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Old 01-22-2010, 11:36 AM
 
Location: New York City
5,556 posts, read 7,389,840 times
Reputation: 1356

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I am a native of St. Thomas, but I have not lived there since 1983. Despite this, I keep a pulse on my island and I keep abreast to what goes on down there. As a founder of a very successful Facebook page that caters to our islands, I have learned so much more myself.

One of the things that some some visitors to our islands have complained about is customer service and a sense of rudeness they sometimes receive (real or imagined). I know the rudeness is not always from our people's end and we're a people who will CHECK a superiority complex and sense of entitlement in a heartbeat. We don't play that.

First of all, there are some people who are just rude (both sides of this). Nothing is bothering them other than their own miserable personality. Other people, unfortunately, have the world on their shoulders and are sometimes in no mood to be nice. Unfortunately, they have jobs, they walk the streets, they bump into tourists as well as their own fellow islanders. Oftentimes they don't represent an entire people, but they can be nasty enough to make it seem so.

Next, we have our younger generation of kids who find emulating the WORST of other cultures as something noble to do. The worst of popular culture appeals to them and without proper guidance, the television and the internet are their guidance through life. Yes, we have our share of "lost" children who are a danger to EVERYONE. Again, they are a minority but as with anything else, the things they do out-shouts the good of countless others.

Now, some [white] tourists may feel a sense of anger toward them from some locals and this is what I want to get at so that those who come to our islands will have a little better perspective. This angst may be a little more evident on St. Croix than on St. Thomas, but there is some resentment from SOME locals regardless. So where does it come from?

St. Thomas has always been the more cosmopolitan of the islands. People from all over the world have come to St. Thomas' shores from since whenever. Our folks are not in awe of tourists. We do not bow down to them nor do we treat them any better or worse. They are just people who drop in from a boat or jet for a day or a few and we just continue with life as usual whether they are there or not.

St. Croix, on the other hand, has been more of the laid back island. If St. Thomas was/is the "city," St. Croix was/is the "country" area. In my estimation, it has a stronger feel of the colonial past and is large enough to have subtle differences from place to place. The people have always been at the forefront of nationalism and there is a rabid sense of independence and preservation emanating from over there.

When the tourist boom hit the Virgin Islands starting in the 50s, it eventually led to more and more American mainlanders moving to the islands. In addition to them, more and more people from neighboring islands also moved to the islands to fill service industry jobs. Caught in the middle were locals who felt squeezed from both sides. The "down islanders" received certain nods from the US government and some of the rich mainlanders tried to create a little pre-Civil Rights America down there by setting up private clubs, buying up land and isolating the locals. They came with an air of superiority and entitlement and this did not settle well with the locals, especially on St. Croix where locals felt crushed, bottled in, isolated, left out and exploited. They also felt that their way of life and culture were being threatened with the advance of "Americanization."

Old wounds going all the way back to slavery and colonialism opened up and some locals exploited the resentment which came to a head in some incidents on St Croix in the late 60s and early 70s which led to a mass exodus of American mainlanders out of the island, taking business and potential business (cruise ships) with them. Some people on St. Croix are still mistrustful of anything from the outside reaching their shores because of what happened in the 50s and 60s.

This was a very short treatment, but I think you guys get the gist. This little bit of history has to be kept in mind when visiting our islands. While this is NOT the sentiment of all of our people, just be advised that some people still view outsiders with suspicion. On St. John, for example, rich American mainlanders have bought up prime real estate over there and locals were either forced to sell (due to high taxes) or they CAN'T afford to buy property on their own homeland, but some bank exec from New York can and THEN he or she cordons off their property like a fortress, not wanting any locals within 2 miles of their property. This leaves a VERY bad taste in some people's mouths. It's insulting to them. It is NOT a good thing to arrive on the islands and rub wealth and status in the face of the locals. They won't be amused in the least.

When I was a little boy on St Thomas, living near the Bolongo Bay area, I recall when the owners of the beach club, put up a fence to mark off their property. As little boys we would sometimes wander past the line or swim into the beach area within their property. The owners would run us off the beach or run us back over toward the rocky parts. You must imagine, this was like a shock to us. As little boys the beach was our playground. We did not know people could OWN a beach so of course, we saw these white individuals as "enemies" running us out of our backyard.

Bottom line is, UNDERSTAND the history more than just the fact that Columbus sailed past in 1493. Keep the superiority complex at home. Realize that these are people and they have feelings also. Recognize that it might not be about YOU, but about others who may have spoiled it for you in SOME people's minds. Don't go expecting perfection and it is ALWAYS a better bet to give a smile, be courteous, be endearing then to act as if the Virgin islands is your OWN private plantation.

With this being said, PLEASE visit. We are really very nice people. Don't let a few scrooges spoil it for you! Welcome!
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Old 01-22-2010, 04:46 PM
 
1,996 posts, read 3,156,781 times
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It sounds so much like what happens all over the U.S. (and probably in other countries as well), i.e., the rich come in and the taxes go up and pretty soon the locals can't afford to keep their property let alone buy into the area. I take it from your post that there are no laws prohibiting private ownership of beaches. That's really a shame since natural wonders should belong to the public like they do in many parts of the U.S. I guess for me, at some point in my life I had to give up on resenting others for having more than I did or for having ancestors who did something bad to my ancestors.
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Old 01-22-2010, 08:55 PM
 
Location: New York City
5,556 posts, read 7,389,840 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sandhillian View Post
It sounds so much like what happens all over the U.S. (and probably in other countries as well), i.e., the rich come in and the taxes go up and pretty soon the locals can't afford to keep their property let alone buy into the area. I take it from your post that there are no laws prohibiting private ownership of beaches. That's really a shame since natural wonders should belong to the public like they do in many parts of the U.S. I guess for me, at some point in my life I had to give up on resenting others for having more than I did or for having ancestors who did something bad to my ancestors.

I for one hold no resentment. I am a very easy going guy who will get along with a twig, however not everyone is like me and I can empathize with the feelings of some people. I just wanted to put it out there for the visitors so they can have a better understanding.

I really don't know about beach ownership nowadays. Something I need to look in to.
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Old 01-23-2010, 06:02 AM
 
Location: St Thomas, US Virgin Islands
24,671 posts, read 64,736,235 times
Reputation: 26614
Here you go!

"In 1978 (US) Virgin Islands passed an important new law, the Coastal Zone Management Act, to protect and preserve the coastal areas of the Territory and to preserve the tradition of the public access to the Territory’s shorelines.

Today, the goals that were set still stand as one of the best ways we have of passing that Virgin Islands heritage-beach access on to future generations.

Access to cultural, historical and natural areas along the coast is essential to public understanding and enjoyment of coastal and marine resources. Of course, the public should use the territory’s beaches in ways that would not degrade or damage these valuable resources.

The CZM Program, through its permitting process, does not allow commercial building on the Territory’s shorelines without first securing an easement for public access to the shorelines. Beaches cannot be fenced off. The public has the right to be on the beach, enjoy them and use them for recreational purposes.

If you have been denied your right to be on a beach in the US Virgin Islands, please contact the Division of Coastal Zone Management and report the incident."
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Old 01-23-2010, 06:49 AM
 
1,996 posts, read 3,156,781 times
Reputation: 15826
Glad to hear it!
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Old 01-31-2010, 09:47 AM
 
1,453 posts, read 1,957,764 times
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Unfortunately, people don't understand the free access to beaches statute when it comes to private property. Sure, the beach can be accessed. But you cannot go through private property to get to it. That means you can walk all the way around the island below the high water mark, or vegetation, but you can't traipse through someone's yard to get to the beach. Many believe otherwise, but it boils down to a Constitutional issue. Even CZM/DPNR misunderstood until the issue was pressed in recent years.
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Old 02-01-2010, 03:26 PM
 
Location: New York City
5,556 posts, read 7,389,840 times
Reputation: 1356
Quote:
Originally Posted by Maineac View Post
Unfortunately, people don't understand the free access to beaches statute when it comes to private property. Sure, the beach can be accessed. But you cannot go through private property to get to it. That means you can walk all the way around the island below the high water mark, or vegetation, but you can't traipse through someone's yard to get to the beach. Many believe otherwise, but it boils down to a Constitutional issue. Even CZM/DPNR misunderstood until the issue was pressed in recent years.
This I can understand.
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