Google Maps in Buenos Aires: Slums & Gated Communities

November 15, 2010

The relentless flatness of the pampas and the utter impossibility of having anything like a vista in Buenos Aires weighs on me. The flatness conceals worlds, especially in the suburbs where access can be tightly controlled. I spend a lot of time looking at satellite views in Google Maps. I often use it as a scouting tool; to check out routes beforehand. The two things that stand out from space, when looking at the built environment are the very rich and the very poor. Both have segregated themselves (the former by choice, the later by necessity) into areas who’s characteristics are clearly visible from space and rarely accessible from the ground.

Here’s a little tour of some features that have caught my eye in my virtual, aerial sojourns around the city:

Some weird, Dubai-style development in the Parana Delta

Constantini's Nordelta

Nordelta, a self-contained gated city that’s still only about half-built. It’s the brain child of Eduardo Constantitni, one of the richest men in Argentina and principal patron of the museum MALBA.

La Cava in San Isidro

The edge of the posh northern suburb of San Isidro ends abruptly in the density of the villa La Cava. Note the constrast between the red/orange clay tennis courts and the dusty brown of the potrero [soccer field] in the villa. [In Argentine Spanish, slums are known as “villas“, ironic given the word’s connotation in English].

Villa 21 in Barracas

Incredibly dense, the largest villa in Buenos Aires proper is located in the southern neighborhood of Barracas. Recently there was a film made inside the neighborhood, La 21 Barracas.


Also very dense is the northern neighborhood of Recoleta, home to the famous cemetery. All the blocks are nearly fully built-out with residential high rises. Notices the open space in the middle of each. Those spaces are the subject of my series Lungs | Pulmones.

Ezeiza planes

The left hand size of the photo shows parked planes which are part of Aerolineas Argentina’s idled fleet. The last time I landed at the airport, this collection had grown considerably. The airline was nationalized last year and is currently losing close to a billion dollars a year. It’s cute how Google Maps tries to obscure the areas over airports.

Ezeiza Prision

Just south of the airport is the main federal prison seen here.

Barrio Don Orione, Claypole

While superficially resembling the Ezeiza prision from the air, the neighborhood shown here is Don Orione, a large, medium density social housing project in Claypole, Zona Sur, built in the early 1980s. I remember seeing this while coming in for a landing at the airport. It looked like so many cheerios flung across the pampas. A friend of mine grew up there and he took me out there one afternoon last year. Here’s a photo that I took there of a Ford Falcon:

Ford Falcon in Barrio Don Orione in Claypole, Pcia. de Buenos Aires

2 Responses to “Google Maps in Buenos Aires: Slums & Gated Communities”

  1. […] vérification que ces logiciels permettent d’orchestrer. Grâce à Google Maps, je peux aisément visualiser la banlieue de Buenos Aires, et vérifier le mitage de sa couronne périurbaine, entre bidonvilles et Gated Communities. Avec […]

  2. […] The series functions as a inventory of living arrangements sorted by social class; homeless encampments, shanty-towns, working class suburbs, housing projects, middle class suburbs, heavily-guarded mansions, and a five-star hotel. One exception missing from the series are photos of gated communities [barrios cerrados], which dot the suburbs of Buenos Aires [and which I wrote a little about in my post Slums and Gated Communities]. […]

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