This is the second volume in a series on Latin American urban research. The first study, which introduced the reader to the Latin American urbanization phenomenon, was edited by Francine F. Rabinovitz and Felicity M. Trueblood, who also serve as overall series editors. Their volume included pieces by North American urbanists drawn from such fields as political science, sociology and history. The present volume, edited by Guillermo Geisse and Jorge E. Hardoy, Chilean and Argentine architects with advanced degrees in urban planning, contains 9 chapters and an appendix overview of the field. The 21 contributors come from 8 Latin American nations and Canada. Argentina contributes 6, Chile 4, Colombia 3 and Peru 2. Professionally, 11 contributors are or have been practicing architects or engineers. The other 10 authors have specialties in the fields of economics, law, sociology, anthropology and geography.
The volume begins with five theoretical chapters on urban and regional development policies followed by 13 case studies organized under four chapter headings concerning regional programs, urban policy and land reforms, metropolitan government and community development.
Hardoy opens the survey with a commendable summary of the positive and negative features of the continuing Latin American trend toward urbanization and the concomitant need for basic urban reforms. Among the key constituent variables required for effective reform are the control of land usage, capital investment and human resources. It is so clear an exposition of the whole gamut of urban problems from various social science perspectives that it makes subsequent chapters appear mildly redundant and superfluous.
Geisse and Coraggio’s follow up chapter poses three alternative development strategies available to Latin American nations: a) the present “dependency” relationship; b) the slow process of achieving greater autonomy, the socialization of resources and multiplication of internal markets; and c) the complete break with the “dependency” relationship. Option b) is considered the realistic one under which the Latin American metropolises must become centrally located regional developers and outreachers rather than encephalic, exploitative monsters. These opening chapters are then followed by essays by Utria, Melchior and Babarovic that deal with, in Babarovic’s words, the “gradual integration of national space along economic, sociocultural, political, and physical lines and eventual elimination of the duality between center and periphery.”
The apologia by the editors introducing the thirteen case studies does not help save the dreary monotonous litany of ad hoc urban programs, conceived and often aborted, in many Latin American countries. Few case studies (Acosta and Hardoy’s, and Robles Rivas’s are particular exceptions) have basic theoretical contributions to make. Most writers remain antiseptically asocio-political—a possible derivation of their technical training or the misapprehension that the U.S. social science community is exactly where it was in the mid-1950s.
The case studies are so well summarized by the editors that it leads one to believe that Geisse and Hardoy (had they not been in an ecumenical mood) would have been better off to substitute one or two of their own chapters on “urbanization and urban land reform” and “urbanization, housing and the marginal urban poor.” Their overall themes are: a) urban problems cannot be resolved by short-range solutions; and b) urban land reform is only a first step in urban reconstruction and reformation.
Most of the writers are revisionists in the sense that they plead for large “metropolitan area” solutions regardless of intranational political boundaries. They oppose the usual position of urban decentralization and have not yet been able to assess fully and evalute the Cuban experience of active ruralization.