Tue | Sep 25, 2018

Letter of the Day | Appleton Estate Tour whitewashes history

Published:Saturday | July 14, 2018 | 12:05 AM

THE EDITOR, Sir:

On June 5, 2018, a group of us from the UK toured the Appleton Estate in St Elizabeth. The tour was professionally conducted. That is until the narrative about the plantation's history began to unfold. It started with a cute little donkey diligently walking in a circle and gently crushing cane. I immediately felt a knot in my stomach as a friend queried the absence of enslaved labour.

To add further insult to injury, we were subjected to a Disney-like video about the sugar plantation. Not even one mention of enslaved Africans, estate owners, plantation life or colonialism. The video completely whitewashed the brutal conditions our ancestors endured on this industrial sugar plantation.

This is offensive. We know full well that the revenue from plantations like Appleton Estate contributed immensely to Britain's wealth. We instantly asked the tour guide about the misrepresentation of plantation life. We were told, "That is not a part of this tour." We were devastated. Negating the contribution of enslaved Africans has parallels with the current British Windrush scandal, still so fresh in our minds.

We initially wrote to Appleton Estate's CEO diplomatically outlining our views. We said, "We fully understand the tour is part of a tourist industry which contributes to Jamaica's economy." But we did not get a response.

 

REPUTATIONAL DAMAGE

 

We noted that Appleton has invested $7.2 million in this marketing project. Appleton must know that it can cost five times more to attract new tourists than to retain the goodwill of satisfied customers who will spread the word to friends and family. Recounting our story to, potentially, thousands of people can inflict reputational damage to their world-famous brand.

Our tour party would prefer to be waxing lyrical about our visit to Appleton Estate instead of feeling extremely disgruntled and determined to share our negative experience widely. We believe our views represent those of most Caribbean citizens living in the diaspora. And we know that our relatives and friends in Jamaica would also be extremely angry at Appleton's distortion of history.

To correct this situation, we suggest that the owners of Appleton Estate give a much more accurate account of the plantation's history. I am certain there are scores of Jamaican historians who would be delighted to write a much more inclusive narrative that would appeal to both local and foreign tourists.

V.T.

London, UK