Monday, April 5, 2010

Beach Villages Of The World And Their Seedy Under Belly

I have lived in quite a few beach villages in the world and for some reason they all seem to remind me of the first one, Perissa on the island of Santorini, Greece. It’s not a real Greek village and when the reason is over the stores, hotels, hostels and restaurants are all boarded up and forgotten about during the rainy, windy winter months. In the summer it seems like a paradise with scorching hot temperatures, fantastic Greek restaurants lining the beach front, cheap cocktails, the Aegean Sea to cool off in and an impressive mountain behind the village. As a tourist you are unaware of what is really going on with the workers, the business owners (who are from the main land) and the island locals. I have found the smaller the village the more drama you will find. I worked seven months in Perissa and in my first months, a 23 year old Canadian girl got into a car accident killing a local Greek man and sending the owner of the vehicle to jail on another island for three days, and that was only the beginning of the season. I stayed for quite a while in other beach villages but it wasn’t until I went to Roatan Honduras where I was one of the workers again. I reminded of Perissa but this time it was on a Caribbean island known for one of the best dive sites in the world. I have found where there is sun sand and tourism there is also drugs, murder and scandal. The unsuspecting tourist has no idea what is really going on behind the scenes in their 5 star resorts or their fancy dive shop.
I lived right on the beach in West End of Roatan where the village consisted of one road with restaurants, stores, bars and dive shops competing for the small amount of divers arriving to the island. The drama between the different dive shops was multiplied by certain seedy characters that thrived on causing trouble. Then you had the island locals who would get into fights over drugs. Prostitutes would linger in bars hoping to be taken back to a hotel to earn a day's wage. All the time while this is going on tourists and cruise passengers are sipping their Margaritas, sunning themselves in the warm Caribbean sun and forgetting all their stresses of home.

There is a beach town like these near Santa Marta called Taganga. It used to be a small fishing village but now has turned into a backpackers beach hang out. It’s not a real Colombian town, the people that live and work there are only there for the tourists. In the night clubs it’s rare to find Colombian locals. You will see drunken tourists dancing to the Black Eyes Peas. The Colombians that you do find are there to supply the gringos with their magic white powder. There used to be a colony of Argentinean hippies that lived in the mountains of Santa Marta but years ago some were murdered and forced out. They now live on the streets of Taganga, penniless. What do you do if you were robbed in Colombia and left with hardly any money or possessions? Apparently the answer for one guy was to sell drugs to tourist in Taganga. Backpackers flock to this beach paradise for the diving, beach and parties but little do they know like most beach villages there is a seedy under belly secretly tucked under a blanket of the scorching Caribbean heat.

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