Although knowledge of the villas is common among porteños, many travelers and even some Argentines living outside the city are unaware of the existence of villas amongst the posh, touristy areas of Buenos Aires. This is because they are hidden. One of the biggest hubs in Buenos Aires, the Retiro bus station, is located right next to one of the largest villas, containing over twenty-six thousand residents. Unless you happen peek between the various restaurants and shops leading to the bus station, you would never know that Villa 31 existed. 
The residents of this villa can be seen occupying the streets right outside the bus station, but their shantytown is concealed and kept out of sight in hopes to keep it out of mind as well. Too many people walk by the entrance to Villa 31 without knowing what horrors lie beyond. These people live in extreme poverty and awful living conditions, yet nobody tries to help them. 
Daily commuters that pass the villa residents on the street don't even look their way because they view themselves as above those who live in the villas. This creates a sense of rejection and dismissal among the villa residents. We at Villa Verde hope to break down the social barrier between those who live within the villas and those who do not by having them work together to build and maintain the gardens.
 
 
In most neighborhoods when a crime is committed, justice is applied. People look after each other and take care of each other. However, in the slums there is no rule of law. When someone is killed or robbed nothing is done about it. The government says they give the slums police, however these police only monitor the barriers of the slums. Thus the law only protects outsiders from the those in the slums. This creates a larger gap between the citizens of the villas and those living in the metropolitan area. Ultimately, this results in the people of the villas feeling less worthy and that no one cares about them. Villa Verde will bring hope to villa residents and show them that there are people out there who care for them and want to help.
 
 
Watch Sara Granados' TED Talk titled "Memoria, identidad y huertos urbanos" ("Memory, Identity and Urban Gardens") 
Sara Granados is a specialist in sustainable agriculture who has worked to start urban gardening projects in various countries in Latin America and the Caribbean. 

Although the video is in Spanish--sorry, couldn't find a version with subtitles---I chose it because Sara's talk really grasps the idea of urban gardening in the Latin American context. She explains how many of the people living in the region feel a sense of nostalgia, history, and culture associated with the land and the act of cultivating. Because of this, Latin Americans connect with their urban gardens in a different way than North Americans in cities like Portland or New York. To them, having access to a space for farming and gardening while living in urban sprawl brings them a sense of pride, culture, and identity

For this reason, it is important for us as founders, participants, and volunteers in the Villa Verde project to remember that in the context of Argentina, we are establishing urban gardens to fulfill these specific needs of villa residents. We must always keep in mind our goal to bring the strong community values of sharing, nurturing, and respect to fill our spaces of urban agriculture.
 

    Authors

    Jenna Herzog
    Jess Sawicki
    Leigh McBain

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