Globalization and Urban Structure in Latin America: The Case of Export Processing Zones in El Salvador

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Virginia Tech

This research explores the relationship between economic transformations, as part of the process of globalization of the economy in Latin America and the restructuring of urban space. The study reviews two main bodies of the literature. The first one, concerned with the economic evolution of the region in the last two decades especially the trend toward export promotion. The second is related to the changes in the urbanization process arising form globalization. Drawing from these sources, a new model for the Globalized Latin American City is introduced.

The empirical part of the research focuses on the Metropolitan Area of San Salvador (MASS), El Salvador, particularly in the relationship between the establishment of new Export Processing Zones (EPZs) and the emergence of new post suburban residential developments occurring nearby, thirty kilometers away from the city. A random sample household survey was conducted in two sites in order to get information about the processes of spatial movement of these populations and their hypothetical direct connection with the EPZs.

The results contrast with the theoretical assumptions of the model. There is no evidence of strong direct connections between the neighborhoods and the EPZs. However, there is significant evidence that these linkages occur at a regional level, since the corridors where export-oriented industries have tended to locate appear to be increasingly connected to the metropolitan dynamic, as suppliers of work force and potential areas for new development. Therefore, economic globalization appears to act as a catalyst of a new pattern of urbanization, with profound social, administrative, and environmental consequences.

export-processing zones, El Salvador, globalization, Latin America, urbanization, urban morphology