Bequia. (Internet photo)

There is a topic on Bequia (St. Vincent and Grenadines, West Indies), which must be broached. The injustices heaped upon this islands’ local people are incessant and many. In this letter, though, I hope to put on the table for our collective consideration just one poignant issue: the erasure of the last remaining beach available for sea-bathing by children and elders in Paget Farm.

Paget Farm, as those of us privileged enough to visit, spend seasons in, or move here know, is Bequia’s primary village home to most of her local and indigenous people. Many in Paget Farm, of Afro-Caribbean and Garifuna heritage, serve as maids, waitresses or labourers in upscale foreign owned businesses and homes in other parts of the island. Many in Paget Farm live with neither plumbing, sufficient tanks to catch rainwater, room enough for any family privacy, the ability to close or lock doors and windows, often no electricity, nor cars. Many in Paget Farm do their service work for the hourly equivalent of .84 GBP, 1 euro, or a few cents above US$1, and thus are unable to live beyond subsistence, if that. Therefore, impossible is improvement to one’s own housing, family diet, or any aspect of life which flourishes inside the walls of those worked for.

As alluded to, there is much here to discuss in other conversations, which I hope will follow. Yet here I hope to make us all aware of the impact of loss of this sea-bathing beach, the only sea-bathing beach, on the residents of Paget Farm. This strip of beach is very humble by standards of the glorious sandy stretches gracing this island, those used by visitors of privilege. This beach sat southwest the village, squeezed between the airport, whose construction awhile back had eliminated most of the original Paget Farm beach, and the exclusive compound known as Moonhole. Some years ago, land was sold and a resort planned in this area, securing most of this beach — that known as Adams Beach, the wider and prettier, tree-lined stretch — for luxury villas, a restaurant, and imported top-layers of white sand.

Two years ago construction was begun. What remained of the local residents’ beach after resort property was cordoned off was a cast off area on the airport end, treeless, and roadside. Still, it was a stretch of sandy beach, something for local children to potentially walk to and their parents and grandparents to dip into each day. As mentioned, very few in Paget Farm have plumbing, or the means to ever achieve it. And as mentioned, many in Paget Farm work long days of tremendous servitude or labour, for pennies. So a sea-bath was a simple reward they could still find in nature, source of solace before or after work. And for local children and families, it was the one place where they could learn to swim and play in gentle waves, or picnic together on their one afternoon weekly of rest, after church.

Tragically, even their cast-off beach now has been ruined by an act of either of unconsciousness, or callousness. In the course of on-going resort-construction just beyond this strip, heaps of rubble, discarded boulders, concrete, gravel and stone cleared by bulldozers, has been dumped there. What was sand has been covered. There is neither sand of any significance to sit on beachside, nor sand of any kind underfoot for young and elder swimmers and bathers. All now is dominated by bulldozed, often jagged, rubble. It reads, to me and to many here, as an act of tremendous disrespect, even cruelty. We can do better than this.

And we must do better than this. Surely there is a way for those of us, probably the majority reading this, to have our needs met (for warmth, beauty, adventure, even comfort) without inflicting blatant violations of dignity on other human beings. And in particular upon those who are our hosts in the parts of the world we travel to.

Let’s give (at the very least) this humble, only-remaining, corner of beach back to its Paget Farm people, restored to its former usability as a place to play, swim and sea-bathe. A starting place would be for the resort owners to undo the damage they did with the dumping of their rubble. And a restoration of the sand, underfoot and at waterside, which disappeared with that dumping. And a planting of shade trees for families who are now separated from those they sat beneath for years.

As those blessed with privilege, relative to many beautiful Bequians born to servitude or poverty, it’s the very least we can do.

Respectfully,

Frances Slingsby Riker,

*English traveller and longtime winter resident of Bequia, SVG, WI

The views expressed herein are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the opinions or editorial position of iWitness News. Opinion pieces can be submitted to news.iwitness@gmail.com.

15 replies on “Give back Paget Farm residents their beach”

  1. marksman@optonline.net says:

    Where is the Representative for Bequia, Dr Friday? He wants to be Prime Minister of St Vincent and the Grenadines but is missing in action when it comes to representing his own constituency, his own people. Where is Mr Belmar? He too is MIA.
    They only look out for the rich foreigners, sad.
    We know which side their bread is buttered on!

  2. 1. I am a Doubting Thomas, big time, so I want to see “before” and “after” photos of the beach and surrounding area before I make up my own mind about this issue.

    2. It is the right and duty of local people, not foreigners like you, to speak on these issue, first and foremost. So I want to hear from them before I make up my own mind about this issue.

    C. ben-David

    1. It’s a good thing that someone has expressed concern about the situation. Be it a local or foreign person. Maybe the locals can’t tell that they are still in the middle ages as far as facilities are concerned. Education revolution my ass.

  3. Raf Ollivierre says:

    I was of the opinion that all beaches in SVG are public, so I assumed that native Bequians are entitled to share the same beach as the hotel guests. It would be a travesty, and indeed a crime if they were discouraged from doing so. Development is needed, but the rights of the public to enjoy their beaches should not be infringed.

    1. As I have said many times, People on the big island don’t know what is happening in the Grenadines, the cash cow of SVG and probably don’t care because they have their hands full trying to survive amidst all the high taxes and stupidity of the Gonsalves regime. While Mr. Gonsalves and his wife traveling the globe setting up embassies. SVG will soon have more consulates around the world than the US or Canada. The Jackasses who are running the country has the dutty-smarts to conceal the truth from the populace so that they can rob the people even more.

  4. This only goes to show how the government is not caring for the local people and not doing a proper job. Imagine that, no plumbing in 2019. The local people are subjugated in their own land. We need a new government who will be mindful that the island and its resources belong to the local and indigenous people. Stop selling off everything to the detriment of the people. The people elect the government to take good care of them and the island. This is the year 2019, almost 40 years of independence and very little has been done even as they [Government] are making so much money off of these beautiful islands. Gonsalves and Mitchell should be jailed. What a disgrace.

    1. You must be living in a different country from the rest of us.

      1. There is no plumbing anywhere in SVG, if you mean a centralized sewage system for the treatment of water used for household purposes such as drinking, cooking, bathing, washing clothes, and flushing toilets. Except for some local facilties, household waste (except toilet waste) goes into a septic tank or a street drain (where it washes into the sea).

      2. Every adult Vincentian with any knowledge knowns that there are no pipe-born water systems in the Grenadines, if this is what you mean by plumbing, simply because there are no local sources of above-ground or sub-surface water as on the mainland with its many rivers and springs. There is only rainwater, desalinated sea water, and fresh water brought in by boat.

      3. There are thousands of Vincentians on the mainland who have pipe-borne water but no flush toilet facilties.

      C. ben-David

    2. Build an airport on Bequia on the cheap while doing major damage to the eco system. It is ignorance and stupidity rolled in the same spliff.

      1. True. No airport was needed as its low level of traffic clearly shows. Also, the cruise ship terminal should have been built there instead as the high level of cruise ship visitors there clearly shows.

  5. A very brave article. All who have known this area for many years are horrified at the environmental damage and insults to the local population done over the course of 13 years.
    Generations of families from Paget Farm respectfully enjoyed Adams Bay to fish, picnic, swim and relax. The entire Bay was lined with old Sea Grape and Manchineel trees; which prevented erosion and provided shade.
    Construction at Adams Bay actually began in 2006 with the deliberate bulldozing of the Mangroves which anchored this Bay. Old trees and native vegetation were summarily destroyed.
    Lots were excavated and marked. They quickly filled up with several feet of brown water, ripened by mosquito larvae. The lots remained that way for months.
    Many appeals to the Developers, Contractor. and local Government representatives fell on deaf ears.
    The traditional road to Moonhole was blocked and appropriated; while a shoddy road with no retaining walls constructed above. Folks from Paget Farm, Moonhole staff, residents and guests have had no choice but to walk or drive through deep potholes, mud, trash, construction machinery, strewn quarry materials, etc.
    Several condos were built in the middle of what was a swamp, instead of up on the hillsides. The larger house, Ginger Lily, sits safely elevated on the hill.
    Two years ago, over Easter, the limestone plates, rocks and reefs were excavated to form a “better beach” for white tourists; because “white people only want to see white sand and palm trees”. That exercise in sheer stupidity has caused ongoing erosion of the beach. No problem, they said, and imported some pure white sand to spread just before the opening. After they removed every living thing which had prevented erosion for decades.
    A Moonhole homeowner since 1972, I have photographed the progression of the development and the quarrying. Over the course of many years, dump trucks loaded with rocks were driven down the old sand beach road to be loaded on to the “Joshua”; which often spent whole days at the site.
    A makeshift loading ramp was constructed along the beach, to accommodate these frequent transfers. The once unspoiled, picturesque sand road became dirty and ugly.
    It is a complete travesty to destroy the natural beauty of Bequia under the guise of improving Tourism and local Economy.
    But this article rightfully points at the biggest wrong: the destruction of a local beach, its eco system and deprivation of the local families who once enjoyed it.
    We believe that Mother Nature will eventually right this wrong; but it will take years to restore the once thriving eco system and natural beauty of this area.
    The developers should, at the very least, provide a decent approach to the beach, and contribute mightily to the local population.

    1. Thank you for this. Lets hope that the people who can do something about this is listening and that they are on the side of the residents of Paget farm.

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