Sunday, September 12, 2010
My arrival occurred long after the sugar cane harvest, so it wasn’t a surprise to see bare fields, while driving around the island. Still, I’m not accustomed to the amount of land, which was once used for sugar cane cultivation that instead supports golf courses and new housing developments. Sugar cane was once Barbados’ lifeblood and now that seems to be dwindling away. As both of my mom’s sisters say, all the good Bajan sugar is now shipped to the European Union, leaving little to none for the people who once endured backbreaking labor during the harvest season. Being a history buff who has fond memories of living in Barbados, I get a little nostalgic for the way things were, when sugar cane was grown less than a stone’s throw away from the house I grew up in. The memory of the sweet juices dripping down my hand hasn’t faded. Times are different now because of the influx of tourism. Barbados has long been a tourist mecca, for Britons especially, but I wonder how the older generation feels about the changes the industry has brought to their country. Perhaps they don’t care, if it means more foreign exchange is available. If my grandparents were alive today, I don’t think they’d recognize the island where they raised eleven kids in a small house on the south coast.
Something else of a sinister nature happened while I was on vacation. When I was a child in Barbados, some odd-twenty years ago, personal safety at home or in the workplace was hardly ever a concern. Now my aunts are locking their doors from strangers passing by, doors that used to remained unlocked until at least 10 or 11pm while we kids played outside. Then last Friday, a vicious murder of six women took place, when two men threw a Molotov cocktail at the lone entrance of a clothing store they had just robbed. The six women trapped inside died from smoke inhalation and burns. The women were between the ages of 18 and 24. When I ask my youngest aunt, “What is this island coming to?” she just shakes her head, and says, “Girl, you don’t know Barbados.” I think she’s right.
Today, my perspective on my island birthplace is a little bittersweet. A paradise it remains, but one where those my New York street smarts might come in handy in the future. And, while I know change comes eventually, sometimes it's a little sad to see.
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