Santa Cruz del Islote is an island that is located on the Caribbean Sea, in Colombia. It’s a part of the Archipelago of San Bernardo. Its population compared with its small size results in its being the most densely populated island on Earth, where more than 1,200 people inhabit just over one-tenth of a square kilometer. In average, a woman has five children and amount of people is 7.4 number (per house) of 97 houses. It’s considered to be 4 times more densely populated than Manhattan in proportion to its size and its number of inhabitants.
Locals say that Santa Cruz del Islote was discovered about 150 years ago by some wandering fisherman from Barú. They noticed that the island had no mosquitoes – a rarity in the Caribbean – and set up a camp. That night, as the legend goes, the men slept so peacefully that they decided to stay.
Most residents work elsewhere, either fishing or staffing resorts on nearby islands.
Some call it “Paradise” and you might be surprised to hear how peaceful life is on the most densely populated island on Earth. But life isn’t easy there. There’s no doctor and electricity works only for 5 hours a day, thanks to a single generator. There is no running water or sewer system. But despite that, locals describe life on the island as calm and peaceful. No one locks his door and children are unusually well-behaved in a community where everyone they know is always just a few hundred feet away.
Today, there is a maze of colorful alleys and backyards connect the 90 houses, 2 shops, 1 restaurant, an one all-ages discotheque and a school, that are built back to back right up to the shoreline.
Colombian Law requires that all schools have a security guard but, according to teacher Arguedy Guerrero Garcia, 23, the pupils 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”, he says. “We have no choice, we do not need police, we know each other and enjoy our days. It’s just glory”, said the housekeepers.
The only way most residents will ever move away from Santa Cruz del Islote is when they die… because the island has no place for a Cemetery. For lack of space the Cemetery for Santa Cruz del Islote is located on the nearby island of Tintipan, about half of the island population was present during the burial.
So, the residents have to use neighboring islands as Cemetery and recreation grounds, while the residents work on the mainland instead of on the island. The students attend school on the neighboring mainland. The Mucura Island Hotels are a prime source of work for the residents.
It can be accessed by a ferry ride from the Port of Tolu in Colombia.
Photography © Luca Zanetti