The Pan-American Highway : informality urbanism in Latin American border cities

Suau, Cristian; Kite, Stephen and Odgers, Juliet and McVicar, Mhairi, eds. (2015) The Pan-American Highway : informality urbanism in Latin American border cities. In: Economy and Architecture. Routledge, London, pp. 175-186. ISBN 9781138025479

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Informal urban economies are neither residual nor marginal but rather the most dynamic sector of any fast-growing global market. New urban corridors, mega-urban and city regions are emerging across borders in the Americas. Frontiers are frequently zones of transition, more significant in maps or landscapes rather than culturally. Due to the rapid externalisation of production and services, the flows of capital and new transport networks in Latin America, border economies are transforming their informal urban frameworks into dynamic systems of trade and migration. American border cities operate as strategic economic regions gateways. Border informality consists of unstable urban systems in continuous transformation. It generates ‘instant urbanity’ that constructs transitory, elusive or spontaneous -randomised or not- geometries and types such as shantytowns, flea markets, junk-spaces, etc. This study reflects on the dynamic phenomena of informal conditions in border cities along the land-transport infrastructure of the Pan-American Highway through infrastructural urbanism, political geography and urban landscape’s studies. The methodology is mapping-based urban research (selective literature review, satellite imagery and fieldworks). Two distinctive cases of urban border conditions have been selected and compared: El Paso and Ciudad Juarez (US-Mexico border) and the borderland between Arica and Tacna (Chile-Peru border).