1. A Basic Standard of Living
Everyone deserves as a minimum, a basic quality standard of living. My intention is to
travel to major South American cities like Montevideo, Buenos Aires, Santiago,
Asuncion, Lima, Quito, and Caracas, if funding allows also parts of Central America. The
purpose will be to research and propose alternative options for squatter settlements,
specifically those within the city’s urban fabric where it is somewhat of a spectacle for
tourists as well as to the local residents. These hindered governments are now gaining a
foothold in the global economic development race from adolescence and economic crisis.
If not monitored, the development of new infrastructures that may be implemented could
neglect and bypass impoverished settlements of people. Now would be an ideal time for
some of these cities to rectify some of their nation’s poverty issues which will ultimately
lead to a better quality of life for all their residents within or around shanty towns.
Buenos Aires alone has 120,000 people living in squatter settlements, locally called
Currently there is little information that can be found online or in libraries on these
deprived clusters of people. There are not enough technology resources for them to
broadcast the information to a global audience. I have done much research on the topic of
squatter settlements as it is a large issue affecting large populations of Latin America.
This environment causes death in mass numbers from sanitation or merely minor flash
floods caused by natural disasters like El Niño can catastrophically devastate the area. If
more attention is not focused immediately on these communities, as the current trend
shows, the poor are getting poorer, thus making it harder to redirect their path for a better
quality of life. I have studied the risks involved in these types of places and am fully
aware of cities that are too risky for me to conduct my research. Nevertheless, I will
allocate local expertise to escort me into sites whenever necessary.
I have communicated with Alfredo Brillembourg of Urban Think Tank in Caracas,
Venezuela whose focus is primarily on such topics. I have also established contacts with
La Universidad de Buenos Aires, Universidad de Chile’s Instituto de la Vivenda and
Universidad Catolica de Chile’s Instituto de Estudios Urbanos; as well as some local
architecture firms and NGOs like Sur Profesionales, in hopes of using high tech facilities
and access to their bodies of knowledge to conduct my research.
I am currently studying towards a master degree in Housing and Urbanization at the
Graduate School of Design’s MDesS program. Thanks to the program, I have fresh
knowledge of current city, state, and federal housing policies at the national and
international level. The courses I have taken during my undergraduate studies in
Environmental Design at the University of Colorado focused on self-sustaining buildings,
energy efficient architecture, and usage of green materials. My work experience in
design/build construction and property management will facilitate my topic of research.
My military background will no doubt serve for several reasons, the most important being
the ability to identify and avoid possible dangers to me and those around me. I was born
in San Juan, Puerto Rico and speak fluent Spanish which will give me an edge in
communication between government agencies and citizens. Finally, I have lived in
2. several cities and visited 22 countries. This gives me a well-rounded understanding of
what to expect and be prepared for when traveling through different cultures, customs,
Being able to study first hand the specific scenarios and the bodies of laws governing
housing, will allow me to uncover alternative options and create solutions for the Latin
American people. The result could encompass a variety of possible solutions since there
are a variety of tribulations to address and the need of each settlement is specifically
prioritized, there are many options for me to be creative in improvising recommendations
and redirect government rule to those that need it.
First, I will compare these city’s housing policies with those of other countries in similar
circumstances. To make my contribution unique to their own expertise, I can use United
State’s policies as examples, but in no means mimic the system. I strongly believe that
strategic planning has to be specific to a community’s culture, economy, and geography.
Second, I will analyze methods to inform the public about available funding and
financing opportunities. The people need to be aware of their rights and opportunities of
rental and homeownership. This could be attained through an expanded public awareness
and consumer education program that will hopefully serve as a vehicle for economic
integration and poverty deconcentration.
Next, I will investigate scheduling potable water trucks, biweekly waste management
service, informing them about farming their own food, or simply provide them with my
extensive construction experience to use inexpensive, recycled, or donated materials to
build better and safer homes.
Finally, if granted this grand opportunity, my main objective, will be to design and
construct an innovative structure using thin fabric to provide a reasonably adequate
shelter from the elements for an entire squatter settlement. A similar example of this
would be Mario Schjethun’s large artistic canopy tents in Monterrey, Mexico, that
provide shade while also being aesthetically pleasing. The funds and materials may come
from companies who have excess material, or could use possible tax incentives. I should
add that the cities I have researched have high literacy rates, thus the residents of the
settlements may be quite capable of providing their own labor for such a task.
A country’s economy is linked hand in hand with society as well as environment.
If all goes as planed, it will allow me to take advantage of my background knowledge of
environmental design to make it appealing for the largest industry in the world, tourism.
The successfulness of my design and approach will be determined by the amount of
media attention it attracts.
Preliminary studies have shown me that many of these settlements occur on private
property where the land owner collects small fees from the residents when they leave and
enter the area thus the owner has an economic interest and with negotiation and using
government subsidies as a bargaining tool, I may persuade the land owner to allow
3. construction of better accommodations for the tenants. The fact that I studied conflict
negotiations at the Universidad de Vigo, Spain, with my ability to speak fluent Sp
anish, allows me to work as a mediator between citizens and government.
Before travel, I will conduct more demographic research and prioritize settlements based
on those which I may have the most impact on. On return, I plan to monitor the
socio/economic outcomes to highlight what was successful and what could be
In conclusion, many of the key elements of this research plan underpin these common
and interlinked objectives to raise the quality of life. Whether the result of my efforts will
relocate people, provide access to essentials, or artistically manipulate the context of the
site with modern appeal, it will help their society, their environment, and their economy,
which are all inherently bound together in the context of improving quality of life. With
this enlightening experience, I hope to gain knowledge on global housing policies for my
future endeavors in international housing development. More importantly, when working
in these regions, I will make a conscious effort to assist these communities in gaining the
right that every human deserves for a basic standard of living.