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Rich Man, Poor Man, Beggar Man, Thief – Class Struggle Caribbean Style

August 7th, 2011 · 2 Brilliant Opinions · International Travel

I just got back from Big P’s  fantastic family reunion in Carriacou, Grenada.  The mosquitos were fairly kind to me this time around.  The food was fantastic and cheap (with one exception – you know who you are – beachfront restaurant on Grand Anse Beach) and I actually lost 2 pounds on vacation.  Yet I have a nagging feeling of discontent.  Although I have been to Carriacou many times since I was a little girl, I was taken aback by what seems to be the ever widening gap between the “rich” and the “poor.”   The “rich” in this case are largely Grenadian expats who immigrated to the UK and to America in the 50s, 60s and 70s. Many became farm, factory and blue collar workers in their new homelands.  They toiled, struggled and saved.  Lo and behold decades later many are returning to retire in their island homeland.  Some have even started lucrative businesses and second careers.  It’s a Caribbean style Cinderella story.  Everyone loves a “bootstrapper.”  But what do you do if you have no boots?  What do you do if there is limited commitment to education and healthcare?  What do you do if the US and the UK no longer wants or needs cheap black labor and has shut the door on immigration?  Is the Caribbean middle-class vanishing?

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Carriacou Home

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The housing developments in Carriacou offer a mirror into class struggle Carribean style.   A number of the newer Caribbean homes (many are actually mansions, in excess of 5000 square feet) are enclosed by walls, gates, and security cameras.  I’m not anti-security, but when I see bars on the windows and doors of homes in Carriacou – an island with a population of 5,000 – I wonder does it keep the “poor” folks out or create a type of psychological prison for the “rich”?   Can the folks who live in the two homes above be friends and neighbors, equally committed to improving life in their island-nation?  What role should the government play in bridging the wealth gap?  Okay, I’m not going to get all “socialist” on you … just a little food for thought. Holla back with your thoughts!

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2 Comments so far ↓

  • Nicole

    Loved this piece! It’s also a micro version of what’s taking place globally. The middle class is quickly becoming the ‘forgotten’ class in the US.

    Having lived in the Caribbean, Trinidad to be more specific, I have observed that the middle class has gone thru cycles. It experiences loss and growth based on economics. When we experienced the boom in the 80’s there was growth. It diminished in the 90s and grew again. It fluctuates.

    I attended Howard U. and most of my friends who became professionals, returned to the Caribbean. So it’s not only the retired working class. Unfortunately, the class struggle will continue. Not sure that there’s much gov’t can do to integrate the classes. It’s a culture, a mindset, a ‘preferred’ way of life. As the classes grow further apart, it has made the ‘haves’ targeted by the ‘have-nots’. Robberies, kidnapping, etc.
    Nicole recently posted..Veritas Vineyard a perfect getaway

  • Ann

    Nicole – Thanks for your comment. While London is literally in flames, Greece was/is in chaos, my fear is what erupts next. If the Caribbean islands had an oppressive police force, surely we would be seeing these island nations in flames. There is a lot of money “flowing” in the Caribbean. Tourists, expats etc… some of this has to make its way down to the local folks. Otherwise, the class struggle will intensify. I feel for both sides. A lot of the expats are retired nurses aides, police officers, construction workers, sanitation workers… really hard working folks. They laid the foundation for American born folks of Caribbean descent. They deserve to live in their “dream house.” But the “poor” cannot be left behind. If there is no justice… there will be no peace… for either side.

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