Barrio is a Spanish word meaning district or neighborhood. In Spain, the Spanish-speaking Latin American countries, and in the Philippines, barrios are generally cohesive places: sharing, for example, a church and traditions such as feast days.
It is often used in the United States to refer to a lower-class neighborhood with largely Spanish-speaking residents basically meaning a ghetto, but for Latinos. But it can be used to mean a neighborhood in any Spanish-speaking country. The word often implies that the poverty level is high in such a neighborhood, but this inference is not universal.
While there are many barrios in the United States, Spanish Harlem in New York City and East Los Angeles, California are among the more well-known ones and are simply referred to as "El Barrio" by natives of the surrounding areas.
In Argentina, a barrio is a traditional division of a municipality (city or town), officially delineated by the local authority at a later time, and sometimes keeping a distinct character from others (as it happens in the barrios of Buenos Aires, though they have been superseded by larger administrative divisions). The word does not have a special socioeconomic connotation, except it is used in contrast to the centro (city center or downtown). The expression barrio cerrado ("closed neighborhood") is employed for small, upper-class residential settlements, planned with an exclusive criterion and often literally enclosed in walls. (See gated community.) In the large cities, some barrios include (or are made up of mostly) villas miseria (slums).
In Venezuela, the name barrio is commonly given to slums in the outer rims of big cities such as Caracas, as well as lower to middle class neighborhoods in other cities and towns (to contrast with middle to upper class urbanizaciones). The term is also used in the Philippines, though in this case it loosely means a rural village.
In the United States barrio can also refer to the geographical "turf" claimed by a Latino gang; this usage is generally limited to the Chicano gangs of California. Some gangs spell the word varrio, a common spelling variant. The dramatization of gang life in music videos and movies has emphasized this meaning in public consciousness in North America. East Los Angeles, sometimes abbreviated to Easlos, is the best known such area, but residents there actually see the area as a series of contiguous barrios.
In Spanish, Chinatowns are known as barrios chinos; similarly, all ethnic ghettos and "-towns" receive the name barrio plus the appropriate qualifying adjective.
Barrio and Barrios are also Spanish surnames. The equivalent French spelling, Barriault, is a common name in Quebec.
- Shanty town
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Spanish terms for country subdivisions
|National / Federal|
|distrito federal / cantón · departamento · estado · provincia · comunidad autónoma · región|
|Regional / Metropolitan||comarca · comuna · municipalidad · municipio · merindad · corregimiento · anteiglesia / delegación · parroquia|
|Urban / Rural||barrio · colonia · fraccionamiento / comisaría · ranchería · parroquia · vereda|
Historical subdivisions in italics