Paradise is a term often used to depict an idyllic representation of bare coastal landscapes, devoid of any local presence, almost still in time, awaiting foreign consumption. Since the European colonial invasion of the Caribbean, the term Paradise and Edenic have been equated to the region because of its climate and ecosystems. This equation is often used as a strategic tool exploited by the tourism industry, an industry vastly financed by European and North American development, to promote a colonial narrative of the Caribbean. The tourism industry in the Caribbean is then concerned with the recreation of paradise for the visitor, at the cost of the exploitation of the local landscapes and populations through servitude, austerity, and expropriation of their lands for coastal developments.
Paraíso Maldito is an online exhibition and programme that examines tourism and its role in maintaining and upholding these colonial narratives that hinder economic development, as well as deeply affect social and political realities in the Caribbean region. By examining and contextualizing the lived realities affecting the Caribbean, from the spread of land dispossession, the socio-political struggles through austerity, and the racial and gendered violence experienced, this exhibition presents the Caribbean as not an idyll, but rather an afflicted region experiencing colonization and empire through the tourism industry.
This exhibition is inspired by the decolonial writings of Frantz Fanon in The Wretched of the Earth, where Fanon observes the dehumanizing effects of colonization, as well as Derek Walcott’s texts that denounce and contest against this flattening of identity in the Caribbean through tourism. Tourism is then seen as a practice that promotes the dehumanization, the dispossession and the exploitation of those who are born, live and die in the Caribbean.
-Bettina Pérez Martinez, curator
Bettina Pérez Martínez is a Puerto Rican curator, art historian, and researcher based in Montréal, Canada. Her research interests focus on Caribbean identity, diaspora and placemaking practices, decolonial studies, and the politics of ecology and climate change in the region. She is a fellow for the Bridging the Divides, a Mellon Foundation funded initiative organized by the Center for Puerto Rican Studies. She holds an MA in Art History from Concordia University in Montréal, Québec and a BFA and a BA from the State University of New York, in Purchase, New York.