A Letter To Mark Zuckerberg from Bocas del Toro

May 20, 2024

Dear Mr. Zuckerberg,

Thank you for visiting our beautiful islands of Bocas del Toro, Panama. We hope that you have enjoyed our clear Caribbean waters, lush jungles, diverse flora & fauna, and the unique cultural blend of peoples that arrived here during our prosperous days as the lead global exporter of bananas.

We are increasingly aware that Bocas del Toro is now “on the map,” thanks to articles in Forbes and other travel publications as well as television series such as Survivor, House Hunters International, and most recently, Deal or No Deal Island. Despite the influx in wealthy ex-pats, luxury super yachts, and high end resorts, our islands still suffer from extreme poverty. From one of your yacht’s many balconies, you can see several indigenous communities, many of which are still living without electricity and running water, and lack access to basic education and medical care. Quite ironic how many of these indigenous islanders have Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram accounts yet don’t have access to electricity or internet in their home communities.

A Letter To Mark Zuckerberg from Bocas del Toro

My request to you is to support the local communities, economies, and environments that you visit worldwide. In most developing countries, only $5 of every $100 spent by tourists benefits the local economy. Your superyacht is burning over 200 gallons of diesel fuel hourly while sitting in our bay, and substantially more when it’s moving, and has a greater output of carbon-dioxide-equivalent gasses than our entire archipelago produces in a year.  Simply put by The Guardian recently, “Megayachts are an increasing blight on our societies, and the world would be better off without them.”

The only way to sustainably affect change is by empowering the local communities and compensating them in a fair manner for the hospitality they provide while you are traveling in their backyards.  Please eat in our locally owned restaurants, take a tour with an indigenous guide to see sloths & red frogs or learn how to make cacao truffles, and hire a local boat captain to take you line fishing.

Please give generously to support our educational, environmental, economic, and health needs. I ask you to consider donating 1% of your yacht’s estimated annual operating costs, or $300,000, to the people of Bocas del Toro. Here is how the donation, facilitated by Give and Surf, a 501(c)3 nonprofit that registered in both the U.S. and Panama since 2011, would be used:

  • $50,000 to local environmental groups focused on protecting our waters including educating local fisherman, boat drivers, and tour guides on sustainable practices, as well as regrowing coral reefs, many of which have been damaged by anchors from large yachts and cruise ships
  • $50,000 to providing medical clinics and health education in rural island villages where there is limited or no access to public health care
  • $50,000 for vocational training programs to provide young adults with training in tourism-related jobs, such as restaurant serving, customer service, English, and hotel reception.
  • $75,000 for after-school programs and early childhood education programs that are provided free to local youth. Panama has one of the worst education systems in the world and one of the highest rates of inequality. We believe all students should have equal access to a high equality education.
  • $25,000 for the Sustainable Food Program of Bocas to help build community and school gardens and provide nutrition education to youth and adults to combat the increase in diet-related illnesses such as diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and heart conditions.
  • $50,000 for those impacted by the April 13th fire in Bocas del Toro. This was the worst fire to hit our community in over a century. Several buildings were completely burned down resulting in the closure of several businesses and 40 local employees out of work.

I welcome a call with you or your designated philanthropic representative anytime. I would also like to invite you to take a tour with me of the local communities so you can see first-hand the beauty of our culture as well as some of the extreme needs. Thank you for your consideration.


Emily Talentino
Executive Director
Give and Surf, Inc.
+507 6955-6804

Emily Talentino pictured left, with graduates and instructor of Give and Surf’s B.E.S.T. tourism vocational training school

The Bocas Breeze is a digital and print newspaper proudly serving the Bocas del Toro community since 2004; reporting news, advertising local businesses and promoting tourism in Bocas del Toro, Panama.


  1. Nicole Reply

    Hi Emily,
    You make a great point and a donation like that would positively affect the Bocas Del Toro community. When I was taking a panga taxi into town, my lovely driver was pointing out various things to me… one of which has been the expansive development of homes in the archipelago; many of which are from foreign investors. I asked him since this is an archipelago, are there any lands that have been zoned to not be able to be purchased and developed in order to keep this place beautiful? Seems like not. This is a shame. I don’t know the laws in Panama but it seems like efforts should be made to preserve some of these wild lands before it’s too late.

  2. Eliezer Castro Reply

    Im totally happy that Mark Z. Is in Panama. And Im even happier that Emily Talentino is here helping, caring and mentoring our people.
    I dont like Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram accounts, but those people love your apps. Please visit their comunity.

    Thanks Ms. Emily.

  3. cathy vogel Reply

    Emily, You could not have said it better. We have been coming there for years for four to five months, a fabulous place with amazing people! We always support the locals. Thank you for your professional letter.

  4. Darrell Fertakos Reply

    Good letter . No matter how talented, rich and famous one is we must never forget we all share the same humanity. Thousands of people still die per day without food and water. A few billionaires could reduce the problem a great deal. It would be nice to read in the news for once a billionaire saved 100,000 lives or millions with their wealth rather than reading a billion dollar boat they bought next.

    We must all reach out more to help others. For it is the help of others that enables more to succeed and until all human suffering ends on earth with no food, water, jobs and basic needs met … We have much more work to do. Zuck reach out got big ideas and products let’s make billions more and help billions of people in more ways than ever before …

  5. Robert Arias Reply

    Well written article, I will share with my Friends. As I live in Chitre, a trip to beautiful Bocas is now on my list. Thank you.

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