land on the run
The identity of the territory of Gran Buenos Aires, submitted in the past to different forms of occupation, and tied to the heritage of a land conflict since the origins of the National State, projects on the population’s sense of belonging, which mutates very fast according to the social and economical transformations of the country. The so called “Conquista del desierto" (“Desert conquest”)took place at the end of the nineteenth century, under the orders of general Julio Argentino Roca, with the aim of exterminating the native inhabitants of the land, in order to gain control of the region. The tracks of said conquest mark the beginning of a permanent conflict about the means of legitimation of the property of the land.
The formation of the conurbation of the Province of Buenos Aires, i.e., the sprawling urban area that surrounds the Capital City, depended greatly on the migration of workers that accompanied industrial development and building of railroads during the first half of the twentieth century. The landscape has suffered several changes ever since, according to the different historical contexts of the country. 25% of the Argentine people live within the so called “Gran Buenos Aires”, inhabited by an average of 2700 citizens per square metre. Recent urban transformations overlap with the old centre-periphery pattern, giving form to other spaces where places are occupied by different social groups, living close but yet separated by big walls and safety technologies, thus creating an aesthetics of fortified gated communities exclusive for few inhabitants with many resources, in front of empty lots and areas inhabited by large masses of people, constituting, in this way, conglomerates of overlapped social groups confronted within a dynamics of exclusion. This symbolic elaboration of space converts isolation and surveillance in symbols of status, while the vast majority of the population concentrates in the surroundings, living under precarious conditions, with no access to basic public services. Individual and community initiatives of survival exert fast and constant changes on the geography of the urban landscape, where social differences determine a new significance of their space. The perimeter fence of almost medieval appearance intends to make the social conflict invisible, by reducing it to not being or not being seen at all, thus establishing a distinction between inhabitants within the fence and those who remain physically outside the walls.