13 Invented Paradise

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The Caribbean had become notorious for its mosquito inducing yellow fever and malaria. However, the upgraded health systems and elimination of mosquitoes meant interests would once more rise. The islands were now a source of health restoration or healing properties. The Caribbean boasted warm waters and plenty of sunshine as well as picturesque views; it was the perfect place to recuperate or rest one’s tired bones.

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The Caribbean Escape

The roaring 20s did not hit the Caribbean as it had the US. The Caribbeans fledgling touristic endeavors were small and were in no position to compete with the money makers of bananas, sugar, and or coffee. Although, what little tourist activity the Caribbean had, was to be had on Cuban shores. Perhaps they had heard of the islands beauty from the American corporation that reign supreme or from the National Tourist Commission set up in 1919. Whatever the reasoning, Europe was no longer the playground of the ultra rich Americans.

Ships could soon be seen docking and unloading floods of people looking for a slice of paradise. At first, Cuba provided a haven for those wishing for a drink at the height of the Prohibition Era. Later, the people came for more than their love of drink, they came for the casinos, sex, and the sea. Some couldn’t get enough and bought pieces of paradise or incorporated it into their careers; as was the case for Ian Fleming.

Whose Paradise?

Prior to World War II, vacationing in the Caribbean was a possibility exclusively for the rich. However, in the war’s aftermath, income levels changed and plane travel had advanced substantially! Island hotels promoted vacation packages and many hopped on to planes for a slice of the long denied paradise; money was no object. The plans offered room and board and an itinerary that allowed you to enjoy “Caribbean life” alongside the “locals”.

The issue with all this, however, was that these resorts ensured you saw what you wanted to see. The stereotypical fisherman and farmer as well as the hot bartender or bikini wearing waitress were there to give the tourists the paradise they craved. Yet, come nightfall, they would return to their real Caribbean life. Islanders on and around the resort were expected to act accordingly and scare the tourist with the truth; after all it was the money that mattered. The numbers of tourists coming to the island, blissfully oblivious, soon increased as travelers could now come by cruise.

“Cairine Lady waited upon by a Galla slave-girl” sourced from the New York Public Library, Public Domain Certification.

The Return of Slavery

The locals began to dislike tourism as their scripted roles became more and more demeaning and their disgust with the whole “real Caribbean life” they were forced to portray grew. In the British territories, this meant blacks were serving the white quest of the resort, a situation highly reminiscent of the slave and master relationships of slavery.

Castro disliked the industry as well, and he remembered clearly Cuba’s Vegas-like days. Yet, this dislike would morph into disgruntled tolerance as the aid Cuba received from the USSR collapsed right along with it. What tourism he allowed, however, did not include gambling, and was restricted to the island’s northern side.

“Cornwall Beach, Montego Bay, Jamaica” by ddrace, licensed under a creative commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic.

Calling All Tourists!

That said, do not believe that everyone disliked the industry. On islands where agrarian endeavors were dying out, the people would turn to tourism related job fields as a way to support themselves and their families. Although funds were provided for the establishment of these resorts by the IMF and like institutions, an island’s topography also dictated the extent to which tourism could thrive. Take for example, Jamaica with its miles of beaches in comparison to Dominica and its mountains.

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Dominica’s tourism industry was, however, in trouble for reasons aside form its topography. The series of murders and shootings that occurred against its resort guests in the 1970s. Crime soon became synonymous with tourism across the Caribbean. Haiti, despite the ever present destruction of the 2010 earthquake, was named a safe Caribbean destination in 2012. Haiti, having a comparable 6.9/100,000 violent death rate per year to Long Beach, California.


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The tourist industry is one of the largest revenue generators, at $34 billion yearly by the 1990s in the world and the Caribbean only sees a small portion of this. Those that come, do so from different parts of the world, yet, are similar in that they all have to be reasonably stable economically speaking. This is because, outside of Cuba, no other island has a Bed & Breakfast system. The lack of such a system, hostels, and with pricey hotel rooms does not lend itself to the backpacking nature of European vacations. Which means the age group of those traveling to the Caribbean tend to be adults, if not seniors, who are often restricted to the resort parts of the islands as there are no regular appearing Q110’s available; much less a handy Uber or Lyft. Aside from the expenses of staying on the island, one must also consider the need for plane travel to reach between islands that are far from cheap.

Tourism & Central America

For someone on a budget and seeking a slice of paradise, the best place to go would be Central America. Central America provides tourists with cheaper hotels and amenities as well as easily accessible transportation for those who dislike tour guides. Yet, just as in the Caribbean luxurious experiences do not include a peek into “real Caribbean life”. As a matter of fact, even in Central America, tourists only encounter locals who happen to work in the resorts and hotels.

The resorts and hotels, of course, come about through the brokering of deals that guarantee tax breaks, which means very little if any of the revenue made by these establishments enter the local economy. For some, 80% of the revenue made leaves the island rather than filter into the economy. Which is why the phrase “Tourism is Whorism” was coined.

“Central America” by Ryan Henderson, licensed under a creative commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.

Do we need the Tourists?

In the majority of these islands, tourism represents the selling of the country and the arrival of vacationers looking for sex. The exotic paradise provides a sexually liberating oasis in which visitors are free to indulge. An indulgence that transcends race and skin color as well as the definitions of statutory rape. For the locals, the foreigners provide an income stream while the person is on the island, if not also long distance, or a chance at escaping the Caribbean for the US or Europe.

In DR, however, things are not so clear cut. Due to its liberal and ambiguous regulation of prostitution, the DR is the island with the most tourist. DR gets an estimated 4.6 million tourists a year and many of them can enjoy the services of 60-100 thousand women. As opposed to the highly regulated prostitution racket of the Dutch islands, those working in DR are highly susceptible to all kinds of illness and diseases. We must note, however, that some of these women may be girls in realty and no matter the age there remained the possibility of them being products of the sex trafficking organizations of the world.

Yet, in Cuba there exists a unique system in which the engagement in sex tourism is controlled by the women or men involved. Cuba is also an island in which gay sex tourism is practiced and while it does occur in other islands, homophobia prevents is openness.

Reality Check!

Once you leave the resort areas, one would be hard pressed to term the Caribbean a paradise. Take Jamaica for an example, once out of the tourist areas you can find people with dreads and smoking a blunt without shame. You see people waiting at a bus stop and wondering how they’ll pay their astronomically high bills or wondering if they’ll have electricity that night. Or look at Cuba, where the Vegas like hotels turn into rundown and dilapidated buildings housing women who sell themselves and the daunting realities of living in a rationing state; hemmed in by politics and embargos.

The liberating and relaxing paradise were once the keys to reaching the east, holders of European gold, home to the enslaved Africans, and land of the exterminated indigenous populations. Yet, what did the past matter to the foreigner who simply sought a reprieve from his or her dead end job and nagging relative. Bygones can not remain bygones, for with the tourism industry, as with slavery, someone else pays for what is being enjoyed.

Haitian Paradise

In Haiti there is a cordoned off beach that caters only to guest disembarking from cruise liners. These liners have air conditioning and electricity, bars and restaurants, and TVs housed in thousands of rooms. Yet, they dock off the shores of an area that is poverty stricken and never know how long they’ll have electricity. An area in which the people put up with the guest of the Labadie resort as it provides one of the only steady income streams in the region. Further isolating is the fact that the best way to enter this “paradise” is by bus rather than the pothole riddled drip from Cap Haïtian.

Labadie is available to only a few and is heavily guarded by local security guards to ensure no unauthorized visitors. The carefully constructed “real Caribbean life” is protected at all costs and what locals, outside of staff, that make their way in do so with special permission to sell their wares to those interested in bringing a piece of paradise home with them. The locals must wonder what these foreigners would think should they venture to the other side of the fence.

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When it comes to the Caribbean, “Paradise” is a term to be used lightly and loosely; for beauty is in the eye of the beholder. The resorts will remain as the islands depend on their generation of revenue but so to will the hardships of everyday life. The fluctuating politics, economy, and ever changing social norms will see the Caribbean in constant flux; the echoes of Columbus’ arrival.

This said, I ask you this:

  1. Should Columbus and his ilk be continuously venerated for their crimes against humanity?
  2. Will the white minority continue to seek “forgiveness” while subliminally oppressing people of color? 
  3. Has the US’s time as world power finally come to an end and under whose thumb will the people remain? 
  4. Will the colored majority finally take their blindfolds off and rise up? 
  5. Will we stop drinking the Kool aid and have ourselves a second Haitian Revolution? 
Image by jackdoylelfc from Pixabay. Pixabay License. Free for commercial use. No attribution required.

Who are you?

“[…] If you know your history

Then you would know where you coming from

Then you wouldn’t have to ask me

Who the heck do I think I am […]”

“[…] , when I analyze the stench

To me, it makes a lot of sense […]”

“Fighting on arrival, fighting for survival

Driven from the mainland

To the heart of the Caribbean […]”

~Bob Marley, “Buffalo Soldiers

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Final Review: Yes, it will be a cumulative exam!


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