By Indira Cornelio, Translated by Jackie Zammuto
Disponible en español
Nearly one year ago, WITNESS participated in the World Urban Forum (WUF) and the Peoples’ Alternative Urban Social Forum (PAUSF) in Medellín, Colombia, where we had the opportunity to meet and share experiences with groups fighting evictions locally and around the world. To describe the challenges that residents and activists are confronting with locally, Hector Ceballos, a representative at the forum, explained that Medellín’s Urban Reform legislation presents development as “radical transformation through appropriation, high densification, change of use or users.”
During the forum, there were a variety of workshops and presentations that brought together local and international community leaders, activists, and advocacy groups to discuss how they could use of video to strengthen their fight against forced evictions. To support La Cascada, a nearby neighborhood facing eviction, the groups Penca de Sábila – an organization that supports communities defending their land; Punto Link – an organization that produces videos around social issues; WITNESS and the International Alliance of Inhabitants (IAI) organized a community workshop to begin producing a video to help defend the neighborhood.
“No more evictions, here we were born, here we will stay.”
Residents of the La Cascada neighborhood are currently resisting evictions and demanding government intervention to address the issue of deteriorating housing in a holistic way. Of the 185 families who made up the neighborhood, only 110 remain today. The others left nearly five years ago under police orders to evacuate due to safety hazards.
But it wasn’t always this way. The problem goes back 15 years ago when the government started expansion work on the highway leading towards the ocean, connecting it to the western part of Antioquia State through tunnels. This construction process began to destabilize the homes in La Cascada, while construction on nearby waterways affected tributaries and retaining walls, suppressing natural drainage.
These construction projects were for the development of 15,000 new homes in the citadel New West. However, the real result of these public and private works is a neighborhood on the brink of destruction and an eroding quality of life for residents in La Cascada and surrounding areas like El Porvenir and Santa Margarita.
The government has given the families the option to accept a home in New West, which many have opposed because the homes are far smaller than the ones they have built. Alternately, they can receive a monthly stipend equivalent to the average minimum wage to rent another place, which some families have used to pay rent for nearly five years. These types of limited and hasty solutions are not accepted by families of La Cascada. Instead, they are using various advocacy tactics to call for government intervention.
The video “La Cascada Neighborhood, Medellín” resulted from the collaboration between community members, local activists, IAI and WITNESS. The community is grateful for the support and solidarity shown during the video’s production and has used video to expose the problems in the neighborhood and the need for the community to unite. It was introduced as part of the World Zero Evictions Campaign on November 2nd, 2014.
This action was accompanied by a statement from IAI to municipal authorities in Medellín, urging the government to commit to and implement the steps identified in the geological, geotechnical and hydrological study contracted by the municipalities. The study shows how incremental and gradual work should be undertaken immediately to stop the water damage to the 110 homes that remain standing.
After the release of the video, the municipality committed to going house to house to gain a better understanding of each family’s situation. The struggle of the families in La Cascada continues today, saying “no” to evictions and demanding that adequate housing is guaranteed. Currently, the community is pushing to ensure the working group is consistent with the Community Action Board of La Cascada and IAI Medellín, and that the work plan is developed in a way that will save the neighborhood and avoid definitive evictions.
Carlos Arturo Cadavid, a representative of IAI Medellín, said:
“The distribution of the video and the story of La Cascada has certainly served to deal with arbitrary evictions, which until now have not occurred, but the danger remains. The community is committed to defending their right to roots, to territory, to the history of their neighborhood, and to the friendships and relationships that have been established there.”
Thanks to the support of Carlos Arturo Cadavid for his help with this blog.
Forced Evictions Advocacy Toolkit: A multimedia resource for activists, social movements and communities fighting evictions.