The Elefante Blanco, or White Elephant, was a 14-story tall building meant to be the largest hospital in Latinamerica. The building started construction in the 1930s, but it stopped soon after due to lack of budget. It started up again during Peron's first two presidencies, but it was finally abandoned when he was ousted by a military coup in 1955. Since then, it has become part of the Villa 15, a shanty town also known as the Hidden City.
Kids play a game of fútbol-tenis, a mix between tennis and soccer popular in Argentina. Throughout the decades, the Elephant became the home of hundreds of families. In the past couple of years, the city government has been trying to negotiate with its residents to leave the premises, with the intent of destroying the hospital and build a new ministry in its place.
In 2013, when negotiations started, over 180 families lived inside the building and around 90 just outside of it. In January 2018, no families remain inside and only 19 lived outside. Today, all the families are gone and the building is being torn apart.
After a family leaves, the government destroys the house they lived in, ensuring that no other family will move in – but also worsening the conditions for the families who still live there.
Detail of the inside of an elevator shaft. Amongst the broken bricks, oxidised nails, and contaminated water, lie the old TV sets, sofas, chairs, cabinets, deflated footballs, glass bottles, unprotected wires, and, as one of the residents described them, "cat-sized rats".
Detail of what used to be a store inside the Elephant. It reads: “We sell drinks: Coca Cola, Fanta, Double Coke, Manaos, Sprite, Fernandito”.
A government worker speaks to residents in the last homes outside the Elephant. While residents aren’t opposed to leaving, they have complained about the offer the government gives. According to them, the money being offered isn’t enough to buy a home in the same shanty town they currently live in.
Julio Ceballos grew up with his eight siblings and his mother in the Elephant. His was one of the last families that resided inside of the building. “When we lived here we liked to come up here and see the city from above,” he says. “Even now sometimes we come back with my friends. I like to remember what we did when I lived here.”