An Environmental and Social Study of Saboga Island in the Face of Development and Tourism

 
An Environmental and Social Study of Saboga Island in the Face of Development and Tourism
An Environmental and Social Study of
      Saboga Island in the Face of
       Development and Tourism

                          Bianca Maritz and Sophine Johnsson

                   McGill School of Environment, McGill University

Submitted to Professor Rafael Samudio and Professor Roberto Ibanez, Smithsonian Tropical
                                        Institute

                                    April 26th, 2010
An Environmental and Social Study of Saboga Island in the Face of Development and Tourism
A Special Thanks To

Dr. Francisco Herrera
      Apartado Postal / PO Box 0824-00052
      Panamá, Rep. De Panamá Vía Argentina, Edificio 78, Apto. 2
      Telephone and fax: (507) 223-9170
      Email: herrerafrancisco545@gmail.com

Grupo del Sol
      Armel Gonzalez Muhs
      Grupo del Sol Developments
      Trump Plaza Obarrios, Modulo 1
      Panama City, Panama
      Telephone: (507) 265-4845

Dr. Richard Cooke
       Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute
       Box 0843-03092
       Balboa, Ancon, Republic of Panama
       Telephone: (507)212-8747
       Email: cooker@si.edu

Dr. Hector Guzmán
      Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute
      MRC 0580-08
      Apartado 0843-03092
      Panama City, Republic of Panama
      Telephone: (507) 212-8733
      Email: guzmanh@si.edu

The Community of Saboga

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An Environmental and Social Study of Saboga Island in the Face of Development and Tourism
Key Words: Saboga Island, social changes, environmental changes, tourism, development, social
problems, environmental problems, archaeological sites

TABLE OF CONTENTS
   1. HOST INSTITUTION
        1.1 Host Supervisor and Host Institution Information……………...……......5
        1.2 Other Affiliations…………………………………………………………                                                                   6
            1.2.1 Almanaque Azul…………………………………………………………6
            1.2.2 Grupo del Sol…………………………………………………………….6
            1.2.3 Dr. Richard Cooke……………………………………………………….6
   2. EXECUTIVE SUMMARIES…………………………………………..............7
       2.1 Executive Summary………………………………………………………...                                                                   7
       2.2 Resumen Ejecutivo…………………………………………………………                                                                     9
       2.3 Number of Days Spent on Internship…………………………………........                                                     11
   3. INTRODUCTION AND BACKGROUND……………………………………..                                                                      11
       3.1 History.................................................................................................... 11
       3.2 Demographic History.............................................................................. 11
       3.3 Socio-Economic State of Saboga............................................................. 12
       3.4 Environment........................................................................................... 13
       3.5 Current Development on Saboga............................................................. 13
       3.6 Objectives............................................................................................... 14
                 3.6.1 Final Objectives........................................................................................... 14
                                                                                                                                   15
                 3.6.2 Justification.................................................................................................
       3.7 Study Area.............................................................................................. 16
   4. METHODOLOGY………………………………………………………………                                                                           17
      4.1 Preparatory Work...................................................................................... 17
        4.2 Field Work............................................................................................. 19
        4.3 Mapping and Data Processing................................................................ 20
      RESULTS………………………………………………………………………..                                                                          21
      5.1 Interview Results...................................................................................... 21
                 5.1.1 Family and History……………………………………………………...21
                 5.1.2 Social…………………………………………………………………….22
                         5.1.2.1 Population and Occupations………………………………………….22
                         5.1.2.2 Education………………………………………………………..........23
                         5.1.2.3 Amenities…………………………………………………………. …..       23
                 5.1.2.4 Religion……………………………………………………………………….25
                 5.1.3 Environment…………………………………………………………..…25
                 5.1.4 Fishing………………………………………………………………..….26
                 5.1.5 Hunting………………………………………………………….…….…27
                 5.1.6 Use of Forest Plants……………………………………………………..28
                 5.1.7 Tourism and Development……………………………………………....28
          5.2 Sites Identified from Observations, Interviews, and Tours...................... 30
                 5.2.1 Socio-Cultural Locations Identified............................................................
                                                                                                                   30
                 5.2.2 Important Environmental Sites Identified.................................................32
                 5.2.3 Ongoing Development Projects...................................................................
                                                                                                                   33
   5. DISCUSSION……………………………………………………………...…...34
       6.1 The Town…………………………………………………………………..34
       6.2 Employment and Education…………………………………………..….. 35

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An Environmental and Social Study of Saboga Island in the Face of Development and Tourism
6.2.1 Employment…………………………………………………………….                                                                                  35
          6.2.2 Education……………………………………………………………….                                                                                  36
  6.3    The       Culture............................................................................................... 36
          6.3.1 The Church.................................................................................................. 36
          6.3.2 Way of Life………………………………………………………………. 37
  6.4 Social Issues………………………………………………………………... 40
          6.4.1 Water…………………………………………………………………….. 40
          6.4.2 Land Title………………………………………………………………… 41
          6.4.3 Archaeological Sites……………………………………………………… 42
          6.4.4 Alcohol and Drugs……………………………………………………….. 43
          6.4.5 Perception of Saboga……………………………………………………. 43
    6.5 Environment………………………………………………………………. 43
    6.6 Tourism and Development………………………………………………… 44
6. CONCLUSION AND RECOMMENDATIONS……………………………….. 45
7. REFERENCES………………………………………………………………….. 48
8. APPENDIX……………………………………………………………………… 49
    9.1 Interview Questions………………………………………………………... 49
    9.2 Results Tables……………………………………………………………… 54
          Table 1: Family and History………………………………………………….. 54
          Table 2: Social………………………………………………………………… 54
          Table 3: Environment………………………………………………………… 56
          Table 4: Fishing……………………………………………………………….. 57
          Table 5: Hunting……………………………………………………………… 58
          Table 6: Forest Plants……………………………………………………….… 58
          Table 7: Tourism……………………………………………………….….. 59
  9.3 Final Products for Host Institution and Affiliations……………………….. 60
          9.3.1 Maps............................................................................................................ 60
                     Figure 1: Map of Saboga with all Identified Important Sites............................ 60
                     Figure 2: Social Map.......................................................................................... 61
                     Figure 3: Environment Map............................................................................... 62
                     Figure 4: Development Map............................................................................... 63
                     Figure 5: Saboga‘s Town Map........................................................................... 64
          9.3.2 Pamphlet...................................................................................................... 65
  9.4 Photographs.........................................................................................                          66
          Figure 6…………………………………………………………………………. 66
          Figure 7…………………………………………………………………………. 66
          Figure 8…………………………………………………………………………. 66
          Figure 9…………………………………………………………………………. 66
          Figure 10………………………………………………………………………... 66
          Figure 11………………………………………………………………………... 66
          Figure 12………………………………………………………………………... 67
          Figure 13………………………………………………………………………... 67
          Figure 14………………………………………………………………………... 67
  9.5 Spanish Summary for Institutions ……………………………………..                                                                             68

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An Environmental and Social Study of Saboga Island in the Face of Development and Tourism
1. HOST INSTITUTION

1.1 Host Supervisor and Information on Institution

Host Supervisor: Dr. Francisco Herrera
       Apartado Postal / PO Box 0824-00052
       Panamá, Rep. De Panamá Vía Argentina, Edificio 78, Apto. 2
       Telephone and fax: (507) 223-9170
       Email: herrerafrancisco545@gmail.com

Organization: Alianza para la Conservación y el Desarrollo (ACD)

Our host institute is Alianza para la Conservación y el Desarrollo (ACD). ACD is a

Panamanian non-governmental organization (NGO) that aims to promote conservation and

alternative development through the defence and empowerment of Panamanian communities.

Their mission is to ultimately make development more just and environmentally responsible

(ACD, 2009). ACD works in communities in Bocas del Toro, La Amistad International Park,

Coiba Natinal Park, the Pearl Islands Archipelago, and Cuenca del Lago Bayano. Their

objectives surround investigating natural areas, addressing, and educating people about socio-

environmental issues to better prepare and involve communities (ACD, 2009). They work

politically to designate protected areas, achieve sustainable energy, climate, and community

development plans (ACD, 2009).

ACD has done work on Saboga Island in the past. They have conducted socio-economical

surveys on Saboga, Pedro Gonzalez, and San Miguel Islands. In addition, they have also

assessed the state of the environment on these three islands, which includes identifying

environmental problems and providing possible solutions for the observed problems.

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An Environmental and Social Study of Saboga Island in the Face of Development and Tourism
1.2 Other Affiliations

       1.2.1 Almanaque Azul

Almanaque Azul (2010) is an organization that promotes sustainable tourism on the beaches

and coasts of Panama. They believe tourisms should benefit local communities the most.

Like ACD, they work with communities to help integrate them in the tourism process. By

providing communities, like Saboga, with information on tourism and how to be part of it is

beneficial in helping empower the community (Almanaque Azul, 2010).

       1.2.2 Grupo del Sol

Grupo del Sol is the Central American development company that has bought the beaches of

Saboga Island and is currently developing on it. Many of the men on Saboga work for this

company, mostly in construction. The company is promoting its development on Saboga as

―sustainable‖ and encouraging ―Eco-tourism.‖ Grupo del Sol was very supportive of our

project, and financed and provided accommodation for one of our trips, and paid for our food

during both of our trips to Saboga.

       1.2.3 Dr. Richard Cooke

Dr. Cooke is an archaeologist who is associated with the Smithsonian Tropical Research

Institute in Panama. He is very interested in the archaeology and achaeozoology of Latin

America. In 2006, ―Panama‘s National Secretariat for Science, Technology and Innovation‖

(SENACYT) funded surveys and test-excavations under the supervision of Dr. Cooke on the

Pearl Island Archipelago (Cooke and Jimenez 1, 2009). The ―principal objective was to

mitigate impacts of forthcoming construction projects by transmitting the scientific

importance of island archaeological resources in the context of cultural and biological

diversity‖ (Cooke and Jimenez, 20091). Currently, he is conducting excavations on the island

Pedro Gonzalez.

                                            2.

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An Environmental and Social Study of Saboga Island in the Face of Development and Tourism
2. EXECUTIVE SUMMARIES

 An Environmental and Social Study of Saboga Island in the Face of Development and
                                     Tourism

Authors: Bianca Maritz and Sophine Johnsson
Host Institution: Alianza para la Conservación y el Desarrollo de Panamá, Apartado Postal /
PO Box 0824-0005, Edificio 78, Apto. 2, Vía Argentina Panamá, Rep. De Panamá

Tourism and development inevitably have environmental and social impacts, especially when
rapid changes occur. The Pearl Islands Archipelago, 64 km from Panama City, is already a
popular tourist attraction. Our internship was on Saboga Island, one of the 255 islands in the
Archipelago and is located at the northern end of the Archipelago, right next to the most
visited island, Contadora. With the increasing demand for vacation spots in the Archipelago,
a development Company named Grupo del Sol bought 70% of Saboga in 2009. Development
of the island‘s beaches has already started. Our host institution, Alianza para la Conservación
y el Desarrollo de Panamá, aims to empower communities such as Saboga, by preparing them
for tourism, helping them protect their island, and also be part of the developments in a
sustainable and locally-enriching way.

The objective of this internship was to gather and record environmental, social, and historical
information on Saboga Island before the drastic changes of tourism and development occur.
The goal of our internship is to share this information with many different organizations and
scientists involved in projects that will benefit and help the Saboga community as they
prepare for tourism and development.

To achieve these goals we decided to produce informative maps and a pamphlet with all the
important environmental, social and historical sites identified, as well as indicating the
current construction areas. In addition to producing these maps and the pamphlet, we also
wrote a detailed study on the island. To collect and record all the information surrounding the
aforementioned topics we had a series of interviews with the people of Saboga scientists,
archaeologists, the development company, and different groups working on Saboga. Three
guided tours were also given to us by 1) two local adolescents, 2) by boat around the island,
and 3) by the development company. All our research was conducted in accordance with
McGill University‘s Code of Ethics. From the interviews and the tours we were able to
identify and mark important and development sites with a GPS, allowing us to make maps
using Google Earth©.

Our maps show sites that must be considered in the face of development to ensure that the
island‘s natural, as well as cultural sites are protected. Our research and interviews point to
several conflicts already taking form on the island due to development. The most significant
environmental issue we noted was insufficient fresh water resources on the island. According
to our interviews, ever since the development company began using the same freshwater well
as the community there has not been enough water to fill their tanks. As a result, they have to
walk a minimum of 600 m to the well to get their water, wash themselves, etc.

The most significant concern of cultural disruption by the development is the concern over
the community‘s access to Pre-Colombian marine corrals found on two of Saboga‘s beaches.
These archaeological fish and turtle traps are still used by the locals to catch fish for
sustenance, and happen to be located on the same beach as the first phase of development.

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An Environmental and Social Study of Saboga Island in the Face of Development and Tourism
Despite the fact that beaches are public property, the people of Saboga still fear the loss of
access to the corrals.

The main attitude towards development and tourism that we identified in the community was
positive. There is an optimistic sentiment that increased tourism will bring new sources of
income and opportunities for cultural exchange. However, there are also concerns and
uncertainties regarding how the community will be affected, the extent of their involvement,
and the unknown changes that will be imposed upon them.

Hopefully, our findings will help equip ACD with information and materials (in the forms of
the maps and pamphlet) to begin their work with the community of Saboga. A better
understanding of the island‘s natural and cultural riches will hopefully serve as a tool, for the
people of Saboga and the organizations working with them, to make sure that the
development and tourism that ensue will be as sustainable and beneficial to the community as
possible.

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An Environmental and Social Study of Saboga Island in the Face of Development and Tourism
RESUMEN EJECUTIVO

Un Estudio Social y Ambiental de la Isla Saboga de Cara al Crecimiento Turístico y de
                                     Desarrollo

Autoras: Bianca Maritz y Sophine Johnsson
Institución de Acogida: Alianza para la Conservación y el Desarrollo de Panamá, Apartado
Postal / PO Box 0824-0005, Edificio 78, Apto. 2, Vía Argentina Panamá, Rep. De Panamá

El turismo y el desarrollo tienen impactos sociales y ambientales, especialmente cuando
ocurren rápidamente. El Archipiélago de Las Perlas a 64 Km. de la Ciudad de Panamá,
conoce bien el turismo. Nuestra pasantía fue sobre la Isla Saboga, una de las 225 islas en el
archipiélago que esta al norte, al lado de la isla más turística: Isla Contadora. Para responder a
la demanda de más lugares de vacaciones en el archipiélago, un grupo de desarrollo, Grupo
del Sol, compro 70% de la isla Saboga en 2009. Ya ha empezado el desarrollo de las playas.
Nuestra institución de acogida, Alianza para la Conservación y el Desarrollo de Panamá,
intenta capacitar comunidades, como la de Saboga, y prepararles para el turismo. De esta
manera, intenta ayudar a las comunidades para proteger su isla y participar en el desarrollo en
una manera sostenible y beneficiosa para ellos.

El objetivo de la pasantía fue recoger y grabar información sobra el ambiente, la sociedad, y
la historia de la Isla Saboga frente a los cambios del desarrollo y turismo. Nuestra meta fue
compartir esta información con los grupos de organizaciones y científicos que hacen parte de
los proyectos en Saboga, para ayudar a la comunidad de Saboga de cara al crecimiento
turístico y de desarrollo.

Para lograr nuestros objetivos, producimos mapas informativos y un panfleto que muestran y
describen los sitios importantes para el ambiente, la sociedad, la cultura, y lugares históricos
en la isla. Identificamos los sitios donde han empezado el desarrollo también. Además de los
mapas y el panfleto, hicimos un estudio detallado de la isla. Para recoger toda la información,
hicimos encuestas con la gente de Saboga, científicos, arqueólogos, la empresa de desarrollo,
y diferentes grupos que están trabajando en Saboga. También, hicimos dos viajes a la isla,
con tres giras: la primera fue con dos jóvenes de Saboga, la segunda fue en una lancha
alrededor de la isla, y la tercera fue con el grupo de desarrollo. Todas nuestras
investigaciones seguirán el código ético de la Universidad de McGill. Con la información de
las encuestas y las giras, identificamos y marcamos los sitios importante en la isla, con un
GPS, e hicimos mapas con Google Earth©.

Los mapas muestran sitios que son importantes a cuidar y proteger de cara al desarrollo.
Además, nuestras investigaciones y encuestas apuntan a conflictos que se está formando con
el desarrollo de la isla. El problema ambiental más importante que identificamos es la falta de
agua dulce en Saboga. En las encuestas, la gente de Saboga dice que después que la empresa
de desarrollo ha empezado a utilizar el mismo pozo de agua de la comunidad, no hay
suficiente agua para llenar los tanques en las casas. Como consecuencia, los isleños necesitan
que caminar un mínimo de 600 metros para buscar agua, limpiarse, etc.
El problema más importante del impacto de desarrollo sobre la cultura es la preocupación del
pueblo de perder su acceso a los corrales marinos. Estas trampas datan de la época
precolombina y se usan todavía para recoger pescados y otros mariscos para alimentar el
pueblo de Saboga. Estos recursos importantes están en las mismas playas donde han

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An Environmental and Social Study of Saboga Island in the Face of Development and Tourism
empezado el desarrollo. La ley indica que las playas son públicas, pero la gente de Saboga
aun así tiene miedo de perder sus derechos a los corrales.

Sin embargo, la disposición del pueblo frente al desarrollo y turismo es muy positiva. Hay un
sentimiento que un aumento de turismo puede dar más oportunidades económicas y ocasiones
para más intercambios culturales en la isla. Por otra parte, hay preocupaciones entre la gente
porque no saben cómo la comunidad va a estar afectada, si van a estar involucrados en el
desarrollo, o cuales cambios van a imponerse sobre ellos.

Esperamos que nuestros resultados ofrezcan suficiente información y materiales (en forma de
mapas y el panfleto) a ACD para que puedan empezar su trabajo con la comunidad de
Saboga. Con un mejor conocimiento de las riquezas, naturales y culturales, de la isla,
esperamos que la gente de Saboga y los organismos trabajando con ellos pueden trabajar por
un desarrollo y turismo sostenible y beneficioso a la comunidad.

                                                                                             10
2.3 Number of Days Spent on Internship

                       # Days in Panama        # Days in Saboga        Total Number of
                       City                                            Days
January                7                       0                       8
February               7                       0                       7
March                  2                       4                       6
April                  14                      4                       19
Total                  30                      8                       38

                         3. INTRODUCTION AND BACKGROUND

3.1 History

As early as 4000-3600 BCE people have inhabited the Pearl Islands (Cooke and Jiménez,

2009). There are over 100 archaeological localities in the Archipelago (Cooke and Jiménez,

2009).From dolphin specimens archaeologists infer that nets were used for fishing in the Pre-

Ceramic era (Cooke and Jiménez, 2009 ). According to Dr. Richard Cooke, there are also the

remains of several stone-lined semi-circular fish and turtle traps in the archipelago, dating

back to pre-Columbian times. These traps may even be restored and used by islanders today.

The Spaniards arrived in the early 16th century; they found an abundance of pearl oysters at

the Pearl Islands, and were catching approximately 96 ounces of pearls every 4 days

(Campbell, 2005). This ocean resource has been declining ever since, and pearl harvesting in

the Archipelago existed up until the 1970s (meeting with Dr. Cooke, February 5th, 2010).

Today, oyster fishing does not provide a stable income for families (Campbell, 2005).

3.2 Demographic History

From the census done in 2000 on the Archipelago of the Pearl Islands there were 680 people

on Saboga Island in 2000. A more recent census conducted by the Centro de Salud de San

                                                                                          11
Miguel, in 2009, reported that Isla Saboga currently has 308 inhabitants living in 125 homes

(ACD ―Informe de Situacion‖ 2009, 36).

In 2009 la Alianza por la Conservacion y el Desarollo de Panama (ACD ―Informe de

Situación,‖ 2009) interviewed 177 inhabitants of Saboga Island. Of the 177 people

interviewed 52.5% were women and 47.5 % were men. ACD found out that 38.4% were

younger than 18 years old; 52.5% were between the ages of 18 and 65 years old, and 9 %

were around the age of 65. Also, 60.5% of the people surveyed were single, 33.9% were in a

relationship, and only 4.5% were married (2009).

3.3 Socio-Economic State of Saboga

The following table summarizes the socio-economic activities that the people of Saboga

Island participate in.

Socio-Economic Activities (ACD 2009)

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On June 14, 1994 the Panamanian Government designated the Archipelago of the Pearl

Islands as Tourism Zone 6, which means it is now an important tourism development area

(Cordoba, 2005). Tourism already exists on other islands within the Archipelago, the most

popular being Contadora Island. Tourism on Contadora Island provides employment for

communities on neighbouring islands, such as Saboga (Campbell, 2005). These employment

opportunities include the construction of hotels, and working within hotels, taking tourists on

boat and fishing tours, etc.

3.4 Environment

The archipelago is a unique location as it serves as a mating ground for humpback-whales. It

also contains economically important fishing resources (Cordoba, 2005). In 2007, under the

Panamanian Law No. 18, the Las Perlas Archipelago was designated a special coastal-marine

management zone (Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, 2007). In addition to the

Archipelago‘s incredible marine life, it also hosts various marine bird nesting sites, and

diverse wildlife -     pigs, rats, pelicans, frogs, toads, insects, sierra fish, corvine fish,

crustaceans, etc. (Cordoba, 2005).

3.5 Current Development on Saboga

The island is currently one of the most pristine and undeveloped in the archipelago, and

though most homes have electricity, there is no aqueduct, sewer system, or paved roads

(Latin World, 2009). In 2007, a Central American development firm named ―Grupo del Sol,‖

put in place a development plan for Saboga. Grupo del Sol plans to invest $1.5 billion USD

―to create a paradise that within ten years will include all amenities on par with top

destinations from around the world‖ (Latin World, 2009). Currently, they are focusing on

attracting property developers and investors. The 10 year-plan will potentially bring big

                                                                                            13
changes to the infrastructure, economic activities, and nature of Saboga within a short time

period. However, the pristine nature of the island, and demands for ―eco-tourism‖ locations

are impacting development plans. For instance, the tourism project is considering installing a

solar plant to meet the expected growing energy demands (ACD ―Informe de Situacion‖

2009, 39). There is also the threat of tensions between different groups in the community

arising due to problems associated with tourism (Mellado 2010). Tourism has constructed a

new type of culture that no longer revolves around traditional practices (Mellado 2010).

Of the island‘s area, 70% belongs to Grupo del Sol, 5-10% is used for agricultural practices,

5% is jungle, 10% is covered by shrubs, and 5% is developed, urban area (ACD ―Informe de

Situacion‖ 39, 2009). Property rights are a contentious issue, with only 10% of the population

actually having land title. 80-90% of the population has rights to land possession and 10%

have communal land tenure (ACD ―Informe de Situacion,‖ 2009, 39).

3.6 Objectives

       3.6.1 Final Objectives

Our final objectives for this project were:

       -   To collect and record environmental, social, and historical information on Saboga

           Island so that we document and share the knowledge we obtain with organizations

           and people that will help empower and prepare the community in the face of

           development and tourism. The historical part of our questions emphasized the

           environmental and social changes on Saboga.

       -   To identify important social, environmental, and historical sites on the island, as

           well as the areas of current development. Identifying these important sites will

                                                                                           14
hopefully help the community in the future as they prepare for tourism and an

           influx of foreigners in the upcoming years.

       -   To try and figure out how people feel about tourism, and how they perceive the

           current situation.

       -   To produce informative maps with all the identified important sites that can be

           used by ACD, Almanaque Azul, scientists, and Grupo del Sol, for future projects.

           These maps will be useful for the community in the long term.

       -   To produce a pamphlet, as an aid to the maps, with descriptions of some of these

           sites. The maps we produced will serve as drafts for Almanaque Azul‘s projects

           for sustainable tourism on Saboga.

       3.6.3 Justification

Information on the island‘s natural resources, natural and social history, as well as the

island‘s current environmental state have not yet been recorded in depth. Gathering and

recording information on the aforementioned subjects is crucial for researchers, like the

archaeologist Richard Cooke - documenting the history of the islands - and for NGO‘s, like

Alianza para la Conservacion y el Desarollo de Panama - assessing the island‘s

environmental state.

Hopefully, our findings will help equip ACD with information and materials, (in the forms of

the maps and pamphlet), to begin their work with the community of Saboga. Having a better

idea of what the island‘s natural and cultural riches are, hopefully the people of Saboga, and

the organizations working with them, can ensure that the development and tourism that ensue

will be as sustainable and beneficial to the community as possible.

                                                                                           15
3.7 Study Area

Our internship was in the Archipelago of the Pearl Islands. The Archipelago is located 64km

                                                      southeast of Panama City. It consists

                                                      of 255 islands and islets in the Bay of

                                                      Panama, on the Pacific side of the

                                                      Isthmus of Panama (Campbell, 2005).

                                                      The Pearl Islands‘ coordinates are

                                                      between 8° 11‘31‘‘N      78°46‘22‘‘W

                                                      and 8° 40‘ 16‘‘N 78° 08‘40‘‘W

                                                      (Anderson, 2005).

                                                      Our project was about Saboga Island,

                                                      which is situated in the North of the

                                                      Archipelago, next to the very popular

                                                      Contadora Island.

Note: Map is from Codorba 2005

Saboga is easily accessible as it is only a short boat ride away from Contadora, which

receives several daily flights. Alternatively, a 1.5 hour boat ride can be taken from Panama

City to Saboga; however, it proved to be challenging to find reliable boats with fixed

schedules. Up until recently, the established community on Saboga was the only developed

area of the island. In 2007, the Central American development company, Grupo del Sol,

announced plans to exploit Isla Saboga‘s coastline (Latin World, 2009).

                                                                                          16
4. METHODOLOGY

4.1 Preparatory Work

To obtain background information on Saboga Island and the Pearl Islands Archipelago we

thoroughly researched the available literature. This provided us with an idea as to what has

been addressed on Saboga and neighbouring islands, helping us figure out what to focus our

own project on by putting everything in context.

Also, to better understand and to get a sense of the historical and current state of the island,

before we went to Saboga, we consulted with scholars and organizations that have done or

are doing work on Saboga. We had meetings with Dr. Cooke, Ricardo Montenegro (ACD),

Eugenia Mellado, Juan Guillermo Martin, representatives from Grupo del Sol, and Mir

Rodriguez from Almanaque Azul.         They provided us with information that helped us

structure our interviews, and they also gave us the necessary background information so that

we could make observations in the field.

From these meetings we were able to compile an interview guide on the demographic history

of the town, the use of natural resources and the surrounding environment, and current social

issues (like development and tourism, water issues, garbage, etc.). We constructed more

specific questions under these three themes (Appendix 9.1). For the demographic history

section we asked questions to do with where people were originally from, where they grew

up, a description of their childhood, why people came to or leave the island, and how this has

changed over the years. Under the natural resources section and the environment we asked

questions about hunting and fishing methods, what they hunt or fish, where these practices

occur, and how the methods have changed. We also asked about agriculture and the local

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food supply. We constructed questions related to environmental issues, such as: garbage

disposal, water supply, and sewage. Social questions we came up with included questions on

people‘s occupation, the number of people currently living on Saboga, questions about the

school, water, electricity, the internet, empty houses, number of people owning boats,

property titles, the church, people‘s favourite places, and several more questions on tourism

and people‘s opinion on tourism. Dr. Herrera reviewed these questions to make sure they

were ethically sound and followed the McGill Code of Ethics protocol. We also prepared an

introduction for ourselves, following the McGill Code of Ethics, which stated who we were,

the objectives of our study, and asked for oral consent from the participating interviewee.

We also had an official letter in Spanish from McGill stating exactly what we were doing on

Saboga - what our internship was, and for whom the internship is etc.- that we could give the

interviewees if they wanted more information. Once we were in the field we had to change

some of questions so that they made more sense, and also changed the order and flow of the

questions.

Before we left for each trip, we had to organize a place for us to stay in Saboga (there are not

hotels or accommodations for tourists on the island yet), our transportation there, our food

and water, and try and contact some people on Saboga who could help us out once we were

there. Getting in touch with different contacts was a time consuming and complicated

process. We had to make numerous phone calls and meet with people at any time of the day,

often at the last minute. We had to deal with funding issues, and ensure that our

accommodations were safe. Travelling to and from the island also proved to be complicated

if we did not want to fly, which meant that we had to be flexible and adaptable.

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4.2 Field Work

Our first trip to Saboga Island was for four days in March. Its purpose was to introduce

ourselves to the community and familiarize ourselves with the island. We hoped to build

some trust with the local community, explain our project to them and why we were there. We

wanted to identify possible interviewees that could provide us with the most information. We

believe we were successful in all of these objectives. We had most of our meals at a local

fonda, which turned out to be an ideal place to socialize with the community. It was also here

that we had many of our informal interviews, and got a sense of the community of Saboga.

We also walked around the island and discovered some of the precious riches the island has

to offer, and took their GPS points. In addition to walking on the island, we took a boat tour

of Saboga. The boat took us around the island and stopped at unique places such as the semi-

circular stone corral traps. At these places we took GPS points from the boat. We also visited

Contadora Island to see what the outside perception of Saboga was, how workers on

Contadora and perhaps tourists view the people of Saboga.

The second trip to Saboga Island took place in from April 9th to 12th, 2010, and was again

four days long. This time we had formal interviews using the questions we compiled prior to

leaving. We tried to interview participants from different parts of the town, and attempted to

maintain a balance between male and female respondents. Our interviews were all with

people between the ages of around 30-75, and we conducted 15 formal interviews.

We asked people‘s permission to be interviewed, and explained to them what we were going

to do with the results. We then asked if we could use a voice recorder, and all our participants

agreed to use one. Aside from interviews, non-intrusive observations were a big part in our

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field work. At the fonda where we had our meals, we were able to sit and watch what was

going on in the town at all times during the day.

In addition to interviewing people, we were able to have two tours of the island. One tour

was on foot and given by two local boys. They showed us the places we heard about during

the interviews. The second tour was given by Grupo del Sol. This tour took us around to all

their construction sites, and all the places they still want to develop on the island. This tour

gave us the opportunity to ask the company questions that came up during our interviews. By

showing us all their construction sites by car we were able to go to places on the island that

we had not been before. We also had a chance to see all the roads that have been cleared. Our

guide knew where the archaeological sites were and took us to several of them. We took GPS

points and photos of all the places we visited on both tours.

4. 3 Mapping and Data Processing

After transcribing all the interviews, we organized our observations and collected data into

the categories of: society and culture, the environment, and development and tourism in

Saboga. Based on the interviews and observations, we identified sites relevant to the society

and culture of the island. These were sites in the town, archaeological sites, places that had

some significance for the people in Saboga based on their use, cultural value, stories, legends,

etc. and their favourite places on the island. We then identified sites that were important to

the environmental state of the island. These were mostly based on observations, island tours,

research, and meetings with Dr. Hector Guzman. The site of the freshwater well was

collected from the tour we received from the two local boys, and its importance was

emphasized during several interviews. The sites currently involved in development were

identified during our tour from Grupo del Sol.

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All of these sites were recorded with a GPS. Using the points and Google Earth©, we made

maps of: all the sites, the social and cultural sites, the environmental sites, the sites of current

development, and a map of the town. We also made an informative pamphlet that goes along

with the map of all the sites, and provides information on their meaning, their use, and their

importance to the community. The pamphlet is designed as an informative aid to the map,

and can be useful for tourists, but also to the community of Saboga as they prepare for

tourism. It will be given to ACD, and to Almanaque Azul, to be of use to them as they work

to capacitate the community of Saboga. In the case of Almanaque Azul, it will also be used as

a tool as they work towards sustainable tourism. We also wrote a summary of our interview

results and observations in Spanish, to be given to ACD and Almanaque Azul.

                                             5. RESULTS

5.1 Interview Results

The following results were obtained from our interview questions. Refer to the Appendix for

tables that have a summary of our results.

       5.1.1 Family and History

There are several reasons why people live on Saboga today. People who are born in Saboga

tend to remain in Saboga. Other people move to Saboga because they already have family

living there, move with their partner, or they move to Saboga for job opportunities. Islanders

leave Saboga for their children‘s education, for job opportunities in other places, or because

their family or partners leave the island.

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Many of the children go to primary and secondary school on the island, but many also go to

primary and secondary school in Panama City or on other islands such as San Miguel Island.

These children may stay in the places where they went to school, found a job, or found a

partner, or may go back to Saboga for the aforementioned reasons.

Before development on Saboga, people used to grow avocado, plantains, bananas, coconuts,

mangoes, yucca, ñame, just to name a few. They also did a lot more fishing, and their

livelihood depended on fishing. Dependency on fishing has changed; not only is it no longer

a full-time occupation among the islanders, but their diets do not only consist of seafood and

fish anymore, they are now also made up of pork, chicken and beef.

There have also been changes to the houses. They used to be made of sugarcane, earth floors,

and thatch-roofs; now they are made of cement blocks and tin roofs (Appendix 9.4, Fig 11).

Water supply and water infrastructure have also changed, most likely due to the start of the

construction of development projects on the island. The town now also has electricity

twenty-four hours a day, which previously they only had for 6 hours a day.

       5.1.2 Social

       5.1.2.1 Population and Occupations

According to the people of Saboga there are 300-450 people who live in the town. Many of

the older interviewees thought that the population numbers had not changed much over the

years, because of incoming and outgoing fluxes of people. Most of our interviewees could not

answer how many people live there.

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Currently, most of the men work on the construction projects that are underway on Saboga

Island. There are also some that work for the TV show ―Survivor‖. Many of the women

work at home, and other women are cooks at the local restaurants. Contadora Island offers

job opportunities for the people of Saboga. People with boats transport tourists from

Contadora around the different islands. Some women from Saboga clean houses on

Contadora and others work in the hotels on the island.

       5.1.2.2. Education

Saboga has a pre-kindergarten, kindergarten, primary, and secondary school (Appendix 9.3.1,

Fig. 5). The pre-kindergarten and kindergarten is taught by a woman from Saboga, ―Madre

Madre,‖ the primary school has two teachers employed by the government and they are from

Panama City. The teachers now live in Saboga, but go back to Panama City often. The

school has 4 rooms, one of which is a computer room, and the other three are used as

classrooms. The computer room is not yet ready for use, but when it is the students should

also have access to internet. Sixty-five children attend the primary school. The secondary

school is held in the same building as the primary school. Fifteen students attend the

secondary school from 3pm to 7pm. Many children do to school on other islands such as San

Miguel and Pedro Gonzalez. Students also go to Panama City to attend school; they often

leave to attend secondary school off the island.

       5.1.2.3 Amenities

The main street lies on a hilltop on the eastern coast of the island. The school, the

Representative‘s house, a convenient store, a restaurant, and a few homes can be found along

the main street The popular Cantina where many islanders go dancing lies just below the

main street, and it is not more than a two-minute walk to Saboga‘s church, two other

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convenient stores, two other restaurants, or the other cantina (Appendix 9.3.1, Fig 5; 9.4, Fig.

6 & 7).

Although the infrastructure exists, none of the houses currently have running water. The

people we spoke to say that this is due to the combination of the dry season and the

development company‘s use of the town‘s fresh water well. The locals need to walk to Pozo

Grande, which is 600m away from the town, to go and get their water (Appendix 9.3.1, Fig.

2). Water from this water well is also being used for construction on the island. It can be

inferred that this has led to the diminishing supply of water. A decrease in water supply was

the main concern raised during all our interviews.

The entire town has electricity 24 hours a day, but before the electric plant was built they

only had electricity from 6pm to 10pm. The electric plant on Saboga also supplies Contadora

with electricity (Appendix 9.3.1, Fig. 4; 9.4, Fig. 8). It is currently being expanded, to meet

the growing demand for electricity with development. The school is supposed to receive

Internet soon, but only students and teachers will have access to it. Aside from the offices of

Grupo del Sol and a Frenchman who lives on the island, no one else on Saboga has access to

the Internet. .

The people of Saboga told us that there are between 15 and 30 people who all own their own

boats. Most people also have houses, and there are very few houses that are empty and not

owned by someone. Many people who live and work in Panama City keep their houses in

Saboga so that they can return for holidays. Also, the development company rents houses

from people who have moved to Panama City. Even though people live in houses most do not

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have land titles. Many are recently in the process of attaining land titles. They acquire a land

title by measuring their property, and then they pay $2-2.50 per meter.

       5.1.2.4 Religion

From all our interviews it is evident that the church is a source of community pride. It is a

catholic church and is from the 18th century, and is one of the oldest churches still in use in

the Americas (Appendix 9.3.1, Fig. 5; 9.4, Fig. 9). This is a site that many would like to

protect for future generations. It is also a popular tourist destination. In addition to the church,

the beaches (Puerto Nuevo, Playa Corrales), and their homes are considered favourite places

on the island.

       5.1.3 Environment

People of Saboga believe that construction, tourism, and fishing are the island‘s important

natural resources. Many people said that there are not any environmental problems on

Saboga, except for water. Because the construction projects use local freshwater, and the

added pressure the summer months pose on water levels, the community has been

experiencing a shortage of water. In general, there is the feeling that the development

company is robbing the town of their water supply, as they pump fresh water from their well

without compensating the town, and diminishing the supply left to the people of Saboga. A

common response to this topic was: ―It is OUR water; WE must have priority to its use.‖

Construction has also led to deforestation that may affect the water table. Others believe

there are additional environmental problems that include full septic tanks, garbage disposal,

and overfishing of lobsters by Kuna. Dr. Guzman informed us that sea turtles and their eggs

are being eaten by the community, which is another environmental problem.

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When we asked the islanders what they would like to protect for future generations almost all

said they wanted to protect the Pre-Columbian semi-circular corral traps (Appendix 9.4, Fig.

10). These traps are found on two beaches named Playas Corrales (Appendix 9.3.1, Fig. 3).

The interviewees also raised concern about future access to these corrals. For things people

would like to protect include the town, the forest and its animals, the school, their water

resources, the coral reefs, and the church.

Garbage is collected with a car and then taken to a dump on the island where it is burned.

Some people still burn their own garbage. It is unclear whether it is the municipality or Grupo

del Sol that is providing the garbage pick-up service.

Agriculture is not a practice people are dependent on for their sustenance. They are too busy

with work in construction and tourism to cultivate enough crops. Some people still cultivate

bananas, plantains, yucca, mango and coconuts for personal consumption. Some people grow

bananas, yucca, etc. on un-owned land, and still sell these items to other locals, but

nonetheless agriculture is not a full-time occupation. Others have these products growing on

their own property. Before development took its toll on Contadora, the people from Saboga

also cultivated their crops there. Today, the majority of the islanders‘ food comes from

Panama City. People also buy their food from the local stores. Beside the local produce, the

islanders eat chicken, fish, iguana, pork, and turtle eggs from Saboga Island.

       5.1.4 Fishing

Though fishing was a more widespread practice in previous generations, it remains an

important and popular activity among locals today. It is no longer practiced as a full-time

occupation on Saboga, but if the opportunity arises (e.g.: fish is very big, etc.), then people

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may sell their catches to hotels and restaurants on Isla Contadora or to the sea food market in

Panama City. It is also sold to Saboga‘s three restaurants, and to neighbours on the island.

Mostly, however, fishing is only done for personal consumption.

The most common types of fish mentioned during our interviews were Snapper, Jack,

Trumpet Fish, Sea Bass, and Gold Fish. Two men we spoke to also dive for lobster, though

this is a more rare activity for Saboga islanders. Lobster in the Pearl Islands is mostly fished

by Kuna. Occasionally, Manta Rays are also fished and eaten. The most common places to

fish, in and around Saboga, are in the corrals on Playa Corrales and by the shores of the

nearby island, Pacheca. Many people also answered that they fished ―all around‖ Saboga.

Pearl Oyster fishing is still an activity practiced on occasion in Saboga, as well. Though the

Mother Pearl oysters are much less abundant than before, islanders collect the oysters for

their meat. It is prepared with coconut and is said to be delicious. Those that find pearls keep

them, give them as presents to friends and family, or try to sell them. The shells are

sometimes also sold on Contadora, though this is far less frequent than in the past. There

seems to be no cultural tradition of artisan production with Mother Pearl shells, or any shells

on Saboga. With the exception of one man telling us that he makes jewellery from the shells

he collects, as a personal hobby. We also learned from one of the oldest islanders that the past

generation made artisanal products from sea turtle shells, but that this practice was abandoned

a long time ago.

       5.1.5 Hunting

Hunting is not a widespread activity on Saboga. Our interviews indicate that this is mostly

due to a very low abundance of animals to hunt. Unlike on surrounding islands, like

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