Snapshot of Ciudad Oculta (The Hidden City)

ocultaIn the western world, we associate the word ‘villa’ with luxury or private cabanas somewhere along the beach or perhaps, in the mountains. In Buenos Aires, the term is used to describe the impoverished neighbourhoods that exist within the different barrios of the city. Many of which exist, villa 31, is one of the largest but villa 15, ciudad oculta, is one that well-known by locals and travellers alike.

History

Ciudad Oculta (“The Hidden City”), villa 15, is one of the largest shantytowns with residents that have moved from Paraguay, Bolivia and Peru to Buenos Aires. Since the mid-1930’s, this hidden city existed with new migrants who worked construction, cleaning, and industrial jobs.

In lieu of the 1978 World Cup being hosted in BA, the government made it a project to create a barrier around the villa to prevent the press and visitors to see this “unsightly” part of the city. Hence, its name Ciudad Oculta.

Reality

  • 47,000 residents living in poverty with very limited resources and government support;
  • Even in the slums of BA, residents are required to pay 4,000 (C$400) pesos a month for rent;
  • Residents live in make-shift houses with thin metal roofs, often shared by 8 other people and a shared washroom that can be shared by up to 15 people;
  • Ones that are able to land temporary jobs are employed as construction workers, or cleaners;
  • Primary source of income for most residents is scrounging through garbage bins at night for tin cans, metal, cardboard to re-sell to wholesalers;
  • Most residents are unemployed utilizing drug manufacturing, trafficking, extortion, theft and robbery as sources of income;
  • The average wage for a young professional in BA is ~$5,000 – $7,000 pesos/month – you do the math;
  • Girls become mothers as young as 12 years old increasing the prevalence of teen pregnancies;
  • Some of the girls choose to become pregnant as a preventative measure against rape;
  • Local NGOs such as L.I.F.E. Argentina, spend time and resources with 160 underpriviledged children to promote basic hygiene, education and opportunities to rise above their poverty-stricken environment;

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