About jlunafreire

Juliana Luna Freire (Ph.D.) is an Assistant Professor of Modern Languages at Universidade Federal da Paraíba (UFPB), Brazil.

Mapa literari Català – Catalonian Literary Map

I wanted to comment on a project by Espais Escrits (Written Spain), an association grouping other institutions promoting Catalonian literature. They developed started developing in 2006 a project called Mapa Literari Català (Catalonian Literary Project), mapping the biography of writers from Catalonia, Spain, and their presence in different parts of the world. The project allows for us to visually locate common geographical places, read parts of diaries, journals, and read extracts of their literary work. It also includes multimedia content such as photographs and videos. It was redesigned and improved for tech updates, and released during the Spring of 2018.

Moreover, it also adds information in different languages, including what these authors produced in English, Castilian, and Catalan. The institute receives funding from the Generalitat de Catalunya and the Fundació Lluís Carulla. The project can be accessed at http://mapaliterari.cat/ca/ and the organization at http://www.espaisescrits.cat .

In the Rutes Literàries (Literary Routes), http://www.mapaliterari.cat/ca/api/guia/30/josep-pla/ruta-josep-pla-a-calella-de-palafrugell several distinct routes walk you through the important monuments and physical spaces that have literary importance for those writers. In the Route of Josep Pla, in Costa Brava, Spain, the institution organizes a walking tour around the places of literary importance for the works by Pla in Palafrugell, a fishermen village where he would spend the summers with his family. His writing describes several important places in that small town of Calella de Palafrugell. Below is a small extract about his perception of the village, and its change with time:

“El que queda encara a Calella és obra dels vells, graciosos mestres de cases. La població, per altra banda, s’ha modificat totalment. El nombre de pescadors és reduïdíssim; si en queda encara algun deu ésser perquè no gosen posar una perruqueria per a senyores o perquè no tenen prou veu per a cantar amb Pepet Gilet, en Tianet i en Blau. Això no és obstacle perquè Calella –que és un agregat de Palafrugell- sigui un dels pobles més bonics del nostre litoral –potser el més bonic vist del mar estant.”

“What remains in Calella is the work of the old, graceful house builders. The population, on the other hand, has been totally modified. The number of fishermen is very small; If there is still some ten it is because they would not like to start a hairdresser’s shop for ladies or because they do not have enough voice to sing with Pepet Gilet, in Tianet and Blau. This is not an obstacle because Calella, which is an aggregate of Palafrugell, is one of the most beautiful villages on our coast, perhaps with the most beautiful view of the sea.” (my translation)


Vibrant’s Dossier on Urban Peripheries

Vibrant is an online journal published by ABA, the Brazilian Anthropology Association, that just released a dossier specifically on Urban Peripheries that might be of interest to readers of this blog. It offers academic research in English, French, and Spanish, besides their translations to Portuguese.

The themes will be divided as such, with thematic axes I and II already published in Volume 14 number 3 (Dec. 2017).

  • Axis 1: Public Security, Crime, Violence
  • Axis 2: Gender, identity, sexual orientation
  • Axis 3: Leisure, Artistic Expressions, Cultural Consumption
  • Axis 4: Urbanization, Management, Relations with the Public Power
  • Axis 5: Rural-Urban, Migration
  • Axis 6: Generation, Youth

The first axis includes discussion on Pacification Police Unit programs in Rio de Janeiro, which has been stirring debate around the country. Also worth checking is another previous Dossier published in Volume 8 Number 2 from 2011 on Urban Anthropology.

This open-acess journal went through some financial problems back in 2015, but has managed to continue publishing open-source research specifically focusing on Brazil for an international audience.

Era o Hotel Cambridge (2017) / The Cambridge Squatter: A Fictional Documentary on Urban Okupation

I again revisit issues of homelessness and housing evictions, this time focusing on a different cultural production from Brazil. The film Era o Hotel Cambridge (2017) is a recent fictional documentary on occupations in the city of São Paulo, Brazil, that analyzes some of the issues in urban housing and private accumulation of interest to those working with urban studies and Latin-American Studies. Translated as The Cambridge Squatter, by the Brazilian cineast Eliane Caffé, the work narrates the period after the bankruptcy and closure of Hotel Cambridge, when rooms and common areas were occupied by homeless individuals from all over. The documentary combines professional actors and real occupants of the building. A prominent feature is its gaze on the lives of immigrants and refugees inside the hotel, as well as an empathetic look on the lives of families and the elderly.

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A initial shot establishes the center of São Paulo as the physical space where the occupied building is located. In it we see constant reference to Human rights of housing, and a discussion of specific issues affecting immigrants. There are several scenes of foreigners communicating with their families back home. It also documents some of the ways these occupants try to make a living in the informal economy.

In the constant references to the negotiations of urban space, there is clear defense of the political movement “Frente de Luta por Moradia (FLM)” (Front of the Fight for Housing), a collective of different social movement groups seeking fairer urban development and more prompt solutions for the issue of homelessness in urban centers in Brazil.

We should revisit the study by Vilaseca (2013) on the impact of Okupas on global urban activism, focusing on the Barcelona movement dating back to 1997.  There are similarities to consider, showing the power of capital in creating spaces of exclusion in unoccupied areas of urban speculation. At the same time, both examples show new ways of resistance, giving that space new social signification.

As affirmed by Merrifield (2014), “Every Revolution Has Its Agora,” pointing out the concern that revolutionary political acts need to have space for public discussions. In the Spanish context, in the aftermath of the financial crisis there were generalized acts of protest and a general understanding that the political situation had to change, not only from marginalized peoples, but with support from a large fraction of the middle-class. In that context, we witnessed a series of anti-eviction platforms created due to the generalized feeling of helplessness. what we see in this case in São Paulo is the existence of overlooked groups of people: those occupied buildings are ignored, while the legal precautions are fought in a judicial, often invisible sphere. Most urban population, not involved in political activism, will consider those situations as best left ignored or handled by the government without interference. São Paulo is, as a matter of fact, a city with an intense history of gentrification: despite its high rank as a South-American economy, it is a urban space that puts a lot of pressure on low and low-middle classes, evidently serving a transnational financial and corporate elite.


Works Cited:

Merrifield, Andy. The New Urban Question. New York: PlutoPress, 2014.


Villaseca, Stephen. Barcelonan Okupas: Squatter Power! Madison: Fairleigh Dickinson, 2013.

Considering Homelessness, Drug Addiction and Reurbanization in São Paulo

For this month’s post I have been reading about the case of the drug addicts removed from urban centers and the specific case of São Paulo’s Cracolândia (Crack Cocaine Land). When coming across the discussion, I could directly relate to a video from the Spaniard Victor García León. The title is “Las Barranquillas”, and is part of the multi-director documentary “Hay Motivo” (2004), which was part of a political project that discussed socio-economic concerns of the Spanish society just before the General Elections. This specific video focused on the Spanish drug users abandoned in that area in the outskirts of Madrid, living with little sanitation or social assistance, but with intense drug trafficking. The setting resembled a war camp, with tents and barracks sent up on dusty, non-paved streets, and lack of infrastructure. The video is available here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pgi0tK8_nfI. The final message was the difficulty of presenting solutions.


I would like to take a space-time shift and take a brief look at urban process as we are currently witnessing in 2017 in São Paulo’s discussion on Cracolândia. Instead of a dry, garbage-filed clearing occupied by homeless drug addicts such as the Spanish version mentioned above, the space in Brazil that I would like to contrast is downtown, surrounded by some modernist buildings and historic neighborhoods in the city center. The region affected is close to Luz, a metro station in the center of the capital, and those illegally occupied areas have been a constant concern for authorities. It is also part of the program of street cleanse started by the Mayor of São Paulo since the beginning of 2017. There is public support to the forced removal of the drug users from the occupied areas (Instituto Paraná Pesquisas, showing 77.5% approval ratings), even though the removal experienced in May 2017 has been considered by media in general as chaotic.


Land space has high value and is expected to increase more, despite the region not being gentrified yet (with expectation of speculative value with the changes). Projeto “Nova Luz” (2011) and a series of urban reforms planned to take place until 2025 will most probably lead to that increased value of the land.


In the metropolitan region of São Paulo, addiction to crack cocaine has been fought intensely this decade with few results, in areas away from the city center but ALSO within it. Some of the actions tried controlling or removing drug dealing. The whole operation took place on May 21st, 2017, when Metropolitan Police (Guarda Municipal Metropolitana) was accused of violent and arbitrary intervention and removal of drug users, drug traffickers, homeless people, and small commerce owners indistinctly. At the aftermath, officials renounced, the courts allowed forced hospitalization of users for treatment, and the health department was accused of not supporting drug addicts. Another administrative issue was the removal of current residents without documentation to later relocate them to another region. But the bulk of removed individuals ended up moving to another occupied square that immediately got called “New Cracolândia”.


This removal, then, is part of a repetitive process. Identical news reports exist about addicted people “invading” other neighborhoods after police interventions from 2015, during the government of the leftist Fernando Haddad (PT). The presence of those individuals in the urban space in São Paulo is yearly a concern for authorities, as visible in the continuous reference to the removal of the cracolândia on news reports.


Photos from Folha on the recent situation in São Paulo: (http://www1.folha.uol.com.br/cotidiano/2015/04/1623007-viciados-se-instalam-na-vizinhanca-apos-operacao-na-cracolandia.shtml)



“Narcotráfico se dispersa em São Paulo após violenta operação na Cracolândia.” Conectas Direitos Humanos. 5/25/2017. http://www.conectas.org/pt/acoes/midia/noticia/48257-uol-narcotrafico-se-dispersa-em-sao-paulo-apos-violenta-operacao-na-cracolandia. Web.

Ferreira, Wilson Roberto Vieira. “A Cracolândia e o documentário ‘Arquitetura da destruição.’ 5/28/2017. http://www.revistaforum.com.br/cinegnose/2017/05/30/1993/. Web.

Jackson, Emma. Young Homeless People and Urban Space. Fixed in Mobility. New York: Routledge, 2015.

“Viciados se instalam na vizinhança após operação na cracolândia.” 4/30/2015. http://www1.folha.uol.com.br/cotidiano/2015/04/1623007-viciados-se-instalam-na-vizinhanca-apos-operacao-na-cracolandia.shtml.

“Projeto Nova Luz: São Paulo, Brasil.” Jul 2011. http://www.prefeitura.sp.gov.br/cidade/secretarias/upload/desenvolvimento_urbano/arquivos/nova_luz/201108_PUE.pdf

“Ministra de Doria renunció a su cargo después del polémico desalojo de Cracolândia.” https://ladiaria.com.uy/articulo/2017/5/ministra-de-doria-renuncio-a-su-cargo-despues-del-polemico-desalojo-de-cracolandia/

Urban Protests, Housing Evictions, and Neighborhoods Dismembered: A Shared Collective Experience in the 15M

by Juliana Luna Freire

“15Mpedia, para que todo el mundo pueda contar <>” [15Mpedia, so that everyone can tell one’s 15M] is the description of a creative commons platform, within a larger idealized project called 15Mcc (15M Creative Commons), created to catalogue narratives, data, maps, articles, among other items related to the social movement originated in Spain in 2011 from the financial crisis that hit the whole continent. The platform attempts to convene sources about a social protest that reverberated over five years ago, as an ongoing example of “rhyzomatic revolution” happening in networked societies (Castells 2012, Merrifield 2014). We could argue that it generated a non-unified movement of multiple collective groups making impact in contemporary Spanish politics by precisely engaging virtual and physical use of space (Merrifield 2014).

Indignados and 15M, as political projects, can be interpreted as responses to the 2008 financial crisis in Spain. From the subdivision of these movements, two specific projects were created to focus solely on housing: the Platform for those Affected by Mortgages (PAH) and the Movement for the Right of Housing. Some of these visual material on independent productions of camping protests in the city of Barcelona and the appearance of manifests and protests anti-eviction (#nomásdesahucios) indicate how specific cultural projects appropriate the collective experience of housing/eviction and a loss of sense of commune in their virtual and physical platforms to question capitalist use of urban space.


The photo above displays the following sentence: “Queremos ser libres, no presos de los bancos / porque la utopia es posible” [We want to be free, not jailed by the banks. Because utopia is possible]. The process of combined images of eviction and political protest counterbalance the lack of hope and disbelief in the process of seeing the human fabric that constitutes neighborhoods dismembered: in a move of the people against the system (Ressel 2011), of the acampadas against neoliberalism (Harvey 2012), and of the citizens of the city against the economic forces that govern it.

It is possible to notice that there was a combination of a series of economic factors that lead to high numbers of evictions. One of them, the cláusula suelo, a common financial practice followed by a later court decision on how the loan interest for housing were using abusive practices that protected instead bank institutions. Many lost their housing due to the implementation of those practices. Another complicating factor was the sale of public housing to banks, which subsequently lead to more removals: https://pahparla.blogspot.com.es/2017/01/comunnicado-encasa-cibeles.html?m=1.

One particular project that provides a collective experience of the neighborhoods being dismembered is “Poner rostro a las víctimas” [Put a face on the victims], photographing and distributing brief biographic information on the families being evicted .

Anti-eviction platform and protest were, then, fighting also the eviction of ill, disabled, elderly included, previous to the change of the law that protected that kind of eviction. A legal resolution from 1 de Julio de 2009 which determined protection in terms of electricity cuts for a series of individuals considered “colectivos vulnerables” [vulnerable groups], called “bono social” [social benefit]. Using the hashtag #Pobrezaenergéticamata [energy poverty kills], it tells stories such as the one of Rosa, an elderly lady in Reus, Tarragona (Nov. 2016). Because her gas supply was removed, she started using candles and ended up dead due to a fire.  What this indicates is also other forms of housing removal other than just displacement.

Occupation increased in urban areas during and after the crisis, and took different forms of activities and political ideas. For more information on the phenomenon of Okupas in Spain, please refer to Stephen Villaseca’s work (2013), offering a thorough reading on the ongoing movement before the 15M, and the protest of different groups against capitalist speculation, okuppying abandoned city spaces and creating new, communitarian uses for them.

Works Cited

Castells, Manuel.Networks of Outrage and Hope: Social Movements in the Internet Age. Cambridge, UK; Malden, MA: Polity, 2012.

Fominaya, Cristina. “Spain is different”: Podemos and the 15-M. 29 May 2014. Open Democracy.net. 10 Mar. 2017.

Harvey, David. Rebel Cities: From the Right to the City to the Urban Revolution. New York: Verso, 2012.

Merrifield, Andy. The New Urban Question. New York: PlutoPress, 2014.

Ressel, Stéphane. ¡Indignaos! Barcelona: Ediciones Destino, 2011.

Snyder, Jonathan. Poetics of Opposition in Contemporary Spain: Politics and the Work of Urban Culture. London: Palgrave, 2015.

Villaseca, Stephen. Barcelonan Okupas: Squatter Power! Madison: Fairleigh Dickinson, 2013.

Grey Matters: Urban Cleaning and Graffiti on the Streets of São Paulo

Here I will refer to some recent events in the city of São Paulo, Brazil, and the public backlash as street graffiti is erased by the recently elected Mayor João Dória. The decision started as part of a larger project called “Cidade Linda” [Beautiful City]. Consider some the video below showing some of the images of the art on the walls of the city (in Portuguese): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LE2HyBMy4NU

Screenshot 2017-03-11 15.52.41

São Paulo, a grey metropolis with high skyscrapers, has a history of street art dating back to the 1980s: please refer to Marcelo Pinheiro’s blog in brasileiros.com.br on the relation between graffiti, Hip-Hop, and the empowerment of the young generations from the poor suburbs of São Paulo, or the distinction between graffiti and pichação in the Cities Project, created by the Guardian with support from the Rockefeller Foundation. The relationship of the city with graffiti has also led in the past to a series of events called Bienal Internacional Grafitti Fine Art, in its third edition in 2015, and which brought about 60 artists from all over the world to the Parque Ibirapuera, in São Paulo.

My goal is not to initiate a dialogue on artistic merit of graffiti versus street writing, as many have already done (see the books Street Art: The Graffiti Revolution, Graffiti Worlds, Protest Graffiti, for example), but to probe the models of urban resistance that have been occurring since these very recent events. By cleaning the city center and eliminating undesired art forms, these institutions are initiating a strong process of commodification of protest art, specifying areas for that purpose, as well as “authorized art courses” to teach what the government is defining as such. Thus, the governmental discourse is engaging in a dangerous dynamic that determines that art needs first to be appropriated by mainstream discourse before being “allowed” on public space.

As background information, “Cidade Linda” [Beautiful City] was announced by the new Mayor João Dória on December 30th, 2017. A recent court decision from February 14th, 2017, will prevent Mayor Dória from erasing any more grafittis without authorization from Conpresp (Municipal Council on Heritage)(Gonçalves do Carmo, 2/14/2017). What the events have been pointing to is a perception of art, street art, and cultural intervention contributing to political programs of urban gentrification.

His twitter post erasing some walls in the city, dressed up in an orange jumpsuit, has also brought national attention, in this case due to the performativity (or excess) of the political action.

To further complicate how the decision-making of erasing the graffiti was done, in later justifications the Mayor equates street intervention artists with criminals:

“A prefeitura não vai ter tolerância com pichador. Não há diálogo com contraventor. Todo pichador é bandido. (…) Pichador não tem nada a ver com grafiteiro. A prefeitura vai gastar o que for necessário para proteger a cidade”

[The government will not have any forgiveness with street artists. There will be no dialogue with transgressors. Every street artist is a bandit. (…) We should not confuse taggers with graffiti artists. The city will spend whatever is needed to protect the city] (Folha, 2/17/17).

It is clear that a clear-cut distinction between certain forms of urban wall intervention called pichação (graffiti writing or tagging) from grafiteiros (graffiti murals) is being drawn. But as a result of the first interventions, “Secretary admits that Avenida 23 de Maio became ‘too grey’” (my translation, Diógenes, 1/24/17), now considering redoing other graffiti and promoting a festival to go along with it.

As a response to the erasure of the graffiti, another intervention was done on January 24th on Avenida 23 de Maio. This time, instead of the tagging of the street artists, we find an ironic joke with the signature of the Mayor, the artist behind the grey artistic intervention. It is unclear how the rest of “Programa Cidade Limpa” will affect public space, and whether the criminalization of graffiti will be carried out. What we know so far is that the decision is leading to a larger discussion that begs further examination of the relations between street interventions, public space, and city gentrification under the lenses of urban studies.

Further Reading:

Gonçalves do Carmo, Sidney. “Justiça proíbe Dória de cobrir grafite sem consultar órgão do patrimônio.” Folha de São Paulo. Feb. 14, 2017. Web. Feb. 25, 2017.

Folha de São Paulo. “Doria diz que pichadores são possíveis ladrões de celulares e serão vigiados.” Cotidiano. Feb. 17, 2017. Web. Feb. 25, 2017.

Diógenes, Juliana. “Secretário admite que a 23 de Maio ‘ficou muito cinza.’” O Estado de S. Paulo. 24 Jan 2017. Web. 15 Feb. 2017.

Juliana Luna Freire (Ph.D). is an Assistant Professor of Spanish and Portuguese at Framingham State University.

Introducing Juliana Luna Freire, another JUCS Assistant Editor

Hello! My name is Juliana Luna Freire and I am an Assistant Professor of Spanish and Portuguese at Framingham State University, just outside Boston. My scholarship focuses on 19th to 21st-Century Latin American and Spanish Literature, Cultural Studies and Film with a focus on ethnic identity, urban space, and gender. I am excited to join the Journal of Urban Cultural Studies editorial team.


I also previous experience in local and international editorial boards, including volunteering with The Arizona Journal of Hispanic Studies, working as editor and editorial assistant of the graduate journal Divergencias (the University of Arizona), having peer-reviewed for journals such as Hispania, Crisolenguas, Rocky Mountain Review, and currently am member of the editorial board of Pró-Letras, published by the Universidade Federal da Paraiba, in Brazil.

My dissertation was entitled “Ethnic Minorities in Brazil and Spain: Erasure & Stigmatization, Gender, and Self-Representation of Indigenous and Roma Communities” (2012). Specifically, I have published articles on urban space and its relationship to discourses of identity (race, ethnicity, and national affiliation) in contexts of contemporary globalization, bringing into the discussion the relationship between New Media and the use of city areas. This research project has led to a manuscript focusing on Roma self-representation in Spain, as well as other published articles. At the moment, I am doing research on systemic violence and its representation in the Luso-Brazilian world, and the ways how “rhyzomatic revolutions” have been taking place in increasingly networked societies (Castells, Merrifield).

Anyway, I am looking forward to participating here, and thank you for reading!