Brett Neilson and Ned Rossiter
Known in Chile as los hombres verdes, the green men of Ventanas are former copper smelter workers whose skin is scarred with green lesions produced by chemical reactions. Located some sixty kilometres north of the port of Valparaíso, Ventanas has been declared una zona de sacrificio due to pollution from heavy industry. The area’s general toxicity mirrors the purity of its copper exports, which travel primarily to China. Copper is undoubtedly a form of elemental media, essential to today’s digital capitalism and logistical technologies. Yet the reputed purity of the copper refined at Ventanas cannot fix the price of this commodity, which rather follows the fluctuations of trading on metal exchange markets. In the face of this financial uncertainty, data and logistics have emerged as the last hope to squeeze more from less in the Chilean copper industry, recasting the heroic role of the miner in a country ‘married’ to this metal. Wracked by strikes in the mining and the port sectors, Chile has become a laboratory for a new cycle of struggles, much as it was for twenty years a testbed of neoliberalism. Under these conditions, the Logistical Worlds research shifted to Latin America.
Alejandro Donaire Palma
Strangled by Ruins
When I was a boy in early 1990s, Valparaíso was a ruined landscape. The earthquake of 1985 damaged the city’s infrastructure, including a significant part of the port terminals, whose operational rehabilitation took from 1990 to 1999. During those years cargo trucks were forced to cross the main urban routes due to the lack of direct access roads to the terminals, causing congestion and producing delays in freight shipment. It was repeatedly said that the port was ‘strangled by the city’.
The earthquake was just the coup of grace in the decline of the old-good days when the port of Valparaíso was named the ‘Jewel of the Pacific’. The city’s late 19th century ‘humble-Victorian’ commercial splendor left as legacy a ‘steampunk’ socio-technical ecology of firms, knowledges and cracked infrastructures concentrated on a few streets between the hills and coastline. At the end of the 20th century, the territorial diagram of these port infrastructures – marked as topological points through space – was exceeded by cargo movement demand, responding neither to the urban configuration developed in the preceding decades nor the port management model promoted by 1980s neoliberal economic restructuring.
Impressions of Valparaíso, Alimapu, El Puerto
In presenting an initial portrait of the port city of Valparaíso, of its contrasts and contradictions, I think it is relevant to recall the life and verses of Chilean poet Pablo Neruda who, like many others, inhabited this city with creative passion. A lover of travel, of the sea and of harbours, this is where he brought to life one of his peculiar houses, ‘La Sebastiana’, from which he pondered and wrote about his experience of a city that rebelled against any attempt of urban and infrastructural domestication.
José Llano Loyola and Paulina E. Varas
At first sight, the port of Ventanas, located 60 kilometres north of Valparaíso, and the surrounding town seem to be places affected by catastrophe. If this impression is indeed factually the case, is important to understand the different levels of complexity of this devastating condition, considering that communication and information devices also operate at the core of human subjectivity, molding it for its exploitation and encountering, in this context, somatic rebellion movements.
Disciplines and wisdoms define the body differently. Many images appear in this process. The formation of extractive processes and the impact of logistics have bodily and subjective expressions. In the case of Ventanas, these include forms of pollution that remain in the organs and infect them to death, toxic clouds caused by the refinery that move through the air and get into children’s lungs, and ships sailing from the port and crossing oceans to keep capital in movement. All of these expressions establish more than human connections.