Any time I visit a place I’ve never been to before I like to meet some of the locals and find out about the life of an average resident. The tourist attractions are great and all, but I want to know what it’s really like to live in Paris, or where the best dive-pub in Dublin is. In Grenada, so much of the average person’s life has been shaped by struggle and rebuilding.
Take for instance the American invasion of the island in 1983. This, unfortunately, is one of the only reasons many people know of the island, and it doesn’t do the Grenadines justice to just dwell on the subject. It’s not a topic that you can just bring up and chat about. It was a terrible event, and it’s hard to talk about. Edwin Frank, the Public Relations Officer from the Board of Tourism, has been assigned to work with our group and showed us around the island yesterday.
Frank doesn’t talk much about the invasion, but he did reveal that when the Americans came, he was working as a DJ for a radio station which was bombed. He survived, but was hiding for two weeks with some companions, losing a great deal of weight. Not knowing what happened to him, his family was told he was dead. Frank described a scene of confusion and pain throughout the island, and though the war ended his days as a DJ, he did have a cheerful outlook on it. As a result of it all, he came to work in the Board of Tourism, and now holds a very prestigious position.
You can also look at the devastation that Hurricane Ivan brought in 2004. Ivan hit Grenada with Category 3 strength, killing 39 people. Almost 85% of the island was destroyed. The storm brought the kind of devastation that can scar an island and leave it uninhabitable, but the 100,000 Grenadines pushed on and worked hard to rebuild. It’s hard for some to talk about Ivan still, as it was one of the worst events in recent history for the island. But before you can even discuss the disaster, you have to look at the reconstruction.
Today, the island looks as if there never was a destructive storm. Some trees are bare and occasionally you’ll see areas where rubble still lies, but otherwise you wouldn’t even know. The Grenadines worked hard to get back on their feet, and it shows. The hotels and resorts have been restored and improved, and it’s safe to say that Grenada is one of the best kept secrets of the Caribbean.
While tourists flock to islands like St. Martin or Grand Cayman, Grenada has the same temperature and natural beauties, but no where near as many tourists. If you’ve been to an island in the Caribbean that was nice but had too many tourists, imagine it 30 years ago, and you have Grenada, only modernized.
The Grenadines try to make everyone feel welcome and at home, and the hospitality is definitely not an act. With such good hosts and a charming atmosphere, it will be hard to leave when the time comes.