In Caribbean nations like Saint Lucia that are heavily dependent on tourism for economic stability, a lot goes into glossing up images to attract tourists. The photos range from happy children to smiling waiters and cheery vendors. It is a concept of eternal happiness that permeates throughout, an idea that there is no worry of poverty, homelessness or destitution. But a recent UNICEF report, which suggests that one in three adolescents in Saint Lucia lives in poverty, is quite a murky contrast to the images that we proudly display worldwide, trying to lure tourists to our shores.
A change in narrative is only used in the aftermath of a crisis, like the one we saw in 2017 when Caribbean governments lobbied to be removed from the middle-income countries index to access aid at a lower interest rate.
It’s only in times like these that it’s highlighted how vulnerable island-nations are to climate-change. And ironically it has been almost two years since Hurricanes Irma and Maria and the aid received has not equipped our countries for an impending hurricane season. Yet the Caribbean is still caught in the imagined idea of “paradise’ by funding projects that only seem to boast the number of tourists after major storms rather than the welfare of the country.
The sad reality is that the longer we continue to perpetuate the idea of paradise to outsiders, the longer we continue to obscure the problems of our own locals. In the end, we have to ask ourselves: For whom is our island a paradise?