"War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things: the decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks nothing worth a war, is worse." --John Stuart Mill (1806 - 1873)

Tuesday, February 24, 2004

Just Gimme That Rancid Haitian Countryside!

I was extremely amused, when looking at our cruise itinerary, to see one of the ports of call--Labadie, Haiti (where Royal Caribbean apparently either owns or leases a private beach area)--referred to as "Labadee, Hispaniola". Hispaniola is a geographic name, not a political one. It is an island that is home to two nations: The Dominican Republic and Haiti. Calling the place "Labadee, Hispaniola" is akin to calling the capital of Portugal "Lisbon, Iberia".

Of course, it's obvious why Royal Caribbean (hereafter, "RCCL") did that. It's the sort of spin we see in advertising and marketing every day. They got a good deal on some property in Haiti, and they thought they could avoid the unpleasant connotations surrounding the country's name by using the Hispaniola formulation. It's certainly insulting to one's intelligence, though.

When we checked in at the pier in Miami, RCCL was distributing a letter to arriving guests. The cruise line came clean on the true location of our first scheduled port of call. It said something along the lines of the following: "The private beach area in Labadee, Haiti is remote and secure, however, given the recent unrest in the country, RCCL has decided that the safest course of action is to instead spend the day at sea."
I can't say that I was all broken up about not being able to see Haiti. This was a feeling that was confirmed when I later read about an American bodyguard--a member of Aristide's security detail--and his wife, who spent some time there:
What struck them most about Haiti was the poverty. Wild pigs, cows and chickens wandered the streets and countryside. Infant mortality was so high, they said, that families waited a year to name their children in case they didn't survive.

"When you fly over it you can smell the rancid countryside," Refinger said. "The bugs and mosquitoes are bad, the filth comes up over your shoes, and people live in that."