Colombia’s government is trying to promote responsible tourism on the “Rosario Islands” national park after 500 years of colonial and illegal occupation.
The country’s National Parks authority is carefully trying to promote sustainable tourism to the Caribbean archipelago’s 27 islands while the National Land Agency is trying to end the islands’ 500-year-history of illegal occupation.
At the same time, the Environment Ministry has been trying to repair the damage done to the Rosario Islands’ unique underwater ecosystem and its coral reefs in particular.
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Refuge from colonial rule
Like much of the northern coast of what are now Colombia and Venezuela, the Rosario Islands’ original inhabitants were the Caribe people, according to Spanish chroniclers and Colombian archaeologists.
These indigenous inhabitants quickly succumbed after the European colonists claimed the islands and made Cartagena one of the Spanish Crown’s main slave market on South America’s Caribbean coast in the early 15th century.
The islands became a refuge for Africans who tried to tried to either evade or escape slavery, according to reports from the colonial period.
This illegal occupation ended in the 19th century after Colombian revolutionaries kicked out the Spaniards, made the islands State property and abolished slavery.
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Refuge from the law
The illegal occupation of the Rosario islands became an issue again in the early 2000’s when Colombia’s now-defunct land agency Incoder began leasing them to all kinds of dodgy characters.
In December 2021, weekly Semana reported that the National Land Agency was leasing one of the islands, “Isla Majayura,” to the jailed “Pablo Escobar of contraband and money laundering,” Alain Suaza.
In a response, the ANT said that Incoder had approved this lease to an entirely different person in 2007.
ANT director Gerardo Vega said earlier this month that he had requested authorities to declare 42 lease contracts that had illegally been approved by Incoder null and void.
According to Vega, corrupt Incoder officials had been approving the illegal leases of public property until the day before the agency was dismantled because of its rampant corruption in 2016.
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Refuge from stress
Vega’s offensive to expel the illegal occupants of the Rosario islands as part of an offensive to make the publicly owned islands and its beaches available for tourists.
Meanwhile, environmental authorities are trying to save the islands’ corals reefs and its abundance of tropical fishes from extinction as the consequence of 500 years of water mismanagement.
National Park authorities additionally are trying to educate the public about the islands’ delicate ecosystem and imposing strict environmental regulations in an attempt to prevent that tourists continue the destruction of the Spanish colonialists and dodgy Colombian occupants.
At the same time, Environment Ministry officials are trying to replant coral reefs in the waters that surround the island, but have all but died 500 years after the white man first laid claim on the islands.