Latin American cities experimenting with climate adaptation strategies must do so in highly contested social and cultural terrains. In cities with black and indigenous communities, not only are they confronted with challenges such as informal development in high-risk areas, but also patterns of spatial exclusion and racial segregation. This study examines Santiago de Cali’s Proyecto Plan Jarillon, a project to upgrade the city’s flood protection system which includes Latin America’s largest resettlement project. The study, based on three years of fieldwork including site visits and interviews, found the city’s failure to account for the segregation of black residents in high-risk areas has led to resistance, conflict, and delays in the completion of the project. By forming powerful counter-narratives and counter-plans which assert alternative, culturally-based forms of territorial planning and flood risk management, black residents re-centered public debate on demands for racial and cultural recognition, and the right to decent housing. This resistance and set of demands are transforming Colombia’s climate policy and creating new forms and approaches to adaptation planning.
Hugo Sarmiento is an Assistant Professor at Columbia GSAPP. His research critically examines the relationship between planning for climate change, natural disasters, and spatial inequalities such as housing deficits, poor infrastructure, and racial segregation. Specifically, it considers how these inequalities contribute to the social production of risk and vulnerability. To that end, he relies on political economy and comparative research to investigate emerging climate change adaptation and post-disaster recovery strategies. Central to his research agenda is considering the social mobilization, grassroots resistance, and counter-planning efforts which shape these strategies.
Hugo has a special interest in Latin American urban geographies, having completed projects in Brazil, Colombia, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Mexico. His most recent research has focused on the relocation, and displacement, of communities vulnerable to flooding in Colombian cities. Currently, he is also studying post-disaster recovery and community relocation efforts in Puerto Rican coastal communities.
Before joining GSAPP, Hugo was an assistant professor at the University of Illinois, Urbana Champaign in the Department of Urban and Regional Planning. He received his PhD at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) in the Department of Urban Planning.
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