Marketing Antigua through English Eyes

Jason Erwinski '03, Northwestern University

[This essay was originally written for English 365, Postcolonial Theory and Literature, by one of Jillana Enteen's students in the Department of English and Comparative Literary Studies at Northwestern University.]

Today, Antigua is seen as a beautiful place, rich in scenery and tourism. Jamaica Kincaid points out in A Small Place that Antigua was also this beautiful when England colonized her country, forcing them to adhere to English customs and values. Although Kincaid is against English traditions, the marketers of Antigua's tourist economy use English customs to interest prospective tourists despite Kincaid's disapproval. In this paper, I plan to prove that marketing Antigua by means of English traditions is wrong because of what Kincaid says in A Small Place.

In A Small Place, Kincaid said, "The Antigua that I knew, the Antigua in which I grew up, is not the Antigua you, a tourist, would see now. That Antigua no longer exists. That Antigua no longer exists partly for the usual reason, the passing of time, and partly because the bad-minded people who used to rule over it, the English, no longer do so" (23).

England's so-called "heroes" brought their traditions to Antigua. Kincaid says, "We were taught the names of the Kings of England. In Antigua, the twenty-fourth of May was a holiday -- Queen Victoria's official birthday. We didn't say to ourselves, Hasn't this extremely unappealing person been dead for years and years?" (Kincaid 30). England forced its holidays on Antigua even though no one knew what he or she was celebrating. Antigua didn't know why Queen Victoria was important because she never impacted them personally. Furthermore, Kincaid is frustrated with the fact that Antigua didn't question why they were celebrating Queen Victoria's birthday. Related to before, they didn't know why Queen Victoria was so important but never questioned why they should honor her.

One of England's "heroes" that brought their culture to Antigua was Horatio Nelson. Nelson is considered one of England's most famous naval heroes despite the negative effects he had on Antigua. He arrived in 1784 at the head of the Squadron of the Leeward Islands to develop the British naval facilities at English Harbour and to enforce stringent commercial shipping laws. (Antigua Home Page) Not only did he execute these commands, but he also forced the Antigua people to follow English culture. Kincaid says, "Since we were ruled by the English we also had their laws" (Kincaid 25). Nelson brought English laws to Antigua and forced Kincaid's country to obey them.

Horatio was so popular in England, they named a phrase after him: The Nelson Touch. The author of The Horatio Nelson Museum Home Page said, "The "Nelson Touch" went beyond military plans and became the phrase used to refer to the ability of one man to touch the lives of many and command an almost unwavering loyalty." The "Nelson Touch" is still used to this day in England because Horatio is such a legend. However, the term leaves out the fact that he negatively influenced the way Antigua functions.

In truth, Nelson "declared the island to be a vile place and a dreadful hole." (Antigua Home Page) Nelson disliked the country and tried to make it as similar to England as possible. Kincaid says, "Have I given you the impression that the Antigua I grew up in revolved almost completely around England? Well, that was so. I met the world through England, and if the world wanted to meet me it would have to do so through EnglandŠ" (Kincaid) Antigua's identity existed through England and they were represented through England. Nelson succeeded in assimilating Antigua to England.

Despite the continuous praise of Nelson, Jamaica Kincaid knows that he is a criminal. She says, "In the Antigua that I knew, we lived on a street named after an English maritime criminal, Horatio Nelson, and all the other streets around us were named after some other English maritime criminals." In Kincaid's mind, Nelson is a criminal because he stole Antigua's freedom.

Antigua is marketed as a country that was colonized by England and the colonizer's traditions are the chief selling point that the marketers use. The Antigua Home Page says,

All the signs pointed towards Antigua. The largest of the British Leeward Islands had warm, steady winds, a complex coastline of safe harbors, and a protective, nearly unbroken wall of coral reef. It would make a perfect place to hide a fleet. And so in 1784 the legendary Admiral Horatio Nelson sailed to Antigua and established Great Britain's most important Caribbean base. Little did he know that over 200 years later the same unique characteristics that attracted the Royal Navy would transform Antigua and Barbuda in one of the Caribbean's premier tourist destinations.

Antigua's marketing centers around its English history and goes against traditional marketing strategies because a country is usually introduced by its good qualities, not its bad. In this case, England's colonization of Antigua creates the main selling point when, in fact, Antigua should be marketed because of its beautiful scenery. Upon reading this first description of Antigua one might expect to see a battle tested English naval fleet but the next paragraph sets the stage for the beauties of Antigua. It says,

The signs are still there, they just point to different things. The Trade Winds that once blew British men-of-war safely into English Harbour now fuel one of the world's foremost maritime events, Sailing Week. The expansive, winding coastline that made Antigua difficult for outsiders to navigate is where today's trekkers encounter a tremendous wealth of secluded, powdery soft beaches. The coral reefs, once the bane of marauding enemy ships, now attract snorkelers and scuba divers from all over the world. And the fascinating little island of Barbuda -- once a scavenger's paradise because so many ships wrecked on its reefs -- is now home to one of the region's most significant bird sanctuaries.

Now, after reading this paragraph, the prospective tourist will see the good qualities of Antigua. However, to a postcolonial theorist, this Antigua description still mentions England too much. Antigua is no longer ruled by England and doesn't have to answer to a dominant force any more. So, why include England in a tourist description? Maybe to give a rich history of Antigua, or maybe to assert England's dominance over Antigua still? Either way, Antigua doesn't need to be marketed in terms of England but rather marketed in terms of Antigua. The marketers can still give a vivid and wonderful description by using Antigua's physical characteristics instead of its past emotional ties. Kincaid describes Antigua,

Antigua is beautiful. Antigua is too beautiful. Sometimes the beauty of it seems as if it were stage sets for a play, for no real sunset could look like that; no real seawater could strike that many shades of blue at once; no real sky could be that shade of blue -- another shade of blue, completely different from the shades of blue seen in the sea -- and no real cloud could be that white and float just that way in that blue sky; no real day could be that sort of sunny and bright; and no real night could be that sort of black, making everything seem thick and deep and bottomless. (Kincaid 78)

Now this is a way to market a country. Kincaid brings out the country's positive aspects and leaves out the negatives ones (England). Marketing Antigua by means of England is wrong because Kincaid describes the experiences that she faced while under English rule and these are not conditions that should be the main selling point of a country's tourist economy.

Jamaica Kincaid angrily speaks about English colonization as well as Antigua's tolerance of it. She says,

"But what I see is the millions of people, of whom I am just one, made orphans: no motherland, no fatherland, no gods, no mounds of earth for holy ground, no excess of love which might lead to the things that an excess of love sometimes brings, and worst and most painful of all, no tongue. For isn't it odd that the only language I have in which to speak of this crime is the language of the criminal who committed the crime? And what can this really mean? For the language of the criminal can contain only the goodness of the criminal's deed." (Kincaid 32)

The language of the criminal passage really culminates Kincaid's argument because it brings together her problems with England, English traditions, and Antigua's problems.

The passage talks about her problem with England in that it refers to England as a "criminal" because they took away her language, her land, and most importantly, her freedom.

English traditions are negative on Antigua because Kincaid argues that the traditional language, English, replaced her language and therefore her identity.

Antigua's problems in this passage deal with its inability to stand up for oneself. Although it is not explicitly stated, it is implied when she says, "and worst and most painful of all, no tongue." She appears upset not only by the fact that England took away her language, her tongue, but also by the fact that Antigua does not stand up for themselves, no tongue.

Despite all of Kincaid objections to English rule, she loses interest in fighting because knowing her history is useless because society will look at Antigua as a English ruled country even though it is no longer controlled. She says, "As for what we were like before we met you, I no longer care. No periods of time over which my ancestors held sway, no documentation of complex civilizations, is any comfort to me. Even if I really came from people who were living in trees, it was better to be that than what happened to me, what I became after I met you" (Kincaid 37). She despises England so much that even knowing her history will not "comfort her" because in the back of her mind she will know that Antigua is dominated by English standards.

Antigua needs to be marketed without the influence of England because the last thing the country needs is to be reminded of its history with England. The way Kincaid describes Antigua in A Small Place is perfect for a country whose chief National product is tourism. The description forces the potential tourists to look at the positive aspects of Antigua as well as keep the morale of a country intact by not remind it of its bloody history with England. Kincaid says, "The unreal way in which it [Antigua] is beautiful now is the unreal way in which it was beautiful when they were slaves" (Kincaid 80). The beauty may not have changed, but Antigua's freedom has and therefore the marketing needs to incorporate these changes.

Bibliography

Kincaid, Jamaica. A Small Place. New York: Farrar, Strauss, Giroux, 1988.

Nevis Historical and Conservation Society. The Horatio Nelson Museum Home Page.

The Official Homepage of the Antigua and Barbuda Department of Tourism. Antigua and Barbuda.


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Last Modified: 4 April 2002