Yesterday, Equal Times, a Belgian progressive labor rights magazine, published my article “Is Racism Behind Panama’s Canal Zone Land Grabs?” about potential government evictions in Arco Iris, Colon. I’ve been following this grassroots movement since October, from that month’s highway blockades to the recent decision to bring a Supreme Court case against the national government.
Government officials argue their policies do not stem from racism but rather basic economic sense. The values of the homes have increased, therefore residents must pay more to attain ownership. Residents say the government has led them on for decades and they do not feel they owe more money, after years of monthly payments and repair costs.
I had trouble reporting this article. Arco Iris residents were friendly, but not necessarily open to my presence — I had to work hard to get individual accounts/evidence of government abuse. I spent a lot of time sitting in on bi-weekly committee meetings. Not all were fruitful for my article, but I established my interest and dedication to reporting on the situation, and eventually earned trust.