Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name


Organizational Unit

Geography and the Environment

First Advisor

Matthew Taylor

Second Advisor

Andrew R. Goetz

Third Advisor

Eric Boschmann


Environmental justice, Global south, Infrastructures, Migrant politics, South-south migration, Urban geography


This dissertation examines urban politics, environmental justice, and infrastructure from the vantage point of South-South migration. It focuses on the work of Nicaraguan migrants living in the informal settlement of La Carpio in San José, Costa Rica, as they negotiate rights in the form of urban services. Nicaraguans in La Carpio have organized politically since 1993 to self-install, demand, and negotiate services such as potable water and electricity. In the process, they successfully compel local authorities to allocate these services and grant them an implicit recognition of their right to remain and live a decent life, regardless of their status. These migrant struggles to improve urban life along with the mechanisms for rights-claiming that they open, show a different articulation of citizenship and political agency largely absent in the literature on migrants, refugees, and noncitizens, shaped in global North contexts: the predominance of urban informality as a means for migrants to negotiate with institutions of power the allocation of substantive rights. Through their work, Nicaraguan migrants in La Carpio have been able to lay the fabric upon which their own continuous practice of citizenship rests. I call this the Fabric of Citizenship. On the other hand, La Carpio hosts the main landfill of the metropolitan area of San José and the largest wastewater treatment plant in Central America. This dissertation also analyzes the sociospatial processes have made La Carpio the proper place to locate waste. I argue that the devaluation of migrant bodies and spaces through racism and xenophobia has played an important role in the production of Costa Rica’s uneven urban geography of waste. Yet, these waste infrastructures have also become a political tool for La Carpio residents as they now have the power to stop the flow of waste from the city to demand environmental and urban rights. Lastly, the dissertation proposes the concept of Infrastructures of Citizenship to underscore the centrality of self-installed infrastructures for basic services for the political participation of Nicaraguan migrants in the city and for their recognition by the state as rightful urban dwellers. For migrants, infrastructures are inaugurative of politics and citizenships.

Publication Statement

Copyright is held by the author. User is responsible for all copyright compliance.

Rights Holder

Nikolai Alexander Alvarado


Received from ProQuest

File Format




File Size

182 p.


Geography, Environmental justice, Latin American studies

Available for download on Monday, September 02, 2024