January 11, 2013 – There's a tiny, colourful Caribbean island off the coast of Cartagena, Columbia called Santa Cruz del Islote, which not only holds the unofficial title as the most densely populated island in the world with about 1,250 people that live on less than one-tenth of a square kilometre but it literally sits at sea level.
The island contains ninety houses, two shops, one restaurant and a school, which are built right to the shoreline. Santa Cruz del Islote is so small that some residents have to walk through each other's kitchens to get from one place to another.
The residents of Santa Cruz bury their dead in a nearby island because there is no space for a cemetery. They play football on a neighbouring island because the only public square on Santa Cruz del Islote is about half the size of a tennis court.
Even though the residents are putting up a strong fight with the state to provide them with the basic amenities and public services because they do not have a doctor or consistent water supply and sanitation facilities, and only one generator that runs for just five hours a day – they would not dream of leaving.
Juvenal Julio, a 66-year-old diving instructor and great grandson of one of the fishermen who founded Islote's Afro-Columbian community around 150 years ago stated, "Life here is calm and delightful. We don't have violence, we don't need police, we all know each other and we enjoy our days." The residents of this idyllic island do not lock their doors.
Guillermo Candales, the only security guard on the island for a school attended by eighty children is employed by the Colombian government, which by law requires every school to have security. Teacher Guerrero Garcia says, "The children keep themselves in line. The children here are much more docile and better disciplined than where I've taught before. You have to respect your elders in a place where everyone knows everyone."
The islanders depend on tourists that travel 90 minutes on daily tour boats from the mainland for their survival while other residents sail to adjacent islands to offer fishing, snorkelling or diving excursions, and take in daily hauls of fish to restaurants and suppliers on the mainland. Every day the women work hard to keep the village clean and children go to school and come home to do their chores.
The colourful and vibrant neighbourhood is filled with happy children who are warm and welcoming. They love their island home.
To view a short video of the island and its people please click on Santa Cruz del Islote.