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food / travel

Caribbean Tourism Faces Growth Or Green Dilemma

Caribbean states are aware of the environment's crucial value for tourism and their overall economies. Still, much of the investment is in upgrading high-end hotels and resorts.

Palm Beach, Aruba
Palm Beach, Aruba
Fernando Cruz


Tourism in the Caribbean is at a crossroads. Both governments and tour operators increasingly agree that the fragility of the Caribbean's natural environment is of urgent concern, and are looking for new ways to promote conservation and sustainability as part of the region's tourism strategy.

Yet in spite of the harsh diagnosis on the state of the environment, much of the new investment is going into hotel chains boosting their presence and offering more high-end holiday accommodation.

But the growing environmental consensus questions existing assumptions on tourism development in the Caribbean, whose future depends on finding a balance between growth and the goal of protecting the environment.

Current sustainability measures: Caribbean countries are aware of their economic dependence on the environment. In 2014, the Caribbean Export agency proposed changing energy policy, though the islands reacted with differing degrees of enthusiasm. The agency wants to encourage members to reduce use of fossil fuels and promote more environmentally friendly alternatives.

Aruba is a pioneer here. It already has solar and wind energy systems and wants its airport to rely entirely on solar power in the coming years. It is promoting urban design that encourages walking as the main form of transport to reduce pollution from automobile use.

The Commonwealth of Dominica in the Antilles has signed on to Caribbean Export's proposals and has begun its transition to clean energies. In the short term, its plan is less ambitious than Aruba's, but equally significant: Its objective is 100% reliance on clean energy within the next decade.

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Photo: goatling

Jamaica has been promoting sustainable tourism on its southern coast. It wants to develop training programs for the population, especially at the Ghosen Sports Complex in St. Elizabeth, and is investing in botanical gardens in Darliston and in Bethel Town, to encourage jogging.

Suriname is looking to boost sustainable forest exploration, and has plans to prevent tree cutting and forest degradation on its territory.

Hotel investments: While the islands are working on sustainability strategies, hotel chains are continuing to invest in most Caribbean destinations.

Holiday Inn has begun a radical makeover of its properties in Aruba, worth millions of dollars, while Riu has begun developing the Riu Palace Antillas on that island. The Hyatt chain is investing in Jamaica with a hotel for adults only and another for families, as well as in its Puerto Rico properties in Manatí (Hyatt Place) and San Juan (Hyatt House).

New resorts in the Dominican Republic include the Gansevoort Playa Imbert in Cabarete and the adults-only CHIC All Exclusive in Punta Cana. In Trinidad and Tobago, the Capital Plaza and Radisson Trinidad are two brands making important renovations to their installations.

The debate: Given its recent history, what are the sector's growth possibilities? Tourism is not the only industry around the world that comes with a built-in threat to the natural environment. Some observers believe there can be no growth without an impact on your surroundings, and safeguarding nature will inevitably decimate growth.

Others disagree, saying that economic growth can be respectful of the environment. Strategies must in any case change radically, whereby construction, power generation and maintenance technologies enhance, rather than degrade, the natural setting. Intelligent building certificates and international norms on energy use are already pointing this way.

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How Brazil's Evangelical Surge Threatens Survival Of Native Afro-Brazilian Faith

Followers of the Afro-Brazilian Umbanda religion in four traditional communities in the country’s northeast are resisting pressure to convert to evangelical Christianity.

image of Abel José, an Umbanda priest

Abel José, an Umbanda priest

Agencia Publica
Géssica Amorim

Among a host of images of saints and Afro-Brazilian divinities known as orixás, Abel José, 42, an Umbanda priest, lights some candles, picks up his protective beads and adjusts the straw hat that sits atop his head. He is preparing to treat four people from neighboring villages who have come to his house in search of spiritual help and treatment for health ailments.

The meeting takes place discreetly, in a small room that has been built in the back of the garage of his house. Abel lives in the quilombo of Sítio Bredos, home to 135 families. The community, located in the municipality of Betânia of Brazil’s northeastern state of Pernambuco, is one of the municipality’s four remaining communities that have been certified as quilombos, the word used to refer to communities formed in the colonial era by enslaved Africans and/or their descendents.

In these villages there are almost no residents who still follow traditional Afro-Brazilian religions. Abel, Seu Joaquim Firmo and Dona Maura Maria da Silva are the sole remaining followers of Umbanda in the communities in which they live. A wave of evangelical missionary activity has taken hold of Betânia’s quilombos ever since the first evangelical church belonging to the Assembleia de Deus group was built in the quilombo of Bredos around 20 years ago. Since then, other evangelical, pentecostal, and neo-pentecostal churches and congregations have established themselves in the area. Today there are now nine temples spread among the four communities, home to roughly 900 families.

The temples belong to the Assembleia de Deus, the Seventh-day Adventist Church, and the World Church of God's Power, the latter of which has over 6,000 temples spread across Brazil and was founded by the apostle and televangelist Valdemiro Santiago, who became infamous during the pandemic for trying to sell beans that he had blessed as a Covid-19 cure. Assembleia de Deus alone, who are the largest pentecostal denomination in the world, have built five churches in Betânia’s quilombos.

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