Does anywhere currently exist like Kowloon Walled City?
January 20, 2014 7:10 PM   Subscribe

Looking for slums that are similar to the former Kowloon Walled City in Hong Kong -- areas where the population have created their own sorts of internal ecosystems for one reason or another, living together in some kind of (likely rather tense) harmony. Ideally, these would be places where people have trotted out storefronts/small businesses, and have somehow either leeched off the public infrastructure or created their own. Bonus points if the residents are essentially unauthorized to live there. Nowhere in the US, please (though I'd still be interested in knowing). I already know about Dharavi, Kibera, and the Tower of David in Caracas.
posted by dmaterialized to Society & Culture (15 answers total) 31 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Reportedly that's what it's like in the slums that surround Rio de Janeiro.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 7:21 PM on January 20, 2014 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Like Chocolate Pickle, I immediately thought of Jardim Gramacho, the world's largest landfill, on the outskirts of Rio de Janeiro. The excellent documentary Waste Land is about the catadores, the extremely poor people who live there and "pick" the recyclable materials.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 7:36 PM on January 20, 2014 [1 favorite]

La Perla, in San Juan PR, and Cite Soleil in Port au Prince, Haiti partially fit the bill.
posted by spitbull at 7:51 PM on January 20, 2014

Villa 31 Buenos Aires
posted by asockpuppet at 8:01 PM on January 20, 2014

Not sure if this is what you're looking for, but your post immediately made me think of the Maeklong vegetable market on the train tracks in Thailand
posted by Mchelly at 8:17 PM on January 20, 2014

Best answer: Makoko, the self-governing community built over the water in Lagos, Nigeria.
posted by Tufa at 8:18 PM on January 20, 2014

The Grande Hotel Beira in Mozambique.
posted by smoke at 8:53 PM on January 20, 2014

Christiania, a neighbourhood in Copenhagen, Denmark.
posted by Naanwhal at 9:03 PM on January 20, 2014

Oops, just saw you specified "slums". Christiania is not particularly slummy, but interesting nonetheless!
posted by Naanwhal at 9:10 PM on January 20, 2014

Refugee camps are often thought of as temporary settlements when they can be far from temporary. I think that aside from the political circumstances, they are very similar to slums.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 9:22 PM on January 20, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Looking for all the terms for slums will be tricky - favela in Brazil, daldongnae in Korea, etc etc. Pretty much any developing nation with a booming population will have some version of an unauthorized auto-constructed settlement - even the planned city of Brasilia had a slum that housed all the construction workers. I'm not sure what you mean by "tense" harmony -- just the potential conflict arising from close quarters and poverty?

Colonias on the US side of the Mexican border are a type of suburban/exurban self-built community.
But in Texas and other border states, "colonia" refers to an unincorporated settlement that might lack water and sewer systems, sanitary housing and access to basic medical services.
Despite the substandard conditions, those who live and work in the colonias say they're growing, thanks to improving conditions. The growth also highlights what it means to be a community, and the little things that turn a patch of land into a home: streetlights, running water, paved streets, even mailboxes.

Getting an accurate count of the population in any of Texas' estimated 2,294 colonias is notoriously difficult, due to geographic isolation, shared addresses, swiftly changing development and mistrust of government data collectors. The Texas attorney general's office estimates 500,000 people currently live in them, most of them Hispanics who are U.S. citizens or in the country legally.
posted by spamandkimchi at 1:30 AM on January 21, 2014

Best answer: There's a slum in Cairo that's sprung up in an old cemetery. Some of them have solved the housing crisis by squatting in crypts and get by with odd jobs.
posted by ninazer0 at 1:31 AM on January 21, 2014

There is an uncompleted skyscraper in Caracas, Venezuela that's been taken over by squatters. I think the New Yorker did an in-depth article on this as well.

[CRAP, read the OP's posting, scolbath]
posted by scolbath at 5:28 AM on January 21, 2014

Response by poster: Great stuff so far everyone, thank you! This is excellent. (Any other ideas are still welcome...)
posted by dmaterialized at 12:04 PM on January 21, 2014

Best answer: Paris, of all places, is surrounded by the kinds of comunities you're talking about. They're the places where the Algerian immigrants live, and as far as the French police are concerned they are "no-go" zones. They're sometimes referred to as "banlieues" (though that term also refers to places which are not currently problems).

Some of the other major French cities (e.g. Lyon) have similar troubled suburbs.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 10:59 AM on January 25, 2014

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