On the Fringes of Urban Justice: Violence and Environmental Risks in Guatemala City

Open Access Journal | ISSN: 2183-2803

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On the Fringes of Urban Justice: Violence and Environmental Risks in Guatemala City


  • Florencia Quesada Department of World Cultures, University of Helsinki, Finland


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Abstract:  Living in the city’s ravines is the common destiny of thousands of poor urban dwellers in Guatemala City, as is too often the case elsewhere in the Global South. The ravines surrounding the city represent one of the most visible and unjust urban spaces in the nation’s capital. At the same time, Guatemala City has been among the most violent cities in the world and is highly vulnerable to climate change. Employing a critical spatial perspective and drawing on interviews in two at‐risk communities—Arzú and 5 de Noviembre—this article examines the social production of such peripheral spaces. The levels of exclusion and inequalities are analysed by focusing on the multiple manifestations (visible and invisible) of violence and environmental risks, and deciphering the complex dynamics of both issues, which in turn generate more unequal and harmful conditions for residents. This article draws on the theoretical ideas elaborated by Edward Soja, Mustafa Dikeç, and Teresa Caldeira on the contextualisation of spatial injustice and peripheral urbanisation to study the specific conditions of urban life and analyse the collective struggles of people in both communities to improve their current living conditions and mitigate the risk and the precariousness of their existence. The article underlines the need to make the processes of urban exclusion and extreme inequality visible to better understand how they have been socially and politically constructed. The research argues for more socially and ecologically inclusive cities within the process of unequal urbanisation.

Keywords:  environmental risks; exclusion; Guatemala City; insecurity; precarious settlements; spatial injustice; urban segregation; violence

Published:   25 January 2022


DOI: https://doi.org/10.17645/si.v10i1.4748


© Florencia Quesada. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0), which permits any use, distribution, and reproduction of the work without further permission provided the original author(s) and source are credited.