De llacta a Comunidad del Milenio : neo-urbanismo en la Amazonía indígena Ecuatoriana
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The poverty rate in the Ecuadorian Amazon is 78.4% (INEC, 2012), and even higher in indigenous territories where extensive oil production is taking place. The Ecuadorian government has responded to these extreme poverty levels in indigenous territories through a variety of planning and development strategies, including the construction of housing projects to transform what is characterized as “marginal and poor” indigenous settlements into “dignified” communities. These so-called “Millennium Communities” are celebrated for their role in poverty alleviation. However, this public housing strategy raises several important concerns regarding the top-down, rational approach to planning and development in Ecuador, particularly in indigenous territories. This thesis examines the Millennium Community Pañacocha through ethnographic methods, field assessments of housing quality, and an analysis of regional planning and policy documents. The study found that several problems emerge from these housing projects due to the poor adaptability of the design to the environment, low-quality construction, lack of maintenance, including social and territorial conflicts and unemployment and social problems among residents. Even though Ecuador is a post-neoliberal regime that pursues a so-called “New Socialism of the 21st Century,” planning continues to be dominated by official authorities while local peoples’ visions and understandings of the landscape they traditionally inhabit are not considered in state development strategies. This research demonstrates that public housing programs in indigenous territories are driven by a discourse of “social justice” supported by neoliberal and neocolonial practices. Informed by this social justice discourse, the state delegates housing planning and implementation to the private sector in order to subjugate indigenous life systems into urban structures. More broadly, this work reveals how indigenous knowledge may contribute to a new form of “indigenous planning” based on indigenous knowledge, visions, and capacities, and building on indigenous institutions. Such indigenous planning would serve as a means to contest aggressive processes of acculturation, guarantee territorial self-governance, and provide for the exercise of their collective rights.