Green islands in Isla Verde (I)
By Carmelo Ruiz
The history of the coast of San Juan, Puerto Rico, is one of uncontrolled and irresponsible construction projects and privatization of access through illegal physical barriers, including so-called wave breakers which are more like beach breakers. From El Condado, moving east, through Ocean Park, past Punta Las Marías and into Isla Verde, there is an almost uninterrupted line of hotels and condos, some of them of twenty stories high, which block the view to the sea. The rest of the coast is occupied mostly by elite walled-off suburbs. Property prices in the area rise and rise, and the city blocks near the coastline are filled with businesses that cater to privileged social strata. There is no word for “gentrification” in Spanish.
But this place also has another history, one of non-conformity, rebellion and resistance, of popular struggle for environmental protection and for the public’s right to go to the beach, and sometimes this lucha even scores a few victories from time to time. In Isla Verde, a gorgeous beach that starts in the Punta Las Marías peninsula on its western end and marks the coastal border between the San Juan and Carolina municipalities, there are projects of diverse scales and varying socio-economic and politico-ideological profiles which are one big “but” to the big money interests that want to enclose what’s left of the public beach and pour concrete on it.