San Mateo is one of the suburbs of San Pedro. It’s tucked in just north of town on the northern bank of the Boca Del Rio, but despite being fairly large – almost 200 houses – most tourists have no idea that this at risk community exists on “La Isla Bonita.” Holy Cross Anglican School is located at the northern end of San Mateo and draws many of its students from this neighborhood.

Words don’t really describe San Mateo, it needs to be seen. This award winning video was made by Gigi Harris when just 9 years old.

Since this video there have been improvements – most dramatically the building of roads through the community, which has lead to improved housing. Mains water and electricity are now available too. But I still show the video as parts of San Mateo without roads are still very much as in the video.

What San Mateo Needs:

  • Sewerage: There is no central sewerage solution for San Mateo and the standing water makes the local’s best effort at sewerage – septic tanks – ineffective and often dangerous as raw sewerage often leaks into the standing water that surrounds homes. While an official sewerage plan is just starting, it will be years before a building starts and officials are openly stating that San Mateo is not their priority.
  • Medical Assistance: Medical missions coming to the island should make an effort to ensure San Mateo residents are informed of their presence. Dermatologists are particularly needed as there are many skin infections. The community is a long walk from the central polyclinic, so this community is best addressed by setting up in a local church. Medical supplies should be donated to the polyclinic or individual families, rather than all to one person who may claim to distribute them freely to others in need.

San Mateo DOES NOT NEED well meaning individuals to drive around and hand out free stuff. This not only makes the situation worse; it’s highly unlikely you’ll get the donations to the people who need them most. And unless you know what’s culturally appropriate and actually needed, much of what you donate will just be resold to pay for food (or rum) anyway.