Land occupations are not unusual in the poorest suburbs surrounding Buenos Aires, but what sets this "Tierra y Libertad" occupation apart is its vision for another kind of community. All decisions are taken by popular assembly and the mechanisms of party politics have been consciously excluded.
"This is going to be a different type of occupation," say the people of Tierra y Libertad (Land and Freedom), a land occupation on the outskirts of Buenos Aires, Argentina. The name of their group gives an idea of what they intend. The occupation began on March 29th this year when 40 families entered a small parcel of land in La Matanza and began setting up a community. Since then the occupation has grown to over 135 families and has continued to organize and resist eviction in the face of intimidation and violence.
Land occupations are not unusual in the poorest suburbs surrounding Buenos Aires (the neighbouring land was occupied 3 years ago), but what sets this apart is the vision for another kind of community. All decisions are taken by popular assembly and political parties and the associated mechanisms of party politics have been consciously excluded. In place of this is a plan that includes two community centres, one for meetings and activities and another one for two common brick and bread ovens.
The history of the land itself gives an idea of the extent of corruption at the local level that exists is this suburb. While the land officially belongs to the Insituto de la Vivienda de la Provincia de Buenos Aires (Department of Housing for the Provence of Buenos Aires) it has already been occupied by a local business figure who has also occupied a number of similar parcels of land and used them for his own business interests or has sold some of them off for his own profit. Locals describe a system of intimidation and violence linked to the protection of these interests and the people at Tierra y Libertad have had to endure nights of gunfire, the wounding in the shoulder of one of the community and death threats to maintain their current occupation.
What motivates the people to continue the occupation in the face of such threats is their common precarious (or non existent) housing situation. As stated in the second communiqué from Tierra y Libertad, with the "serious lack of housing and land that we experience, a situation that is shared by thousands of people packed throughout the country, we decided to occupy the land in our neighbourhood."
Solidarity has arrived from a wide variety of groups and social movements. While people in surrounding suburbs have had mixed views about the occupation many have arrived to lend resources and support. Alongside them are people and groups from other grassroots organisations including Madres Plaza Mayo, and an anarcho-feminist collective that is donating clothes for fund raising and is going to provide education on violence and unwanted pregnancy prevention. Sunday has been designated as an open day where many arrive to spend the day and has included a clothes fair, barbeques, videos and community volleyball.
After surviving its first difficult month, Tierra y Libertad is attempting to reinforce its presence and organise to resist attempts at eviction. Homes are being built, electricity is being extended to all and land it being cleared. Support for the community will be crucial over the coming months to resist eviction and reinforce the community.