Disputed Territories: Legal Mobilization in the Eastern Hills of Bogotá

  • Prada Uribe, Maria Angelica (PI)

Project: Research Project

Project Details


The research problem that I seek to address in this project is the dispute that currently exists over the Eastern Hills, in which different actors, based on different practices, discourses and forms of government, dispute the construction and value of this territory. Although the origins of this dispute can be traced back to the processes of urbanization and violence at the beginning of the 20th century, this research will focus on the conflict that arose in 2005 as a result of two events: (i) first, the issuance by the Ministry of Environment of Resolution 463 of 2005 that excluded 973 hectares of the Cerros Orientales Forest Reserve that was declared in 1977; (ii) the filing of a popular action against Resolution 463, which sought to make effective the protection of the entire Forest Reserve, which would have the effect of relocating neighborhoods of informal origin and canceling construction licenses granted to construction companies.

Resolution 463 sought to resolve the situation surrounding both the lack of environmental protection of the Eastern Hills and the informal settlements that had developed for more than 50 years in the Cerros strip. However, the formalization of the situation presented, on the contrary, the different conflicting interests that exist in the territory and made the different actors whose interests are conflicting more visible. The popular action, in turn, generated a new space of dispute in which the different actors and interests became more evident. Among these are: the "Cerros Orientales Environmental Roundtable" whose origin is the community processes of informal neighborhoods; environmental preservation organizations such as the Cerros de Bogotá Foundation and Amigos de la Montaña; and the Colombian construction guild (Camacol).

Each sector promotes conflicting territorial values. While community defense organizations, articulated around the Environmental Roundtable, seek recognition of the value of their social ties and ways of relating to the territory (Mesa Ambiental de los Cerros Orientales, 2008); other actors such as environmental organizations see in the Cerros an environmental value that, in some cases, may even be incompatible with the settlements of people in the territory. In addition, the construction guild, as well as other actors in the financial sector, seek the urbanization of the territory with the objective of generating greater exchange value on the land. In this scenario, public entities have played different roles, depending on the district administration in turn and the type of entity. In some cases they have been great allies of the inhabitants who seek to defend their territory, while in others they have promoted the interests of the construction companies and the financial sector.

Given that within this conflict the voices that have received less resonance are those of the inhabitants of the neighborhoods of informal origin, throughout the investigation we seek to answer a series of analytical and conceptual questions that allow us to understand the communal processes of defense of the territory of the Eastern Hills. Among these are: How have the traditional inhabitants of the informal neighborhoods of the Eastern Hills organized themselves to defend their permanence in the territory? Who are the different actors disputing the territory of the Eastern Hills, what are their particular interests and how have they articulated their claims to the territory? How have the legal institutions of urban and administrative law played a role in the dispute for the definition of the territory of the Eastern Hills?

As this research paper focuses on the practices, discourses and interests of different actors on the territory of the Eastern Hills, a traditional view of the research space is inadequate. Following Doreen Massey, this work understands the research space "as constructed from interrelations, as the simultaneous coexistence of interrelations and social interactions at all spatial scales, from the most local to the most global level" (Massey, 1993: 155). To achieve this, emphasis will be placed on tracing the discourses of the different actors in conflict, as suggested by Marcus in his methodology on multi-situ ethnographies (Marcus, 2009). Bearing in mind that many of the urbanization processes respond to transnational discourses, it is possible that this methodology allows me to trace the influence of transnational actors and discourses.

This research is framed within critical academic discussions of urban developments in cities and their relationship to capitalist development processes and globalization.
Effective start/end date2/1/1912/20/19

UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This project contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 4 - Quality Education
  • SDG 9 - Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure

Main Funding Source

  • Installed Capacity (Academic Unit)


  • Bogotá D.C.


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