Student Update: Study Abroad in Argentina

Submitted by: Adriane Ackerman
Student Ambassador,First Stop Portland

Adriane is studying in Rosario, Argentina this fall. She'll be posting her notes from the field throughout the term.

Since May, 2105, I have had the opportunity to work with First Stop Portland where I have learned from and, at times, presented alongside Portland’s premiere innovators and experts in sustainable city design and development. Participating in professional conversations with public and private sector leaders from around the world has given me a new lens through which to consider policy and planning choices at the municipal level.

University buildings lining Plaza San Martín
This lens has proved invaluable to my studies at Portland State, including my senior Honors thesis, which examines ways cities (including Portland) use planning policy to cultivate democracy. My work at First Stop has helped me understand how to ask the right questions when looking to learn from cities around the world. Now it's helping me here, while I'm studying, researching (and submitting blog posts!) from Rosario, Argentina, this term.

City parks, like Plaza San Martín a the heart of downtown Rosario,
provide green spaces and free WiFi
To those who have yet to visit Argentina, Rosario may not jump to mind as readily as the iconic capital of Buenos Aires, but as the third largest city in the fourth most populated nation in Latin America, it is a formidable presence in the region. It also has more in common with Portland than I ever suspected.

Free, public cooking class using produce
 harvested from city park farms
A big bustling port city with a green small-town-feel, situated on the banks of the mighty Río Paraná (Paraná River), Rosario is known throughout Argentina for its dedication to civic engagement, sustainability, and smart city design. (Sound familiar?) With a population 1/3 larger than Portland’s in an area just under half of Portland’s, Rosario is no stranger to the challenges of  urban growth, although, admittedly, for sometimes different reasons. Extreme economic and political instability often associated with developing nations and nascent democracies can provide formidable obstacles to sustainable development. Every city has its issues, though, and even the narco-trafficking and other violent illegal activity here in recent years has not stopped the city from pushing forward with plans for a more sustainable, participatory future.

The Rosario-Victoria bridge is reminiscent of
Portland's new Tilikum Crossing
In 2005, Rosario enacted a series of programs aimed at connecting its six barrios (neighborhoods) to city resources in a more meaningful way. The neighborhood representatives and alliances that emerged have increased the livability of the city and access to services for Rosarians. Many of the projects share goals similar to those of Portland’s Office of Neighborhood Involvement. However, some are new ideas that Portland might look to, including a participatory city budget, subsidized urban farms (different from Portland’s community gardens), and a commitment to providing free cultural events to citizens.

The parque-huerta (city-sponsored "park farm") at Hogar España

Rosario is also looking for ways to lead the country in making transportation accessible by creating cyclist and pedestrian-friendly infrastructure. Rosario closes its largest thoroughfare to vehicular traffic each Sunday of the year and provides a free bike-rental service to promote cycling and multi-modal transit. Imagine Portland’s Sunday Parkways meets Saturday Market with live music and performances... but every week!

Multi-modal pathways line the Rio Paraná, akin to Waterfront Park in Portland
In coming months, I will be investigating Rosario’s best practices and programs and reporting back here about those I find most innovative, effective and/or applicable to Portland. If there’s one thing I’ve learned from my time so far with First Stop Portland, it is the fundamental importance of information exchange between cities, organizations, innovators and anyone hoping to do it better - whatever “it” may be!

Rosario's Mayor, Monica Fein, presenting the possibilities
of  her city's innovative participatory budget plan

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