The Mega-city in Latin America
By the year 2000, Latin America will contain five metropolitan areas with more than 8 million people. Their combined population will be over 70 million, and approximately one Latin American in seven will live in those five cities. Two of them, Mexico City and Sco Paulo, will arguably be the world's two largest cities. The sheer number of people living in Latin America's mega-cities is not the only reason for looking at them carefully. Unfortunately, they also demonstrate many of the worst symptoms of the region's underdevelopment: vast areas of shanty towns, huge numbers of poor people, high concentrations of air and water pollution, and serious levels of traffic congestion. This book is about the prospects for their future. Several conclusions emerge from the book. First, the largest cities of Latin America differ greatly in terms of their future prospects. It is easier to be optimistic in Buenos Aires than in Lima. Second, whether urban problems improve or deteriorate has little to do with size of city and a great deal to do with trends in the wider economy and society. Third, Latin America's mega-cities are not going to grow to unmanageable proportions because their growth rates have generally slowed. Fourth, management is a critical issue for the future. The book examines the six largest cities (Mexico City, Sco Paulo, Buenos Aires, Rio de Janeiro, Lima, and Santa Fi de Bogota); discusses the demography of urban growth in the region; and focuses on the particularly sensitive issues of public administration, transportation, and land, housing, and infrastructure.
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Gustavo Riofri'o's contribution to Alan Gilbert's collection of case studies of Latin American cities,
"Lima: mega-city and mega-problem" pp 155-172 is a sensitive and sensible account
of Lima during its growth period circa 1950 thru 1994. Unlike many urbanists examining the phenomena of
Lima from on-high, Gustavo grounds his analysis in the realities Limenos faced: including--
authorities' laissez-fare attitude towards the invasions of surrounding desert land
that propelled Lima's sprawl and provided the urban poor with self-built owned housing in part
supported by their generation of an immense informal economy,
migrants fleeing rural guerrilla violence only to face (Shining Path's) Sendero Luminoso's attacks on
settlement leaders and on urban infrastructure in Lima, the ironies of periodic flooding
and chronic scarce potable water supply, the ever chaotic and time consuming poor urban transportation system.
Rather than seek correlations to theoretical hypothesis,
Riofrio deploys statistical data to illustrate a sympathetic and in my opinion accurate description.