December 31, 2008 | Comments 2

Is Crime and Poverty Out of Control in the Caribbean?

souvenirs-150x1501Nobody loves the Caribbean more than the managers of this web site. So our motives are not to scare anyone away from the beautiful Caribbean Islands or any other tropical destination. On our many trips to the Caribbean whether it be a villa vacation on Nevis, staying at a resort in Aruba, or vacationing on a cruise ship, we have never personally experienced any crime against ourselves or fellow vacationers. However, as you scan the daily news reports available from the independent newspapers representing their individual island governements you cannot be blind to the tragic crime happening on the same islands that tourists visit daily.

Our mention of this topic is not so much out of concern for the tourist (although that indeed is vitally important) but rather it’s a plea for those who can, to take action to help these independent islands. If something is not done soon it will eventually erode the desire to visit some of these crime and poverty-riddled islands. It boggles my mind that while literally thousands of visitors are touring an island after being funneled off their cruise ship, there are crimes being committed on these islands that would appall even the least sensitive amongst us. Are the crimes worse than what we see on the mainland? Probably not, but the real crime here is that while the vacationers tour the well prepared and manicured areas of the island imagining it all a serene paradise, the locals live in extreme poverty with only a trickling of the imported dollar or euro reaching them.

I don’t know about you, but it sometimes embarrasses me to look at the faces of these beautiful island people and know what they are going through. It’s true that no society or community can place all the blame for their plight on others. Yet these people truly are at the mercy of others. Vacationers from the United States and Europe vacation on these islands for the most part oblivious that little of the thousands and thousands of dollars they spend for their visit will reach the “people” that wait and serve on them while there.

And then there is a “better than you” attitude that finds its way to these beautiful people from us. My wife and I are always pleased to buy trinkets locals sell along the streets in most tourist areas. Quite frankly, we feel we are intruding on their home and feel obligated to at least buy something from them, a tshirt, hat, necklace, something that will add to their personal economy. We do not try to degrade the locals by always trying to beat them down on the pricing they have set on their wares (although a good haggling session is sometimes necessary and fun). Once while my wife and I were visiting Aruba we were looking at the little trinkets the many local vendors were selling along the street. I noticed a man getting louder with a local woman arguing with her about the price she wanted for an item he wanted. She had apparently reached the lowest she was willing to sell it at (which is her right) when he said “that’s why we have what we have and you people live like this“. His reference to “we” apparently was to his stature as a wealthy american or at least he wanted to be perceived as such. Can you imagine dealing with that arrogant, self-righteous attitude each day as you tried to sell enough items to survive for that day? Personally I am embarrassed and angry that any person would treat these dear people like that. It’s not a wonder then that the view toward visitors of their islands is degrading among the locals. Frankly, I understand and agree with them.

Do I have the answer? Not really. Could the travel industry show more regard for the island people and establish a method to portion some revenue to improve the standard of living for the locals? I think so. Would helping the locals help preserve the beauty of these tropical islands? Well, isn’t that really what results in any civilization? If people feel they are cared about and somebody is helping them, they will work harder to help themselves. Currently though, these folks see no light at the end of the tunnel so they feel defeated. History shows that when that attitude permeates a society crime and poverty follow.

Will I stop visiting these beautiful islands - no. Do I want to see improved conditions for the locals of these tropical areas - yes. Where do we begin?

We invite you to join our discussion on this sensitive topic in our forums. We have opened a thread for this topic and we hope you will share your thoughts with us. Click Here

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  1. I could not agree with you more. The people on these islands are just that people. They are trying to survive on the natural resources that was given to them. Their natural resource requires them to make trinkents to sell to the tourist or to perform some other service to make the tourist comfortable. If it is your idea to go to a foreign land and abuse the local, no matter what their ecomomic condition is compared to yours, stay at home. The trinkets they sell is their lively hood and if you have any respect for yourself and for others, and if you can afford to, purchase the little trinkets. Haggling for the price is great fun, but remember, fun is what it is about. I hope that you are not foolish enough to think that you are getting a priceless gem from a trinket vendor on the beach. What you are getting is something to remember a great time on a beautiful island. And if nothing else give it to the kids to play with when you get home, you will feel better. The trinket maker will be able to feed his\her family and maybe make his trinket stand a little more comfortable for the next tourist.

  2. Thank you for your comments. I hope more folks reply to this article. I feel more attention needs to be drawn to this issue. Thanks so much.

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