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St. John USVI Culture: Some Food For Thought

Theovald "Mooie" Moorhead

Former Senator Theovald Moorhead
In the early 1960s the late Senator (and original owner of Mooie's bar) Theovald (Mooie) Moorhead, Ex-Senator Julius E. Spruave, Sr., Ronald A. Morrisette, Sr. and Albert Sewer formed the St. John Development Corporation in order to provide fast and reliable scheduled ferry service from Red Hook to Cruz Bay. There were also plans to open a hotel, restaurant, boat yard, information center and handicraft center.

Financing for the operation, which was to be owned by the "people of St. John," came from selling stock in the corporation made available to local investors at one dollar a share.

This first item, written by Senator Moorhead, comes from the prospectus of the corporation:

"I ask you to consider a very disturbing fact. The tourist industry in the West Indies is growing tremendously. But in all the West Indies there is not a single island where the native people have a hand in the industry to any important degree. Tourism is usually in the hands of a few outsiders who have the initiative, the experience and the money to invest. The island people must stand aside.

"Well, on St. John you don't have to stand aside. You can exercise the same intelligence that other people do - and make the same kind of profits - in the big tourist industry that is starting on this island."

Sen. Spauve quoted in the NY Times article Trouble Invades Island Paradise 5/18/58, concerning the National Park Service's plans for condemnation of privately held lands on St. John.

"Unfortunately, the gift horse we have accepted is permanently installed in our stable asking for more and more room and threatening, it seems, to kick us off the island entirely if we don't 'cooperate.' And 'cooperate' means, we have learned, simply to agree to whatever is presented."

James Mitchell, former Prime Minister of St. Vincent and the Grenadines

"We are not anxious to grab the easiest dollar. The tourist dollar alone, unrestricted, is not worth the devastation of my people. A country where people have lost their soul is no longer worth visiting.

"We will encourage only small numbers of visitors whose idea of a holiday is not heaven or paradise, but participation in a different experience. We shall try to avoid the fate of some of our Caribbean neighbors who have ridden the tiger of tourism only to wind up being devoured by it.

"Large super-luxury hotels with imported management, materials, and values bring false prosperity with the negative side effects of soaring land prices that kill agriculture, polluted beaches, traffic jams, high rise construction that ravages hillsides and scalds the eyeballs - the very problems that the visitors want to forget.

"St. Vincent and the Grenadines need tourism, but we want a balanced low-scale tourism with Caribbean cuisine, architecture, and culture. Among other things, this means serving homegrown vegetables and lobsters caught the same day rather than imported caviar and steak. This will boost our agriculture and keep our tourist revenues from going out for imported food. And the visitors will continue to see things indigenous to the islands like cultivated fields and working fishing boats."

From the foreword of Arlene R Martel's book, USVI, is from P.F Kluge's, The Edge of Paradise:

"What I am starting to believe is that an island doesn't belong only to the people who are born on it or claim the right to own or sell it. An island belongs to the people who think and care about it, though they cast no votes or own no land. That is the sovereignty of the heart. Everything else is money and noise."