Ecuador: A culture of distrust, case study of gated communities

Posted on October 26, 2016 • Filed under: Ecuador, Social Issues

Do Gated Communities Represent a Problem For Society?
A study of the impact of Gated Communities in Machala,
Cristhian Hernández

The effects of Gated Communities (GCs) were analysed. According to the literature, these
urban artefacts are negative for society. They are blamed to provoking social segregation,
social exclusion and undermining democracy. In a Latin American context the
consequences could be worse. Latin America has the highest level of social inequality in
the world and the rapid growth of GCs is making this inequality more visible. This study implemented the concept of Social Capital, in order to understand the urban problems in this urban geography. The study is based in Machala, a mid-sized city in Ecuador. It was
found that GCs’ residents lack of trust of outsiders, residents are more distant from
disadvantage groups, social networks are being homogenised and there is a stigmatisation of life outside the community’s walls. This study seeks to create awareness on the type of urban growth in Machala by exploring the consequences of fragmentation, privatisation
and segregation via GCs

2.3 Gated Communities in Ecuador
There not many studies on GCs that solely focus on Ecuador, often is part of regional studies. Nonetheless the work by Espinosa & Ospina (2009, p. 6) is particularity relevant. Thus the authors argued three main elements that led to development of GCs in Ecuador:
Developers, strong middle class and crime. Espinosa and Ospina explain that insecurity in Ecuador is used by developers taking advantage of it throughout publicity and creating fear. It is here that developers saw a way of making income by providing security via GCs. However, this would not have been possible for developers without the several factors that contributed to a strengthening of a middle class that now can afford to live in GC. economic dynamics that contributed to a strengthening of a middle class that can afford Gc living. The authors presented the following: 1) The lack of trust originated by the banking crisis in 1999 and the unfroze of resources of the financial sector. 2) The returns of capital from abroad which produced investment in properties and represented a better surplus value. 3) An increase in remittances which many Ecuadorians used to purchase properties, so increasing investment in the housing sector and benefits for developers.


8. Conclusion
This study was set to continue with the problem surrounding Gated Communities and has
identified issues and concerns with the focus on Machala, a mid sized city of Ecuador. GCs
origins is divided in two reasons. 1)Structural factors: these are economical, political and social aspects, for example the increase in crime and social inequality. 2) Subjective factors:these are motives, interests of individuals, for instance involving getting away from the rest of city and moving in with similar individuals for a better life and security. The problems surrounding GCs generally consist in the privatisation of public spaces, public life is done in private places and the public is no longer important; the fragmentation of the city had changed the way social groups activities are distributed; and the segregation makes the contact between different groups in society difficult, promoting an individualistic behaviour and careless feelings towards outside. Furthermore, the design of GCs besides offering security, are making the social differentiation in the city more visible while separating and stigmatisating outsiders in order to solve the problem of insecurity. These are some of general consequences found in the literature produced by GCs around the world, however some argue that not everything is negative, others believe there is not always exclusion but inclusion for those disadvantaged groups that live close to a GCs, nonetheless the evidence is not enough, more studies need to be done to prove the opposite.

The importance of this research is to create awareness of the type of urban growth experienced in Machala. In recent times the city experienced a fragmented urban growth
caused by new urban artefacts like business centres, shoppings malls and GCs that are spreading rapidly in different forms depending on the social class of the individuals. In
Ecuador GCs are mainly the response to the high level of insecurity, adding to this is the role of developers using the fear of crime and the new middle-classes strong purchasing power. Thus, the concern is on the negative reputation of GCs and in the context in which these are arising. Thereby, in a city with the background of Machala already with a society divided by class, having GCs could make thing worse. This thesis tries to create awareness in local authorities and developers to rethink and guarantee a better future for the citizen of Machala, especially the disadvantaged groups. This thesis applied a Case Study research by mixing qualitative and quantitative tools. Observations, interviews and a questionnaire were used in Ciudad Verde, a GC, and a non-gated community, Las Brisas, these were based on social capital dimensions. The main empirical findings demonstrated that GCs have a negative impact on society. The results showed that residents of Ciudad Verde have a higher level of distrust in outsiders, this means also a lack of social interaction with other social groups. It is
essential to comment on the physical environment of Ciudad Verde in contrast to Las Brisas, where sport areas and amenities facilitate social contact and encourage social relations between different groups. In contrast, within Ciudad Verde’s walls, norms and rules complicates social interaction with outsiders.

Machala is beginning a path that is changing the social spatial organisation of the city. The enclosure of Ciudad Verde can affect the poor and in particular the ones in the informal sector who depend entirely on informality to subsist. The data showed that residents in Ciudad Verde demonstrate less
solidarity to outsiders than in Las Brisas. Both places believe tranquility and privacy can
be threatened by informal workers and vendors, however in Las Brisas the presence of
these groups is not yet a worrisome issue and can bring benefits to both sides. Having
open neighbourhoods such as Las Brisas, informal workers and vendors can besides
making a living, establish relations with residents. Thus, social capital in the form of
bridging is possible. In Ciudad Verde this cannot happen, thereby the rapid growth of GCs
in Machala can contribute to concentrate poverty, less opportunities for this group to work
and interact with strong social networks that can impact their life positively.
Moving into
Ciudad Verde meant an improvement for the youth interviewees. The problem is that this
generation is growing up with similar individuals in terms of socio-economic background
and social interaction happens in exclusive and private places. So, the social network
pattern is becoming homogenised which can complicate the spreading of social capital in
the city. There are aspects that influenced this, the insecurity in the city and the security
measures of Ciudad Verde. This had created a stigmatisation of outsiders, in this case of
Las Brisas and its residents, which is often is described negatively.
More work is required based on social capital in relation to the urban growth in Latin America, how it can contribute to tackling poverty, inequality and social exclusion in this region. Studies that focus on social problems and from there create a more sustainable urban environment that allows social capital to reach everyone, understand the importance that physical environment has for those in poverty and exclusion. In recent years Latin America has made some impressive improvements in the reduction poverty, however there still a lot to do. READ ENTIRE RESEARCH PAPER


Share This Story
  • Print
  • Digg
  • StumbleUpon
  • Facebook
  • Yahoo! Buzz
  • Twitter
  • Google Bookmarks
  • Add to favorites
  • email