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The successful Puerto Rican urban artist Bad Bunny dedicated the video of his song El Apagón to criticize tourism and the migration of wealthy American citizens to the island because -according to the argument of the mini-documentary- the sale of land and properties affects the poorest communities. What the reggaetonero does not seem to take into account is that it is precisely tourism that has enriched the most prosperous islands in the Caribbean.
The video for El Apagón is based on a couple of lines from the song: ” Yo no me quiero ir de aquí, no me quiero ir de aquí. Que se vayan ellos, que se vayan ellos” (I don’t want to leave here, I don’t want to leave here, they should leave, they should leave). Puerto Rican journalist Bianca Graulau elaborated on this lyrical basis a short film entitled “Aquí vive gente” (People live here), in which she denounces the effects that migration and tourism have on the island’s inhabitants.
While the short film makes some valid allegations about the displacement of local tenants, the corruption that taints the awarding of some contracts, or the consequences that poor communities experience as a result of increased tourism demand, its main motivation is to advocate an end to foreign investment, demonize tourism, and demonize capitalism.
However, if the problem for Bad Bunny and Graulau was precisely the poverty of the affected communities, the focus would not be against tourism, the slogan would not be “they should leave” —it would be the opposite.
What Bad Bunny doesn’t see about tourism
Gross domestic product (GDP) is not only a way of measuring the amount of money a country is able to produce based on its own efforts. It also serves as an indicator of the standard of living and a reflection of the average wealth of its inhabitants. Not for nothing is it the preferred method of comparing the means of wealth production in rich and poor countries.
The Caribbean islands are a clear example of how tourism, provided it is well managed, is an almost inexhaustible source of wealth. Several of them are among the richest countries in the world in terms of GDP per capita, and foreign investment has been key in lifting their inhabitants out of poverty.
Bermuda, a British Overseas Territory in the North Atlantic Ocean, has enjoyed one of the highest GDP per capita on the planet for more than a century. What are its main sources of income? Offshore services and tourism. Full foreign investment for a population of some 61,000 inhabitants.
With its corporate tax-free economy and paradisiacal beaches, Bermuda attracts nearly 500,000 visitors a year, mostly from the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom, making it the richest island in the Caribbean and one of the most prosperous British territories.
Something similar happens with the Cayman Islands, another British overseas territory made up of three islands in the western Caribbean, whose GDP per capita is the second highest in the Caribbean -after Bermuda- and the 9th highest in the world, even surpassing Qatar, Singapore, or the United States itself. Although its population is about 64,000 inhabitants, the territory has managed to take advantage of the natural wealth of its three islands (beaches, fishing and wildlife) as main tourist attractions and is one of the main offshore centers in the world.
The main industries that sustain the Cayman Islands economy are, precisely, financial services, tourism and real estate sales and development. Everything that Bad Bunny and Bianca Graulau criticize in El Apagón, which, adding the absence of income and corporate taxes, make the islands one of the largest tax havens in the West.
The effect of tourism on these islands is not accidental. The same happens in the Virgin Islands (both American and British), the Bahamas (which is one of the richest countries on the continent), Anguilla, the Turks and Caicos Islands, and in Barbados, just to name a few.
While it is laudable that Bad Bunny uses his gigantic platform to denounce the problems of his homeland, his criticism of tourism and foreign investment (which seems inspired by the socialist policies that dominate the Latin American region) does no service to the island’s poor inhabitants. On the contrary, without noticing it, the bad bunny advocates the perpetuation of poverty.
Tomás Lugo, journalist and writer. Born in Venezuela and graduated in Social Communication. Has written for international media outlets. Currently living in Colombia // Tomás Lugo, periodista y articulista. Nacido en Venezuela y graduado en Comunicación Social. Ha escrito para medios internacionales. Actualmente reside en Colombia.