shanty towns

shanty towns
   Migration from countryside to town has long been a feature of Spanish life, and was accentuated in the 1940s and 1950s by post-Civil War hardship and by the shift in the economic base from agriculture to industry, with consequent pressure on housing in the major cities, especially Madrid and Barcelona. Something like 14 percent of the total population is estimated to have moved residence during these years. Shortage of accommodation gave rise to the phenomenon referred to as chabolismo, from the Spanish word chabola, an improvised shack made of discarded builder's rubble, wood, corrugated iron, flattened oil-drums and similar materials. The corresponding term in Catalan is barraca. When the authorities failed to control the title of migration, they attempted to regulate the problem by issuing licences and demolishing unlicensed dwellings. Even where permits were obtained, however, the inhabitants were often obliged to wait years for basic services like electricity and refuse collection. By the 1960s, the numbers of chabolas or barraques had stabilized, and were beginning to be sold and bought like other immovable properties, especially since with increasing prosperity some of the original migrants were beginning to move on to better accommodation in new apartment blocks. By around 1970, the area covered by shanty towns was beginning to shrink, though they have never been completely eliminated. In the first ten years of the socialist PSOE administration (1982–92), the number of chabolas was reduced to half, and stood officially at 12,000 in the whole of Spain, but one Madrid suburb still had the largest concentration of shanty-town dwellers in Europe. There has, however, been a significant change in the population, which in the 1990s consisted predominantly of gypsies and immigrants from outside Spain, and the shanty-towns have been the scene of some of the most serious occurrences of racism.

Encyclopedia of contemporary Spanish culture. 2013.

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