There is an abundance of studies on squatting published over the last two decades. Although there is not much consensus about the boundaries of the subject itself – with different expressions of informal dwelling and urban settlements, illegal occupations of land and buildings, tenure insecurity and substandard housing, and even some aspects of homelessness falling under the umbrella of squatting – we will argue that a) squatting practices, defined as unauthorised occupations of land and buildings, predominantly indicate structural inequalities and injustice deeply rooted in the prevailing housing markets and policies, and b) that its more politicised and activist expressions represent the most explicit challenge to housing oppression. This chapter compares specific forms of squatting in two metropolitan areas from the Global South and the Global North, respectively – Belo Horizonte (Brazil) and Madrid (Spain). We elaborate our comparison by taking into account the features of the state and world-regional contexts (Brazil and Spain, on the one hand, and Latin America and Europe, on the other) without limiting ourselves to the first-hand data collected from the two cities. Furthermore, we frame our analysis according to a political economy approach by asking: What can we learn from squatting in order to know the mechanisms of oppression and the limits of the capitalist production and governance of cities? This does not entail a blunt assumption about the homogeneity of global capitalism which will render any comparison unnecessary. Rather, we aim at illuminating how the varieties of urban neoliberalism are contested by squatting practices and movements in both the Global South and the Global North. This justifies our focus on squatting activism instead of just looking at all the situations of informal or illegal urbanism. Squatters contest urban inequalities according to different strategies, resources, contextual opportunities and contentious interactions with the authorities and property owners. Prior comparative research has not paid much attention to all these aspects and has not incorporated the squatters’ activism into the picture either. As we substantiate below, both land and building occupations are tightly connected by activism. Occupied houses, social centres and vacant land at the urban core, as disparate as they may appear, are all driven by grassroots expressions of the ‘right to the city’. Finally, by discussing how different policies and negotiations related to squatting occur in each context, we aim to disclose the extent of squatters’ empowerment through a very demanding and sometimes desperate direct action when housing and cities are subject to powerful capitalist interests.

How to reference the publication:

Campos, C., & Martinez, M. (2020). Squatting activism in Brazil and Spain: Articulations between the right to housing and the right to the city.