Elizabeth Ontaneda

Major and Classification

International Relations, Economics

Faculty Mentors

  • Professor Carol Wise & Professor Clara Irazabal


  • International Relations

McNair Project

“Spatializing governance: the construction of an alternative geography of citizenship in Villa El Salvador, Lima, Peru”

The urban “slum” settlement, or barriada, of Villa El Salvador in Lima, Peru is a relevant working case study for Lima’s geographically and socially marginal areas since the settlement’s founding in 1971 as a showcase for the Velasco military regime’s urban settlements program. This status as showcase settlement provided Villa El Salvador privileged access to central government resources, but also a potentially clientelistic relationship characterized by unequal state-settler relationship requiring subordination of political rights for material state obligations (Fox 1994). These ties to the central government ended when the Velasco regime was overthrown and Villa El Salvador had to organize to demand services like other barriadas. Rather than contest the land they lived on for its state legitimacy vis-�-vis the legal system, residents instead demanded land security, basic services and decision-making control from the central government through grassroots network organizations. Although originally guided by state agencies, these organizations were the basis of Villa El Salvador’s civil society and were necessarily spatially situated by marginalization from land rights and from the public space. These soup-kitchens, education and public safety committees were not only the survival mechanisms of marginality, but an endogenous effort to renegotiate the changed boundaries of state and civil society after clientelism within a spatial context. Such a contestation of space–both physical and public–questions the rift between the settlers’ de jure and de facto rights vis-�-vis the state and thus, arguably, citizenship itself. The resurgence of governance mechanisms and partial formalization of the settlement as part of the municipality of Lima in the mid-eighties point to the role of governance in this contestation of marginal space and citizenship. This study analyzes how governance in Villa El Salvador has constructed an alternative geography of citizenship by contesting public and geographic space.