November 20, 2007


Remember in my previous post "We'reee Back"???

By Richard, Aruban Boycott Member

This is a brief report on today's demonstration/protest against Aruba Tourism Authority. It was held at the Valley Forge Convention Center, or a name very similar to that, although it was billed as happening in a town called King of Prussia, Pennsylvania.

Somehow there is something appealing in the idea of demonstrating at Valley Forge. It wasn't QUITE as cold as it probably was in George Washington's day, but none of us mutinied. Anyway, here's a basic overview of what happened, at least as I saw it.

JusticeforNatalee and her husband dropped in; she had taken part in the "original" Boston protest, and we were all pleased that she joined us. None of the rest of us had ever met, but we all worked together effectively. Arrangements had been made with security, who gave us a place to stand near a main entrance to the convention center.

This place had a huge parking lot, so it wasn't like the Boston event, where everyone had to pass by us. As there was at least one other main entrance, a number of people might have not seen us. Also, the traffic pattern in the huge parking lot was chaotic at the best. Anyone who pulled over to take our pamphlets, read our signs, or to just take a look risked incurring an accident. I think that a post in front of an entrance would have been safer for everyone. Still and all, these were the arrangements that security at the event gave us.

As in Boston, we were not allowed to hand out literature within the convention center, or to wear "protest clothing" inside. Thanks to Jamie of Alabama, we had received a number of her beautiful signs and sweatshirts. Vicki in Florida deserves lots of credit for supervising all of these things with her usual efficiency and spreading the word to everyone.

The main point that's worth making is that (as far as I know) we heard NOT ONE PRO-ARUBA COMMENT. Not everyone who came to talk with us criticized Aruba, but many did. A number of people signaled their support of us, and (I think) more people here, than in Boston, took some trouble to tell us that they agreed with us in wanting to boycott Aruba.

We also heard some interesting remarks. One woman said that she goes to this same travel show every year to tell Aruba that she had no plans to return. She said that he had to cancel one planned trip, and had to forfeit a deposit of $150. When she called to ask if she could get it back, she said, Aruba began a pattern of what she called harassment ... making nuisance calls to her from Aruba, threatening, and being generally offensive. She said that she had complained to the FBI about it.

Five or six travel agents took our literature and expressed sympathy. Two of them told us that the Aruban 'delegation' was annoying all of the other participants; they were loud, noisy, and generally were unpopular and clashed with the others there.

Some of us went into the travel show arena (in 'civilian' clothes, of course), and their reports confirmed what we were told by some other people: Aruba had more floor space than any other delegation at the event, and yet its booths were getting very little interest. This is a subjective opinion, of course, but the consensus was that almost nobody seemed interested in finding out information on Aruba.

One woman who had taken our literature earlier in the day told us that the Aruban booths were nearly deserted, and that she was there when one couple wandered over. One of the workers there began giving them 'sales talk,' and she intervened, telling the couple "Don't go to Aruba, it isn't even safe. Go ask those people outside (meaning us), and they'll tell you all about it." She said that the worker for Aruba just gaped at her.

Later on, she said, the couple went over to her privately and said they had decided not to go to Aruba. (Incidentally, except for two or three 'exotic dancers,' the staff at the Aruban booths were not Aruban. They appeared to be from a U.S. travel agency.

One of us, 10061096, said he thought that even the dancers seemed to be depressed by the lack of activity at the Aruban exhibit.) Yet another person said she had a timeshare in Aruba but would never use it again. One woman and her daughter strolled over to us, said that they had heard about Natalee, and on the basis of what they heard would never go to Aruba.

As in Boston, some people asked whether Natalee had been found yet. But I think that most people who reacted to our signs and literature remembered the case, and many said they thought there had been some sort of cover-up. Certainly the broad details were remembered, and many recognized Natalee's picture.

We got quite a number of gestures of support for our cause, and most people who responded seemed to agree that a boycott was a good idea. Some of them mentioned that they had read the book by Beth, Dave, or both. We will be trying to send photos later on. On Sunday (tomorrow), only NM and Richard will be able to take part.


At the Valley Forge protest, we received at least three offers of donations. One woman who drove up in her car pulled over to see what we were about, scanned the handouts, pulled out a $5 bill and thrust it at us! (In about 20 seconds after pulling over.) We were startled, or at least I was, but we decided to decline all donations to avoid any imputations of "impure motives."

Some people asked if we were related to Natalee's family. We said (as we did at Boston) that we were not affiliated with the family in any way ... were not paid by them, or even asked by them, to appear at these events, and did not speak for them or represent them. We said that we were simply regular Americans who were irate at what Aruba has done (and not done), disgusted that our government has not stood up for Americans abroad, and that we are simply doing what we think is both prudent and morally right ... urging people not to go to Aruba, and to spread Natalee's story.

Finally, one more thing. There has been a lot of talk that the publicity given Natalee's case represents a kind of "rich white girl syndrome." Without addressing this, let me say that from what I saw, many of the people at the Valley Forge event who expressed support, and who praised us, were black. I hope that settles that issue. (Many of them also were travel agents.)

As I said before, two travel agents who took part in the actual travel show said that the people representing Aruba left a bad taste in everyone's mouth, so to speak.) Think of it: Aruba had six booths, representing more floor space than any other participant ... and yet, from what we were told and from what some of us saw, they were getting NO INTEREST.

As for Sunday, I have to say it was somewhat of an anti-climax. Only two of us could show up, and the weather was very cold: rain that threatened to mix with snow. I also had to begin a long drive that will culminate in Denver, so had to get on the road. The upshot was, we were there for half a day. Few people stopped by, but at least the beautiful signs that Jamie had sent were visible to all.

No justice for Natalee ... no tourism for Aruba.


Anonymous said...

Good job by everyone that participated and lent a helping hand to this event.

Anonymous said...

and a while after the tragedy..aruba's tourism is doing fine and is blooming haha..

Michelle Says So said...

Please back it up with some NUMBERS. I just love how you people just throw crap out there without backing up your pathetic little thoughts.

We all know that Aruba's reputation is MUD (or should I say shit?) and their tourism has gone DOWN.

"Just the facts ma'am..."

AMANDA said...

i love aruba and its people! my husband and i go every year to our timeshare and bring friends with us to enjoy the good times! i hope all of you simple-minded fools stay out of such a beautiful place. you think nobody is going to aruba? you're wrong! i'm always hearing of new people going for the first time and they can't wait to return.we are sorry for the tragic loss, but you cannot blame an entire country and its economy for the bad deeds of a few. ARUBA IS BEAUTIFUL!