Paco and Pepe: Today the Shooting Starts

It’s five in the morning and I can’t sleep. For the past hour I’ve laid awake staring at the ceiling as Ale lay curled up into my side. Her soft, rythmic breathing is the only calming aspect of this morning.

In about four hours I start a photoshoot in The Hidden City. Called La Ciudad Oculta, this is a barrio in Buenos Aires that was deliberately created 35 years ago to hide poverty and the inefficiency of a military dictatorship from the world.

Now, it’s become a ghetto on a tragic scale as about 30,000 men, women and children call the barrio home.

There’s something about the story that fascinates me. Ale first mentioned The Hidden City to me one night over dinner a few months ago and in my mind and soul, the oppression shown by one group of people has gotten under my skin and taken root.

A part of Buenos Aires so dangersous that even the “policia” won’t enter, The Hidden City is controlled by the gangs that freely roam it’s cobblestone streets. Looking like an old black and white photograph of the ghetto in Poland right before the Nazi’s started taking Jews to Auschwitz, it’s difficult to believe that oppression on this scale still happens in the 21st century within a country that publicly prides itself for it’s human rights position and privately steals millions of dollars.

Never before in the history of man, have so many been marginalized based strictly on economic status. While other countries and civilizations have curtained off people in the name of religion and culture, no political system has stepped so low as to isolate a group of people, to this extent, for simply being poor.


While Argentine President, Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner sits in Casa Rosada smugly looking into the television cameras talking about how concerned she is for human rights, 30,000 people live in squalor and desperation because their most basic human right is being trampled on.

While the city sleeps, I step out onto the balcony. My favorite place in the apartment, the balcony gives me almost a bird’s eye view of the streets. Drinking a cup of coffee and smoking my ever-present cigarette, I can’t help but wonder why so many Argentines turn their back on The Hidden City.

It’s a story that doesn’t just fascinate me though. If you’re interested, you can check out a movie called “The White Elephant”. You’ll find a review of it here.

In the meantime, I need another cup of coffee and another Marlboro. I’ll let you know how it goes today.

Jerry Nelson is a freelance photojournalist from America.  The creator of the photographic book, No Indians in Tennessee, he now lives in Argentina while he continues to turn his lens on social justice issues around the globe.  Connect with Jerry on MosaicHub, Facebook or LinkedIn today. Follow this link to read more of his work on Huffington Post and Examiner.  Jerry uses WeOnTech to distribute his images and articles, get your FREE TRIAL today.  Have a story that needs to reach national media?  Email him today.

One thought on “Paco and Pepe: Today the Shooting Starts

  1. Today, although the dividing wall has long since crumbled, the ‘Ciudad Oculta’or ‘hidden city’ as Villa 15 has since been known, still continues to sprawl around the enormous edifice, referred to by locals as the ‘white elephant’.

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