Environmental Struggles in Paradise: Puerto Rican Cases, Caribbean Lessons

Unlike other parts of Latin America where environmental conflicts over natural resources involve mining, forests, oil or natural gas, Caribbean environmental struggles typically involve tourism development, control over coasts, and control over protected natural areas. A political ecology lens is used to orient the discussion on social forms of access and control over resources and to understand Caribbean tourism as a corporate construction of a secular paradise. Puerto Rico serves as a case study of citizen struggles involving control over their natural resources, specifically, the coasts. Two ongoing struggles are examined: 1) Vieques, where key issues are not only the scale and control of tourism development, but also the future of the Caribbean National Wildlife Refuge and the negative health consequences of military toxics; and 2) the Luquillo-Fajardo Northeast Ecological Corridor, where the issues are the balance between conservation and development and who benefits from development.