Here is an example of citizen based activism with results from polis
La Matanza, located in the western part of the Buenos Aires Metropolitan Region (see map at right), was one of the hardest-hit areas in Argentina’s 2001 economic crisis. Historically a bastion of the working class and popular politics (Peronismo) in the 1950s, La Matanza’s once-empty fields have been filled in with shacks, some more consolidated over time than others. Over half of La Matanza’s 1.7 million residents live below the poverty line and have poor access to urban services, including potable water, sewage systems, schooling, and medical attention. Since it is the second-most-populated district in Argentina and thus an important area to secure votes, political representatives are known to actively seek out and co-opt residents through clientelist practices. Yet, neighborhood dwellers that began to organize in 1995 in response to the exclusion and poverty they experienced during Argentina’s hardcore neoliberal period are providing another solution: a bottom-up approach to addressing labor and social problems in their district through the Unemployed Worker’s Movement La Matanza (MTDLM).
The MTDLM defines itself as a popular organization of men and women, both working and unemployed, who have formed a movement to resolve collective problems through collective solutions. It openly rejects the welfare plans provided by the state, as pushed by political representatives, and has instead constructed its own productive, social and educational projects through the Cooperative ‘Barrio La Juanita.’ Productive projects have manifested primarily through the Critical Mass community bakery and multiple workshop spaces that include textiles, silk screening, and computer recycling. Core educational projects are a daycare and a newly-opened primary school that use an innovative and critical pedagogy based on the philosophy of Paolo Freire. Social projects include a microcredit program, a community fair, and learning support on a wide variety of subjects. Continue reading