Two songwriters, Robert Hutto and Bobby Donnelson, once wrote a song about a little bit of hell in paradise. They play in Key West so no doubt the root of the song is about concrete, condo’s, over indulgence and con artists in a place so perfectly made that it gives comfort to your every sense. That’s what I found on my recent trip to Antigua.
It’s a magical place full of the most unimaginable color. The sea is turquoise and white and clear and blue all at once. The sky is blue and white and pink and orange, depending on where you look. The people are a color that is deep and rich unless they are born to the British sailors who have made their way there for hundreds of years. Then they are "brilliant" even if a little pasty with a cigarette in their mouth and a glass of Rose in their hand.
In Antigua every car has scars. Some scars are from the potholes, some because there really are no traffic rules and some because the road to your amazing villa isn’t paved. In Antigua there are no building codes. Houses are perfect. They are falling down. They have cars and trash piled up in the yard. They have cars on blocks. They are without water and electricity.
In Antigua there are no jobs because technology made it possible for sugar cane to be grown better somewhere else about the same time that the Brits and the Americans decided the island was no longer vital to their national security. So Antigua has figured out how to survive on tourism and development.
Antigua is now an independent nation with an elected President. If you love water, color, history and quirkiness; you should go. But understand, Antigua is a land without laws or at least laws that must be followed.
It isn’t that Antigua isn’t safe. It is perfectly safe. It’s safe to live there. It is safe to visit there. It is safe to buy real estate there. It is perfectly, wonderfully safe. But paying taxes are optional (well at least not enforced) so navigable roads are optional. Schools for your children cost. Residential utilities are rare. Taxes are optional so infrastructure is limited and jobs are few and far between.
So in the end, whether you live in America or Antigua, the truth is you pay. In America we pay taxes to keep the roads paved so we don’t have to buy new tires every few months. In Antigua, they pay for new tires because they don’t pay taxes to fix the roads.
Either way, there is a little bit of hell in paradise.