My encounter with the Abaco Islands was brief and less than ideal. I was on a press trip, working for a luxury magazine with a sexist and emotionally abusive publisher. The whole trip felt surreal in large part because I was so miserable. I was working for a publication whose stories reinforced Capitalist cycles of greed and oppression while under a boss who literally was not paying me. I grappled with that fact throughout the trip. I wanted to appreciate the beauty of Abaco’s people and landscape, but not at a place that perpetuated colonialist patterns. Hadn’t this been my internal struggle all my life? I am the daughter of a Salvadoran mother and an American father. I was raised in white, suburban Washington, DC where classmates thought my “Mexican” mother was my nanny.
Still, I felt guilty for being on a luxury trip and not enjoying it.
The PR team designed a packed itinerary full of mansion tours, spa appointments, boat tours, and elegant meals. Lush scenery and fascinating wildlife surrounded me. I clicked away on my DSLR and tried to soak in every moment. Yet I experienced a dream-like state, a cognitive dissonance between my social role over those two and a half days and my personal ideals. I knew that the Abacos were more multi-layered than what I was seeing—and I knew I was more multilayered than the average American tourist. On Monday, I quit my job and began the process of taking my ex-boss to small claims court to get the money he owed me. I was not going to let another white man mistreat me. I was not going to write for another magazine that promoted avarice and materialism. And I hope that I can return to the Abacos one day fully present not as a tourist but as a traveler with my eyes and heart wide open.
Christine Stoddard is a Salvadoran-Scottish-American writer and artist who lives in Brooklyn. Her visuals have appeared in the New York Transit Museum, the Ground Zero Hurricane Katrina Museum, the Poe Museum, the Queens Museum, the Condé Nast Building, George Washington University’s Gallery 102, and beyond. In 2014, Folio Magazine named her one of the top 20 media visionaries in their 20s for founding the culture magazine, Quail Bell. Stoddard also is the author of Hispanic & Latino Heritage in Virginia (The History Press), Ova (Dancing Girl Press), Chica/Mujer (Locofo Press), Lavinia Moves to New York (Underground Voices), The Eating Game (Scars Publications), and two miniature books from the Poems-For-All series.