There is a section of the population that frequently verbalizes their distaste for activities that involve walking in, or around the city of Castries. Considered too congested, too dirty, and overall just too unpredictable or even unsafe, these people opt to avoid having to go into the city more than is necessary.
This is hard and downright impossible for those of us who work in the city, and quite frankly, after getting into the rhythm of the city (never mind the frequent unexpected and sometimes bizarre happenings), and understanding the inner workings, why would we want to stay away?
In terms of the former however, whether or not their views are justified, nowadays, it wouldn’t even be so difficult to stay away from Castries. Even if you live in the south of the island, most businesses, utility companies and the like have long expanded their services to that part of the island. People could choose to pay their bills, shop, and take their children to school, without ever setting foot in Castries and be just fine.
Castries has undergone a number of noticeable changes over the years, most of those positive. There have been attempts to beautify and uplift the city, as we have seen in recent times with the change of face of the Castries Constituency Council (CCC), the beginnings of redevelopment initiatives in the city and other forward thinking initiatives. Even with these small but sure advancements, the island’s capital remains neglected in some ways, as seen in the way some people from this island choose to avoid it.
While there are those who avoid Castries as though it were a plague, there are still more for whom Castries remains vital to their very survival. The city is the hub for most commercial activity in Saint Lucia, and in that central point, many lives intersect, and people’s livelihoods are impacted negatively, or positively, based on a variety of factors ranging from crime and weather conditions, right on down to sales.
Some of the things the ones who avoid it will not see, or choose not to see, are the young people who linger in the street after school, some not having anyone to go home to. They may however see those same young people, in their most rowdy moments, egged on for the fact that they simply have nowhere else to be. If you asked, these same people would not honestly be able to tell whether there are more, or less beggars on the streets, and they probably wouldn’t stay in Castries long enough to hear the plea of the vendor who sits by the roadside hoping to make a sale so she could have something to eat for the day.
This editorial is in no way intended to knock people for their personal choices, but it does intend to remind all of us that even if we choose to be blind to something, it doesn’t mean that it will go away. We have a serious problem with inequality in this island, and the ones at the bottom feel it most. As the city of Castries transitions, the poor and marginalized are the ones most affected. We talk about how they are unwilling to change, but really and truly, what we are really asking them to do is close their eyes and hope for the best (which none of us have yet seen) while their lives and that of their families hang in the balance.
It is true that change is the one constant in life, but as we progress and change, let’s not forget to be sensitive of the ones we expect to roll in and out with the tides as we see fit. Perhaps it would also be a good idea for more of us to get into (or get back into) the rhythm of this Caribbean land on which we reside, setting no boundaries for ourselves in terms of where we choose to frequent, but instead choosing to enhance in some way the very places we avoid, by our presence.