Being On the Edge
I hear nothing good about the weather back in the New York area — hail storms, 100 degree heat, rain — so I can only feel fortunate to be in the Caribbean. But it is interesting to see the world from here. In one way Curacao is better off than many tourist destinations. Ever since 1914, when oil was discovered in Venezuala, Shell has had a huge oil refinery here. The island’s economy shifted from, this is really true, weaving straw hats, to pumping oil. Between that steady income, and the fact that Curacao is a sort of part of Holland (the way Puerto Rico is linked to the US), the island has had been spared many of the third world ills — poverty,. revolution, the worst of narco-trafficking. Today it is diver’s destination and a home away from home for endless numbers of Dutch vacationeers — not to speak of the massive cruise ships that still call. We may think of Wallmart and Home Depot as Big Box stores, but you should see the container stores here.
Oil and Holland have given a certain baseline financial and governmenal security to life here which allows the island to be very nice, the people to retain a wonderful sweet friendliness. And yet you cannot help seeing the KFCs, the Pizza Huts, the Marriot and Hilton hotels; you sense that while the island has kept something of itself, it is also being washed over by the outside world against which it has not possible defense. Along the coast near the beaches you see nice homes going up — surely beachfront developments for outsiders. Again they will aid the economy. But at some point the island will be a niche extension of Holland and America, a theme park of nice Caribbean beachness where natives are able to live their traditional lives because they are part of the scenery of an island set up to please visitors. The locals are not abused, they may even enjoy their lives. But all power is elsewhere.
Maybe that is just the reality of the world, big power at the center, niches at the edges. I’d love to own one of those beachfront homes. But it also feels sad — like watching the destruction of an ecological niche. I’ve loved visiting here. I also can’t wait to get home.