Friday, May 16, 2008

Coco Solo: John McCain's birthplace

This is Coco Solo. It is the US military base in the former Panama Canal Zone where Republican presidential candidate John McCain was born. Like the rest of the Canal Zone, it was the closest thing to utopia, and an almost socialist utopia at that. Any time you needed something fixed at your house, you would just call up the government and they would send someone over right away to fix it. Everything was perfectly kept -- "Pleasantville"-like.

After it was reverted, some of it was invaded by people looking for a place to live. But the majority of people were actually sent there by the Ministry of Housing when they had no where else to go (because of, for example, evictions [not always justified] or fires that forced them from their homes in Colon, the poor former colonial city that lies on the Atlantic side of the canal). The Ministry of Housing told them that they would only be there for three to six months. Many of them have been there for upwards of 16 years.

Here is some footage from our trip there last week. On my first visit there (without cameras), I met Gerogina, a 34-year old mother of five who has lived there for 16 years. She says she was forced to live there after her landlord tricked her and her fellow neighbours and had them evicted. She says that the Ministry of Housing, her last and only hope, sent her to Coco Solo as something temporary. She says that she and her five kids had to live in one apartment with three other families. It was only when she "invaded" an empty apartment that she was able to have more space (but she had to give half of her living room and a bedroom to a family of nine).

She took us on an up-close and personal tour of Coco Solo where I met people who say they are ignored and forgotten.

I hope that the video I have uploaded does not seem too voyeuristic. If it is, I apologize, however, I'm just trying to show a side of Panama that is not part of the "boom" and that is the reality of a significant portion of the population (at least the 40% that live in poverty).

Here is an article from Reuters from last month that talks about Coco Solo in the context of John McCain and his birthplace: Click here

1 comment:

Jaclyn said...

wow! great video.