Mangin starts off generally describing squatter settlements and their origins. They are suburbs of cities, appear globally and are linked to urbanization. They mainly started to increase after WWII. This is important to remember throughout the article because many studies, examples, and references are from the 1940’s through the 1970’s. One interesting point Mangin makes that influenced my perception of squatter settlements, is they are not one class communities. As he talks throughout the article about the varying types of people in these communities he describes a variety of jobs and housing. Also important to remember is squatter settlements are different from projects. The inhabitants of these communities are usually rural people, who live very chaotically and unorganized, with a high probability of unemployment. Mangin says squatter settlements are a problem and he offers solution theories later in his conclusion. Latin America has a them of being pro-city, and anti-farm which is different from other countries like the US for example, who seems to prefer more of a quieter town setting outside the city. The three major topics discussed are family economy and culture.


On the topic of family Mangin says that domestic assaults are common where as all other kinds are not. This seemed disturbing to me. The home set up typically was a mother and a father, with the father at the head of the house. Split house holds were not as common. Mangin talked about the topic of extended family like we have discussed in previous classes. Large families could possibly control a large section of a community. There is a high birth rate which obviously adds to the size of your extended family.


On the topic of economics, it is hard to study the squatter communities I’m assuming because of a lack of legitimacy. My favorite quote in the article came on this topic, Mangin says that “low level tax evasion, a national past time”. There are four main economic benefits to squatter communities. To start they are a an investment in housing and land development. I understood this as, when developing a neighborhood, it’s better to just improve what is there as opposed to starting from scratch. They also benefit in the job market because many people who live in these settlements take up service jobs. There is also a benefit in the fact that people work within the settlement. And lastly there is an intangible benefit of social capital in the creation of a community.


The last major theme discussed is the culture and the cultural impact of these settlements. As we saw in one of the documentaries in class, many people have 2-3 hour commutes to work in the city, where they most likely have a service job. Most of their news and information comes from the newspaper and plug in radios. Earlier in the article Mangin said that these settlements can be a breeding ground for communism, but here he said most people tend to be slightly conservative, or at least more conservative than the middle class. It’s more of a “don’t let them take it away” not “rise and kill the oligarchy”. One topic discussed that I found a little confusing was the social participation. Mangin says there is a lack of social participation in the settlements because of ignorance and illiteracy. At the same time I thought he said some have decent jobs? Also the settlements are good for patronizing in movies, TV and sports, but wouldn’t patronizing be a form of social participation? One thing that comes to mind is the festival in Brazil that’s once a year where the poor from the favelas come out and enjoy classless-ness for a week but otherwise, they aren’t really seen or heard.


In Mangins conclusion, he offers theories of solutions to the squatter settlement problem, but at the same time says they are a solution themselves. Squatter settlements represent a solution to the complex problem of rapid urbanization and migration combined with a housing shortage. Other theories offered are to send all of the inhabitants back to the farms from which they came. The mostly politically appropriate theory is to support with government aid.


The fourth article was Dona Flora and the “informal Sector” Debate – Entrepreneurial strategies in a Bolivian Enterprise by Hans Buechler. This at first came off as a tough read and took me a second to get a hold of what was being discussed. This article is about a case study two scholars did on a company in Bolivia. The article starts how ever discussing two classifications for companies: formal and informal. A formal company is one that plays by the rules, has government ties, and has no corruption. An informal company is one that could be involved in an illegal market, cheats on taxes, evades taxes or harmful taxes etc. The informal sector is on the rise at the cost of the formal sector.


The case study is on a company called Dona Flora that sells sewn goods for a the most part. They study Dona’s personal life and analyze basic day-to-day decisions she makes regarding the company, her finances, and even family matters. Dona’s company at separate times was formal and informal. It was formal because it involved many individuals, government interactions, and made transactions of thousands of dollars. However at one time it was Informal because it shrank to just a few workers, and she was illegally exporting goods.


Right after her business started the “lost decade” began plaguing much of South America. This was a time of national debt, decreasing production, and a high unemployment rate. It was unfortunate to see her company just get off the ground, just to be brought back down because of political turmoil. This is when they begin to analyze a lot of the decisions she made with the firm (employees, suppliers, customers etc.). An important topic they discuss is the difference between family employees and non family employees. From the family perspective, it wouldn’t be very beneficial to have all members working for a company that was in the slumps during a depression. Having worked for a family business (not my own, a close family friends) I can definitely understand the difference between kin employees and non-kin and the effects it could have. A family business is all in do or die and your life revolves around it, however it would be a good safety net to having family members working other jobs for income. I thought it was most interesting how Dona’s most important relationships were the ones she had with her clients abroad. The export business requires a network of connecting including links with wealthy upper class people, government officials, and government officials.

2 thoughts on “

  1. Interesting takes on both articles. I like how your problematized the idea that squatter settlements are outside of social and political activity and integration. This is exactly what Janice Perlman was arguing in her books, The Myth of Marginality and Favela. With the story of Dona Flora, I read the article slightly differently. What I took away was that there may not be a clear line between the formal and informal economies, with the former often relying on the latter. Dona Flora’s business was an example of how she used aspects of both “economic models/systems.”

  2. I also found the multiple classes interesting. This article seemed to greatly reinforce Perlman’s research and experiences with Favelas. I also thought the idea of seeing despair but believing in the future was inspiring. Dona Flora’s article was quite disappointing. I thought it was unfortunate that despite all of the enterprise building, pieces seemed to simply fall apart. I think the idea of networking is something we still enforce in today’s society.

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