The Night The Lights Went Out In Charlotte Amelie

Yesterday evening, my mother and I found ourselves eating at a local restaurant that appears to cater to the local Dominican community on St. Thomas in the capital of Charlotte Amelie. Our trip to the place was interesting because while the restaurant was on Google Maps and I had even talked to its owner/manager on Facebook, the taxi driver at the harbor who took us there did not even know about it and had not even heard about the place. He kept on trying to call it Oceano’s when I called it Luciano’s, and seemed generally puzzled to come across it. This was perhaps the first sign that something was amiss, but I kept it in mind and did not immediately act on the thought.

During the course of our meal, the lights went out all over town–though it did not affect the street lights, which were still working at intersections even though the lamps and house lights were all out. As tends to happen, the lack of electricity encouraged people to come out and stand near the streets and communicate with their neighbors in the absence of being able to enjoy their electronic devices at home. It struck me quickly that many of these people did not know English very well, and some conversation with them let me know that they were Dominicans who lived in the community around a Dominican-themed restaurant, which makes sense. I chatted with someone around about taxis and they pointed me to a friend of theirs who was able to take my mother and I up to the place.

It turns out that the local Dominicans in town did not know the area outside of their enclave very well. Indeed, though I tried to tell them what highway we were on, the driver and his friends, with whom I had to talk to in Spanglish because their English capacity was pretty limited, I had to end up showing them on Google Maps where we were located for him to realize that we were close to the places that he was more familiar with, and after a bit of a drive and a few stops, we had shown him where Highway 40 began and then had soon arrived at where we were staying. While he had been frustrated in not recognizing where I was pointing him to, he eventually appreciated learning a new part of the town that he had not seen, and making a few bucks while he was at it.

It struck me as somewhat puzzling that there would be such a disconnect between the tourist community and the local Dominican community. To be sure, I did not know going into this trip that there was a bustling community from the Dominican Republic in St. Thomas, but it did not surprise me to see such a thing when I did. I did not know that rolling blackouts would be as common as they are in town, but it did not greatly surprise me given the speed of the generator here in making sure that internet and air conditioning stay up. And it is striking to me that a tourist could find a restaurant and their place on a map, but taxi drivers appear to be in separate worlds, some of them catering to one community and some catering to another community, never seeming to become aware of the other places that exist within their very midst. How strange such things can be.

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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