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Vieques Blog

Brief Notes for Tourists Coming to Vieques

Below we include an article about Vieques from the NY Times. Among the many "tourism" articles, this one at least mentions the damages caused by the US Navy and the consequences of decades of bombing and other military practices on our environment. ("...The Navy left behind toxic asbestos, lead, mercury, nitrates and depleted uranium — not to mention toxic feelings among some locals...")

The CRDV is not opposed to tourism nor to articles on the topic. In fact, we recognize tourism as a crucial element in the future social-economic development of the island. What is unacceptable, however, is that the majority of the articles principally support hotels and other tourist businesses in foreign hands here. Also, most of the texts that promote Vieques tourism describe our island as a 'paradise', a great 'reserve' or protected zone', under the care of agencies like the Federal Fish and Wildlife Service. Actually, just like under military control, the major part of the lands now in the hands of FWS are restricted due to dangers from unexploded ordnance. And another part of Vieques historic reality is that the FWS and the Federal Environmental Protection Agency, both charged with conserving and decontamination Vieques, were accomplices in its destruction: neither the FWS nor the EPA took any action whatsoever during the decades the US Navy, arms manufacturers and foreign militaries invited by the US Navy, launched millions of pounds of explosives from jets, ships, tanks, helicopters, bazookas, mortars and used every type of conventional weapon, practiced for chemical warfare and fired radioactive rounds on Vieques (depleted uranium).

Traveling to Vieques implies something of a responsibility: at the least, visitors should know something about these historic realities of our island.

We do not at all wish to create an environment of fear that could have a negative impact on tourism. We want tourists to come to Vieques. We also want tourists to know about the destruction caused by the military practices and the horrid effects this has had on the environment and the health of our families. When we talk about high levels of cancer and other illnesses related to military toxics, this is not to scare the tourists. Our concerns
have to do with long term exposure, over years, by our people, to heavy metals and other dangerous elements left from military practices.

No tourists are gonna get sick from this contamination during a vacation of days or weeks... unless they inhale some uranium oxide or step on an unexploded bomb walking around the east end or while diving, etc. Generally, tourists have nothing to fear in terms of health.. as long as they control intake of Medalla (beer) and Piña Coladas.

But it is very important that tourists who visit us have the opportunity to know the horrors of half century of military presence and activity on Vieques; the socio-economic crisis produced by Navy expropriations in the 1940's; violence against women from sailors on leave during the Korean and Vietnam was, and more recently; the death of Mapepe Christian, Vieques shop owner kicked to death by drunken marines in Destino en 1952, is a historic point visitors to Vieques should know to understand a bit more the collective mentality of our community and to have the opportunity to arrive here with humility before delighting in our beautiful beaches.

In addition to the glamorous articles in tourism magazines and adds from hotels and travel agencies, Vieques has a long history of struggle and resistance that could add a very interesting element in the preparations for a visit to our 'paradise'.


See Also:
Exploding the Explosives in Vieques
Long Time Clean up for Vieques

vieques book
A combination coffee table book and guide containing more than 150 color photographs described by Roberto Rabin, curator of the Vieques Museum, Conde de Mirasol, as “graphic, mysterious and beautiful.” It is also a guide to the beaches, towns and places of interest on the island including the famous Bioluminescent Bay. Click for more information
Before Vieques became a cause celebre for Al Sharpton, Edward James Olmos, Bobby Kennedy Jr, et el, there was USMAÍL...Now for the first time USMAÍL is appearing in an English-language edition making what is considered a Puerto Rican literary classic available to a wider audience of English readers...San Juan Star. Click for more information