Study Guide

A Small Place Wealth

By Jamaica Kincaid

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When this family first came to Antigua, they sold dry goods door to door from suitcases they carried on their backs. Now they own a lot of Antigua; they regularly lend money to the government. (1.3)

These merchants don't seem to be bad people—in fact, they seem to have worked hard to get where they are. But it's never a good sign when a government needs to ask wealthy citizens for some extra cash.

Evita is notorious because her relationship with this high government official had made her the owner of boutiques and property, and all sorts of other privileges. (1.3)

So that's all it takes to become a wealthy business owner? The corruption within the government runs so deep that even the mistresses are rolling in dough.

And before it got on a plane in Miami, who knows where it came from? A good guess is that it came from a place like Antigua first, where it was grown dirt-cheap, went to Miami, and came back. (1.4)

Now that's just silly. Although the only people that are taken advantage of in this instance are tourists (no biggie), it's a bad sign for the way that the country works. It seems like running a business in Antigua is like playing a really high-stakes shell game.

When the English outlawed the slave trade, the Barclay brother went into banking. It made them even richer. (2.2)

When you think about it, it's pretty ridiculous that a family of slave-owners managed to leverage their wealth into a successful banking empire. To be honest, though, that seems about par for the course in Antigua. Do you think this is the case elsewhere, too?

That part of St. John's was going to be developed, turned into little shops—boutiques—so that when tourists turned up they could buy all those awful things that tourists always buy. (3.1)

It's a simple fact: Tourists have more money than Antiguans. With that in mind, money-grubbing businesses ignore the citizens of their country in favor of getting their hands into the wallets of wealthy foreigners.

These offshore banks are popular in the West Indies. Only tourism itself is more important. Every government wants to have these banks, which are modelled on the banks in Switzerland. (3.6)

This quote points out the hypocrisy of the West when it comes to matters of money. Switzerland gets a lot of credit for being a so-called "neutral" country, but Swiss banks are making oodles of cash off of third-world dictators.

A food importer, a man from an old Antiguan family, regularly lends the government money. How does a food importer on a small island have enough money to lend to a government? (3.6)

That's a good question… So do you have an answer? If you ask us, things in Antigua are never what they seem—especially where money is concerned. There's no saying what this "food importer" actually does for a living.

Syrian and Lebanese nationals own large amounts of land in Antigua, and on the land […] they build condominiums. (3.6)

The only people who actually have money in Antigua come from other countries. Can you blame Antiguans for being resentful about that?

But some natives—most natives in the world—cannot go anywhere. They are too poor. They are too poor to go anywhere. (1.6)

There are relatively few people in the world that can afford an international vacation. Often, these wealthy people visit poor countries like Antigua without ever considering the reaction from locals.

What does it mean? The records of one set of enemies, bought by another enemy, given to the people who have been their victims as a gift. (3.7)

For context, the "records" here are documents from the slave trade. With that in mind, this becomes a powerful—and disheartening—symbol: The balance of wealth is such that the former masters still rule over the former slaves.

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