Wednesday, August 10, 2022

Visitor Responds After Story About Tourists Not Wearing Masks

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I am the American tourist in the viral video being interrogated by a man in a car on the highway in Gros Islet. In light of all the comments and controversy, I feel compelled to speak out and give some context to this incident.

Yes, we are visitors to the island of St. Lucia and yes, we are from Florida. What you can not learn by shouting at us out a car window though, is that we have not been in Florida since January. We live on our sailboat and travel from country to country to experience their cultures and beautiful islands, but mostly to meet the local people and learn about their lives.
We spent August thru September in Grenada, October in SVG, and arrived in St. Lucia on November 4th. When we arrived in Grenada, we took a Covid test and underwent a 14 day quarantine on our boat. We were again tested before sailing to SVG, and we were tested in SVG right before sailing to St. Lucia. We provide extensive documentation of testing and customs clearances to each country we go to and follow all the arrival protocols.
In every place we visit we take cues from the locals’ behavior to follow their local laws, customs, and regulations. We wear our masks any time we are in proximity to other people. Here in St. Lucia, we have observed most locals wear their masks during interactions, but pull the mask down when outside and not near others. We even observed medical professionals at the hospital and security/police doing this.
The video was taken as we were walking back to our dinghy after an evening in Gros Islet where we had gone to eat the local fish barbecue at Duke’s. Just moments earlier, we had politely declined to purchase chap-stick from a local who approached us. He was not wearing a mask. We do not understand why, but he became very angry with us and starting shouting “White Motherf***ers!” at us and shouting that he wanted to “Kill all the whites!” We chose to quickly walk away and hoped it was just an isolated incident with one local not characteristic of St. Lucians.
While walking, we had numerous locals on the street not wearing masks demand to know where we are from and what resort we are staying at. While we don’t like being singled out just for our appearance, we understand the fear of Covid. So we are happy to talk to locals about where we have been and how we are certain we are not spreading the virus. When passing near to others we would pull our mask up, and when no one was anywhere nearby we would pull our masks down to breathe easier as we walked.
In the video, you can see that the recording starts well before the car is alongside us where the man could see our faces and whether we had masks on. We were recorded solely because we look different, and the man recording assumed (correctly as it may be) that we are “tourists”. We observed numerous other people walking along the highway that this man did not stop to ask where they were from and why they were not wearing masks. There was no one else within 50 feet of us when this car slowed down in the middle of the road to record us.
Was there attitude in my responses? Absolutely. Wouldn’t you be upset and combative if you were being constantly harassed solely for being a foreigner? Do I think visitors are above the law and should be treated differently than locals? No, most definitely not. But we have done our part to safely visit this country and support the local economy at a very difficult time.
St. Lucia is a beautiful country and is undoubtedly worthy of showing off. We bought produce from friendly locals at the market in Castries and enjoyed a delicious lunch of roti and ox-tail. We rented a car and visited the volcano and hiked Gros Piton with amazing local guides. We were awed by Sault Falls in Dennery and ate the most delicious chicken burgers from a barbecue on the road on the drive back. Many locals were friendly and displayed a real interest in us and pride in their country and culture. That is why we are here, to share in this beautiful life with all of you.
However, in many of our interactions with locals it was clear that we are not wanted here. So, we have left St. Lucia and sadly, at the moment, have no desire to return. We hope that St. Lucians can reconcile their different views on tourism and foreigners and achieve a healthy balance that supports the local economy, while protecting and preserving the island’s identity and traditions.
For me, the saddest part of all this is that I came to this country to meet you, the people of St. Lucia. Yes, the rainforest and waterfalls and mountains are stunning, but those things exist in many countries. I do not want to believe that St Lucians’ want visitors to feel unsafe, harassed, and singled-out. Right or wrong, this was my experience and the story through my eyes, and I thought it was worth sharing.
– Gary
Headline photo caption: Screen grab from video
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Editorial Staff
Editorial Staff
Our Editorial Staff at St. Lucia Times is a team publishing news and other articles to over 200,000 regular monthly readers in Saint Lucia and in over 150 other countries worldwide.

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