I’m in a great mood right now, so allow me to share the joy with you.
Montanita, Ecuador is dying a slow, ugly death.
Like a cancer, this death takes years to grow, fester, and destroy. The cancer that is killing Montanita is called progress, and it manifests itself in the form of investment capital.
We’ve seen a lot of beach towns in our drive down the Pacific coast from Washington state to Ecuador. From that experience we’ve witnessed the cancer of progress first hand, many times.
Beautiful beaches in Latin America are being bought up by white people, and transformed into affluent tourist destinations which rarely benefit the local inhabitants.
From Cabo to Mazatlan to Puerta Vallarta to Cancun to Costa Rica to the once remote southern coast of Nicaragua, real estate investments by both private and corporate gringos are changing the landscapes of these once pristine coastlines.
One only needs to look as far a Sayulita, Mexico for a prime example of the finished product. Twenty or so years ago Americans started buying up property there. Today it is a tourist destination with prices on par with the U.S. Houses on the hill range from $250,000-$350,000! Locals were forced to move out of the area. The once beautiful jungle-covered landscape is now covered with large vacation homes on what has come to be known as “Gringo Hill.”
Without fail, after the investment capital has flowed in, these once pristine locations look like this…
Now don’t get me wrong. If you’re one of the people from the U.S. or Europe going on vacation to these built up beach towns it’s great. Who wouldn’t want to leave the “cold north” to enjoy a little sun and fun with a few thousand of your closest pals? Stevie and I enjoyed the pampering of a resort in Cozumel just a few months ago. Yeah, it was F’in great.
While on one hand I’ve enjoyed those luxury resorts, on the other I’m torn apart by what is lost. Places like Montanita are dying. Places where you can still walk on the beach without tripping over your neighbor. Places where the locals still live in the town, still own the town. Places where you see beach bungalows instead of skyscrapers, chlorine pools, and golf courses.
When I was flying back from the U.S. I sat next to a woman from California who was on her way to Ecuador. She informed me that she had already bought one property on the coast and was heading back to buy a second. She told me Ecuador was the new Costa Rica. Wow. I was shocked.
A friend of mine in Hood River recently bragged to me that Nicaragua was the new Costa Rica. He had bought 8 lots on the coast and was selling them for $80,000 each. I made a mental note to email him with the breaking news that Ecuador was actually the new Costa Rica, not Nicaragua. He’s gonna be so bummed.
Anyway, I fear it is too late for Montanita. Construction of new luxury hotels are already underway.
This is the new face of Montanita. She’s an ugly bitch.
For me, I’ll take a pass. Not even at 3am, not even after a bottle of Tequila.
I’ve heard there will alway be places that are remote and beautiful and raw and locally owned… right? Like the majestic Pacifico of Colombia, one of my favorite places on earth. No road in, no luxury hotels, no golf courses or highrises. (Remember the visit here).
Personally, I think that is a crock of shit. That’s why I’m out here seeing as much as I can now, why it’s still there. Think I’m crazy? Yeah, maybe. Do you think it will always be there? It won’t.
Over the last decade, the Pacifico region has been the target of ambitious plans– known collectively as the Plan Pacifico— to tap its resources and to pry open what one former president called the country’s “money box”. But, for the majority of Black and Indigenous peoples who have inhabited the region since Spanish colonialism, the increasing pace of “discovery” threatens their communities and environment with “ethnocide” and “ecocide.” Indiscriminate logging and mining have already caused widespread damage in the area, and the encroachment of colonizers has fuelled sharp conflict over control of land.
The billboard below announces the new road that is under construction from Medellin to the Pacifico in Colombia.
Once that road is finished the Pacifico will be forever changed.
But progress and a better life is on the way. The locals must be thrilled right? The translation of the spray paint on the billboard says it all:
TO DECEIVE THE PEOPLE…
As for the people who live in Montanita, their time has come and gone. They had better start looking for new homes. It’s time for them to move inland.
The gringos are coming. The gringos are coming.
TREE – The Half Gringo