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.