Lo Hermida Población (low income community), in the Peñalolén district, is considered an “emblematic población” of the Chilean Movement of Pobladores (población’s settlers) and of the resistance against the dictatorship. Its area is limited by Grecia Avenue on the north, Los Presidentes on the south, Tobalaba on the east and Américo Vespucio on the west. It has more than 60 thousands residents living in an area of 257 hectares (635 acres). Figure 1 shows a map of Lo Hermida with the mentioned boundaries.
Map of Lo Hermida
Lo Hermida Población was born from a land squatter organized by a wide movement that sought to fight for a definitive housing. In 1967, through an Operación Sitio (self-construction program of Frei Montalva’s government), Lo Hermida land was expropriated in order to assign the area for the construction of social housing. During Allende’s government –between 1970 and 1973- several land squatters were developed, with 10 campamentos (militia-organized, self-constructed housing) established between Grecia Avenue, Tobalaba, Los Presidentes and Américo Vespucio. Despite the high material scarcity of those years, residents were strongly cohesive under a sociopolitical identity and a common goal, which was the struggle for decent housing. Much of the construction materials for the construction of their housing was obtained through contacts they had with representatives of public institutions. For example, they worked with René Schneider, Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces (assassinated in 1970), whose closeness with the local leaders led them “to baptize” one of the campamentos with his name. In those years, the so-called “canastas populares” (popular baskets: collective help for feeding the community) were organized, in a context of high unemployment and lack of means of subsistence. Figure 2 shows the current landscape of the neighborhood with self-constructed housing.
During the dictatorship (1973-1990), a harsh repression from the state was suffered, given the strong left-wing identity of the población. One of the mechanisms of repression was through “sapeo” or delation. As a female leader in her fifties comments: “there were many infiltrated characters, which were the ones who watched residents and accused them in front of the military”. In this period, several struggles were organized from the población. One of them was for the assignment of lots and the acquisition of property deeds, which were finally delivered between 1991 and 1992.
During the 1990s and 2000s, the state built social housing, mainly as multi-family blocks, in the southern sector, which is currently known as Viña Cousiño. This area is the one with the most precarious conditions, with streets without pavement and some cases of high overcrowding. In addition, there is a more intense stigma for the presence of “El Cisarro”, a teenager from the area that has participated in several criminal events and that has appeared numerous times in television and social networks, with his image occupied as a symbol of Chilean urban marginality. As a consequence, the levels of territorial attachment are lower in this area.
Currently, there is a concern for the presence of drug dealing in the población. The social organization that characterized its beginnings, although maintains some of its strong sociopolitical identity, is today somewhat fragmented, with differentiations, internal stigmas and even walls between different social housing projects. There is a lower level of convocation, which sometimes is associated to the relative satisfaction of the basic needs of residence, which were demanded in the initial land squatters. The lower activity is especially noted in the newer areas, in contrast to the most emblematic sectors of the popular struggle. And even in the oldest areas, it has been criticized that historical leaders have blocked the emergence of young leadership.
In Lo Hermida, the majority of its residents belong to a lower-middle socio-economic strata, with some households below the poverty line. However, in the southeast area, there is a set of upper-middle class gated communities with contrast with urban landscape of the población, and which is separated by a wall from the rest of the area, and with a shocking security infrastructure. Figure 3 shows the diving wall between the upper-middle class gated communities and the social housing.