Track 4: Diversity, Population Change, and Gentrification in the Preservation Dialogue
APT Student Scholar Abstract and Application
This presentation examines the opportunities and challenges of historic preservation and social inclusion in post-industrial landscapes in a Latin American context from a bottom-up perspective. Focusing on the case of Lota, an ex-coal mining town in southern Chile that has suffered the consequences of deindustrialization I explore the alternative preservation, tourism and memorialization practices of grassroots organizations. Although Lota is one of the poorest municipalities in the country, organized residents actively engage in protecting the places that are significant to them. They envision in their cultural heritage an opportunity for social and economic development to confront the increasing decay, abandonment and “ruination” of their city after the closure of the mine in 1997 (Stoler 2011). While the preservation narratives of industrial heritage in Chile are often about shared national achievements and capitalist development, the ruined landscape of Lota and the histories of its working community makes visible more than aesthetics and the celebration of the industrial capital. Their narratives are about job loss, health disparities, environmental changes and the contestation of gender roles, race and class inequalities that have strong emotive power (Shackel 2017). This presentation offers an analysis of how people living in Lota are actively and critically engaging with processes of heritage-making in a context marked by a history of structural violence. I argue that Lotinos’s grounded on their historical memory of social struggle, are challenging exclusionary processes in historic preservation in Chile, influencing the production of their cultural landscape and creating new spaces of participation in policy and practice. Drawing on interviews, participant observation, archival research, and analysis of the built environment conducted in Lota between 2016 and 2019, I illustrate how people use historic preservation in conscious and critical ways for negotiating and defining social and political values that shape the cultural identity of this working-class community. The methodological approach undertaken combines ethnography and history to engage the problems that mobilize marginalized groups both in the past and in the present to define, protect and make use of heritage in order to assert their individual and collective identity. The case of Lota illustrates how this community is using heritage production as a collective tool to disrupt established forms of inequalities creating opportunities for more inclusive and democratic processes.