The Water Route (La Ruta del Agua)

Since the 1980s, the Pacific coast of Costa Rica has undergone a transformation that turned it from an eminently agricultural region into one of tourist services. It therefore became the scenario for the growth of all-inclusive hotels, vacation homes and cruise tourism; what could be called "sun and beach tourism”.


The latter is part of a global pattern of economic and political development where the planning system is set aside to give way to the speculative nature of international market management. For this same reason, the real estate developments of such coastal tourism have proven to be highly unstable. The volatility of its market implies constant proprietor changes in companies that involve multiple investors and managers, often causing great environmental and social impacts to the detriment of the region’s long-term well-being.


This project intends to address the conflict over water in the area of ​​Sardinal, Guanacaste; one of the main conflicts arising from this tourist boom in the area.


In 2008, the people of Sardinal managed to paralyze the works of a project that sought to carry water from Sardinal's water recharge area to the coastal areas, in order to supply 1500 condominiums and real estate projects owned by the great investors of this “sun and beach tourism". During this process, the inhabitants of Sardinal’s right to information and participation in a decision that would affect the water supply of the inhabitants of the region was violated.


The present work addresses this problem through a series of photographic installations in a public space in the conflict zone. It was decided to place the photographic facilities in the place where the demonstrations that managed to stop the installation of the pipeline projected for this place were carried out. In this way, the photographs seek to make reference to the events that happened in that place, as well as to make use of the symbolic geographical space where the limits between the community of Sardinal and the coastal zone are found, which are dominated by the condominiums, the resorts and the real estate projects.


Likewise, we sought to photograph those elements that could represent the main relationships established in this water conflict. These were, for example, the abandoned components of the aqueduct, the real estate projects that were directly affected by the closure of the aqueduct, as well as other projects that also failed and that exposed the real estate boom experienced in the coastal zone in the Carrillo district.


The water route seeks to put into perspective the meaning of this supposed development. At the same time, it pretends to show that the water conflict in Sardinal is not an isolated case within the Costa Rican Pacific coast, but a problematic that forms part of an economic and political framework, which is directly related to speculative tourism managed by the international market.


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Photos - Javier Sánchez, Pablo Franceschi y Daniel Peraza

Year - 2013

Location - Guanacaste, Costa Rica

Text - Javier Sánchez

Según las creencias Bribri, en el cuerpo habitan dos almas: la del ojo derecho y la del izquierdo. Al morir, Wikol, el alma del ojo derecho, viaja hasta el inframundo. Wimblu, el alma del ojo izquierdo, permanece entre los huesos rondando el mundo de los vivos.  


According to Bribri beliefs, two souls inhabit the body: the right eye soul and the left eye soul. At death, Wikol, the right eye soul, travels to the underworld. Wimblu, the soul of the left eye, remains among the bones prowling the world of the living.