avoided as dangerous to liberty; and that in all cases the military should be under strict subordination to, and governed by, the civil power.”  Jefferson, Thomas. Annual Message to Congress (1801)

As important, Thomas Jefferson’s message to the new Citizens of the United States was that it was fundamental to the survival of a Republican country that The Civil must always be in complete control of The Military. Jefferson had made this warning as an answer to the Constitution that Virginians had written. Nowadays, however, the message goes to the citizenry that fails to recognize that the role of an army in time of peace should be avoided and kept under strict subordination to, and governed by, the civil power.

These are some of Jefferson’s messages that helped the United States build a stable government based on Republicanism. In the cases in which The Military and their allies may sometimes control the executive power they must constantly be remembered that it is the strict following of The Constitution their most important obligation. This is the only tool in which The Civil will complete The Military; failing to do so will only secure autocratic governments in which The Civil loses their rights just as history has shown.