In Argentina, a barrio is a traditional division of a municipality officially delineated by the local authority at a later time, and sometimes keeps a distinct character from others (as in the barrio of Buenos Aires -- though they have been superseded by larger administrative divisions). Here, the word does not have a special socioeconomic connotation, except that it is used in contrast to the centro (city center or downtown). The expression barrio cerrado (translated "closed neighborhood") is employed for small, upper-class, residential settlements, planned with an exclusive criterion and often literally enclosed in walls (a kind of gated community).
More commonly, however, in the United States, barrios refer to lower-class neighborhoods with largely Spanish-speaking residents, basically the Latino equivalent of a "ghetto". The word often implies that the poverty level is high in such a neighborhood, but this inference is not universal. While there are many so-called barrios in the United States, Little Village, Chicago and Pilsen, Chicago are among the largest and most well-known, and are simply referred to as "El Barrio" by natives of the surrounding areas. Also, barrios most portrayed in national media and pop culture are Spanish Harlem in New York City and East L.A..
In the United States barrios can also refer to the geographical "turf" claimed by a Latino gang; this usage is generally limited to the Chicano gangs of California. The dramatization of gang life in music videos and movies has popularized this usage among the general population. Some gangs spell the word varrio, a common variant as some Spanish speakers (such as Mexicans) pronounce the letter "v" like the English "b". In yet another colloquial usage of the term, ethnic "ghettos" and "-towns" are often referred to by Spanish speakers as barrios appended with the appropriate qualifying adjective. For example, Chinatowns are known as barrios chinos.
The United States usage is also seen in Venezuela and the Dominican Republic, where 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.
The word barrio was used to refer to the locality-based campsite sectors of the Camp for Climate Action in 2007.