Gated communities in Guatemala City : A socio-spatial perspective

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In recent years many researchers have paid attention to the phenomenon of gated communities due to the role they play in the ongoing transformation of the urban realm. It is namely argued by many researchers that gated communities enhance social exclusion as groups of people are being excluded from these private spaces (Caldeira, 1996; Coy, 2006; Borsdorf, Hidalgo and Sanchez, 2007). Gated communities are a globally emerging form of urban living (Hamers et. al 2007, p. 45). With their arrival to the urban realm, they not only make a spatial impact, but also a social impact. The gates and walls that are erected to close off a living area in a neighbourhood, can also make changes in the ways people are able to meet each other in their everyday lives. The focus of this theses is on gated communities in Latin America, and more specifically in Guatemala City. The city counts a growing number of gated communities, both in the inner city as in the surburban area. To gain insight in the social and the spatial impact gated communities make on the city, two gated communities have been studied. One in the inner city area, Residenciales Cipresales and one in the suburban area, Alamedas de Villaflores. They differ in the spatial position towards the surrounding neighbourhood, as Residenciales Cipresales is located in a larger neighbourhood area, and Alamedas de Villaflores is spatially more separated from its social surroundings. By examining whether the social soft border (the extent to which there is social interaction between gated community residents and people in their immediate surroundings) overlaps with the physical hard border of the gated communities, insight has been gained in the extent to which a gated community is a sustainable phenomenon. This has been done by empirical research on the social networks of the gated community residents. The results of this research showed that there does not exist deep social integration between both gated communities and their immediate surrounding. The social networks of gated community residents are built of relations between people inside rather then much social relations with people in the immediate surroundings. Only minimum contact exists, mainly in the religious-, commercial-, or family sphere. This means that there is no major overlap from the social over the spatial border. The social border follows the spatial border in more or less the same way. The gates and walls do not provide openness for people from both sides to meet each other. Gated communities do not facilitate social integration, but enhance social exclusion. As the walls keep rising and people have no chance to meet each other regularly, fear will rise towards people that are not part of the gated community.
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