Building tourism upon the dark history of slavery… slavery that inspired rebellion and a soaring quest for freedoms and rights.
by Passin Thru
For the last few days the local Bajan news media has been full of stories about the Oistins Charter. Our illustrious government says the country will be establishing itself as a heritage travel destination and our Prime Minister (what’s ‘is name again?) emerged from the martini lunches at the Hilton to do some photo ops. (See Barbados Today here and here)
Heritage tourism is a good idea – maybe a great idea – as studies show that tourists need more than sun, sand, sex and rum to get excited about a destination. But while some of us move to recreate and enhance our Bajan brand with history and heritage travel, others were busy destroying the architecture of one of our oldest structures.
According to Karl Watson on his Facebook page, the oldest existing building in Bridgetown was built around 1650 – and last week the new owners decided to “renovate” it by filling in some of the roofline with concrete. This happened at the same time that the government was saying wonderful things about heritage tourism.
Herein is the lesson about “saying” and “doing”: wonderful pronouncements from our Prime Minister and other elected representatives are not reality.
Words are not laws or enforced standards. Words are not deeds. Saying words, however inspired, is not taking action. Promising to do this or protect that does not make it so.
That is the problem with Barbados and that is the problem with the wider Caribbean: we citizens are told what the government plans or says it plans, but we never follow up to see what the government really does or accomplishes. In the old days we accepted the falsehoods in exchange for tinned beef, biscuits and a smash of rum or whisky. Now we trade our acceptance of obvious falsehoods for what?
What do we gain by nodding and repeating in a zombie-like fashion “Oh Yes! We will be a heritage travel destination!”
Who can hold the government accountable or judge performance when the most basic of financial expenditures remain secret because our politicians deliberately failed to pass a Freedom of Information law?
The Oistins Charter is the latest government fashion!
The Charter of Barbados was signed at the Mermaid Tavern, Oistins, on 11th January 1652 and ratified by the Assembly on 17th January 1652. It predates the US Declaration of Independence but contains an Article much treasured in the US…
As entered in the Charter of Barbados:-
3. That no taxes, customs, imports, loans or excise shall be laid, nor levy made on any the inhabitants of this island, without their consent in a General Assembly.
In the US Declaration of Independence this clause reads:-
There shall be no taxation without representation.
Barbados can be a world-class heritage tourism destination: but only if we stop destroying the physical evidence of our history. Perhaps fifty years ago Bajans – black, whitish and in between – made a decision to let the physical reminders of slavery rot and vanish. Walls, plantation houses, public buildings and books were offered as sacrifices to the concept that if we destroyed the relics we could forget or change history.
What a travesty! How wrong we were… and here we are today being force to “recreate” buildings and places like the Mermaid Tavern where the Charter of Barbados was signed.
Bajans must watch our representatives carefully to see that they really mean what they say. We should not accept any excuses. The truth is: I don’t believe Prime Minister Stuart. I don’t believe he and his government mean what he said, nor that the government will do what he said he would.
And that is probably the saddest thing of all.