Equity Exposed

Mabe Garcia, 26 January 2016

The southeast side of Caracas tested out a new and innovative approach to inclusion and equitable social development. Strangers from the middle- and upper-class of Caracas were invited to see for themselves people’s private spaces in the city’s low-income communities. The unique program was an opportunity to open up a much-needed dialogue between the different classes in Latin America that often live very separate lives. 

The program, El Hatillo, attempted to unite a highly polarized society and made private space, public. The “Puertas Abiertas” [Open Doors] event was an opportunity to introduce the city to one informal settlement called El Calvario, tucked away on a steep slope. The settlement has been there for over 60 years. 

El Calvario experimented with the urban thesis of using people’s private homes for an art exhibition of artists from the local terrain. Around 30 homes used their informal habitats to showcase stencils and oils, as well as artisans’ carpentry, sculptures, and designs.


The policy that accompanied the event is part of a larger and more systematic attempt of the municipality to fight insecurity and crime through continuous use of the public domain. The old saying of Jane Jacobs’ “eyes on the streets” used during Giuliani’s reign to defeat New York’s own crime is being tested in this municipality. The Culture Department is enriching the municipality by inviting more events on a low budget. They are using strategic public-private partnerships to pay for the programs as well as a more inclusive policy framework, one where multiple voices can be heard. They are doing this by inviting different groups to help negotiate and organize these important events to breakdown stratifications in society and create ore understanding. The municipality has even inaugurated an online platform called “Vive El Hatillo” which is accompanied by an event every week to promote sports and health through activity, such as ayoga workshop, Zumba dance classes, Jazz concerts, and gourmet markets for local entrepreneurs. 


The team recruited from different civil associations, foundations, and community groups debated how to include more people and voices. Twenty organizations worked together, all from different religious, historical, economic, sociological and environmental agendas. 


This is very unique to allow an artist to exhibit in a person’s home, and they invited residents from the larger city landscape into people’s homes, accompanied by food, drinks and music. The event transformed what some would call a “slum” into tiny exhibits. The paradox of creating exhibits in slum homes is an idea entrenched in equitable sociological theories, whereby the home defines the family, and these—usually private spaces—become public for one day for all to see. Instead of gating communities, they become the opposite, inviting strangers and all to see and experience. Slums suddenly stop being dangerous with a celebratory festive scene, and new ways of seeing communities begin to take hold. 


Photo credit: M.B. Garcia Rincon, Urban Elements Foundation
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Images of Puertas Abiertas Event [Open Doors] at sundown, Photo-credits: M.B. Garcia (Mabe)