July 12, 2009
I finished reading kindred spirit Pamela Stephenson\’s book \”Treasure Islands\” & highly recommend it. Many pages sounded like my own words. (Vanity not intended.) An Australian born in New Zealand who lived a while in Marina del Rey, wrote it after a year at sea from Florida to Fiji. She went further faster, but we are following in her wake, as she followed in her near namesake travelers of yore, Fanny & Robert Louis Stevenson. I will return the book to David & Mary tomorrow but wanted to jot down a poignant paragraph or two of her remarks about the people of the Marquesas Islands.
Quoted from \”Treasure Islands\” page 141 & 142:
\”The Europeans had brought syphilis, smallpox, leprosy and TB that decimated the inhabitants of all the islands. The introduction of alcohol and firearms only contributed to the problem. In 1842 there were around 18,000 people living in the Marquesas, but by 1926 there were just over two thousand.
Some of the Marquesan people had even been stolen from their homeland by Peruvian slavers, who used trickery to induce people to board their boats then set sail with them against their will….
There still appears to be a general depressive sensibility in the psyche of the Marquesan people, judging from those I met. It\’s hardly surprising, after barely surviving being wiped out entirely, along with their art and culture, by a bunch of fanatical, white do-gooders – not to mention the blackbirders….
This is not paradise, but a stunningly beautiful place inhabited by some people who have become disenfranchised, depressed, or otherwise troubled. And as an affluent, visiting Westerner – I suppose I must be part of the problem.\”
Thank you Pamela for putting it so well. We have been told that the population among all the islands is currently between 3,000 to 5,000. We do not really feel that we are \”part of the problem\”, just sad that rather than embrace, as well as profit from, we tourists & yachts in transit, we frequently feel that we are inconvenient, annoying and of no interest. Fortunately acts of outright hostility were rare. We always smile. We try to speak French, which is a widely accepted & spoken 2nd language, to their Marquesan. Many know some English.
The Marquesas islands were \”on our way\” more than a destination for us. The biggest joy of the islands so far has been getting to know (& swapping books with) David & Mary of sailboat \”Giselle\”.
\”Make new friends, but keep the old. One is silver and the other gold\”. You are our golden group. Our family. Sometimes my therapy couch. Keep the emails \”from home\” coming!
Cindy & Scott