This may not exactly fall under the category of "chit-chat" as it is of a serious nature. I just finished reading a magazine article about a Canadian couple doing relief work on the island of Roatan, Honduras. I have noticed on these boards that this port is frequently a 'least favorite' port..."so dirty and poor". I have always come to the defence of the people living in poverty on the Caribbean islands, and hope that as cruisers we can be a help to their economy, be polite and respectful of their country and culture, rather than looking down our noses at their sad state. However, it sickens me to think that one of the main reasons listed for the very high rate of HIV/Aids on Roatan was the cruise ships in the harbor. Apparently, child prostitutes, boys and girls as young as nine years old, hang out at the port. When the ships come in passengers can get oral sex and more for just a few dollars. I have heard of the same problem at other ports like Limon, Costa Rica. Not only does the child sexual abuse and child slave trade disgust me, but it also begs one question. Who in their right mind would risk getting Aids in a country where one in ten people is HIV positive?? It also really creeps me out that I could be having lunch in the Lido next to someone who is so depraved that they would use children in this way. That is certainly not the way to support the local economy, and 'taking home a souvenir' has a whole new meaning.
kd, as unpleasant as the subject matter you reference in your post, I am so glad you had the courage to post it. So often we seem to think that we are the center of the Universe and forget that there are truly evil people in this world who feel it is their right to exploit and violate innocent children. The only way to cast out the darkness is to shed light on it. Thanks so much.
We were in Guatemala in March and the children of this country touched my heart so much. Next March we will return and also will visit Roatan. I would appreciate any information you can offer regarding the Canadian couple you read about. I would like to support their efforts.
Thanks beenie for the encouragement. My husband and I have worked in Haiti the past couple years so the plight is similar. The lady is Valerie Nelson and her husband Klaus and their 23 year old daughter. They run 'Familias Saludables' (healthy families) in Coxen Hole which is apparently where the ships dock. Go to www.dawnlandfoundation.com. Wouldn't want to get sick in Roatan, even though North Americans are building lavish estates there. Apparently the Roatan hospital has no running water or toilets. Their emergency room is stocked only withpainkillers and some antibiotics. It literally pains me when ignorant people post comments on this board like"they're so dirty" "why do they live like that" or "look at their houses, why don't they tear down that garbage and build a decent house". Have we really become so arrogant and heartless? One other comment: the one in ten statistic is of the general population. Guaranteed anyone in the sex trade is the one.
Unfortunately, the issues of child sex workers is nothing , very sadnly new. There are many people who believe the younger the child the less risk there is of having HIV.
It also upsets me a great deal when people talk of how dirty and how pesky people are when trying to hussle and sell t shirts and trinkets. People dont think , that these t shirts in tourist seasons will have to feed a family for a year. I have alot of family in the islands, they have winter homes there, and when you go back 25 plus times to the same island, you know the people, and they are poor, and it must be oh so hard for them to see all of us come, with what seems to them endless piles of money and wealth while they literally live in a shack. I dont buy from every one, but I am always polite and say " thanks very much, but nothing for now".
We must remember, when we go there, yes we do bring some economic wealth to their life, but we are still in their country and being polite never costed so much as a dime. When ever I am there, when the cleaning lady is finished, I will often drive her back to down. The other people living in the same Villa complex laugh at me, they never do that, me I figure, I am going that way, so what's the problem, takes me twenty minutes, and my relative does the same. It bothers me greatly to see how some of the other people she works for treat her, the look down on her and they make sure she knows she is nothing to them. To me she is a human being. A mother who works cleaning luxury villa's every day of the week but Sunday. A women who is beyond happy when you bring some clothes with you for her kids, when you get to know her, you find a witty women who has faced real hardship and poverty but who has a intense faith in a higher power and who is grateful for each and every day. When she is working, and takes something to eat, we eat together, this nonsence of sitting outside to eat alone, she's not a dog, she's a human being working an honest day, and it is my priveldge to know her. She works hard to give her children a better life........isn't that what we all want??
As for the sex trade, it is every where, now many islands, such as Antigua, are importing the sex workers, mainly spanish, and I personally have seen people come off the ships and I know exactly where they are headed. I will sit in a friends cafe and we sit and we know, because we know who they are going with and where they are going. And dont think it is only the men, cause I have seen the girls come off, get DRUNK, and they are having a grand old time, and you have only to go to the STD clinics to see what "souvenirs " people come home with............Same with tourists who come for the week...............
Whats sad about that, is both people have to come home to some one, and then innocent people are affected.
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KD: "Chit-Chat" or not, your post is very thoughtful, important and timely, as are the others'.
I too have been appalled by some of the comments fellow cruisers have made in certain places regarding the living conditions, poverty, level of education, cleanliness, etc. I also have struggled with the "guilt" of getting off that shining castle, the ship, having more money in my wallet than people will see in a year ($200.00 or so).
Let's face it - it's all an accident of birth - any one of us could have been born somewhere else, under completely different conditions. Yes, we work hard in order to travel, but when we get there, we should only be thankful, not look down on the people we meet.
Mothers and fathers around the world are the same and suffer the same.
The appalling thought of the sex trade in ports had not occurred to me before and I thank you for pointing it out to me. We sometimes get so caught up in our own (relatively wealthy) world that we need to be reminded of the innocent ones who are suffering at our hands.
Most of the people trying to sell us things are lucky if they eat one meal a day and that probably beans and rice. I too have struggled with the disparity of life on board and that of the people in the ports. Am I being hypocritical in going on the cruises? I don't think so, as it is our only holiday all year and we work very long hours on a farm. We wait for a good deal, have air miles, and book the cheapest room. Extra 'holiday' time and money is spent volunteering in a third world country. As you said, it is just our good 'luck' to have been born in a prosperous country. But as the Good Book says, to whom much is given--much is required. So lets all be more gracious. Take some extra school supplies to hand out if you like, buy the bracelet even if you give it away down the block, tip the driver, above all smile and be respectful.
I understand completely. I have somewhat "rationalized" the disparity of our lives and those of the people we meet traveling.
While I cannot solve the poverty, abuse, hunger problems of the world, I CAN be kind to those I meet. I CAN buy a small trinket that costs less than a beer or a Chapstick, I CAN give a little kid a dollar.
I think in the end it's how we treat others that counts.
So-called "Sex Tourism" is on the rise in the Caribbean, largely because it's so much closer than the infamous locales like Bangkok and Manila. The key to the mix is absolute crushing, hopeless poverty.
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Great post! Maybe we all need to pause once in awhile and think about something more serious than our usual cruise banter.
I can honestly say that prior to reading this post, I had not considered that sexual tourism was in Roatan. I love the place! We have always left there a little bit more grateful than when we came, and we often think about how blessed the people there are. Yes they have very little compared to us, materially, but they are rich in many other ways.
Thanks for a thought-provoking post.[/quote]
Even though the chances of someone contracting HIV in an oral sex situation are not very high, it shouldn't diminish the SHAME that someone should feel who engages in any kind of sex act with a child.
I must be more naive than I thought, because I honestly never really thought about those children in all the cruise ports in terms of prostitution. Even in the US, we have an alarming number of child prostitutes.
I can't imagine, in any world, how someone could do this to a child.
Your post made us all think (and feel) - thank you for posting.
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Regardless of whether I agree about the slim chance of passing HIV through oral sex, there are plenty of other STD's involved, many of them for a lifetime....which in this case is likely short. Probably worse is the degradation and demoralizing of children and the destruction of innocence. Sadly, it may be their own parents who are prostituting their children to help feed the family. I don't expect to hear any posts from those who are not concerned about this aspect of tourism, and refuse to look beyond their own pleasure. Certainly won't hear from any of the perpetrators although I suspect there's the odd one reading this. Hopefully it will help them reconsider.
Speaking of such twisted individuals - one rather predatory vile individual who has been targeting young boys in other countries has been identified; here is the link to the news story.... the latest development is that many leads have come in and a Thai warrant has been issued for his arrest.. ., http://www.reuters.com/article/newsO...13314820071008
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So then the real question is whether we leave the place better than we found it by having been there. I don't necessarily mean by buying trinkets or handing out dollars, but does the larger scale commerce of having the ship in the harbor, being serviced, paying port fees, whatever. . .does all of this have an economic impact in a way that "trickles down" to the poor. Clearly, there is nothing approaching a middle class in these places, so the issue turns on whether those collecting the port fees and running the few large service businesses are trying to create a working economy or simply lining their pockets.
I have an opinion based on probability, but frankly no data or even anecdotal evidence to back it up.
The same sort of issue came up some months ago when I read an article that talked of the "private" stop at Labadee, and how of course they never marketed "Labadee" as part of Haiti, until the Haitian government took offense. Nevertheless, the article said that if you wanted to leave the compound and go to the "rest" of Haiti (the most violent place in the hemisphere by some accounts) you have to sign a liability waiver. Plus, the article said, all the provisioning, booze, services, etc. at the Labadee stop comes off the ship on the first tender. There's no real support of the Haitian economy beyond the real estate itself and whatever they may pay to drop the anchor.
We took a one week cruise in the Caribbean this year, to introduce another (slightly apprehensive) couple to cruising. It was our first time back down there on a ship in quite some time, and frankly it will be quite some time before we go back. Not because we're offended at being dropped off in the middle of a poverty-riddled sex trade (although we'd prefer not to be), but mainly because there are far more interesting places in the world where we prefer to cruise.
If someone could convince me that cruise traffic really does support the poor of these places (beyond paying for sex and buying junk jewelry) I might go occasionally just to participate in providing that support. But I've never seen anybody try to make an economic case along those lines--and would be very interested if somebody would.