South Caicos: "Beautiful by People"

Posted: December 13, 2012

Recent SFS TCI alumni will understand straight away what I mean when I say “beautiful by people.” The current advertising slogan of the Turks and Caicos tourist board is “beautiful by nature,” understandably considering the world class coral reefs, beaches, and wetlands that visitors to these isles see on a daily basis. Whilst I don’t disagree with the official slogan, having now spent three months living and working on South Caicos I’d be tempted to replace it with the slogan in this entry’s title.

The consistent hospitality the students and I have received during our research in the community is as world class as the adjacent reefs. In the last six weeks alone we’ve been welcomed into over fifty homes, offices, and classrooms to interview fishers, seafood plant owners, school children, and members of women’s and elderly peoples associations. The stories they’ve shared with us will fill many pages in several academic journals, but more importantly I hope some of the inspiring ideas they’ve shared with us can help catalyze positive change on South Caicos.

One anecdote that struck me in particular was that of a seventeen year old boy who had sat quietly through the first twenty minutes of a focus group. Others in the focus group had been complaining that there were no jobs on the island so they would have to emigrate to places like The Bahamas, when he suddenly came to life and detailed an extensive business plan for opening his own auto shop. He knew that the development plan for South Caicos included the building of 300 holiday homes for wealthy individuals (including from the USA), and his plan was to open a business to service the cars they would inevitably bring. On a small island that has been suffering because of the downturn of the salt and fishing industries such entrepreneurial strategies are one of the only hopes for sustainable living. Ideas like his, coupled with the warm welcome that all SFS students and staff get on South Caicos, is why this place is “beautiful by people.”