- Beyond the City: Resource Extraction Urbanism in South America by Felipe Correa
South America has experienced three distinct phases of urban change since the mid-nineteenth century, beginning with the Belle Époque that brought railroads, agricultural industrialization, and immigrants primarily to Argentina and Brazil. Import substitution industrialization followed in the mid-twentieth century, with urban impacts beyond the [End Page 207] capital cities. More recently, the forces of globalization have restructured South America’s world cities, as well as the smaller urban centers that support the region’s economic matrix. Often described as an urban donut, where the majority of people live around the coastal margins of the continent, South America has been analyzed most frequently through the lens of these traditional outwardly focused centers, with less attention paid to interior towns and cities. Felipe Correa aims to address this gap in the urban literature by exploring the development of five interior cities that exemplify what he calls “resource extraction urbanism.” These five case studies are framed by an introductory chapter on how resource extraction unfolded in South America over the centuries, and by a concluding chapter on these cities’ legacy for the future economic and urban development of the continent.
Resource extraction strategies impacted South America from the early days of colonialism, with the movement of minerals and agricultural products shaping how and where settlements and trade routes were established and maintained. An important argument presented by Correa in his analysis is that regional integration had never been part of the overall strategy of national urban and economic growth until recently. With the foundation of IIRSA (Integration of Regional Infrastructure in South America), a supranational organization that commits the majority of the continent’s countries to building infrastructure that will inextricably intertwine resources, consumers, population centers, and exporters, there are many questions about how existing resource extraction sites will be impacted by growth and change across the region. This book explores the historical development of five interior cities against the backdrop of these ongoing integration efforts. Its innovative contribution is to examine the design and social imagination of these cities in the national context and to show how urban concepts and technical expertise external to the region were critical to the success of these projects.
Correa’s selection of case studies does not seem to have a particular unifying theme, but rather seems designed to exemplify the different types of resource urbanism that occurred around the continent. Chapter one explores the reasons for building Belo Horizonte in southeastern Brazil, within a zone dominated by mining and coffee production. Planned at the height of the Belle Époque period, the city aimed to symbolize Brazilian progress towards modernity, and it paved the way for future imaginative cities like Goiâna and Brasilia. In chapter two, the Chilean mining town of María Elena is contextualized within the emerging spatial dynamics of nitrate and, later, copper extraction and exemplifies efforts to bring the “city beautiful” movement to South America. A key goal of this movement was to improve the overall quality of life for residents of industrial towns, yet the provision of adequate housing bedeviled María Elena during its heyday as a mining town. Chapter three asks critical questions about the relationship between corporations that establish resource-centered towns and the people who make up these communities. Along the north coast of Venezuela, the petrol towns of Judibana and El Tablazo offer a glimpse into strategies to address the migration to, and urbanization of, western Venezuela driven by the oil economy, and the tensions that inevitably arise between corporate strategies and residents’ needs. Correa argues that, despite the goal of Judibana to demonstrate the positives of public-private partnerships in urban development, the experience of oil camps in Venezuela as model urban projects did not influence other oil-development areas in the Amazon Basin. He is concerned that current oil exploration in South America [End Page 208] presents a “grim environmental scenario for the region” (84...