It is believed that the spring break is a time for students to relax, take a break from the chaos of daily school life. But for New York University students from tropical locations this time of year is as tiring as the entire semester. Their homes are popular vacation spots among their peers.
When Tish Elder Amanda Calderon Valera went home for the winter holidays, she didn’t feel at home. Valera has lived in San Juan, Puerto Rico, for 22 years, and her family has lived there for three generations. Despite the acquaintance with the city, the seasonal influx of tourists makes it uncomfortable.
“I feel out of place, I feel like I’m not even at home, as if it’s just become a big tourist trap in my hometown,” Calderon Valera said. “Visitors can have fun, but we can’t.”
She is concerned that tourism during the pandemic, especially due to the increasing number of cases caused by amicron, threatens the health and safety of her community. Like Puerto Rico struggling to provide enough tests on COVID-19 to meet the requirements of the island, locals faced the consequences of life on the island overwhelmed by tourists.
“We are second-class citizens,” said Calderon Valera. “There is a shortage of tests on COVID, so when tourists come – and they may not follow local rules – they can expose locals. If we get sick, we will not have access to tests, to hospitals. “
Calderon Valera said that before the pandemic there were tax breaks for outside investors resettlement of Puerto Ricans, allowing wealthy foreigners to buy land and increase the cost of living of locals. Combined with the increasing number of COVID-19 cases on an overcrowded island in the Caribbean during the winter season, tourists arriving have made life in Puerto Rico a burden.
Calderon Valera referred to the slogan “yo vivo donde tú vaccionas”, a Spanish phrase that translates as “I live where you rest”, but went a step further.
“Yo lucho donde tú vacacionas,” said Calderon Valera, “I fight where you rest. “We don’t even live in Puerto Rico – we fight. We fight every day. We are struggling to make a living, but tourists still come. “
In the country of Belize, CAS junior Saira Coye-Hoon found her home crowded with tourists during the winter holidays. For Koi Hong, president of a group of Native American students and Indigenous people at New York University, it was difficult to spend time in his home country with his family.
“Every time I visit Belize, I see more and more non-Belize-owned resorts,” she said. “More and more American flags. More and more tourists are bustling on our beaches and land, but I do not see more and more successful residents of Belize.
Being a Yucatec Mayan with Belizean citizenship, Koye-Hun believed that turning the country into a seasonal holiday for wealthy tourists had a serious impact on indigenous peoples.
“There is a constant fear of COVID that has been brought by tourists, causing harm to my family or people,” Koi-Hong said. “I lost my family because of COVID [because] tourists brought us COVID ”.
In addition to the spread of COVID-19, Koi-Hong explained that tourism is capturing locals into a system of foreign dependence. While Belize’s economy relies on tourism, she said the dependence is not in Belize’s favor.
“I do not support and do not like to see tourists in Belize or countries in similar positions, especially during a pandemic,” Koi-Hong said. “There is a certain pain and rage that you feel when you watch your land and culture being taken away, and you can’t say anything about it because your people are forced to remain silent or dependent.”
Hawaiian resident Makoa Kalai, a senior with Tisha, shared a similar experience when he had to share his islands with seasonal visitors to cater to the state’s economy. For Hill, a native of Hawaii, staying home at the peak of the tourist season is more of an inconvenience than a break in the semester.
“Our local government is in favor of the tourism economy, not the local economy,” Kalai said. “It puts me and my family at a higher risk of infection [to COVID-19] if we want to go out and eat in our hometown, in our restaurants ”.
For Kalai, the fantasy of vacationing on a Hawaiian island is a reality only for non-residents.
“My position on tourism is oppositional,” he said. “However, the reality of the situation is that tourism in Hawaii will not stop.”
For residents like Kalai, tourism is not only a problem of crowded beaches and heavy traffic – it also threatens its culture.
“We are exposed and at greater risk because these people want to feel like in paradise, but in reality it is just uncomfortable for me and my community,” Kalai said.
Unlike vacationing in big cities like New York or attractions like Disneyland, tropical vacation creates life unstable for local communities. У article from the University of Puerto Rico entitled “Long-term impacts of unsustainable tourism and urban development in coastal habitats of small tropical islands in a changing climate: lessons learned from Puerto Rico” as it was found that tourism drives the economy of many coastal areas, but this development continues without participation and integration. and without paying income to local communities.
At the same time, locals do not have to be alone looking for solutionsthese New York University students have several suggestions for those looking for a piece of so-called paradise for the upcoming spring break.
“Don’t just go for fun, go study,” said Calderon Valera. “Leave your money in local places, leave money where we can benefit from it, shop at local or leave tourist traps and expand your knowledge. Find a place where your presence does not harm the locals. “
Like Calderon Valera, Kalai envisions a future where tourism can be beneficial to locals and the economy.
“I would like tourism to be transformed into a more educational experience dedicated to the type of communities living in tourist places, as opposed to a place of rest, where everything depends on the tourist who feeds himself,” said Kalai. “I don’t see a realistic world where this could happen, but I can dream.”
Koi-Hun does not prevent thinking by ideals. Like Kalai, the educational focus would be ideal, but because of the dire consequences of the pandemic for her local community she wants a future without tourism.
“Ask yourself, are you going to Belize, Hawaii or anywhere because you really want to immerse yourself in a country or culture or support people, or do you just want a background and a few servants?” Said Koi-hoon. “There are beaches in continental America or probably where you live.”
NYU closes on spring break in less than two weeks. Perhaps New York University students who are eager to seek vacation should pay attention to how tourism affects people who live where they vacation.
“Tourists have never cared about the people of the land they occupy, and the pandemic has highlighted this for me,” Koi-Hong says. “It really shows that tourism, especially in countries like Belize or stolen countries like Hawaii, is just a continuation of our colonization. There can be nothing ethical in this. “
Contact Derek Sung at [email protected]