There’s a place called Paradise. In fact, there’s many of them, all a flight away from Home.
At the club in a resort the adults are the only ones left after their children have gone to bed. A day full of turning-lobster-tanning and swimming in the hotel’s pool – located next to the sea – is over. The included breakfast, lunch and dinner have been eaten for a week. Tomorrow it’s time to get on the airplane and go back home, so the gringo doesn’t sleep tonight, the males and females of ripe and over-ripe age go to the club to drink piña coladas and rum-cokes.
At 11 p.m. a little Latino boy walks out of the darkness of the beach over to the hotel and tries to sell some of his mom’s tamales. He’s from what once was a beach-side town, born and raised there, and probably has to go to school tomorrow morning. The little boy approaches 62-year-old man from the US, sitting at the bar next to the “no loitering” sign. The man looks down on the boy while he repeats the options of his merchandise by heart, obviously bored. Twenty pesos a piece. The man doesn’t even look into the boy’s eyes as he looks down and proceeds to ignore him. Not much later the boy is kicked out by the also Latino staff of the hotel. They know each other, because most people know each other around town. The man continues to sip on his tequila sunrise without putting much thought in what had just happened.
I had just traveled Mexico for 10 weeks and at the moment I am touring Belize. Both Mexico and Belize – not to mention other Meso-American countries I haven’t been to yet – seem to have it all; the climate, the beaches, the low cost of living. Once small communities have been discovered by the rich people from Western countries with often shit-weather, the communities have to make space for the resorts. Locals do get employed, but the revenue ends up in the gringo’s pocket who had the money to build this ugly concrete structure made to give every guest a sea-view built by a company with sketchy employment conditions.
With a low wage, mostly women are employed to clean the rooms and serve in the restaurants and bars. Considering the demographics, most women probably have small children at home. The men rent out golf-karts or organize fishing and diving tours. Around Easter is the time to build up a buffer for hurricane season, when the guests stay away from such places. Paradise isn’t year-round.
Don’t get me wrong, the resorts benefit the communities slowly, but surely. The infrastructure, mostly to and from the airport, improves and now every household has cable-TV – perhaps while still living in a wooden house with the rooftop regularly being blown off. Even the breakfast shack in the actual town, a golf-kart ride from the resort, has Wi-Fi so you can Instagram your food or check-in on FourSquare to earn your next badge. They even have speakers blasting Bob Marley or the music you listen to at home. But you, my friend, are leaving next week back to your own continent to show the photos you’ve taken with your camera that costs more than a local person’s house to your grandma who grew up in different times. You go and go back because you can, because you know you won’t be able to survive a day in the reality of living in Paradise.
The people born and raised in Paradise are trapped in Paradise. A Paradisian doesn’t have the wage to go somewhere else on an airplane. Even if they can afford it, your country asks for a visa and is still able upon arrival to refuse entrance because of an imaginary immigration threat. Then staying a week in a famous city like New York, Tokyo, Paris or Sydney would cost a Paradisian about their yearly income. Even when living in Paradise, being trapped in limited growth potential is not a good thing.
Though like any place people call Home, whether it’s Paradise or just Home, people are content with what they have and what they can do.