Founded in 2004 by the residents of seven informally established neighbourhoods located along the Martín Peña channel, a highly polluted and flood prone channel in San Juan, Puerto Rico, the Fideicomiso de la Tierra del Caño Martín Peña (the Caño Martín Peña Community Land Trust or Caño CLT) is the first community land trust in Latin America and the Caribbean, and one of the only two CLTs in informal settlements worldwide. It has become an international reference for other informal and low-income communities across the world, as an instrument to regularise land tenure and protect communities against displacements driven by gentrification, economic decline, neoliberal austerity, and climate change-induced natural risks.
My research explores the Caño CLT from a political ecological perspective, as I aim to identify how the interests, policies and discourse of political and economic elites function to perpetuate the vulnerability of residents in unplanned settlements, particularly in the aftermath of natural disasters, and how the Caño CLT is an effective instrument to counter this process. From a perspective of decolonial feminism, my research also looks into the ways these struggles to resist displacements and organise grassroots neighbourhood development are challenging modern, colonial, capitalist thinking about property, race and gender (Lugones, 2010).
In my presentation for RHEA I will focus on the importance of women in the Caño CLT as the organisations driving the CLT are represented by nearly all-women Community Councils. I will describe the significance of the project in the context of Puerto Rico, a colony of the United States, that has been struck by recent climate, political and financial crises and how the struggles from Caño residents are challenging colonial and capitalist notions of risk, crisis and vulnerability.