Aruba, que vadis?

Fourteen years ago at the age of 19 I left Aruba for Holland to get an advanced education and I stayed. In those 14 years I think I went back 6 or 7 times, an average of every two years. I spend the last 16 days on Aruba for vacation time and family visit. As always I was excited, I haven’t been there in almost three years and I was craving home. Never ever did I think I would return to The Netherlands one illusion poorer.

The one happy island I left behind 14 years ago is no more. Sure for the tourist it is still all fun and great most of them won’t notice anything except the ones who have been coming for more than 10 years. But for a lot of locals it has become a disappointment or at least for this local living abroad.

This was the first time I saw the new main street, full of palm trees, beautiful sidewalk and all, but no people, it’s almost a ghost town. Half the shops have closed down. A few “lost” tourist wandering around, nobody is shopping, although there isn’t many stores left to shop at. I think my heart ached a little when I thought back to how it was before, full of car and foot traffic, seeing familiar faces on the street. All that is gone, whipped out.

There is nothing to do at Renaissance Mall except if you need a Louis Vuitton bag or Ralph Lauren clothes. Which made me wonder, how can all those shops stay in business while here in The Hague, the city of politicians and royalties, Ralph Lauren can’t even manage to stay in business for a whole year.

All the shops are now at the hotel area but during the day it’s abandoned because all tourist are out at the beach or sight seeing and it’s too far for kids after school to walk too. At night it’s very very busy, but with 90% tourist. I could have been on any Caribbean island for all I knew.

I was the most happy when lying on the beach away from the high rise hotels or deep in the nature away from all the concrete. I mean seriously how many damn hotels can you have on a tiny island. It is fucking ridiculous.

I feel for San Nicolaas always being ignored, but now, now they should be happy they still got their old buildings and culture intact. If you want to see and experience the true local Aruba you go to San Nicolaas, greediness hasn’t reached there…yet.

When in Aruba I love eating local food, I make sure to go to Cocoplum at the end of main street. They got fresh seafood and local food for a good price. Simply the best. But thanks to a dead main street this iconic little eat spot that has been there for years is losing business. Meanwhile the Burger King across the street is still going strong. Let me not even start about Burger King. You can’t spit without hitting a fast food restaurant.

This time in Aruba I spend looking for the drugstore that hasn’t been franchised, where you can still buy the odd things like hairspray that doesn’t cost an arm and leg, also they have DAX hair pomade! Not that I use it but you don’t get those things at the franchised drugstores. Or the grocery store Mundo Nobo in Santa Cruz were I can still get McCain chocolate cake my grandma used to buy. Where the cashiers are the same people who have been working there for years. It’s the details and the familiarity that is worth it.

People will say, things change, we have to “progress” and keep up with modern time. Of course, but this isn’t progress, this is the defacing of an island identity and its culture. drops mic

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