Another informative, fun and organized Caribbean Week New York came and went, with the Caribbean Tourism Organization’s members pulling all the stops to show the world that the Caribbean is always open for visitors.
It was great to see Puerto Rico, Dominica, and St. Maarten/St. Martin present at the Caribbean Media Marketplace. St. Maarten and St. Martin — now a “pro-mance” with a united marketing front for both sides of the island—hosted a luncheon where we learned of the recovery after last year’s hurricanes, with hotel re-openings, as well as a brand new promotional video shot there recently.
Aside from the excitement of the Caribbean Media Awards Dinner—I was a finalist in the “Virtual Visitor Award” category for my CNN piece on Curaçao—it was great catching up with colleagues, meeting new ones, as well as connecting and reconnecting with representatives of the various Caribbean destinations. Two years had passed since my last Caribbean Week appearance, in 2016, when I was honored with the Marcia Vickery Wallace Award.
Because I’m one of few US-publication journalists actually based in the Caribbean (currently living in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, and prior to that, Belize, and Jamaica), it’s important to show my face and network once in a while. It’s also a great time to catch up on the various islands’ latest and greatest.
The CTO Media Awards Dinner
A week before the event, the CTO reached out to award finalists and asked for a video of no more than 45
seconds, explaining what our award-nominated piece was about and what winning the actual award would mean to us. So, of course, perfectionist-me got dressed properly despite the sweltering heat, got my hair and make-up done, and sent in a clip with proper audio that my better half helped record. After all, it would play on a big screen at the event, before all the Caribbean representatives, so it had to be done right.
The night of the awards dinner, select finalists’ videos were shown (mostly of the actual winners) but mine wasn’t. So here it is, because I am not about to let all that effort go to waste (ha).
On finding our own Caribbean stories (and journeys)
What did I mean at the end of my video clip about “finding our own journeys?”
When I headed to Curaçao last year, it was borne out of an assignment for a travel publication. I wasn’t required to go there to write it, but I felt uneasy about that, and about not having recent material. I always strive to create original content, and capture fresh images, while writing about a place in a manner that’s thorough, accurate, and respectful of that destination’s people and culture.
So I took a gamble on Curaçao and spent the fee that I was getting paid for the writing assignment to cover the expenses for my trip, since I wasn’t able to receive support from the destination’s tourist board. For those who don’t know, a great majority of consumer and trade writers’ articles on the Caribbean, aside from publications such as NY Times for example, are possible thanks to fully-funded press trips (group or individual) hosted by the destination through its public relations firm. But all too often, assistance is not available when like me, you’re on an individual assignment (budget constraints are usually cited), and publications rarely cover travel expenses anymore, except for a few select luxury travel magazines.
What came of my bet on Curaçao? An abundance of stories, and serendipitous moments that led me to the right people and content. Perhaps it wasn’t even all serendipity – I was merely traveling the way I know how, seeking and digging into the topics (culture, adventure, history) that fascinate me, led by my experiences as a travel journalist, guidebook author (research and planning skills on fleek), photographer, and blogger for the last 7 years. I stumbled on multiple community projects, and met one creative individual after another, with each one of them connecting me to others. It’s such a fantastic feeling when you find stories that way.
I remember asking Nicole von Beusekom, one of the interviewees quoted in my CNN article, if anyone had written about their Street Art Skaloo art project in a major publication. She’d given it some thought, and said: “No, not yet. But maybe you’ll be the first?” We’d both smiled. I knew I’d surely try, because their art mural project, renovating a previously drug-ridden colonial neighborhood and breathing new life into it, was too inspiring not to share with the world.
I returned home, completed my initial assignment with ease, and then pitched and sold additional articles based on the stories I uncovered while there, including the CNN piece that was nominated for a CTO Award this year. I recovered all of my fee from the initial project, and even profited from the trip.
The slideshow below shows a selection of my Curacao photography portfolio.