Lake atitlan is an environmental tragedy howling for catharsis

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  • Publicado : 18 de febrero de 2012
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Like a classical hero, Lake Atitlan seems to be disaster in slow motion - lurching blindly towards some preordained misfortune. This profoundly beautiful lake is turning into a swamp -- real time.A snap history of the lakeside town, Panajachel, is a good place to count the ways that the massive caldera became so despoiled that it fast approaches eutrophication. Shortly after thecountry’s Independence, in the 1880’s Europeans, came to cultivate shade coffee; these settlers were followed in the early 1900’s by, (then) junior juggernaut, United Fruit Company that quietly engorged onlands near transport. Fortunately acquisitive multinational trends bypassed the remote lake area; it remained agrarian with tidy coffee fincas and truck farms side by side until the Pan American highwayreached Solola after World War II.

In fact, Lake Atitlan’s has only been really accursed since the 1950’s when PanAm Airlines stocked the lake with Black Bass in order to create an “Angler’sParadise.” This reckless act appears to be a major contributor to the current cyanobacteria blooms, and, certainly gutted the local fresh water fishing industry.

By the mid 1960’s, native fishermenwere unable to catch the new dominant species with their spears because the fish had grown so large that scuba gear or sports tackle were required to handle them. The resultant kill-off or die-off(caused the Grebe bird to go extinct) fueled an indigenous exodus towards coasts and cities or across boarders. Certainly, Atitlan's fishing industry was a relatively small casualty in a 36 year of CivilWar that would, ultimately, displace thousands of people and leave 200,000 dead but the moribund environment endures.

Many of the indigenous fled further up, into the jungles and forests, cleaedland there and started new settlements, other survivors would find a way back and attempt to reclaim homes and farms after the war. A toothless and confusing document vague on the terms of...