Vote Nopublished: 2009-12-24
‘Vote No. No to Dutch Apartheid,’ says a bumper sticker.
A man I chat with in a bar raises his finger and voice at me, “the Dutch need to learn to respect us.” I nod and smile and feel uncomfortable for nodding and smiling. He thumps his fist down, ‘we were here first. WE!”
In order to avoid succumbing to discomfort (which always reveals itself in a condescending voice) I tell him: not really. “The Arawak Indians were,” I said, “but they were deported to Venezuela. And the first person to set foot here was a Spaniard. Then came the Dutch. And a century later: the slaves.”
I was being cocky and I know it. See his point was an entirely different one. He means the Dutch that have been coming here since the 50’s. The ones that come and consume solely for their own benefit and nothing else. The tip of that iceberg being the masses of tourists on package deals who come to the island, use it, then leave and discard of it as if it were a wrapper around their sun. He thinks I’m one of them. And obviously, I am.
When I say “goodnight” to another man in Papiamentu, he shakes my hand and says, “I think it’s great when Dutch people try to speak our language. My name is Michelo.”
“As in Michelangelo?”
“Yes, my second name is Angel. Michelo Angel. My parents mixed and matched.”
“So did mine,” I say. It doesn’t register.
Last night, the old city center was alive and buzzing. Masses of people crossed the floating bridge from one side of town to the other and back. Bands played the També, a music that stems from the slave history when the slaves weren’t allowed to have instruments. They used all sorts of tools to make music and expressed their woes through an almost spoken song and grounded dance. We were the only white people in the crowds. On returning to our car, I felt sad. Twenty years ago I could have never imagined this to be today’s reality. A Nigerian friend of mine once said, “it’ll change in time. In time it’ll change.”
Nothing’s changed. In fact, time has widened the divide.