This is a blog for the Stanford delegation to El Salvador, a travel immersion experience for the students of the "Issues in Liberation" class. We are here to listen and to learn and to bear witness to the suffering of the people of El Salvador and the assassination of Archbishop Oscar Romero. Presente! We welcome posts and comments.
2014 Stanford Delegation
Stanford Delegation in the UCA Chapel
Thursday, March 27, 2014
A Clash Between Development and Land Rights for the Poor
By Bianca Chavez
Our group spent the
morning enjoying one of El Salvador’s pristine beaches. Completely deserted,
without even a bathroom or shack to change one’s clothes, the strip of sand
represented natural beauty at its finest. The fact that the water was
pleasantly cool (as opposed to the frigid cold of the San Francisco Bay) made
the experience even more enjoyable.
Private Property - No Entry
As we walked through
the community of El Chile, it was easy to see why land developers wanted to
turn the area into the “Cancun of Central America.” Between its
brightly-colored stucco buildings, tropical flowers, and soft ocean breeze, the
place felt like something out of a postcard.
However, during our
meeting with members of the El Chile community, we began to learn more about
the potentially devastating effects of large-scale tourism. Plans to build a
golf course and adjacent country club could potentially bring wealthy tourists
to the area—but where would developers get the 90 million gallons of water
necessary to keep the grounds maintained? What effects would this have on the
local shrimping industry, which relies on an ample supply of fresh water?
Canoe in El Chile - Hewn by Hand
The question of land
rights added another layer of complexity to the tourism discussion. In
communities like El Chile, individual families did not possess land titles, but
rather farmed the land communally. Any money that could potentially be gained
from real estate development would be difficult to distribute fairly, given
their system of land ownership.
And yet, despite all of
the problems tourism could bring, the people of El Chile said that they weren’t
opposed to the idea of tourism. They just wanted any potential tourism projects
to be community owned and operated, with profits staying in the local economy.