Saturday, September 30, 2017

Beauty, damage, recovery and patience.

Almost exactly twenty years ago, in August and September 1997 I was lucky enough to spend some time in the Caribbean. In St. Lucia and Dominica mainly, and a little bit of time in Antigua, Guadeloupe and Jamaica.

This is one of only a few photos of Dominica I have from that time:

IMG_0446B Dominica

Dominica, August/September 1997. View probably from Scott's Head, near Soufriere.

Dominica is an astonishingly beautiful country, with interesting, talented, friendly people, stunning rainforest, gorgeous waterfalls and a vibrant musical culture.

This month Dominica has been massively damaged by Hurricanes Irma and Maria. Especially Maria. At least 27 people have been killed, "almost every building on the island damaged or destroyed" and infrastructure and water supplies badly damaged. It will takes years to rebuild. Yet the world seems already to have moved on. The aid desperately needed to save lives now in the aftermath of the storms is not forthcoming.

In May 2003 I was again lucky to get to visit Vieques in Puerto Rico. Another beautiful and interesting place.

101-0170_IMG Vieques Puerto Rico

A beach in Vieques, Puerto Rico.

It too has recently been hugely damaged by Hurricane Maria. People killed, homes destroyed, culture shaken, essentials of life erased. Yet again, less than two weeks later, the world seems already to have moved on. Even though Puerto Rico is part of the United States, it is having to beg the U.S. for assistance, which is not being provided, again putting more lives at risk after the hurricane.

Let us not forget our Caribbean brothers and sisters so quickly. They deserve our help. And they have much to teach us.

The majority of the island of Vieques used to be 'owned' by the US Navy which subjected it to bombardment, using it to test bombs, run war games and train its soldiers, with terrible environmental and health impacts on the island and its inhabitants. The inhabitants of the island had campaigned for years to make the U.S. Navy stop the bombing and return the island to its people. Just a couple of weeks before I visited in 2003, they had finally succeeded. The Navy had left and the bombing stopped. Around the island was ample evidence of the struggle and of the joy of Vieque's people at finally getting their home returned to them. A stone was painted with a message to the U.S. occupiers:

101-0195_IMG Painted Stone in Vieques Puerto Rico

Fourteen years later the message remains apt. It reads: "Los atropellos del Imperio tienen un limite…La pacienca del pueblo." In English it can be translated as: "The abuses of the Empire have a limit…The patience of the people."


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