New Book Chronicles BVI’s Tourism Paradise

Dr. Colleen Ballerino Cohen, my colleague at Vassar College, has just launched her new book, Take Me to My Paradise: Tourism and Nationalism in the British Virgin Islands, published by Rutgers University Press, in Tortola. Here’s the report on the launch from BVI Platinum News.

Residents and visitors are being encouraged to purchase a copy of the new book, ‘Take Me to My Paradise’ by author, Dr. Colleen Ballerino Cohen who provides an in depth look at how tourism has shaped the BVI life and destiny.

On Friday March 11, many persons gathered at the 1780 Lower Estate Sugar Works Museum to commemorate the book launch.
‘Take Me To My Paradise’ is a history of tourism in the Territory. The book depicts the different ways in which Virgin Islanders, tourists and residents from other countries see the Virgin Islands and experience life in one of the most popular island paradise vacation spots in the world.
During the ceremony, Dr. Cohen who lived in the Territory for more than 30 years, said that the book is based on facts gathered from her research which began since in 1989. It includes her observations of events, activities and field notes.
Dr. Cohen who first came to the BVI as a tourist along with her husband in 1977, said she still remembers being swept away by the beauty of the islands and the friendliness of the people.
However, she said she is often asked the question – You’ve seen a lot of changes over the years?
“If it is an ex-pat or a visitor from abroad who says this, they usually say it with a wistful tone, implying of course that the changes wrought by tourism have been bad that something beautiful is no less so.”
Dr. Cohen said persons may probably agree with her that the demographic, infrastructural and economic changes that have taken place in the BVI since the building of Little Dix Bay have been immense.
She said once thriving reefs are dying and the mangroves are depleted, car traffic clogs the roads, sewage control and access to drinking water are major concerns and children (and many adults) seem to have forgotten the importance of the phrases, “Good Morning, Good Afternoon, and Good Night.”
The title of her book was inspired by a song written by local artist Mr. Quito Rhymer, entitled “Paradise”. According to Dr. Cohen, when Quito Rhymer plays that song tourists identify with it and, “they hear it as a song about their experience”. Hence, the book asks the question – “what is the difference in the way diverse people who live or visit here experience paradise?”
Dr. Cohen, like many other speakers at the event, spoke highly of one of her inspiration, the ate Kenne Hodge.

She told the gathering that she wrote the book because she wanted to tell a story of tourism in the BVI that not only looked at the changes that have taken place, but also acknowledges several important facts including that tourism has been and continues to be an important economic engine in the BVI, tourism has had some important and far-reaching impacts in the areas of education and culture in particular and tourism is here to stay.
Dr. Cohen said the BVI is at a turning point, and it is imperative that the BVI begin to engage in open discussions and mindful action leading to a tourism that continues to contribute to the economic prosperity of the VI, while maintaining the lifestyle, values and natural resources that make the VI a paradise for visitors and residents alike.
What Does Paradise Mean to the People
The author who is a Professor of Anthropology and Women’s Studies at Vassar College, said the book is organized around a question – what does paradise mean for people who live, work, and raise their children in the VI and for the people who visit the VI.
She said the answer to that question is quite complex, “for while everyone can appreciate the natural beauty of these islands, not everyone sees and experiences the VI in the same way.”
“The book provides a history of the BVI, of BVI tourism and of BVI marketing campaigns. But it also works back and forth, between the expectations of people who come here for vacation and the experiences of people living and working here, to give a sense of the complexity of life in one of the world´s premier paradise vacation destinations,” stated Dr. Cohen who has served for ten years on the Board of Governors of the HLSCC.

She explained that along the way, the book looks at BVI culture, primarily through festival, and the pays tribute to some BVIslanders who have been involved in nurturing and developing it.
Supporting Words
Meanwhile, Minister for Education and Culture Hon. Andre Fahie during his remarks at the launching ceremony said he has begun to read the book and loves what he has read thus far.
He said in the book, people can learn more about how others feel about visiting the BVI, the world will get to appreciate and learn more about the people and our paradise. He said it will also educate the masses of a changing BVI.
The Minister also used the opportunity to thank the Department of Culture for supporting the launch of the book.
Also speaking at the event were Director of the Department of Culture Mrs. Luce Hodge Smith, Mrs Jennie Wheatley, M.B.E, Dr. Patricia Turnbull, Robert Mathavious, President of HLSCC Dr. Karl Dawson and Dr. Michael O´Neal.
Director of the Department of Culture had stated that the department is very proud to assist in the promotion and launching of books that speak about the Virgin Islands.
Speaking about the various types of books which the department has launched thus far, Mrs. Hodge Smith stated that the area of literary arts is growing in the Territory.
“It is very interesting to see the diversity in the books that we have launched and we do need more well-versed books about the Virgin Islands with diverse topics and information,” she said, adding, “Take Me To My Paradise is a welcomed addition to our local collection”.

For the original report go to

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