Title

Seeking higher ground: Housing replacement strategies of families displaced by the Yacyreta project in Posadas, Argentina

Date of Award

5-2000

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Anthropology

Advisor(s)

William Mangin

Keywords

Yacyreta project, Housing, Families, Displaced, Posadas, Argentina

Subject Categories

Infrastructure | Latin American Studies | Social and Cultural Anthropology | Social Welfare

Abstract

The Yacyretá hydroelectric project on the border between Argentina and Paraguay provides an arena for studying how families displaced from their riverbank neighborhoods in the Argentine city of Posadas craft their own strategies for replacing their lost housing. My dissertation research traced a sample of households that had accepted cash compensation for their expropriated property and then purchased or built other homes in locations scattered in and around the city. My findings are based on tape-recorded interviews both with those families who relocated themselves and with another sample who traded their former property for new houses in a neighborhood constructed by the resettlement agency, Entidad Binacional Yacyreta (EBY). I conclude that family form and gender of the household head were not salient factors in the choice between relocation alternatives (cash compensation or resettlement). The timing of the expropriations within the project's long history, however, was a deciding influence, and families' economic resources were also significant variables--although some of the most prosperous and some of the poorest households chose cash compensation. My dissertation weaves case studies and quotes from interviews into an examination of how displacement by the Yacyretá project has affected families' lives and particularly their housing. Although most who relocated themselves with cash compensation were able to reassert a sense of autonomy through their strategies, many families suffered a decline in the quality of their housing, in terms of tenancy, type of construction, and/or location. In contrast, the great majority of families who chose to be resettled have improved living conditions. One commonality among all the displaced households I encountered is that they had succeeded in moving to high ground, beyond reach of the river's seasonal floods. Their desire to escape the rigors of life in a flood-prone area induced many individuals to welcome EBY's relocation program as a means to improve their lives. The stories of these relocated people speak of nostalgia for a destroyed community, aspirations toward social class mobility, anger at interminable delays in the resettlement program, and a resilience of social ties.

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