tv Witness LINKTV April 13, 2022 3:00am-3:31am PDT
i've come a long way for this one, to one of the largest, southernmost cities in the world. for the entire time that i've been alive, buenos aires and argentina have suffered under an oppressive and brutal military dictatorship, or faced one massive economic meltdown after another. the international profile of this city is tango, football, latin lifestyle - a south american city with a european feel. but what about the porteños, the nickname for the citizens of buenos aires? how do they roll with it? these politics, economics and growing social inequality. what is it like to struggle to build a more
life-sized city when you're constantly having to reboot, regroup, take a deep breath and start all over again? - plagued by political and economic crises, argentina's been down on its luck - to say the least - for quite a while now. its capital, buenos aires, has managed to stay on its feet, and remains the epicenter of the nation's economy.
unfortunately, not everyone shares in the wealth. austerity measures have hit the lower and middle classes, and citizens - the porteños - are desperately seeking alternative ways to renew their multifaceted metropolis. so, what gives? on the one hand, buenos aires has a reputation for multiculturalism that gives every neighbourhood a sense of vitality. on the other, it's facing some serious urban challenges that almost make it seem a bit run-down - challenges the people have no choice but to tackle head-on, every single day, to make their city more life-sized. i like to think of buenos aires as a very rebel city. it has a long tradition of social mobilizations and basically fighting for rights: better housing, medication, salaries, so we're always going to the streets.
wherever you go on any day in buenos aires, you might find somebody protesting. - architect, urbanist, activist - guadalupe knows what it means to put up a fight. and the neighbourhood of la boca has a long history of protest in this city. this is where the first wave of italian immigrants arrived in the early 20th century. the italian workers set up unions. employers neglected their rights. the workers retaliated. conditions improved, sure, but not without, you guessed it, a good fight. man, the art of protest is simply imprinted on this city's dna. we're always looking for better conditions in everything. it's not based on the individual situation but rather the collective sense that somebody might be worse than you are. what are the primary challenges that buenos aires faces
that get people out on the streets? we have a major issue with the real estate market and how it is developing and the concentration of land. land prices are going up, are rising at a dramatic pace. for example, here in la boca, what we see is that corporations, big developers, are buying properties to turn them into art galleries or restaurants, or bars, so basically, the population that lives in the neighbourhood is being displaced. once you displace the people, the city loses its spirit, it's losing its identity, it's losing its dna. so the more you make it attractive for foreign capital, the more you're losing the identity that made it interesting in the first place. - la boca exemplifies this dilemma. this working-class neighbourhood, with its colourful houses and welcoming vibes, has become, yup, a popular tourist district. and like elsewhere in the world, investors are doing their bit
to make it even more popular. the problem? as money flows in, residents are pushed out. there are a lot of evictions going on, around three evictions per week. evictions are getting more and more violent every time. the right to housing is what is at stake. people are trying to fight back for places to live in. so we have a lot of organizations that are proposing alternative public policies, that are trying to work with the government to develop better public policies in terms of access to housing, to ownership or rental. like a family or a couple of young professionals may have to face a rental that is over 50% or even 60% of their monthly income. wow! that's a lot. it's a lot. - yeah. - to protect residents, citizens in and outside la boca are mobilizing to fight the mass evictions through legal action and good, old-fashioned protest.
you can try to take the porteños out of the fight, but you can never take the fight out of the porteños... you're telling me about the struggles that you're facing, but the narrative is also like over 100 years, right? sure, yeah. i mean, where's the light at the end of the tunnel? yeah. i mean, what i try to think is that if there hadn't been so much resistance and struggle, things would have been much worse. it's a constant cycle. i mean, we haven't reached a quality of life in the city where you would say: "o.k. now, we can sit and rest." so are you optimistic about the future of the city? yes, i am optimistic. get out! i would say i am a pessimist with information. oh! that's a good one. yes. a pessimist with information. yes. yeah, we are optimistic, you know, because that's why we're still fighting. yes, i do think things could get better. i do believe in our power d our historical power to fight for better conditions. so yes, we're going to push it a little more.
- as i've seen in many other cities in the world, social inequality is on the rise here in buenos aires: the wealthiest 10% earn almost 17 times more per year than the bottom 10%. now, to give you some context, in canada it's only 8.6 times higher. but there are things that can be done on a smaller scale to help bridge the gap for low-income citizens - simple things like sharing and saving basic resources.
- what began as a group of friends trying to do some good has evolved into plato lleno, an organization managing some 200 volunteers who carry out over 70 "food rescues" each year! how cool is that? and it's simple: plato lleno collects uneaten food from across the city, and uses that food to feed the less fortunate. they're kind of like the robin hood of food waste... except without the stealing part. we're headed to a community centre where these leftovers will be turned into nutritious meals for kids living in this low-income area. and believe me, not a single slice of bread goes to waste. you're taking the photos... - yes. ... and we're writing down the weight,
o.k. - now, should you have doubts about the success of the operation, know this: in 2018, plato lleno saved - let's call it repurposed - more than 200 tons of food from catered events, office ceterias, convention centres, and wholesalers across the city. they've already done it in five other cities in latin america. just wait until this really takes off! all you need are proactive citizens, and a way to transport food.
yeah. that would be horrible. - like most cities in the world, buenos aires was bike-friendly for decades, but that was a couple of generations ago. so in recent years, daniel nazero was one of the only cyclists in town. until 2010, that is, when the city finally started investing in bicycle mobility. over 140 km of bike lanes have been built, along with a popular bike-share system. and it's working! bike commuting went up 4% in just few years. and daniel just might help improve this number by giving people access to more bikes. his organization, la rueda popular - "wheels for the people" - gives new life to old bikes,
with help from community centres and ngos, daniel and his crew have given out 4,000 bikes in four years! it's a life-sized success story: citizens delivering bikes to the next generation, thereby creating the future urban cycling population. this... this is my kind of fairytale. everybody wants a bike. everybody wants a bike. so what other places do you deliver bikes to? you'll get the bike to them. yeah. o.k. that's cool.
so, for you, daniel, what is a bicycle? transport in a big city? what is the bicycle to you? it's balance. at the end of a segment like this, i'm supposed to wrap it up with a little monologue about my experiences. i don't really think it's necessary here because, you know what? those kids say it all.
- as we head to the outskirts of the city, i can't help but notice the affluent gated communities bordering rapidly expanding informal settlements. here, the divide between the haves and the have-nots is glaringly evident. pablo! hi mikael! how are you? hey! good. how are you doing? nice to meet you. all right, pablo. give me a little bit of context. i know i'm about 40 kilometres away from buenos aires.
yes. but what is this neighbourhood? how would you describe this place? this neighbourhood is called salas. it's a vulnerable neighbourhood, and we're building solar collectors for families who do not have access to hot water and we make everything with reused material. for example, plastic bottles, aluminum cans, tetra bricks - all that is usually burned. here, we're going to build a solar collector that is going to give hot water to families 80% of the year. this is a very...you said a "vulnerable neighbourhood". - yes. very low-income? yeah. low-income. why don't they have hot water? is it because there are no pipes out here or they have no way of heating the water that they do have? there are no water pipes. they are pumping the water from the ground. usually, they heat water with gas and then, they wash themselves with a jar. they're not used to having a shower in their houses and we're building exactly that for them. - just like parts of brazil, temperatures in buenos aires can hover around the freezing point in winter. so when pablo and his friends saw someone in brazil use homemade solar panels to heat things up,
they decided to give it a try. today, i'm helping them build two new hot water systems for local families in dire need of better amenities. we're going to give a shape to it and we're going to put the pipe inside. - right. and that's going to absorb the heat radiation. it's going to conduct it to the pipe. it's going to heat the water. so you're going to stick it in like that. exactly. - o.k. cool. we're going to do that. all right. and these cans here, this could also be their garbage. - yes. right? and the plastic bottles and whatnot, right? so we're actually reusing what they're using. yes. and if not, that's being burned in the neighbourhood, so imagine arriving in a neighbourhood and telling them that this can, instead of being burned, is going to give them hot water. that's just crazy. at first, they don't believe you, but when they put their hand under the shower and it's hot, they just say thank you. all the way. yeah. - here's how it works: volunteers collect discarded material and learn how to build the solar heaters.
the money raised through workshops and donations fund the water tanks and pipes. before you know you it, you're pumping hot water to the people who need it, at a very low cost. added bonus? the project encourages a respectable amount of recycling. and that is desperately needed here. in argentina, only 30% of plastic bottles are recycled. compare that to 70% in canada or 93.5% in germany. the people here have their work cut out for them, but pablo and his gang have jump-started a whole new process. so just painting a can with some matte... yes. ...black paint is going to heat up the water in there. yes. and that's crazy. it's even going to work during winter in buenos aires. that is so incredibly simple. yes. we go house by house and usually, when we go to one family, they're going to recommend us to another
family who needs it, or to some friends, for example. that's a community, right? everybody talks. - exactly. this one is going to do the greenhouse effect, so basically, all the heat radiation that is going to come here is going to stay. the next thing we're going to do is put a second layer of bottles. there's a second one here, right? no. is there a second one there? yes. this one is the second one. o.k. and we'll have a small layer of foil that's going to act as insulation. - o.k. so on pretty cold days in buenos aires, it's still going to work and it's going to heat hot water to families. so here, what we have is the second layer of bottles. it's hot to touch. yes. imagine inside the can. it's really, really hot. let's get it to the roof. hola, chicos! from the top of the solar collector, it's going to go directly through a pipe to the middle of the tank, and from the lower part of the tank, it's going
to go to this pipe and it's going to go through the whole solar collector. and it's going to go up from the lower part of the solar collector and once it gets heated, it will go up because it gets less dense, basically. that's how it works. how many of these have you installed? we have installed 154 to this day. today, we're adding two more. two more today. - yes. o.k. and another question: how long does that last? well, we built the first one four years ago and it has been working well. we're expecting it to work for at least 10 years. - the families who get these systems don't have to pay for anything. but they do have to help by collecting the material and working with the volunteers. how did you hear about the hot water system and this guy? is this going to change your daily life, having this?
and are they going to tell other people in the neighbourhood about it? o.k. but we have to see if it works first. there it is. you can touch the water if you want. ow! yeah. o.k. that's actually hot. you see? yeah. right. it's really hot and that's only with the sun's energy. yeah. it's really cool. totally hot. that is so cool.
you have it open source, so other people can run with it. what's the vision? yes. we want latin america to take it, to embrace the solar collector, and we also want to build thousands of solar collectors in argentina. by that time, we're not only going to be having an impact on the families' lives, but we're going to be having a huge environmental impact, and that's what we're aiming for. housing is one of the most serious problems that buenos aires faces. like many other cities in the world, they have informal settlements. we know them as shantytowns, slums, favelas. here, they're called villa. i'm on a fault line in a way, between the incredibly rich area behind me and the other end of the scale. i'm going to meet a man from the city of buenos aires who's going
to tell me how they're tackling this issue. welcome. - thank you. what you see over there, it's puerto madero. it's one of the richest neighbourhoods in buenos aires. and where we are is rodrigo bueno. it's one of the neighbourhoods that has the most disadvantages nowadays. what happened here is that when that neighbourhood was built, people who worked on those buildings, they started to settle here and they started to live here like 30 years ago. so they started building some houses here and the neighbourhood started to grow. - juan maquieyra heads up the buenos aires housing institute, where one of his biggest projects is well underway. around 10% of the city's 2.8 million inhabitants lives in informal settlements known as villas. that's a lot of people living in sub-par conditions. on top of that, these villas have next to no social link with the rest of the city. that's a big problem, one the housing institute is trying to solve.
backed by the government and other international institutions, juan's ambitious goal is to upgrade the living conditions and connect the villas to other, more prosperous areas in the city. is your job bringing the city to this neighbourhood, or bringing the people of this neighbourhood to the city? both. generally, with the villas or informal settlements, people believe, in many cases, that people don't want to work, they have nothing to offer the city, they're just living on public land. we believe the opposite. we have a lot of creativity, a lot of energy, a lot of ideas and what we're trying to do is try to bring the city here and to connect the neighbourhood to the city. has it always been like this in buenos aires, where the city has been eager to listen to the citizens and address their needs? no, not at all. i do believe that we have one the most avant-gardist approaches in the region for what we're doing in terms of integration. first of all,
we call it "integration" and we don't speak about urbanization because that only involves the work that you do on the buildings. but we also believe that there's huge work to do with the people. i love...you know, as we walk through this neighbourhood, somebody's selling sim cards. yes. and then there's also a little sign in the window saying: "we sell ice." here, you have for example people selling dvds. beer. beer, for sure. there's going to be a lot of places selling beef, also for sure. ice and beer right there. you have great places to buy food too. we have to make everyone able to live in a house that has the same qualities as any other house in the city. you may help a family and you may give them a good home, but if they live in a neighbourhood that is disconnected from the rest of the city, you're still promoting segregation and inequality. that's why we build this whole infrastructure for all the services to be able to enter the new neighbourhood. we open roads for the police
and everyone to be able to enter the neighbourhood. we make sure that public transportation gets to the neighbourhood, and that's a key thing. we also work for people to be close to a hospital, for everyone in the neighbourhood to be in school if they are between three years old and 18 years old. and we also work with different programs to promote employment here in the barrio. - rodrigo bueno is ideally located: near the downtown core and right next to a tourist hot spot, the reserva ecologica. the city will build pedestrian pathways connecting the neighbourhood to these more popular areas. a public market will be created. and, with a little luck, locals and tourists alike will discover rodrigo bueno's already well-established neighbourhood restaurants in no-time. is this what you're building? yes. almost half of the neighbourhood is next to a little river that goes south
to the rio de la plata and there is a lot of risk of flooding. so all those houses, we have to demolish them. we're going to do that only after we have moved the people to these houses that we are building. we're building houses in buildings that have the same quality of construction as the rest of the city. we're building them in sustainable ways. what else is going to happen with the cool old-school neighbourhood here? the houses are going to stay here. we're going to improve them. we believe in preserving the identity of the neighbourhood. that's why it's very important for these houses to keep their own identity because these were built by the neighbours. we want to respect that and we want to preserve that. the small streets, are you going to try to preserve that as well? - yes. this is a car-free community, which is really kind of cool these days. exactly. the only place where cars are going to be allowed to circulate freely is this road that we're walking on now. the little path where we walked before is going to be preserved. where did this start? was this the first villa
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