Migrant Politics in the Urban Global South: Nicaraguan Struggles Over Trash, Excrement and Urban Infrastructure in the Informal Settlement of La Carpio in San José, Costa Rica.

Authors: Nikolai Alvarado*, University of Denver
Topics: Urban Geography, Migration, Latin America
Keywords: Migration, Global South, , Urban Geography, Environmental Racism, Informal Settlements, Latin America
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/13/2018
Start / End Time: 5:20 PM / 7:00 PM
Room: Poydras, Sheraton, 3rd Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


This research focuses on Nicaraguan migrants living in the largest migrant informal settlement in Central America: La Carpio in the city of San José, Costa Rica. Nicaraguan migration to Costa Rica is a major case of South-South migration in Latin America. Nicaraguan urban migrants occupy the lowest paying jobs in domestic service, security, and construction work, and their economic condition often forces them to settle in informal settlements. Both Nicaraguans and La Carpio are constructed as the antithesis of a civilized, modern, and white Costa Rica. This has facilitated a concentration of social and environmental injustices in this particular informal settlement. Thus, La Carpio is a symbolic urban island surrounded by two of the most polluted rivers in the country, the largest landfill site in the city, and a water treatment plant that receives Costa Ricans’ excrement. Once Nicaraguans are included, La Carpio effectively concentrates all the waste that must be expelled in order to confirm the national identity and to maintain the eco-friendly image that Costa Rica sells to the tourist. Ironically enough, it is these same Nicaraguans who build most of the country’s tourism infrastructure. Despite these factors, Nicaraguans in La Carpio have successfully secured housing, battled environmental racism, and gradually improved their community through the acquisition of urban services such as water, electricity, education, and paved roads. In this discussion, I will share some of the political work that has allowed these non-citizen migrants to negotiate, despite the odds, the improvement of their informal settlement.

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