By Francio Guadeloupe
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Additional resources for Chanting Down the New Jerusalem: Calypso, Christianity, and Capitalism in the Caribbean
It thus allowed all black SXMers to speak about sugarcane slavery with a heavy dose of poetic license that did not tear down their pride or give white tourists a guilty conscience. Even those whose ancestors did directly experience the horrors of sugarcane slavery were less than truthful with the facts. Let me furnish an illustration. Haitian-born SXMers have all but monopolized retail sales of touristy arts and crafts on the island. One of my most memorable experiences was observing an interaction in Marigot, the capital of French SXM, between a tall, pink-skinned American visitor somewhere in his late thirties and a Haitian vendor.
Rumors abounded that with all their hospitality and openness, these leaders enriched themselves. I cannot substantiate any of these rumors, but then again, I did not go looking to ﬁnd out what was true and what was not. What did become clear through many interviews was that immigrants from the wider Caribbean and investors from other countries such as India, China, and the United States were welcomed to the shores without the necessary papers. Tax breaks were no problem for big businesses, such as hotels, and were granted by the federal government on the advice of the local ones.
When I confronted Yaya, a single mother who worked as a casino dealer, with this thesis, she said: “Them people them head ain’t no good. Tell them I say it is because of the tourists we can feed we children. We want the Americans to 40 Performing Identities on SXM come down here. I don’t know what wrong with them people. ” Gaston, a Haitian gardener, was even clearer on this point. He asked me rhetorically if I knew how he lived in Haiti. He said that I might consider the few hundred dollars he earned small change or his little apartment he rented with another Haitian not much, but that was because I did not know what being poor in Haiti means.