Planning Garden Villages in the Colombian Highlands: Credit Democratization and Rural Housing during the Liberal Republic, 1930–46

Friday, January 8, 2016: 3:10 PM
International Ballroom B (Atlanta Marriott Marquis)
Susana Romero, Cornell University
Beginning in 1930, credit became the centerpiece of all policies of economic promotion. Liberal and Conservative reformers agreed that the consolidation of state funded banking, which comprised the set up of credit offices throughout the national territory, would stimulate individual enterprise, benefitting the economy as a whole. This was especially true with regards to the rural sector. Liberals and Conservatives believed in state credit’s power to transform peasant economies by redirecting state capital to small farmers who had not had access to the privileges of state support. In 1934-1936, during the first half of Alfonso López Pumarejo’s term, the Conservative Party hindered Liberal reforms at many levels, while the program of “credit democratization” advanced with the open sanction of the Conservatives. The Eduardo Santos administration deepened the democratization of credit by creating new institutions that multiplied the reach and functions of credit. These new institutions allowed municipalities to improve their infrastructure and poor peasant families to build their homes.

This paper argues that Colombia’s first and only housing institution, the Instituto de Crédito Territorial (ICT), was the social component of an overarching program of credit democratization for the rural sector. With housing, state officials attempted to address the obstacles of the Liberals’ agricultural policy had encountered at the local level. It dwells in the intellectual and political motives that drove state officials in 1939 to create the ICT. It explains the nature and content of the rural housing campaign, showing that this program concentrated in the capital city’s immediate southwestern vicinity, Sumapaz, where local social dynamics were questioning the effectiveness of Liberal policies. Finally, I emphasize that rural housing set the financial, administrative, and technical basis of the wide reaching urban housing projects the ICT embarked upon since 1942, which, ironically, transformed the institution in Colombia’s biggest urban developer.