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Plastic Paradise | Archipelago de San Blas

Aga Szydlik | Panama

The archipelago of San Blas comprises of over 360 tiny, coral reef islands, about half a mile from the mainland of the Isthmus of Panama and stretching to the borders of Colombia.

San Blas is inhabited by the indigenous people, Guna Yala, who 200 years ago left the mainland of Panama to escape malaria. In 1925 Guna Yala rebelled against the Panamanian government and were granted full sovereignty.

San Blas islands are nearly at the water level and as the global shifts in temperature accelerate, the low lying archipelago is under the threat of being sunk by the sea. Currently, Guna people are facing a tough reality of either abandonment of their ancestral way of life and moving to the mainland, or staying and risking losing their well-preserved culture and homes to the sea. In addition to the threat of becoming climate refugees, Guna people face an ecological disaster, as there is no waste removal program and tiny islands are filled with rubbish. Guna are containing plastic waste as much as they can, however, every wave washing over the island shore washes the rubbish out into the open sea.


Aga Szydlik is a scientist and a photographer, whose main focus is on cultural and documentary photography. She is passionate about exploring the world and complete immersion in the culture she documents. Through her photography, she aims to tell the story of people she meets and the stories they tell her. She is passionate about capturing emotions, rituals and everyday situations in different social contexts such focused on cultural, humanitarian and ecological issues impacting the environment and human life

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