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What Will Be the Fate of the Playa San Carlos, Panama? | Congress for the New Urbanism

What Will Be the Fate of the Playa San Carlos, Panama?

Dylan's picture

Recently I visited and spoke to several of the local people that work in and/or are involved in the development, engineering, and architecture of Playa San Carlos, Panama.  The Playa San Carlos is one of the most unique and beautiful tropical beaches I have ever witnessed personally.  In the foreground of the photo you can see what are the remains of an old Spanish/Pirate fort dating back to the 1500's.  The sand is a mixture of black volcanic and white shell sands swirled together.  It's proximity to Panama City (a little over an hours drive) makes this place a favorite relaxing weekend getaway destination for many city dwellers. It is a sleepy, rural, slow-paced little beach town with a tremendous potential for development.  And that is exactly what is starting to occur in San Carlos.

If you look in the distance of the photo you can see the first construction crane to be erected in San Carlos. In talking with the local people, what I have gathered from what they have told me (although not necessarily proven to me) is that the land that is occupied by the crane is owned by an Israeli development conglomorate, and that they are being very secretive about what their plans are and what will be built there.  Usually this type of crane is for the construction of a condominium.   I wonder if rising ocean levels are being taken into consideration in their plans?

In walking around San Carlos, I began to notice and feel that there is clearly a culture in this place that is very old and engrained in this area which has the potential of being destroyed by new development.  This would be the culture of the small commercial fisherman, as well as the more recent surfing culture.  A short distance South (behind) from where the photo was taken, small commercial fisherman beach their fishing boats.  They make usually once or twice daily trips offshore with their boats and fishing nets, then bring their catch in to sell at the local markets.  On the other side of the small dirt road from where the fishermen beach their boats, the land has been cleared to make way for the development of a community of duplexes.  The picture of the future community to be on the sign in front of the property, visible from the beach with the fishing boats, is rife with SUV's in the driveways of the duplexes and clearly out of the price range for any of the local fishermen to be able to afford to live in (or probably the surfers either for that matter).  The nameless architecture (or lack thereof) of the duplexes does not seem to fit the culture or the place in my opinion.  When I am in San Carlos, I personally envision Key West Bungalow, Caribbean, and Meditteranean style architecture mixed-use buildings that fishermen and surfers can afford to live in, with lush tropical edible gardens placed within a walkable community; not modern condominiums and architectureless duplexes with SUV's.

So this begs the question- what is to become of the old fishing and surfing culture in Playa San Carlos, Panama?  What is the fate of these people and this place?  Where is it going from here?  Or will there even be any of this culture left at all in a few years?

It is these questions that all people involved in the development of this place- Playa San Carlos, must ask themselves right now, at this time.  Otherwise irreversible damage can and will be done to one of the oldest cultures in one of the most unique and beautiful tropical beaches in the world.  And once a culture is destroyed, it usually never comes back.

Check out a few videos on my youtube that I made in Playa San Carlos, Panama.....

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GXrpLSdT6jg

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9y97H_ozNE4

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M3vRunGej_A

Follow me on Twitter:  www.Twitter.com/SustainablDylan

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