Recycling Transit in the Global South

As a 2010-2011 Watson Fellow, I spent a year researching urban transportation systems in Latin America and Africa. My writing about the year is below.


View Watson Travels in a larger map

Buses of Curitiba

Curitiba, Brazil, implemented the world’s first bus rapid transit system in the 1970s. Along with programs to convert floodplains to green space, pedestrianize downtown streets, and improve waste collection, the new “surface metro” transformed the city. Curitiba is the inspiration for many of the other BRT projects I learned about during my year of travel, so a visit there was perfect for my last stop.

Generated by Facebook Photo Fetcher 2

Curitiba Botanical Garden

Pictures from the Botanical Garden in Curitiba, Brazil:

Generated by Facebook Photo Fetcher

Atacama

The Atacama Desert is known, among other things, for having lithium-yielding salt flats, consistently clear skies for astronomers, and the world’s driest climate. What was supposed to be a quick stopover on my way from Santiago, Chile to Salta, Argentina ended up being an extended stay due to the area’s heaviest snowfall in twenty years. The town of San Pedro is not a bad place to be stranded – I enjoyed the expansive views of badlands (including the Valley of Death, where JPL tested Mars rover prototypes), sandboarding, and flamingo tours. As the forecast for the opening of the pass over the Andes kept worsening, I decided to admit defeat and take the 23-hour bus ride back south to Santiago.

Generated by Facebook Photo Fetcher

Chuquicamata

Chuquicamata, in the north of Chile, is the world’s largest open pit copper mine. Built up in the early 1900s by the Anaconda Copper Company, the highly productive mine is a major contributor to Chile’s important copper exports. I visited the mine 30 years after it was nationalized by President Allende and 3 years after the company town of Chuquicamata was completely abandoned, with residents moving to nearby Calama to allow the mining pit to continue to grow. The scale of the place was daunting; trucks that looked minuscule at the bottom of the mine seemed larger than life when the rumbled by up close.

Generated by Facebook Photo Fetcher

Student Protests in Chile


Students, many wearing signs displaying the debt they are incurring to pursue higher education, dance to Michael Jackson’s ‘Thriller’

Demonstrations earlier this year against HidroAysén piqued youth discontent about the Chilean government’s trending towards increased privatization. As winter approached in May and June, this discontent exploded into massive sit-ins and creative protests against profiteering in Chilean secondary and post-secondary education. Especially egregious were then Education Minister Joaquín Lavín’s attempts to funnel more government funds to his private universities. In three months of continuing demonstrations, charismatic young leaders have put forward a cogent critique of neoliberalism and the widening income gap in the country, and this critique has resonated widely with educators, healthcare workers, and labor unions. Students have been marching with many of these allies, and I found their creative messaging to be quite impressive. In late August, a national labor federation called a general strike, and 600,000 people are estimated to have participated in demonstrations during the two day strike. Even though national media has been working to turn public opinion against the demonstrators by focusing on the actions of a small contingent of violent troublemakers, President Piñera has felt widespread public pressure. He has made some significant concessions, but more seem inevitable as the popular movement continues to grow and he is forced to negotiate further with students.

Education Cartoon

Cartoon about educational privatization produced by architecture students from the Catholic University in Valparaíso (click on the image for an English translation)

Generated by Facebook Photo Fetcher 2

Hiking in the Andes


View Maipo Hike in a larger map

Pictures from an afternoon hike in the Maipo Canyon are below. Relying on public transportation precluded reaching some of the popular destinations higher up, such as Embalse del Yeso, but the sights we ended up seeing were still spectacular.

Generated by Facebook Photo Fetcher

La Fiesta de San Pedro

As a port city, Valparaíso fervently celebrates holidays in honor of patron saints related to fishing. I spent an afternoon enjoying the Festival of Saint Peter and its accompanying music, processions, and flotillas, then finished the day off by enjoying a pastel de jaiba.

Generated by Facebook Photo Fetcher