Raíces 2012 -

Raíces is an insertion in public space. In 2012, I reforested a vacant lot in Casco Viejo, the historical center of Panama, following a scientific reforestation protocol but on a micro scale. It was a lot where an old wooden house used to stand and where something else will eventually be built. In Spanish the word “raices” means roots and ”bienes raices” means real estate. The act of planting saplings of native species of trees questions the different kinds of value that land has. Real estate developers view land as square footage to sell, buy, and build on, especially in a place like Casco Viejo that is being rapidly gentrified. There is other value to land however - soil is a place for plants to grow, and green areas become potential social areas for people.

These photos, taken from 2012 to present, show the trees growing over time, and people starting to use the space as a park - to relax, play, take pictures, and hang out. Lately it has also become the headquarters for an anti-gentrification protest movement spearheaded by a group of lifelong Casco Viejo residents who are fighting to be able to stay in their homes or at least in the neighborhood. Even though I never put a plaque there or explained my intentions to anyone, it has become a focal point for critiquing the very thing I was questioning - development for development’s sake and rampant gentrification. It became a protest site simply because it was free, public, green space.

If this lot is ever built on, the “developers” will first have to de-forest it.

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