Once, the militarized zone extending to the fortifications surrounding Paris, in which construction was expressly forbidden, but illegally occupied by makeshift housing; today, la Zone refers to the outer limits of the city, characterized by the misery of its environment. © Larousse.
Since the mid-fifties, the corrugated metal and scrapwood shantytowns that once characterized the Parisien banlieues have been rapidly replaced by large concrete high rises. The inhabitants of these shantytowns, victims of their own limited resources (typically factory workers or the otherwise underpaid and overworked), finally gained the comfort of spacious apartments with heat and running water. Communities were born. A dense population grew to inhabit these low-income housing projects, (habitations à loyer modéré) bunched together to form artificial villages, baptised cités. However, as time wore on, the poverty of these post-war constructions became apparent. Within decades, poverty and racial inequality caused the French ghettoes to grow like mushrooms. The once ultramodern creations of the architects of these HLMs were now nothing more than clustered concrete towers, imposed between the cloudy Parisian sky and the vast stretches of pavement below. The foreign manual labor imported to construct these HLMs (Italians, Spaniards, North and West Africans) ironically became the first to move in once the initial wave of inhabitants left for better housing. The immigrants brought their families to come live in the housing that they themselves had built on the edge of the bustling metropole, and soon these banlieues became the melting (…)
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