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Purely Dominica

Purely Dominica

Editor’s note: This post was guest blogged by Dan Tanner of

I received the following e-mail, which I have edited only to correct typographical errors, grammar and spelling, from a person whom I have never met and did not know:

Welcome to Dominica!

I would like to bring your attention to a problem that you and your well-intentioned Americans are causing for residents of Dominica and the Caribbean as a whole.

You and your US friends are causing the price of property on the island to escalate to the degree that locals are unable to purchase property on the island. This has happened in several Caribbean countries, most recently St. Kitts and Antigua, and has resulted resentment by the locals as you might well imagine.

We understand that given the exchange rate of the US dollar, Americans with incomes in US dollars can afford lifestyles far beyond the locals. Property that once sold for $300 EC dollars are now being sold for $300US. The average income on the island is $40,000EC. How do you expect locals to afford these prices? Is this fair? How would you feel if the situation was reversed?

Please convey to your friends and colleagues to be mindful of these factors when negotiating the purchase of property in the future.

Some welcome! But I wish to counter the assertions above.

First, I am responsible only for myself, not for other American. And, none of them are “mine” or “my friends”. In fact, I am not responsible for encouraging any other Americans to settle in Dominica. (I do know of some, who have found my Web site. One is a nice African-American lady. I write this because assumptions will be made about me. All I need do is show my face and strangers walk up to me and ask if I want to buy land!)

Second, how would I feel if the situation were reversed? Well, in some respects it is. I know of several Dominicans who came to the USA on tourist visas and have remained here illegally to work. Do I complain that they take jobs away from Americans? No. Do I inform on them to the authorities? No. Rather, I congratulate them on their industriousness and initiative. Moreover, consider this: They save up their pay and ultimately return to Dominica, and guess what – they purchase land often at a high price.

Third, where is the blame? As foreigners, we can’t build and live on land without title. Where is the only place we can turn to obtain such land? If you can’t guess, I’ll tell you: From Dominicans, who have often jacked up the price. Some have set aside tracts to sell as enclaves for foreign buyers. We spurned such land and sought land within a village with close Dominican neighbors.

We bought our small bit of land on a second attempt. On the first, the seller did not have title. When the caveat was published, so many claimants came forward that the low price we might have paid was insufficient to satisfy the greedy demands of those who had never worked or cared for the land as the seller had, and a price that might have satisfied them would have been unaffordable to us.

So, I can turn the writer’s demand to me around: Look to those Dominicans who are out to make a quick killing by selling land to foreigners at inflated prices.

We have and will continue to provide employment to Dominicans, and we don’t farm the small bit of land we bought – it has a floral garden to comfort us in our retirement, that’s all – but rather we purchase fruits and vegetables as well as eggs, poultry and fish from local vendors, and we deal with local tradesmen. We also plan to help by teaching lessons and skills that we have acquired in our lifetimes, as volunteers.

My own parents fled nazi terror and immigrated to America. Now we are older and retired. Were we to try and remain in America we would become dependent elderly poor. We are as victimized by economic forces beyond our control as surely as are any ordinary former working people – Dominicans or others – in the world. For us, Dominica is a haven of rest, peace, and affordability just as surely as the USA is the land of opportunity to Dominicans and others from developing countries.

We are equally victims right here in our town in the US. It was rural when we came here. In the 30 years we’ve lived here its population has tripled, the property taxes are up fivefold, and new houses cost about four times what we’ve managed to sell ours for. In short, we can no longer afford to live in the town that we helped build! And who was it who inflated property prices here? It was the locals with multi-generational roots, who then resented the newcomers’ wealth while they went after their money without shame.

Human nature and economic forces are the same everywhere. So please don’t blame me, another victim. We only want rest and peace and to love our new neighbors.

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Comment by Dan
2008-11-10 18:11:53

I’m also wondering whether local people would resent foreigners more if those greedy Dominicans who are now raising land prices hadn’t and we could then afford to purchase large tracts. And:

Why did local people not buy land when it was cheap?

Does the writer have a problem with us purchasing (at a fairly high price) land that (a) apparently nobody wanted to buy previously at any price, high or low, and (2) which was not being used for farming or any other purpose (we had to clear it of saw grass).

Comment by Kristen
2008-11-11 02:59:32

As an American living in Dominica, I would like to point out that I feel that there is an assumption in Dominica about Americans. Namely, that all Americans are rich and can afford to pay all the inflated prices in Dominica-gas, food, electricity, rent etc. For me, it is much more expensive to live in Dominica than it is in the US . In fact, I may be packing up and leaving because of this. Do not assume that Americans can afford the cost of living here. The majority of Americans that are here are affiliated with Ross University. They are not rich people, they are people in major debt. They are people who are living on student loans, thousand and thousands of borrowed dollars that they will pay back at a very high interest rate. Please don’t resent the “well -intentioned americans” we are just trying to make it here too, and some of us frankly, are not. Not only are we not making it, we are forced to accept that because we are Americans we are charged higher prices than the locals.

Comment by Suki
2008-11-11 04:52:34

I agree that it is the individual or the individuals that are selling the land that are responsible for the price increases. The purchaser is not to blame for increasing prices and therefore inflated value of the land. This is of course one of the byproducts of a capitalistic system. I am unaware of what Dominica has chosen as its monetary philosophy, however, the individual who sent over the e-mail is better served asking the government to take regulatory responsibility. Other Dominican’s, including the Dominican government benefit from the inflated prices, not the foreign investors. In addition to their dollars, foreigners, as Dan mentioned, can bring invaluable knowledge and investment that far outweigh the rising costs of homes.


Comment by nieve
2008-11-11 21:40:27

First off, I would like to say that I am a Dominican that can’t afford to come home and buy land. Yes, Dominicans (using the term generally) think that once you get to America that you rich and have money. I think I can speak for most when I say that is not true. We all had to start at the bottom and make our way up the ladder. Some of us still not there yet. It is sad because the same way Dominicans are struggling, people over here in America struggling as well. Everything is not what it seems people. We all have to work hard for the little we have.

Comment by Dan
2008-11-11 23:24:08

There’s a tragic and oft-repeated dynamic here, perhaps it’s human nature: Create a condition and then blame the victim.

So, increase the price of land sold to foreigners and then blame the foreigners for purchasing land at a high price. Makes sense.

You can probably think of other examples, but here’s one for my ethnic group (Jews): In Europe Jews were not allowed to own land or participate in trade guilds. So, Jews turned to the only opportunity left — education and the professions. Then they got blamed for always wanting to be doctors and lawyers and such…

Comment by Janet
2008-11-14 02:43:59

Patrick Baker wrote a thesis and follow up to these types of troubles in his book: Centering the Periphery – Chaos Order and the Ethnohistory of Dominica

The moral of his story is that cultures on the “periphery” of a central civilization will ultimate lose more than they gain in effort & investment.

The only hope for a culture on the periphery is to forge its own “center”; and to NOT invest itself in the parasitic draining by another far-away culture, (e.g., growing banana’s to be sent to other countries – Whose “middlemen” control the prices)

I have very exciting news: There is indeed an incredible solution to the problem!

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