Residents in Defence of Yungay Neighbourhood (Vecinos por la Defensa del Barrio Yungay)
- Non-Profit or Non Governmental
- General Issues
- Planning & Development
- Specific Topics
- Housing Planning
- Cultural Assimilation or Integration
- General Types of Methods
- Internal management or organization
- General Types of Tools/Techniques
- Facilitate dialogue, discussion, and/or deliberation
- Facilitate decision-making
- Plan, map and/or visualise options and proposals
Vecinos por la Defensa del Barrio Yungay is a community-run organization based in the Yungay neighbourhood in Santiago, Chile.
Mission and Purpose
Vecinos por la Defensa del Barrio Yungay (Residents in Defence of Yungay Neighbourhood – RIDYN) was formed with the goal of protecting the cultural heritage within the neighbourhood against the municipality’s newly elaborated zoning laws, which allowed the construction of buildings more than 10 stories high in the historic area. Through collective action, residents have been able to obtain recognition of Yungay as a national heritage site, gaining national and international attention in their struggle for creating a participatory culture among residents in order to be able to determine the future of their neighbourhood with the administration, and not just being subject to its decisions.
Origins and Development
Barrio Yungay is one of Santiago's oldest and biggest neighbourhoods, located in the western part of the city. In 1839, General Manuel Bulnes defeated the Peruvian-Bolivian forces in the small village of Yungay. In the same year, President Joaquín Prieto decided to make Yungay a neighbourhood in Santiago and encouraged settlers to move into and develop the area.
In the 1990s, the neighbourhood was remodelled after being declared a Zone of Urban Renovation (Zona de Renovación Urbana). The municipality of Santiago tried to stimulate the repopulation of the neighbourhood through subsidies. Within this initiative, parks were improved, children's playgrounds built, and cultural activities such as theatric plays, exhibitions and workshops were held in the main square iv. However, the new buildings constructed clashed with the older existing buildings in terms of size, style, and materials, heterogenising what was once an architecturally homogeneous area. In 2005 the municipality of Santiago altered their trash collection system to disastrous effects in Yungay. Residents gathered in assemblies and designed proposals for alternative trash collection possibilities.
Neighbours questioned the impact of high-rise buildings in their quality of life. The group Vecinos por la Defensa del Barrio Yungay (Residents in Defence of Yungay Neighbourhood) was formed in 2006 as an organized opposition to the municipality's modification project in the name of the historic and cultural heritage within the neighbourhood vii. They demanded the right to participate in deciding the future of their neighbourhood and to participate in the decision-making process in subjects that directly affected them.
Organizational Structure, Membership, and Funding
The organization does not receive municipal funding; it must solicit private organizations for the funding of individual projects. For instance, RIDYN sought the Fund for the Development of Regional, Provincial and Communal Social Media granted by the Ministerio Secretaria General de Gobierno de Chile, as well as the National Book Foundation in order to publish some issues of their Bello Barrio Magazines.
The organisation also sought Fondart (La Fundación para el Desarollo de Artesanías – The Foundation for the Development of Craftwork) for the development of the Heritage Study necessary for presenting their bid in order to become a National Heritage Site.
RIDYN worked together with the Fermín Vivaceta School in order to restore Yungay after the 2010 earthquake. To offset this effort’s lack of funds, the school charged $40,000 CLP to enrol in the 5-day course, and asked that residents provided their own materials. Later, these same workshops were (and still are) offered free of charge
Specializations, Methods and Tools
Since its inception, the group has held weekly meetings in which different commissions work on themes. These meetings are horizontal and open to anyone who wants to participate and work is carried on on a voluntary basis. Each member can choose a commission to work in depending on his or her interests and for as long as they wish to. Continued participation is guaranteed only by the sense of accomplishment neighbours develop as they see the fruit of their efforts materialise, that is, being able to actively contribute to changing the neighbourhood into a better place, not just waiting for the Municipality to come up with a solution and apply it viii.
After the unveiling of the modification plan neighbours started weekly meetings in order to discuss the modification project and its effects in the neighbourhood. In the first meeting, only six residents appeared. In the coming weeks, the word was spread around the neighbourhood about their existence and more people showed up. Attendees were not only residents of Yungay, but also former residents and the general public interested in its preservation ix: youths, artists, professionals, cultural managers, migrants and older adults are always present x. Within these meetings, strategic action lines have concentrated on the following themes:
- The legal protection of the neighbourhood through the declaration of national heritage site;
- the consolidation of a cultural network in the neighbourhood;
- the establishment of a sustainable neighbourhood;
- generating exchange opportunities with other neighbourhood;
- the creation of a national network of heritage zones;
- the creation of subsidies for home owners who live in national heritage sites;
- alternative proposals to the modification of Chilean town planning law (Petrowitsch 2012) xi.
According to members of the RIDYN, there are no assigned roles within the group. Each participate voluntarily and contributes with what they can. There is, nonetheless, a core group of 20 active members that are always involved in the activities of the organization xii. These assemblies prepare the councils and make a pre-selection of the themes that will be there debated.
The weekly assemblies are still being carried out.
Major Projects and Events
Residents in Defence of Yungay Neighbourhood mounted an effective campaign against municipal development plans, eventually getting Yungay designated as a National Heritage Site.
Analysis and Lessons Learned
Through encouraging resident participation, Vecinos por la Defensa del Barrio Yungay has allowed residents to take a newfound interest in their neighbourhood. Residents now actively participate in rehabilitation efforts, in tourism workshops, and in festival planning. Through these efforts Barrio Yungay is transforming itself from a once abandoned, dilapidated neighbourhood to an energetic, attractive area that draws in outsiders. These changes will hopefully have a positive economic effect on the neighbourhood as property values and tourism rates increase.
The horizontal organisation, the fluidity of participants as well as the lack of a written public protocol of the assemblies and councils makes it difficult to assess the internal working of the organisation and their decision-making practices. Such lack of information can lead one to wonder how much influence general residents truly had in these recent changes in their neighbourhood.
RIDYN faces a series of difficulties such as its inability to attract more residents within Yungay to participate in its assemblies and councils. Because citizen participation is a recent event in Chile, transforming it into a binding force in the various levels of governance instruments within the Chilean government is still a challenge.
As the organization looks to maintaining its future, it needs to establish a written, well-known set of guidelines for the way it is managed. This will ensure two things: 1) that the organization’s momentum and goals will not disappear when its current leaders retire, and 2) that residents’ voices will be guaranteed to be heard in a system of checks-and-balances. Currently no system is in place to ensure either of these factors crucial to the organization’s, as well as the neighborhood’s, permanence.
Official Website: http://www.elsitiodeyungay.cl/