CAIRN-INT.INFO : International Edition

1The aim of this collective work is to understand the urban changes that are occurring in major Latin American metropolises in the early twenty-first century. As is indicated by the name of the project this work developed out of – METAL: Métropoles d’Amérique latine dans la mondialisation: reconfiguration territoriales, mobilité spatiale, action publique [METAL: Latin American metropolises in the globalization process: territorial restructuring, spatial mobility, public policy], emphasis here is on the restructuring of metropolises at the territorial level, inhabitants’ spatial mobility practices, the effects of public policy, and how these metropolises fit into the globalization process.

2The authors –the four editors and approximately twenty Latin American or French researchers from a variety of disciplines, including geography, urban planning, demography, sociology, economics and statistics – study three of the seven Latin American cities with over 5 million inhabitants in 2000: São Paulo (Brazil), Santiago (Chile) and Bogotá (Columbia).

3Chapter 1 analyses the specificities of the three cities and their shared characteristics. They differ in size (São Paulo has over 19.7 million inhabitants, Bogotá 7.7 million and Santiago 5.6 million) but also the position they occupy in their national urban systems (Santiago is the main city whereas the others share that role with other cities), administrative rank (Bogotá and Santiago are capital cities) and international migration systems (Santiago and São Paulo are now migrant destinations whereas Bogotá is a city of international emigration). Santiago appears the wealthiest and most developed of the three; Bogotá is characterized by high unemployment and low income. All three cities are at the same stage of urban and demographic transition: population growth is now due more to natural increase than migration flows.

4Chapter 2 presents the METAL project and explains project methodology. The quantitative data come from national censuses and specific project surveys. Censuses were used above all to describe and analyse metropolitan spaces in terms of four spatial unit levels: the municipio (approximately 30 in each metropolis), the district (approximately one hundred per metropolis), the section (thousands per metropolis) and the rough equivalent of a city block (tens of thousands per metropolis). After harmonizing the census data for the three metropolises and the census yeas, [5] the authors developed an information system made up of simple indicators that allow for comparing metropolises and studying changes over time. To this were added three quantitative surveys on types of spatial mobility, all conducted in 2009. Household samples were drawn at two levels: city blocks representative of the diversity of each city’s population (10 survey zones) and a thousand randomly selected households within those zones. The mobility questionnaire was drawn up using event history surveys conducted in France and Southern countries; it collected the personal migration histories of all household members, household’s residential “system” over the preceding 12 months, [6] and daily living area and family location at the time of the survey. Lastly, approximately one hundred qualitative interviews were conducted with persons residing in the different metropolises and former inhabitants who had migrated to European cities.

5The findings are presented in eight chapters. Two examine macroscopic changes in the cities: “models of settlement in Bogotá and Santiago in the early twenty-first century” (Chapter 3) and “trends in residential segregation intensity and scale” in the three cities (Chapter 4). The findings presented in Chapter 3 qualify the urban settlement model according to which metropolises go through three consecutive phases – densification, depopulation of city centres and expansion of city outskirts: expansion and densification propensities were found to vary considerably from one metropolis to another and are not homogeneous within metropolises. But an overall trend can be observed: Bogotá is densifying while Santiago is expanding. Chapter 4 shows that spatial distribution by social class varies by metropolis and that the “centres of gravity” of the various social classes have a tendency to pull apart. In Bogotá, the relatively wealthy northern area contrasts with the northwest, primarily inhabited by the middle classes, and the south, composed of poor neighbourhoods, whereas in Santiago the rich cono de alta renta in the northeast contrasts with the rest of the metropolis; in Sao Paulo, on the other hand, social class distribution is concentric, social conditions worsening with distance from the centre. A considerable contribution of this chapter is its close examination of spatial segregation scales, which are found to vary: in Santiago segregation occurs at the level of the municipality, whereas in Bogotá it only appears if the focus is narrowed to the neighbourhood.

6Chapters 5 and 6 analyse migrations at the individual scale. Chapter 5 studies urban integration of internal and international migrants. METAL survey data allow for observing inhabitants’ migration trajectories in detail: number of internal moves, number of international moves, length of residence each time. Trajectories toward São Paulo are more direct than trajectories toward the other two metropolises, especially toward Bogotá, which often receives migrants with complex international migration histories. Analysis of neighbourhoods in which different migrant groups live shows a tendency for migrants of the same origin to cluster in given neighbourhoods, a phenomenon related to residential segregation, of course, but also to the role played by information and mutual assistance networks in access to housing. Chapter 6, on “the experience of migrating to Europe and its urban effects”, analyses qualitative interviews with former inhabitants of the three metropolises: Paulistanos in Lisbon, Santiagoans in Paris and Bogotans in Barcelona. Respondents’ representations of the given Latin American city and cities altogether tend to change in the course of their migration trajectory. As they put it, there is a sharp contrast between the major Latin American metropolises and the “human-sized”, “less segregated” European cities. Respondents’ changed view of cities in general and certain urban practices (leisure walks, taking public transportation) seems to have social effects when they return to their home metropolis, if only for a visit: they tend to value and spend time in different urban areas than before (those with historical monuments, socially mixed neighbourhoods).

7Chapter 7, “Living in the metropolis: mobility and residential choice,” is the core of the work (and the METAL research project). This makes sense, since intra-city residential mobility is essential in a context where endogenous growth has taken over from growth through migration. The many findings here work to qualify the assumption that residential mobility is becoming more intense while bringing to light inequalities between “supermobiles” and “immobiles,” including within the same family. The perimeters involved seem tighter, and residential strategies develop in connection with family dynamics (seeking to remain close to the family) and job-related ones (keeping work commutes as short as possible).

8After the analyses of metropolis inhabitants’ residential mobility and migration trajectories in Chapters 5, 6 and 7, the book turns to daily mobility. Socio-territorial inequalities are examined in a context of renewed state reinvestment in public transportation (the development of rapid transit bus systems in the 2000s). The last two chapters discuss specific problem areas: city centre gentrification and access to housing in city outskirts.

9Each of the book’s chapters can stand alone, and a review of the literature on the chapter topic, together with boxed methodology summaries, help the reader understand and interpret the findings. This is a valuable work for the insight it offers into the complex ties between mobility and urban change at a variety of scales, ranging from individuals to places, daily movement to international migration.


  • [5]
    1993 and 2005 for Bogota; 1992 and 2002 for Santiago; 1991 and 2000 for São Paolo.
  • [6]
    Length and regularity or frequency of occupancy in the different housing units.
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