For the past five years I have lived in St. Thomas. Like any place that I have lived in long enough I’ve come to appreciate and respect the good along with the bad. In many ways I am reminded of La Plata in Argentina. La Plata is a university town where people are constantly passing through. St Thomas is not a university town but people are passing through just the same. Because of this it takes time and effort to find sure footing in the community. The locals are used to people leaving after awhile and therefore they do not invest that much in getting to know someone who will probably be leaving in the next couple of months.
Many of these passersby are tourists who have fallen in love with its charm move down unaware that the charm they fell in love with during their vacation is very different to the struggles of everyday island life. Many of them hide themselves behind the monochromatic “safety” of a gated community. Others don’t make it past the six-month mark, and an unfortunate few get caught up in the subcultures of the alcoholics, and drug abusers. Then there are those who embrace the virgin isle with all its issues and find a way to integrate themselves into the beauty of every day life, they learn the nuances of the seasonal shifts. They understand that these seasons are not measured in the color of the leaves but in the traditions of the people and the gathering for events that occur each year without fail. The past is remembered in the colored lights of carnival, and the carols sung for Christmas sunrise in emancipation garden. Faith communities encounter each other on the streets and walk together in procession for Easter until they reach the crossroads where they part ways in order to reach their places of worship, and when one of the faithful passes on, even the shops on Main street will shut their doors out of respect as the body is walked by them to the cemetery.
Seasons come and go here like the tourists on the cruise ships. Tourists however, are another tour de force with in themselves. In the early hours they arrive and pour into the city like cattle in droves ushered toward our most beautiful beaches, hot spots and duty free shopping centers. They fill the streets of town and keep the economy going as they indulge themselves. Then as the sun dips toward the horizon the bull horns echo up hill calling them back to the ship, until the streets are empty once more and the world is left quiet and the sky turns dark blue.
These things and many more, I see from my house, half way up the hill.