doi 10.4067/S0718-83582010000200001




Jorge Larenas S.


We would like to use this editorial to share with you some of the progress made by Revista INVI. The first is the entrance to the ScIELO system, which sets high standard indicators that pose a challenge to both the Editorial Board and the Editorial Team. There is no doubt our readers will benefit from this new approach. Second, we want this journal to be a place for debate on relevant topics. In this sense, along with the launching of the issue 68, we organized the Forum “Reconstruction: an Opportunity for the Country. How to Address the Challenge?” Finally, we would like to say that our journal is available at

This current issue addresses the different forms of habitat construction in contemporary cities, a phenomenon which should be analyzed from the historical perspective of the processes that determined the emergence of the cities we now live in.

In Latin America, the contemporary city concept dates back from the first quarter of the XXth century and it consolidated during the post-war period. Initially, the Latin American contemporary city, as urban expression, was associated with a series of economic and political elements. This association was reflected in a new international order that set institutional mechanisms for promotion of development models. Such initiatives combined political systems based on representative democracy; consolidation of the State as promoter of development; and industrialization strategies. In other words, the birth of contemporary cities coincides with the processes of national modernization.

The expansion of State influence on the different aspects of life and the subsequent expansion of political and social rights laid the bases for the inclusion of new urban agents that contributed to the diversification of public infrastructure. This expansion affected the traditional city-making processes that had prevailed since the XIXth century. Likewise, the ways of dealing with social and political problems were related to the State, which, with different levels of consolidation, tried to incoportate the industrial-Fordist model into the construction process of the city. At the same time, new forms of city-making emerged; these models were less institutionalized, more creative and solidarity-based and had their origin in emergent urban social movements.

This process began to show a social and political polarization that could not be controlled by the institutional system. As a consequence, the city turned into the scenario of conflict between society projects and opposite development models. This clash of initiatives reflected the over-ideologization prevailing during the cold war era. We all know the result of the modernization process and the consequent transformation of society, political systems and development models evidenced in the different Latin American countries.

In this way, cities that combined State planning with multiple “informal” expressions –used as a means for negotiation of urban space- changed into areas built almost exclusively by market agents, there were little State regulation.

This transition marked the beginning of a second phase in Latin American contemporary cities, linked to the process of neo-modernization that consolidated in the eighties when the conservatives took power in the United Kingdom and in the United States. These new governments modified global political and economic institutionalization.

In this sense, our region adopted neoliberalism in order to consolidate in the new world order. To that effect, national spaces have to meet the requirements of a globalized and tertiary-oriented economy. States, structural adjustment included, have to develop strategies to foresee market trends and to make right decisions within the frame of regional and global competitivity. To that respect, it is known that we are facing a phenomenon that is expanding on a global scale, which consequences also affect industrialized countries.

In this new complex and uncertain context, forms of city-building and forms of living in the city have changed. As a result, people tend to live in urban and periurban areas that have little in common with the industrial city that prevailed from the forties to the seventies. Three decades ago, François Ascher 1 pointed out that the majority of urban population did not live in crowded and continuous areas, but in “metapolises”, that is to say, extensive, discontinuous, heterogeneous and multipolarized urban territories.

These new urban forms bring along new problems common to any city2: deindustrialization, suburbanization, urban poverty, gentrification and ethnic conflicts, among others. Nowadays, major city problems are not related to housing or the “location” of it, but to the “flow”, movement and connectivity. Today, the city deals with mobility problems. Proximity tends to disappear in these new urban forms and new ways of behavior; the mix of people is replaced by segregation. Therefore, there has been a transformation of urban reality and rational city planning, giving space to more complex, flexible and reflective management methods.

In this issue, Revista INVI features articles addressing the transformation of cities by the end of the first decade of the XXIst century; we have called this process “Construction of Habitat in Contemporary Cities”. As these processes are still in development, all articles are of an exploratory nature, formulating interesting hypotheses that should be taken into consideration as events occur.

The first article, “From city to metropolis. A theoretical interpretation of the expansive phenomenon associated with housing, vulnerability and poverty: The case of the metropolitan area of Monterrey, Nuevo León, Mexico”, written by Eduardo Sousa González, addresses the transformations taking place in Monterrey and the social inequality derived from that process. This research emphasizes a series of conceptual questions.

The second article is called “Urban-regional development processes and territorial exclusion: New forms of urbanization in the metropolitan area of Valparaíso, case study of the city of Curauma”, written by Pablo Mansilla Quiñones and Manuel Fuenzalida Díaz. In this research, the authors describe a clear example of fragmented urbanization processes that are accompanied by territorial exclusion, showing the pre-eminence of private agents and the decline of the role of the State in urban development planning.

The third article, “Housing policy in Spain within the european context. Debts and challenges”, written by Raquel Rodríguez Alonso, analyzes public policies developed in Spain and in the north of Europe since the second half of the XXth century. It also addresses the main problems affecting housing policies in Spain and identifies guidelines for solving such difficulties.

Finally, in his opinion “The ‘decent habitat' concept as the goal of an integrative policy of deficient urban areas for social inclusion based on human rights”, Miguel Ángel Barreto sets out a critical view of sectoral policies, especially when it comes to tackling complex phenomena such as the precarious settlements. This article puts forth a reflection on the decent habitat concept as the basis of integrative policies.

We know this issue poses more questions than answers; however, it provides valuable material for promoting the debate on current transformations and trends in contemporary cities.



1 ASCHER, François, 1995, Metapolis ou l'avenir des villes. Odile Jacob, Paris.
2 KAZEPOV,Yuri, 2004, Cities of Europe. Changing Contexts, Local Arrangements and the Challenge to Urban Cohesion. Blackwell, Oxford.