Sun, fun, and margarita guns.

May 28, 2010 at 12:26 pm (Uncategorized)

What do you think of when you picture Jamaica? Probably the white sand, the beautiful azure color of the ocean, inhumanly gorgeous people in skimpy swimwear sweating and dancing and listening to Reggae….  

How about this guy? Image: Christopher Coke

Maybe not?  An MSN.com article caught my eye the other day.  As the search continues for Christopher Coke, a notorious drug lord (one of the world’s most dangerous) whose extradition is now demanded by the U.S. – how many people are sitting by the pool not too far away, sipping a daiquiri and getting cornrows braided into their hair by the pool, with no idea of what the hell is going on outside the resort?

The streets of Kingston are filled with sounds far from the peaceful reggae we associate with this paradise… it is filled with the disturbing echo of gunfire and chaos, in a gunbattle that has killed 30 so far. 

“The sound of gunfire echoed across the slums on Jamaica’s south coast, far from the tourist meccas of the north shore.”  (all quoted material from http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/37320150/ns/world_news-americas )  

Far from it to frighten the tourists who spend their (North) American dollars at a (North) American resort with a gated entrance.  It’s so nice that some of us decided to “adopt” a piece of this beautiful country… but is your all-inclusive resort vacation really anything you couldn’t get in Miami?

I know I sometimes tend to ramble and rant and rave on…and on….and on.  So I will try to keep this one as short and simple as possible.

Getting straight to the point – I find it pretty disturbing that we have created these wonderfully extravagant, utopian resorts in GATED private areas to keep YOU – the tourist – in, and to keep THEM – the unfortunate problems of another country we have  passively kind of invaded for their tasty pineapples – out.

Now, before you jump down my throat, I am fully aware that the resort areas in Jamaica and elsewhere are not REALLY land-owned by big, bad North Americans and our big, bad corporations.   But isn’t it a little strange that some people pay so much money for a trip somewhere that is just the same as home? Where is your sense of culture? Your sense of adventure? Can’t go without Starbucks for 3 days?  Don’t you have any desire to discover something different from what you already know (another language, different food, dance, music, people, lifestyle)?  And not to mention…. your biggest concern is the possibility of a freaky hepatitis-infected ice cube (as you read about in Cosmo! Ew!), while in Kingston, schools and businesses are closed until further notice, and the government is appealing for blood donations for the wounded.

There are people dying needlessly right now under the tropical sun in quite a few places in the world….  places that some arrogant, narcissistic tourists know nothing of… after all, we ALL deserve a vacation free of worry, right?  If you are going to be such a bloody hypocrite and keep your (North ) American money in a Sandals/Best Western resort and funnel it right back to your country’s pockets directly, and never actually set foot in the country you are visiting…. well, this news report was just a reminder of how big our “other cheek” is, and how easily it is turned.  Do you think any of those resort vacationers will be donating their blood? Reading the local newspapers?  Seeing any of this violence and tragic mayhem, that could potentially kill innocent civilians with no involvement to Kingston’s drug wars?

My skeptical, cynical guess would be nope.

In many of the slums of Kingston, there has been a total absence of police for decades – until now.  The street battles continue, unbeknownst to the poor ignorant schmucks sipping from a coconut, who have slathered their asses in Banana Boat on their “tropical” vacation.  News flash: You are not really in Jamaica.  You are in Hilton-aica.  I’m not saying we should join the gun battles, no.  I’m not saying that we should give up all forms of luxury, either. But you should know where you are and how your tourist dollars are being spent while you are away from home.  Do you think many people in Jamaica see the millions and millions of tourist dollars that pour in from vacationers? Of course not.  Maybe a few people (in government, etc) benefit from it, sure…. but for the most part, we have just created more segregated communities outside our own homes.  If more people were actually aware, and gave a shit enough to pressure their own government to step up and lend aid, sanction, expose, contribute, listen, etc when it is necessary, we might find that our global empathy and ambition to make positive change would actually affect people and places more than we could have imagined.  It wouldn’t have been so hard to book a sustainable, community-friendly vacation in the first place, would it?

I know that we can’t all worry about the plights of the world all the time.  And that ranting and raving about injustice sometimes doesn’t help.  I do believe that if you are traveling to a foreign country, you should be aware of it’s social, political, and economic state, and try to (be it Jamaica, Russia, Bolivia, Ghana, Laos, wherever) contribute something positive to the community – however small your contribution may be.  Ignorance is a poor choice to make – and a selfish one at that. And it may cost us all a lot more in the long run.

You will probably have a better time than if you were to keep your windows rolled up from the airport to your Hilton premier suite, anyways.

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