miércoles, 20 de junio de 2012

La Aldea--A Blatant and Unnecessary Provocation

The reconstruction of the Aldea de los Pescadores is a provocation.
Let me explain.

Like most people who frequented the Aldea de los Pescadores, I rather enjoyed and appreciated its existence and its many contributions to the social and cultural life in the community. At the same time I was painfully aware of its noticeable security problems, the environmental pollution caused by kitchens and toilets, and of the obvious consecuences of a highly attractive but monolithic tourism offer. I was not, nor am I now opposed to the fabulous culinary offerings and the enchanting nature of diverse environments that such a concept can offer. I'm neither opposed to sustainable economic development or to meritorious benefits to workers, investors and entrepreneurs.

The list of assets and benefits of the former Aldea, what's about to happen is truly a crude provocation created by those least in the position of being provocateurs: the central government and the local government. As far as I know, the Ministry of Tourism lacks the presidential decree necessary for the building of structures such as the one that appears to be under construction at the former site (though the Minister of Tourism is eagerly pursuing it). The local government has not intervened, so far, to prevent the obviously illegal reconstruction at a place where it shouldn't be.

As expected, the level of misinformation and the lack of transparency creates confusion and blindness in everyone. What's being done, who is doing it, how, for how much, directed by whom? We don't know. As rumored, are they going to give each of the previous owners 10 million pesos? We don't know. Are the previous owners receiving the new locations for free? We don't know. What are the legal, social and economic basis for doing one thing or the other? We don't know. In the presence of clearly stated, legal statutes governing the building of such structures so close to the water and in the midst of fragile ecosystems, why do it at all and why do it this way? Is it true that powerful people, well-connected to the government, are among the beneficiaries? We do not know....and so forth!

At the end the Minister of Tourism will get away with murder on this one and, according to rumors, will finish the work before August 16. In doing so, he would have fulfilled a promise made the afternoon of the fire and will consequently embellish our memories with yet another demonstration of how to make fun of Dominican laws and the Dominican Constitution, all in the good name of tourism development, as demonstrated by his opportunistic leadership style worthy of a troglodyte. Once everything is done, we will go to eat, drink, dance and enjoy wonderful new locations and will be reminded of how it was done, by whom and why, and will all share in the knowledge of the failed state in which we live, where those most called to enforce the Constitution and the laws are the first ones to use them as toilet paper.

Is it possible that the “Monte Carlo of the Caribbean" will be built on similar foundations, using similar methods, without regards to the laws, environmental regulations, without the proper decrees and always looking after the benefits of the few over the benefits of the majority?

(Left: From these ruins we should build what's legal, sustainable, viable, equitable, transparent and in compliance not only to the Constitution and laws but also to the best practices in sustainable tourism development. It is counterproductive for the Minister of Tourism to be the principal culprit in the violation of Dominican laws, provoking with his actions the worst possible inconsistencies in regards to principles of sustainable tourism development)

I, among many others who love the concept of the Aldea, feel that it doesn't have to be built at its former site. We can built something similar and even better, but elsewhere. In a previous article I suggested the area further ahead towards Playa Las Ballenas as a possible location and, in a recent contribution, architect Marcelo Albuquerque has suggested the area around the current police station.
I'm sure there could be other viable proposals and the one suggested by architect Albuquerque may even add the entire section from the cemetery to the former Aldea de los Pescadores, and could even include the construction of a pedestrian bridge over Rio Las Terrenas, the design of an attractive cultural center that includes boutiques, artisan shops, art galleries, as well as plenty of gastronomic offers. Not everything has to be in the same place the way it was in the former Aldea and nothing prescribes that things have to be as they were, particularly if something better and more beneficial is possible.

On the other hand, the town of Las Terrenas as a legal, civic, political and autonomous entity should intervene through its City Council (I do not think that the Mayor has the least interest in going against the wishes of the Minister of Tourism). If the City Council does nothing, then no one could prevent the Ministry of Tourism and other entities, governmental or private, to commit similar violations of the law and the Constitution. What is happening now is more of the ongoing demonstration of how the city has lost its autonomy and sovereignty in the years since Mr. José Alexis Martinez has been Mayor. Inaction on the part of the City Council will provoke additional dents to city processes and procedures.

I'm fully in support of a reconstruction of the Fishermen's Village but better, which means that no environmental laws would be violated, that we would broaden and enrich the economic potential of the resulting model and that the sovereignty of the city would be respected.
We cannot build a future on the quicksand of intransparency, the abuse of power and the absence of institutionality. In fact, many social problems and much of the economic problems we face today are the result of having acted that way years ago. Why provoke similar results now?

What to do now? Stop the construction! At a town hall meeting in City Hall inform what the plans are. Consult with broad sections of the community, making sure you make it possible for diverse views to be heard. Ensure that the intentions and the actions comply with current laws and the Constitution. Acting unfairly to the economic community at large will create disastrous results because whatever it's done cannot be just for the benefit of the lucky few. Hopefully, the potential beneficiaries themselves can see and understand these factors and will push for legal actions that favor the common good. If not, they'd be contributing to the planting of a pernicious, harmful, painful and fruitless weed, to the detriment of all of us.

Consciousness, gentlemen, conciencia!

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