The Caribbean and Western Exploit
by Christie Roberts
Privilege masks itself in various forms in the United States; it could be a lighter complexion, a degree nestled under the socks in your dresser, or annual ‘getaways’ to a glistening ocean in the Caribbean, thanks to the saved up vacation days.
We’ve all cracked a history book or two in our lifetimes; so I’m sure most of us are aware of the colonial processes that have occurred in past centuries across the world. The 16th century saw exploration, while in the 17th century European powers initiated a rampant competition in the race for resources. Countries were stripped of their cultures and indigenous peoples as they were used as pawns in an emerging global economy, dependent on agriculture and foreign resources.
Today, we have neoliberal policies implemented in our global economy that have allowed for globalization to run rampant, and with that, disparity. Though with the prevalence of globalization there are increased restrictions on the exploitation of labour, local economies of previously colonized countries continue to be forced into submission to the rest of the world.
“Local economies of previously colonized countries continue to be forced into submission to the rest of the world.”
The Caribbean islands were among the countries forced into a dependent relationship with their colonizer: their tropical climate made the islands attractive for year-round farming; and soon, the Transatlantic Slave Trade pushed captive Africans into the submissive social roles of slaves and “apprentices."
In the next hundred years, the sugar market became increasingly competitive in the region, and European powers began to divest from the Caribbean as the countries gained their independences. But there was stagnation in their economies as a result of this, and the industrial revolution in the Western hemisphere forced the islands to seek lucrative alternative; hence the rise of the tourism industry.
The Caribbeans are now sought after for their notorious beaches and luxurious resorts, the pristine turquoise beaches, and all sorts of water activities for the adrenaline junky. This image has been meticulously designed to draw us in, making the Caribbean tourism industry a top competitor globally.
What many tourists don’t acknowledge during their getaway is that the Caribbean itself is a melting pot resulting from colonial roots in the region that employed slave labor for economic prosperity. They are not developing countries; they are former colonies that were forced into a global economy during mercantilism.
“The Caribbean are not developing countries; they are former colonies that were forced into a global economy during mercantilism.”
But in the wake of tourism, another form of inequality has boomed in the region in form of sex labor, as foreigners make their way to seek thrills they couldn’t find at home. And although prostitution is illegal in most of the Caribbean countries, the law isn’t enough to discourage the practice. As long as European men and women come for vacations in search of sexual partners and a positive experience, there will always be a demand in the sex market for the local Caribbean people.
With the influx of tourists comes the influx of sex work in the region, and it’s impossible not to question this as a new form of Western exploit.