Roots of Empowerment: Boca La Caja, Panama City, Republic of Panama
Semester: Summer 2011
Lead Faculty: Olmedo Varela, Professor, Florida State University-Panama
Project Partner: Community of Boca La Caja, Panama City, Republic of Panama
Student Assistants: Tim Berke, Greg Boan, Alejandro Casa-Valencia, Andrew Donini, Hiba George, Tatiana Gonzalez, Kristin Murray, Brent C. Pesta, Ray Rodgers, Christine Rice, Lina Rojas, and Katelyn Widness
Project Summary: The Roots of Empowerment project was a community development plan created for the community of Boca la Caja in Panama City, Republic of Panama. The plan was conceived by twelve graduate students from DURP and the Department of International Affairs at FSU under the guidance of Dr. Olmedo J. Varela, in conjunction with the community of Boca la Caja. This document presents solutions for a troubled urban Latin American community facing numerous challenges simultaneously, but honors the unique character of the community. Crime, land tenancy, control of waterfront property, social and economic isolation, poor infrastructure, organizational disorder, and nearby high density buildings are some of the problems that Boca la Caja faces.
The “Roots of Empowerment” community vision is an extension of the 2009 “Seeds of Hope” revitalization plan created by DURP. Instead of focusing on social capital strategies, economic development, public-private partnerships, and urban design and urban re-engineering, “Roots of Empowerment” expanded on the social capital strategies and urban design components of the original plan, while emphasizing two new components broached in the original project: land titling and public safety.
The future of Boca la Caja can be strategically planned through collective collaborative action that starts by reorganizing its Junta de Desarrollo Local, or Junta Local. A Junta Local unifies the community, as well as, ties the community to the greater San Francisco corregimiento through the Junta Comunal and to the national government by the laws and procedures governing the committee. The reformulation of the Junta Local serves as the vital starting point for the revitalization plan. As a centralized local authority it will unite the different groups towards the common good of the community and manage the communal spaces proposed in this community development document.