While traveling through Panamá, I was passing “Bocas del Toro”, a well-known destination for crystal clear beaches and rainforest. It is estimated that 95% of the economy in Bocas del Toro is based on tourism. Even though, you won’t find the biggest luxury hotels (yet), it obviously became a place exclusively for tourists. While staying on the island, I accidently met a guy who just planned his campaign in order to run for mayor. He told me that tourism was increasing the gap between rich and poor and as land values increase, the traditional homelands of many indigenous Panamanians become increasingly at risk. He told me he therefore wanted to support people who cannot afford to live here anymore. As it’s a small place, I was first wondering what he was talking about but as we were only walking 5 minutes while leaving the center of Bocas, I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw how people where living on the “outskirts” of the town. The indigenous Ngobe community of "La Solución" lives on stilts from the fetid mangrove swamp that has become their home. The Ngobes live in conditions that highly contrast with the wealth and luxury brought by a foreign invasion of their traditional lands. These photographs, taken in Februrary 2019, provide a glimpse into the community and the challenges it faces in the shadow of tourist development.


Bocas del Toro, Panamá // 2019


© Sylvi Schaffrath | Schwarzlachweg 26, 35390 Gießen |