Life in the Caribbean: What is Unseen
White sand beaches stretch for miles and palm trees sway in the ocean breeze. Waves crash along the coast of this small island of just seven square miles. Islands like Bequia (pronounced Beckway) are popular tourist destinations in the Caribbean.
Even with all of the positive economic effects that come with the onslaught of tourists, there is still something that remains hidden, or purposefully unseen, from the tourists’ eyes in Bequia.
Would-be travelers see Caribbean islands as prime tourist destinations, and, for the most part, they are. But what is behind the scenes of these beautiful destinations?
Danielle Reynolds grew up on the small island of Bequia, which is in the southern part of the Caribbean chain known as the Windward Islands, according to the island’s tourism website. Her father met her mother while he was visiting Bequia.
“He was broke, so basically she [my mom] would pay him to start everyone dancing like when they would play live music,” Reynolds said.
Reynolds was born in Fayetteville and moved to Bequia shortly after her birth. She grew up in Bequia and finished high school there. She came to the UA when she was 16.
As she prepares to graduate from the UA, she is headed back to Bequia this summer to teach art to children who don’t have enough money to afford art supplies.
The Bequia that people don’t see is the poor Bequia. The people of the island are sometimes “dirt poor,” Reynolds said.
“People think Caribbean and they think, ‘Oh they have tourists, they must have money,’” she said. “Yes, we have tourists, but that happens four months out of the year, but for the rest of the year you have to live off what you made during the tourist season.”
Bequia has a population of about 5,000 people. The gross domestic product per capita is US $10,200, according to caribsurf.net.
Adding to the poverty are the extra expenses that come with living on an island. Because the island is so small, a large portion of the island’s food and supplies have to be imported and end up costing a lot more money than they would on the mainland.
“It’s things like tomatoes and apples, little things that you don’t think about here that become so expensive,” Reynolds said.
Shipping drives the cost of everyday products to extremely high prices.
A box of crayons that costs less than one dollar in the United States can cost more than $10 in Bequia, she said.
As Reynolds returns to Bequia this summer to teach art classes, she will take a surplus of supplies so that the children can have them even after she leaves.
She hopes to use art to show the kids that there is an escape from poverty.
“They will be doing good if they make it through the sixth grade,” she said. “The sad reality is that most of these kids won’t get out of there.”
Reynolds knows that not all of the children will see art as an escape.
“I am a realist; I don’t expect that 50 of these kids are going to turn out to be artists. But if two of these kids end up really enjoying painting, and they stick with it and that helps their grades improve and they get in less fights, that will rock my world,” she said.