You sunburnt idiot, you’re stumbling around, you’re falling into the ocean, you’re getting ripped off by ladies braiding your hair, you’re vomiting off the dock. Just go home already.
You won’t remember this anyways. You won’t remember the Bahamas. You won’t remember the bartender you didn’t tip and you sure as hell won’t remember her daughter sitting there next to you, still in her school uniform, trying to clean up the beer you spilled all over her homework. You won’t remember the country I love and you won’t see the pain you’re causing, so just go home. Please.
6 million Americans every year visit the Bahamas (US Department of State) and in my experience, the local people put up with a lot. They put up with drunk people, they put up with rudeness, and they put up with ignorance. They put up with you, and they do it because you account for 70% of their national income (Bahamas Handbook 89).
Now this is where you should stop reading. If you still want to bury your head in the sand and believe the Atlantis Resort’s twitter feed and commercial, walk away now. If you don’t want to hate your drunken spring break, walk away now. If you ever want to enjoy a trip to the Caribbean ever again, walk away now. I’m about to break your heart.
Still here? Well then let me tell you about a little thing called poverty. The poverty rate in the Bahamas was found to be at just under 13%(The Nassau Guardian). This figure only includes the recognized population, and excludes Haitian migrants (making up almost 10% of the population) and stateless people (unrecognized by any country because they were born in a country where their parents were illegally living). Poverty among Haitians living in the Bahamas is at almost 40%.
How about we focus there on Haitians and stateless people for a minute? According to the United Nations Refugee Agency,
“Stateless young people are often denied the opportunity to receive school qualifications, go to university and find a decent job. They face discrimination and harassment by authorities and are more vulnerable to exploitation. Their lack of nationality often sentences them and their families and communities to remain impoverished and marginalized for generations.”
This means that there is a significant portion of the population of the Bahamas that is at rock bottom – the lowest of the low. Unable to have quality education, they live in hastily slapped together nightmares of any safety or heath inspector, and they are denied everything that we take for granted.
These people are malnourished, shamed, turned away from schools, discouraged, and often forced into prostitution by their dire situation. These people are stuck in the never ending rut of poverty. The following podcast describes the issue of stateless Haitians in the Dominican Republic:
This isn’t irreversible. As a tourist, you have sway here. Every tourist site out there tells you not to go past the first three blocks on the capital island, Nassau (where 2/3 of the population of the Bahamas lives). Your job is to ask questions. Ask your resort or cruise ship why, ask them if they can do anything to fix this injustice. If the resorts and cruises know that this bothers us, they will donate to these impoverished people and they will pressure the Bahamian government to change their policies. Remember when I told you that you made up 70% of the Bahamian economy? This is where you can use that power for good. So use it, and help little Nana (pictured below) grow up and have the life we don’t value nearly enough.
If you’d like to hear more about the Bahamas and the people that stole my heart, I encourage you to watch the video adaptation below.