"zChris' Virgin Islands" Top 5 Page for this destination U. S. Virgin Islands by zChris

U. S. Virgin Islands Travel Guide: 1,258 reviews and 3,231 photos

I came to the US Virgin Islands thinking very much of imperialism. The territory had passed from Danish to American administration in 1916 following several measures taken by the Wilson administration to expand the United States' regional reach while condemning and repudiating the "Big Stick" and "Dollar Diplomacy" policies pursued by Mr. Wilson's Republican predecessors. It was rather odd, I thought, that Wilson should follow in the ironic vein of one of his British political heros, William Gladstone, reluctantly shaping a policy of de facto realpolitik expansionism into the philosophical abstraction of liberal imperialism. I pondered this as I paged through Lawrence James' magisterial "Rise and Fall of the British Empire" and pondered the curious similarities of the 1882 Anglo-Egyptian War and the American conquest of Iraq, unfolding on the television screen. Like their British predecessors the Americans also had a penchant for using colonial proxies as target fodder for belligerant activities on the imperial frontier. "You got anyone over in Iraq?" asked one nervous cabbie while the latest war bulletin blared over his radio. He listed an astonishing number of relatives who were at that moment somewhere in the Mesopotamian desert. Socioeconomic circumstances, of course, played as much a part in compelling Virgin Islanders to join the American military as their fellow Americans on the mainland, save for the mainlanders convenient ability to represent themselves in the federal government and vote for president. Of course, local democracy in the Virgin Islands was supposedly in full bloom, and the islands' inhabitants seemed to care little for their representation in Washington so long as development aid continued to flow- and it did, though not nearly as sufficiently as European dependencies in the Caribbean were supplied. Representation for the colonised in the Virgin Islands was not so much an issue for the consciences of mainlanders either, especially after the Supreme Court decided in the Insular Cases to refer all questions of US overseas possessions' rights to a Congress not intent on surrendering power to territories viewed as "alien."

Economic stratification among social classes is a primary symptom of the American economic model's imposition on the Virgin Islands. This primarily corresponds to race. Though slavery was eradicated from the islands during the 19th century, blacks remain on the bottom of the social ladder, working as cabbies, waiters, and clerks, while the smaller yet infinitely more prosperous descendents of the caucasian mercantile community dominate both the more lucrative positions and sectors. Virtually all the jewelry outlets in the capital city of Charlotte Amalie, for example, are staffed by whites. Though the islands' democratically elected governor is black, his pro-business stance contributes to the wealth disparity's perpetuation. Manifest anger at this state of affairs is evidenced by roadside murals in poor neighbourhoods driven through quickly by taxis and tour vans which convey a spirit of African unity seemingly akin to Kenyattan "Uhuru." As we avoided one such neighbourhood by driving along the island's north coast, one cabbie explained he liked the governor because he was not "anti-business." Clearly the islanders are afflicted by the same faith in trickle-down which has maintained the status quo so depressingly long; nevertheless, being "pro-business" is not necessarily the issue with the islands' administration so much as encouraging the monopolisation, to a large extent, of the islands' sole industry, tourism, by large multinational corporations. In both Bermuda and Aruba, local governments (with considerably more autonomy) are able to redistribute far more tourism-generated wealth while promoting simultaneously locally beneficial supplementary industries- offshore banking and oil refining, respectively. The Virgin Islands do not benefit from nearby access to oil reserves nor tax loopholes for American businesses, and therefore languish with no niche industry as tourist destinations whose primary distinction is their relative similarity, for a Caribbean island, to Florida.

What follows is not so much a continuation of this diatribe on the state of the islands' political, social, and economic affairs as a traditional travel guide to the extraordinately scenic isles. The accompanying photography testifies to the magnificence of the islands' natural beauty not only in a very chamber-of-commerce-esque bid to implore your own journey, but to call attention to the fragility of the local and global ecosystem. These islands are not only afflicted with the global phenomena of rising sea levels and erratic climates caused by global warming, but are subject to the pressures of economic development as well. Recently approval was given to flatten a mountain on St. Thomas to commence the construction of a Home Depot, in order to spare locals the inconvenience of importing lumber and heavy machinery from Puerto Rico. The consequences of such a development and similar aspects of the islands' increasing commercialisation are threats to both the unique island biospheres and the beauty of the vistas displayed on these pages.

  • Last visit to U. S. Virgin Islands: Mar 2003
  • Intro Updated Jun 23, 2003
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Reviews (19)

Comments (8)

  • Jun 17, 2005 at 11:54 AM

    Unfortunately, the principle structure was destroyed by an errant semi trailer about a year ago. Rebuilding is planned, but not progressing due to lack of funding.

  • visurferguy's Profile Photo
    Apr 1, 2005 at 6:07 PM

    Get out of Havensite and get your buns over to the East side or Northside as quickly as possible. Downtown and Havensite are the WORST traffic area's on the island.

  • ukirsari's Profile Photo
    Oct 4, 2003 at 5:26 AM

    A beautiful place, zChris :) Thanks for sharing!

  • Hotboy_san's Profile Photo
    Jun 22, 2003 at 11:20 PM

    Great photos! I am in delight!

  • tpangelinan's Profile Photo
    Jun 17, 2003 at 3:13 PM

    Great page! We love to go off the side streets too, you always find the secrets! Great tips and photos! Thanks :-)

  • syllybabe's Profile Photo
    Jun 6, 2003 at 6:21 AM

    Great pages, Chris! I enjoyed my visit :-)

  • Sharrie's Profile Photo
    Jun 3, 2003 at 8:59 PM

    Keep them coming, Chris. Keep it up! :-)

  • wonga0's Profile Photo
    May 30, 2003 at 6:19 AM

    Great exploration. And I like your writing too!


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