Visiting someplace new is an exciting and stimulating event. There are new places to see, people to meet, things to eat, and memories to be made. However, the typical tourist rarely takes into consideration the type of people that inhabit their selected destination from day to day. These people are often poor and never will have the opportunity to visit far-away places like the tourists who have come to experience their home have. The visitor seldom realizes the antipathy and bitterness that is felt towards them by the resident of their selected vacation destination. Because of this they are often ignorant as to the appropriate ways to act and leave the native occupants feeling even more negative towards these vacationers. In Antigua these negative feelings have their roots in the history of oppression of the people by foreigners. The people of Antigua have been forced into slavery and ruled by “white” people since the islands first discovery by Christopher Columbus. The history of oppression and dominance over them by foreigners has left the natives with extreme feelings of resentment towards any person that is not an original resident of the island. In Jamaica Kincaid’s book “A Small Place” the effect that tourism and colonization has had on the inhabitants of Antigua is explored.
The first essay in “A Small Place” focuses on tourists. Kincaid starts the novel out with a description of what a visitor to Antigua might experience. The opening narrative leaves a reader with the impression that while Antigua is a beautiful place that many people come and visit every day, the native residents view tourists with disgust. The format of her description is in the style of a typical guidebook, saying what one will see. Staying true to this design she describes the airport one would see if they “come by aeroplane”, calling it the “V.C. Bird International Airport” and sharing that “Vere Cornwall (V.C.) Bird is the Prime Minister of Antigua” (Kincaid 3). However, as Lesley Larkin points out, right after the Prime Minister is mentioned “Kincaid distinguishes her work immediately from the guidebook genre by also telling readers what they will not see as tourists” (Larkin, 196). A tourist will not see government official’s names on hospitals, schools, or public monuments. Kincaid states that if “you [are] the sort of tourist who would wonder why” it is an airport and not a more publicly inclined building that bears the Prime Ministers name, it is because “you have not yet seen a” school, hospital or public monument (Kincaid, 3). These buildings are later described as rundown, dirty, and like unto a “latrine” (Kincaid, 3). It is because of their neglected state that government officials don’t place their names on the old and shabby public buildings – they want tourists to see their name associated with grandeur and new buildings. The desire of the government to only make the things that tourists are going to regularly associate themselves with causes a feeling of neglect with the natives. Their Motes 3
government that is supposed to be concerned with their well being is far to busy taking care of foreigners to even fix their hospitals. In fact, even when the “Minister of Health himself doesn’t feel well he takes the first plane to New York” to be taken care of in a real hospital (Kincaid 8). The difference between what the tourist experiences as Antigua and what the natives know to be Antigua can be seen in the construction of buildings that are to be used by the general population of Antigua. Another instance where there is a stark contrast between what the tourist sees and what really exists is the beauty of the island itself. As a tourists “plane descends to land” the vacationer is presented with a stunning view of the island (Kincaid 3). The first view indicates to a tourist that island is not “to green” (Kincaid, 4). This is good in that it implies that Antigua does not get...