2014 Stanford Delegation

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.

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