San José de Chamanga


Chamanga is a small fishermen’s community in the Province of Esmeraldas which was ravaged by the destructive April 16 earthquake (with a moment magnitude of 7.8 and a maximum Mercalli intensity of VIII) that hit Ecuador.

After visiting Chamanga we encountered four different post-earthquake conditions, concerning housing and public space as well:

  1.  The seafront zone was where the most affected houses were located. It was characterized by poor conditions of living and no infrastructure. After the earthquake there is a sense of abandonment, destruction, ruination, devastation.  The general feeling in this part of 18 de Octubre is of a street that used to be the main artery of public space and commercial uses, now giving a sense of having lost much of it.
  2. The central elevated zone of the peninsula that is defined by the street of San Jose is characterized by two different conditions on each side of the street: the housing on the side that faces the seafront is destroyed to a big percentage, due to it’s position on high inclination. The other side with more active housing in better conditions. The street as a whole maintains its life through the use of open-air public spaces.  The lower zone (defined through Calle Bertolucci) has  better housing conditions. Houses were partly destroyed, but most of them remain inhabited, and this is an active street, with an active public space.
  3. The upper zone of Chamanga was the less affected one. Mostly houses with only some damages,  or partly destroyed. Many new informal constructions or extensions have appeared there ever since (eg neighbourhood 30 de Enero).
  4. New communities- settlements such as Albergue de Nueva Jerusalem have appeared, while the formal  government settlements  on the other side possess aspects of a ghetto community: strong borders, entrance control, industrial and standard accommodations and infrastructure, lack of identity.
Half of a concrete structure has collapsed

The Chamanga estuary is a conch and fish ecosystem from which the community depends for their livelihood
Many of the fishermen houses of Chamanga were wooden stilt structures. 
Most of them collapsed and the rest were seriously damaged.

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Actuemos Ecuador is organizing a construction workshop with volunteer architects, stuidents and citizens, together with the community for the project of a community center in Albergue Nueva Jerusalen of Chamanga. The structure is made of bamboo, recycled tires and cement. Out team participated in the workshop and was exposed to the construction technique with bamboo. The bamboo is considered to be one of the most versatile and renewable materials and the bamboo being used here is sourced locally.