Coco Solo: The Other Side of Paradise

Coco Solo – sounds like a fun place to be, doesn’t it? The name makes me think of piña coladas by the beach, crazy pool parties…

The reality is far from this, however. The place where Senator John McCain was born, once a US Army base, has been abandoned, and is now a hovel where children play in water contaminated with raw sewage.

Here, Pastor Mikey, a resident of Coco Solo who has adopted six boys and set up a kitchen to feed the children, explains life on the edge, and imagines a youth using a .38 to hold people up – if he doesn’t hold people up, his family get no money, his children get no food. He asks ‘Would you put down your .38?’. Easy to say you would, I suppose, but I would do anything to feed my children…. He also explains how many of the girls are pregnant and having their own babies as young as twelve, creating a vicious cycle.

It is very hard to see any way of escape for these people living in their rubbish strewn plywood houses, so near, yet so far, from the Manhattan-by-the-sea skyscrapers of Panama City, where people (including myself and my family) attend frequent pool parties overlooking the Pacific.

An inspirational Coco Solo photography project, Cambio Creativo (Creative Change), encourages children and young people to explore their creative side by photographing the areas in and around their home. Here is a link to a Global Voices article about this project if you would like to find out more, and possibly buy a photo or two to help support this ravaged community.

Global Voices: Online Videos Expose Marginalized Community

9 thoughts on “Coco Solo: The Other Side of Paradise

  1. Thanks for sharing this, Jane. I have not hear of this area of Panama.

    I love that Cambio Creativo is using the arts, in this case photography, to give those in the Coco Solo community opportunity for self-expression and to shine a light on the current situation and raise awareness.

    With all of the business and building development currently going on in Panama it seems shameful that families are living in such conditions.

    1. It is shameful Sally. This is a really important project, hopefully this will help to highlight these people’s predicament. Panama in general is a great place. However, there are a lot of extremely rich people practically rubbing shoulders with the poverty-stricken.

  2. I saw that video on Global Voices and just returned from Panama last week. I went for a meeting but made the trip over to Coco Solo to meet Pastor Mikey. It’s truly amazing what he is doing there and I hope to work with him to support his and the communities’ efforts to relocate into more dignified housing. They have been waiting for 20 years, however, so I’m not going to wait around for the government to move on this any time soon. Will keep you posted!

    1. Hi thunderkitty. Meeting Pastor Mikey must have been an amazing experience. There is so much slum housing in Panama that I think it is difficult to know where to start to make improvements. What he has done, by adopting six boys, and working ceaselessly to give new hope to his community, is inspirational. Please do keep me posted!

      PS The priority of the government seems to be to encourage big business, new skyscraper developments etc to attract more and more of the rich. Like you, I wouldn’t expect them to do anything for the needy either….

  3. Wanted to ask permission to use one or two of your great photos in messages promoting a trip to Panama for the 10th Annual Panama Jazz Festival. We will, of course, give your blog the credit for the photo. Info:

    We, too, live in Panama. For the last 8 (almost) years.

    Thanks for the photos and the stories!

    1. Of course, I am very happy for you to use any photos to promote the Jazz Festival provided they link back to or acknowledge this blog. :) I would love to see a sample of what you are sending out sometime if that would be possible. Isn’t Panama a great place to live? Jx

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