Department alumnus writes about a unique neighborhood in Panama

Wednesday, November 16, 2011 - 3:07pm

Thomas Sigler (Ph.D. '11)  wrote an article on an historic Panama neighborhood's opposition to a proposed new highway for The Atlantic Cities. 


Here's a brief Q&A with the author.


What motivated you to write this article?

"I wrote the article based on personal experiences in Panama.  The neighborhood in the article served as one of the more prominent case studies within my dissertation, and really stands out as a unique neighborhood in Panama," Sigler explaied. "I wanted to share the details of the ongoing debate in Panama with an international audience, which I think I've achieved through this piece.  I was really excited to see comments from both camps.  It's a really big issue in Panama right now."


What do you hope happens in this situation?

"Personally, I hope that the Panamanians figure out what they want from the project.  I tried to be neutral in my article, though I'm sure my opinion was pretty clear.  There would certainly be benefits to a new roadway, but it seems to me that there are much better things the government could do with $777 million dollars." Sigler said. 

What role do geographers have in these kinds of situations?

"Living in Panama, I was really fortunate to have met a relatively large number of geographers and members of the planning world who were active GIS users," Sigler noted. "  I think that geographers can contribute significantly to debates like this, given not only our unique tools (GIS) but our inherently interdisciplinary modes of thinking that take into consideration social, economic, and political concerns.  This debate is really complicated, as any solution is going to involved either displacing a massive amount of people or building a really ugly highway that tarnishes the 'historical' character of a neighborhood that has just recently been put on the international tourist radar.  There is no perfect solution, but certainly some solutions are better than others.  In the end, however, it's a political move, and the current administration has made the Cinta Costera (the highway) one of its chief objectives.  I hope that all of the possibilities are at least considered before ground is broken."