Published June 19, 2012
The term "Spanish Conquistadors" refers to an era of great Spanish power and influence. But for the indigenous people living in the lands controlled by the Conquistadors, it was considered a time of exploitation, disease and oppression.
Five hundred years after the era began, a new group of explorers arrived in Panama. They are Canadian mining companies searching for specks of gold in the rich Mesoamerican forests—a protected biological corridor that runs through seven Central American countries. These Canadian companies have generated tremendous wealth for Canada as well as for the countries in which they operate. They provide local communities numerous sustainable programs to offset the negative environmental impact of mining.
Yet, the changes these Canadian mining companies have brought to rural communities have generated much discussion. "The New Conquistadors," a 25-minute documentary produced by Pulitzer Center grantees Mellissa Fung and Lynn Burgess, explores the debates surrounding Canadian mining companies' quest for gold in Panama and its economic, environmental and social impacts on Panama's indigenous communities. The documentary aired on June 18 on The National. A one-hour version airs June 19 on CBC News Network.