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Help for Philippine Tribes in Trouble

THE WOUNDED WOMAN had been hiding in the hills for 14 days. Submachine-gun bullets had struck her face, her leg, and her foot. Other bullets had killed her husband. The brass voices of gongs passed the word from ridge to ridge, speaking discreetly, for every¬one in the mountains of Mindanao understands the lan¬guage of the gongs.

Details reached us by runner. The hill people had heard that Manuel Elizalde, Jr., head of Panamin—the Presidential Arm for National Minorities—was in the district. Secretary Elizalde, who holds cabinet rank in the Philippine Government, is the official most deeply concerned with the plight of his nation’s ethnic groups. A man walked two days through the forest to put the matter before him.

The Secretary listened, then summarized the situation:

“As the man tells it, this is a classic case of land grabbing, resistance, and revenge. Someone from the dominant society—the civilized Filipino world—tried to take a tribesman’s holdings. He objected; now he’s dead, and his wife is badly hurt. Did he die because he fought back, or was he murdered? We don’t know. But murder is common in Mindanao. The Manila press calls this island the ‘Wild Wild South.’

“We have our frontiersmen, as did your Wild Wild West, and they’re a rough, tough lot. But we mustn’t forget why they’re here. After World War II the government urged settlers to go to undeveloped Mindanao and start civilizing it. The nation was—and is—suffering a population explosion, and no one cared much about how land was acquired.

“The settlers took what they could get, and the tribesmen moved back to the hills. Now mining and lumber interests want the hills too. But the tribesmen have nowhere left to go. So in desperation they protest. They some¬times even stand and fight instead of quietly vanishing before the advance of what we call civilization.”

The Secretary rubbed his stubbly chin and shoved his dirty white cap back from his fore¬head. “You know, we hear a lot about conservation these days. Conservation of animals, even of plants. But what about conservation of human beings and human cultures?”

Compassion Drives a Complex Man

Young (34), wealthy, Harvard-educated Manuel Elizalde might reasonably have been expected to join ranks with the rich and powerful. To the amazement of his peer group, excepting President Ferdinand E. Marcos and a few other men who cannot forget that the pagan tribesmen of the Philippines are their blood brothers, Elizalde cares more about the hard-pressed national minorities than about his family fortune or his life. He is a visionary idealist and a romantic. But he is also quick-witted, tough-minded, and given to sudden decisions.

“The runner says the woman’s wounds have begun to smell,” Elizalde said. “Let’s bring her out.”

The young American helicopter pilot glanced at the small cumulus of morning floating over jungle-covered peaks. “O.K.,” he said. “But right now. By midafternoon those puffs will be thunderheads. Even if I could get in up there I’d never get out. What am I supposed to land on anyway? “A thousand flying hours in Viet Nam had given Denis Rinehart a skill verging on artistry. His question conveyed no anxiety.”The messenger will show you the place. He says the tribesmen have cleared a little space for you an hour by foot from where the woman is hidden.”

“Little!” said Denis sadly. “Ha!”

“I want some guns up there,” Elizalde told me. “No knowing who’s around. I’ll send two security men with automatic weapons. You take this.” He handed me a compact H-K submachine gun. “Besides your .45.”

Trumpet Heralds a Mission of Mercy

Denis made two trips to deliver the lot of us, cranking down the hole in the jungle like a swift descending a chimney. The whine of the chopper’s jet engine summoned a few hill people out of the green wilderness. No out¬siders were near, they said. They would come with us. The runner pointed the way, and our party set off with National Geographic photographer Dean Conger in the lead, at six feet two a giant of a man among these small, lithe mountainfolk. Distant gongs sounded a soft reassurance, then were still. We walked in silence.

A long climb brought us to the summit of a ridge where a thatched house rested on the closest approximation to level land this crumpled country could offer. We paused while our guides spoke to the men of the place, who brought out a bamboo trumpet and sent a, signal wailing away toward the higher ridges beyond. “That is a secret message,” said the runner. “It tells those who guard the woman that we come to take her out. Now they will not attack us.”

Hampered by a leg badly swollen from a spider bite, I stayed behind as the group went on. Through gestures and pantomime I indi¬cated to the residents of the ridge that their garden patch would be a good place for the helicopter to come if they would chop down the taller vegetation that fringed it. Smiling, they drew their fighting knives and cut wher¬ever I pointed, destroying without protest their own most precious plants—banana, papaya, bamboo, hemp, even a few stalks of sugarcane.

I stripped off my undershirt and threw it down to mark the least lumpy section of our instant helipad, then hobbled back down the trail to signal Denis. In two minutes he came towering up out of the jungle below, caught my wave and eased onto the ridge while the tribesmen whooped and cheered.

A few minutes later our advance party returned, the woman clinging to a young man’s bent back for quick loans.

She was a pathetic little person, emaciated and clearly near death. Her face was dis¬figured by an infected wound, her ruined foot swollen and bleeding. “It’s good we do not have to carry her farther,” said the runner. Careful hands lifted her into the chopper. Dean and two men joined her, and Denis lifted off. I waited on the ridge, watching a storm’s rain curtain enshroud a peak some five miles away.

“It will be close,” said one of the security men, shifting his submachine gun. It was. The first chill drops of the line squall rattled on the leaves around us as Denis came skimming back through a pass and flared to a fast stop. We tumbled in, and he dived into the valley as gusts shook us.

I met the woman again in a clinic miles away (page 223). She lay quietly on the mattressless wooden cot. The runner who had brought us to her sat at her side and stroked her sunken cheek. Tears lined his own. Pana¬min Dr. Saturnino Rebong worked on her foot, his forceps tracing the bullet hole that pierced it.

“How is it?” I asked.

“It may have to come off.”

“The eye?”

“Blinded.”

“She does not cry or flinch. Does she feel pain?”

“She feels,” he said grimly.

Lust for Land Pits Racial Brothers

I found Secretary Elizalde watching solemnly from a corner of the clinic.

“You can see that these tribesmen are only primitive savages,” he said quietly. “You can see that they have no human emotions. So say some of my fellow civilized Filipinos. Well, we’ll teach them their error. That is Pana¬min’s task: not to educate the minorities, but to educate the dominant society. It will take a while. In the meantime, this is what hap¬pens. Just this morning we’ve received radio reports of more shooting, more deaths. Some west coast tribes report several hundred killed during the past few weeks.”

Where, exactly, did all this happen? Who, precisely, were the tribesmen? Who the aggressors? Answers must be withheld pending legal actions now under way. But these are not very important questions. What is important is that this incident did happen, that similar incidents happen frequently in the Philippines’ Wild Wild South, and—most important of all—that something is being done to halt this hideous fratricide.

Fratricide, because the civilized concessionaire and the forest bowman are racially indistinguishable. Both are Malays or, better, Southern Mongoloids.

The land lust that induces today’s violence is a relatively recent development. For four centuries the rich lowlands seized by the Spaniards in the northern and central Philip¬pines sufficed for them and the Hispanicized, Christianized native population. These regions were taken from their tribal owners with no more concern for territorial rights than was shown by the white conquerors of Indian-occupied inland America.

In Luzon, the great northern island which is the heart of modern Filipino culture, the wild mountain tribes in time adjusted to the new world close around them without entirely giving up their special identity. Their leaders became priests, businessmen, officials of the national government. Thus their lands became secure.

In Mindanao, too, one segment of the population has become almost as advanced tech-nologically, and as sophisticated culturally, as the people of the Christian north. These are the Moslem Maranaos and Maguindanaos, who adopted Islam in the 14th century. Powerful fighters, living in highly organized communities, they were and are able to defend their basic rights, if not always to find accept¬ance for their ideology.

Pagan Ways Survived in Isolation

In the mountains of inland Mindanao the pagan tribes remained dominant. Spain never occupied their territories. Nor did the United States, which held the Philippines from the end of the Spanish American War in 1898 until the nation became independent in 1946.* The old ways of life continued. So, when the growing national need for cropland, lumber, and minerals sent more and more Filipino frontiersmen southward, the tragic confrontation of civilized adventurers and primitive residents occurred in Mindanao as it has elsewhere in Asia and in Europe, Africa, and both Americas. The drama is being played out in its classic and brutal form, but with one difference: Civilization is older now, and, conceivably, minutely wiser. It breeds not only exploiters but also dedicated, courageous men to whom the conservation of the natural world includes the conservation of natural man.

Panarnin is the expression of the Philip¬pines’ new national conscience. Elizalde and his colleagues, working under a franchise given by a concerned President, are taking the first steps to establish the rights of the tribesmen they classify as national minorities.

Appropriately, Dean and I first met Secretary Elizalde in a jungle so primeval, among a people so unadulterated, that we might have traveled to them by time machine rather than by helicopter. In the course of a single brain-spraining day we had been transported by a series of aircraft from the luxury of a modern Manila hotel southward over seas and islands to Mindanao and, finally, across the incredible canopy of mottled green that marks virgin rain forest, the climax condition of earthly vegetation. Deep in that vivid wilderness we were set down in a secret spot to which civilization had never come. There, on the Maasam River (map, page 225), a branch of the Higaonon tribe—the “Moun¬tain People”—follow a way of life older than Western civilization.

Villages Few Where Land Was Free

A dozen men stood waiting for us, Higaonon leaders, dressed in the costume of the tribal elite: black trousers and blouses decorated with appliqué patterns of red and white. Each shook our hands gravely. Only when they had finished did Elizalde present himself. The helicopter roared away and we headed upstream.

“We’ll be staying in the home of a local subchief a couple of miles from here,” the Secretary said. “You’ll see how people have lived in Mindanao’s forests since the first Malay migrants reached the Philippines.

“For one thing, there are still few villages here. These are not village people. They’re as much hunters and gatherers as farmers. They spear and trap wild pigs and deer and mon¬keys, and collect roots and honey and edible leaves and insects. To grow their domestic crops—corn, upland rice, sweet potatoes, taro—they slash and burn small clearings, farm them until the rains have leached away the good of the soil (usually in three or four years), and move on.

“Land has always been free for the taking. The forest seemed endless, and within the tribal territory no one owned any particular piece. Now the newcomers who want these mountains claim that the tribes have no rights to any land at all because they have no fixed residence.

“So the Higaonon and other tribes have begun, with our help, to build barrios—permanent settlements—where their forests ad¬join the Christian-owned lands. These people welcome new ideas. They want progress; but they want progress with pride.”

He splashed along for a moment, then noted casually, “You’ll pick up leeches here. Be sure to let the people of the house show you how to get them off later with red-hot embers. Don’t pull them off; their heads will stick in your skin and cause infection.”I was saying the Mountain People want progress with pride. But we haven’t yet convinced the civilized world that our minorities have the right even to exist.”

He spoke quietly, but the phrase hit hard

We waded in silence up the lovely water¬course where cool, clear water swirled over smooth stones. Butterflies glittered over the tumbling ripples. Dark tree trunks rose naked and unbranching to a hundred feet or more, and vines hung from the lofty canopy. The filtered light that reached us was an emerald radiance.

“This is the most perfect forest I’ve ever seen,” I told him. “I hope it can stay this way.”
“It will. The President has told the loggers to stop right where they are. And that’s four days’ walk from here.”

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Spirit of 1849 Lives On

A bunch of the boys are chewing the fat at the Gold Mine Donut Shop in Downieville.

“Yeah, every nut from L.A. with $3 for a pan will be up here breaking every forest law and antipollution law. There’ll be hordes.”

patronoro1

Sixty percent of Sierra County is public land, administered by the U. S. Forest Service. Anyone can stake a claim there, provided he’s found some gold and nobody has staked that area already. No matter how much gold you take out, you pay no royalty. Sounds incred­ible. But that’s the Mining Law of 1872! And when you get on that subject, smile.

 

One of the boys takes me “sniping”—look­ing for gold where you have no claim. We hope for nuggets and get only a few little flakes, but it is fun. High up, where an old mining operation has left a crater full of gravel, a man tinkers with a $5,000 gadget for sifting the old tailings. It’s not working. Down on the Yuba a young man in a scuba-diving suit toils on his suction dredge, designed to suck up gold-bearing gravel. It’s not working either. A rock is stuck in the suction hose.

 

Boom! Boom! Boom! There’s blasting at the Oriental Mine, but the owner says it’s only exploratory. He shut down in 1969. At $35 an ounce, he wasn’t making money and needed online cash advance to survive.

The U. S. still produces a lot of gold, rank­ing fourth in the world—just behind Canada —with 45 tons a year, largely from the Home-stake Mine in South Dakota and a couple of smaller ones in Nevada.

 

The Oriental Mine is flooded now. To re­open would require pumping out water 1,000 feet deep.

“I expect a lot of little mines to start up, with two or three men,” says the owner. “As for major mines? No. That takes big invest­ment, and there’s too much uncertainty. But if the price should stabilize at $150 or $160 an ounce, you’ll see big things, with big com­panies coming in.”

On Goodyear Creek I meet a man who came from Texas with a dream. He’s no long­er young but he’s strong. He works nights at a sawmill and most of the day he works on his claim. He’s got to cut thousands of feet of timber to make a flume. That’s a kind of chute to divert water from the creek so that he can get at the bottom. He says it’s the only way a workingman stands a chance, a little chance, to become independent.

 

Lost in time

The pages of Primitive Worlds, second in the new series, bring into focus six widely scattered peoples of this planet—peoples “lost in time.” Their material culture is simple, and they lack government as we know it; by these standards we call them primitive. But the tribesmen of the far Pacific, Africa, and the Americas lead fascinating lives, often more logical than our own.

 

“When my wife and I first arrived,” writes anthropologist Wilson Wheatcroft, “and they discovered that beneath our heavy boots were soft, pinkish feet like a baby’s, they laughed, and everyone wanted to touch them.” With “primitive” hospitality, the Tifalmin of New Guinea promptly built a house for Wilson and Peggy Wheatcroft. And when they pre­pared to leave two years later, the villagers offered to buy the couple from Wilson’s par­ents so that they might stay.working among the Yanomamo Indians of southern Venezu­ela

Over the past eight years, working among the Yanomamo Indians of southern Venezu­ela, Dr. Napoleon A. Chagnon gathered the material that appears in his chapter of Prim­itive Worlds. The “Fierce People,” as they call themselves, wage war with spirit allies as well as with arrows. On a jungle trail Dr. Chagnon takes part in a nervous peace parley between two villages, ending—temporarily, at least-20 years of treachery and bloodshed.

 

You’ll visit, too, such peoples as the Somba of northern Dahomey, West Africa, who build miniature mud-brick castles in defense against belligerent neighbors; Kenya’s proud Tur­kana; and the Tarahumara of Mexico, virtual­ly unchanged since the Spanish conquest.

America’s Inland Waterway, third in the series, takes you coasting with GEOGRAPHIC Senior Assistant Editor Allan C. Fisher, Jr., down the remarkable 2,000-mile water highway from Massachusetts to Key West. Meanwhile visit these countries and meet their people if you have a chance. It just can’t be explained, it must be seen and felt. If money is an issue, try programs such as the one to consolidate student loans and gets a plan for simple refinancing.

 

Cruising New England waters in the wake of the whalers, author Fisher puts in to storied ports like New Bedford and Newport, Woods Hole and Vineyard Haven. Living history permeates the route, from Connecticut’s Mystic Seaport—one of the world’s great maritime museums—to Cape Kennedy, where spacecraft lift off over shoals on which Span­ish treasure galleons foundered.

Americans are heading for the water in lemminglike waves, in more than seven mil­lion boats by latest estimate. They seek, in Mr. Fisher’s words, “release .. . freedom—a closeness to nature.” They sometimes find a traffic jam: Near Manasquan, New Jersey, 6,000 craft crept under one railroad bridge in a recent 12-hour holiday period. But, re­ports the author from the helm of the 43-foot motor-sailer Andromeda, you find astonishing stretches of pure wilderness along the. Intra­coastal Waterway—the tidal marshes of Geor­gia, for example, where a sea of grass reaches for the horizon like a tawny African plain.

 

 

That is a revolution

Politicians should also beware of placing too much hope in the economic benefits of environmental sustainability. The March 2009 study by Professor Gabriel Calzada Alvarez, at the Universidad Rey Juan Carlos, concluded that for every new green job created in Spain by significant investment and pub­lic subsidy 3.3 other jobs were lost. US studies similarly suggest that green invest­ment may lead to higher imports and low-wage installation jobs in the US, versus higher-wage design and manufacturing jobs overseas.

economic benefits of environmental sustainability

Finally, since the crisis began, the UK government has poured money and guar­antees into the banks and other large corporates. These are the very companies that will probably improve their prof­itability by cutting jobs, looking for the best fourfive loan, placing production offshore and importing technology or machine tools. Of course, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) among others will have to pay for this largesse through their taxes• government bailouts of large firms inevitably involve a cross-subsidy from the sectors not bailed out, i.e. the SMEs, even though historically it is the SMEs that have created jobs.

 

It is also common knowledge that cuts to public sector employ­ment will follow the election. The motor industry too has been sus­tained by the scrappage schemes through which the government subsidised car sales and imports to keep a few dealers in jobs. What we do not know is when we might reach the bottom of this jobs cycle. Putting off the evil day may not turn out to have been so clever if we delay addressing the real issues.

 

The question is how Britons will earn a living in future. What is a sustainable trading identity for the UK?

 

The scale of the mountain to be climbed, of course, is measured in those rather slippery concepts of debt and devaluation. It begins with trade. Ten years ago, 60 per cent of official foreign currency reserves was held by the advanced economies; now 60 per cent is held by emerging market economies. That is a revolution.

Tour de France An Annual Madness.

3THE HEAD does not turn to see the couple with roadside seats, but only to monitor a rival’s pur­suit, to note another’s crash, ah, an opening—can I slip through? This is no picnic, not for those of us in the Tour de France, a 2,000-mile whirlwind race that spins around France in three breath-squeezing weeks in July. Last year, of 198 riders who started, 151 finished. The route, raced in daily doses called stages, climbed over France’s toughest mountains. Some stages are 140 miles long. At the end of each stage the leader carries off a yellow jer­sey. The Tour winner, the rider with the best time over the en­tire course, gets the jersey. But he pays, day by punishing day.

Fatigue abrades mind and body. When the legs and spirit start to wobble, the thought seeps through. Quit. Go home. But you don’t. It’s the Tour de France. So you learn to suffer. After all this isn’t soccer. You can’t pass the bike off. WEDGED shoulder to shoulder (below) midway through the stage from Li­moges to Puy de D6me, we’re pals, gossiping about the race, women, politics. Out of town we focus on racing. Riders don’t sabotage rivals, but good manners never won the yellow jersey. To be a bit inechant— mean—on the bike is no disadvantage. But off the bike is another thing.

Because we must finish in three weeks, we bridge several stretches by rail, plane, or car. Last year we put our feet up in the living room of our apartments prague. After the Alps stage we flew across the Midi to pick up the trail near the Pyrenees. Because it costs millions to maintain a team, the sport is un­abashedly commercial. Our jer­seys trumpet car companies, supermarkets, clothing manu­facturers, and everything else.

It’s up to the team—mine has nine riders—to maneuver the leader to first place. So, in the Alps, a teammate who excels in mountain climbing will ride in front of our leader to pace him. On flat stretches others will lead, taking the wind. The win­ner owes the team; prize money is divided. He’ll earn big money later in endorsements. Sometimes it seems the only thing that keeps a rider going is the support of fans. Sometimes it is. Fans will push a struggling biker along, but too much help could penalize him. They also throw water on passing riders to cool them off.

Occasionally national pride shoves good judgment aside. Once an onlooker lobbed pepper in the faces of Belgian riders. From the air the climb to Alpe d’Huez, nine miles and 21 hairpin turns (right), wraps around mountain slopes like a chest-crushing python. Nearly 500,000 fans line this Alpine route. Many camp here the night before to claim a spot. They stand inches from us as we swirl by. Such a long wait for so brief a moment: a blur of spokes, a flash of jersey . . . an empty road.

THE TOUR wheels by, relentless as a ticking stopwatch. In this por­table sovereignty with its own police, doctors, and bank, virtually everything hap­pens on the run. You’re handed a sandwich or fruit to eat on the run. You drink on the run and urinate on the run (not in town limits, rules say). Gears need adjusting? A mechanic does the repair, hanging out of a car that pulls up alongside. Our mechan­ic, an acrobat with a wrench, can change a front wheel in ten seconds, the back in 15.

The race waits for no one Fall, and you get back on, bloody knees and all (lower left). One of many occupational haz­ards, a saddle sore, is treated en route by a doctor (below)—a minor inconvenience compared with the broken collarbone suf­fered by a rider six years ago. He raced for three days before pain overwhelmed him.

Allez, allez, shout the fans. So you do. Lose too much time and you’re out of the Tour, swept up like stray dust by a small blue van called the broom wagon. Coming off a mountain, Nor­wegian Dag-Otto Lauritzen stuffs papers under his shirt to insulate against the chill (left). Because of breakneck speeds the risk of a crash increases during descent. Topple, and seven or eight others go down. With luck, a fellow rider extends a steadying hand to prevent a fall, more out of self-preservation than magnanimity.

Better not to dwell on fears of fractured bones and torn-up knees. The minute you lose your nerve and hesitate to attack as you rush down a mountain, you might as well quit and open a bike shop. The secret to winning: Turn and smile as you pass your rival. Let him think you’re invincible, even if it takes your last breath. Some people put on a tie and go to an office. I get on my bike and ride 22,000 miles a year. It’s a job. I spend more time with my bike than with my family. The bicycle is my first wife. One season I left when my daughter was two months old. On my return she was crawling.

Why bear the unbearable? Why stay indentured to a feath­erweight frame with cobweb wheels? Why, to sweep through the Arc de Triomphe on the last day. To be able to say you fin­ished the Tour de France.

The U.S. Virgin Islands

IT IS EVENING. I lie enmeshed in a sisal hammock strung between two sea grape trees on tiny West Cay, an uninhabited island in the Caribbean. Yellow genip flowers perfume the air. Parakeets chirp. Fat coconuts hang pendulously over­head. I have drunk their cool, sweet milk and have eaten my fill of broiled yellowtail, drenched in lime juice.

I am content. But Pete LaPlace, the bronzed and muscular fisherman in the ad­joining hammock, is not. We have fished all day with little luck, and his empty motor­boat bobs lightly in the turquoise cove, a few yards away.

West Cay

There’s another reason for Pete’s anxiety.This tranquil patch of sand and scrub in the United States Virgin Is­lands has been his fishing camp for a decade, and he loves it. “When God make dis place,” Pete says in a mellifluous calypso patois, “He know what He was doin’.”

These days, every time Pete returns to camp he fears he may find a bulldozer tear­ing up his haven. For in recent years, as sud­denly as summer squalls sweep across the tranquil bays, changes have swept the terri­tory’s three main islands: St. Thomas, St. Croix, and St. John. Of the remaining fifty-some islets, most are uninhabited.

Since 1960 the tourist horde has exploded from 100,000 visitors annually to more than a million. It happened almost overnight, spurred by the U. S. State Department’s closing of Cuba to tourists and by the afflu­ent mainland economy.

During the same period the resident popu­lation has soared from a cozy 32,000 to a hec­tic and burdensome 100,000. The growth stemmed principally from three disparate groups. West Indians, known locally as down-islanders, or aliens, came from a host of impoverished islands in the Antilles. Af­fluent and adventurous Americans, black and white—dubbed continentals—also came for opportunity, or just to chuck the rat race. And Puerto Ricans, who had been coming to the islands since the 1930s, continued their steady influx, primarily to St. Croix. The result of all this heady growth: a crowded paradise.

Then came the sunny afternoon of Sep­tember 6, 1972. On a terrace overlooking St. Croix’s lush Fountain Valley Golf Course, five young black islanders shot and killed four visitors from Miami and four club employees; seven were white.

The front-page crime terrified residents and made the boast of local license plates—American Paradise—grimly ironic. Tour­ism plummeted. And suddenly the world viewed the once quiet islands as yet another hostile and afflicted place in the Caribbean.

St. Thomas

I had come to see whether paradise really had been lost. In weeks of travel I saw many of the problems faced by stateside urban centers, but I saw none of the serious ills that plague other Caribbean islands: dire pov­erty, severe racial unrest, unstable govern­ments, and hopeless levels of unemployment.

By comparison, the U. S. Virgin Islands draw stability from their U. S. ties. They’re also well off: Per capita income is more than $5,000 a year, higher than any other island in the West Indies.

And the Virgins thrive on the energy of their friendly West Indian population. I fondly remember Lillian Joseph, a hard­working food vendor from Antigua. From morning until night, bent over a small braz­ier, she sold crisp fried chicken, a pan-fried bread called johnnycake, and maubey, a zesty drink homemade from cinnamon, gin­ger, and maubey bark.

“How’re things going,” I’d ask. Her lilt­ing, inevitable reply: “Ah, m’son, you know how t’ings does be.”

Typical of the territory’s industrious down-islanders, Miss Lillian takes hard work in stride. “Oh mon,” she once told me with a laugh, “I used to get up four in the morning to weigh flour; we had to do all sorts of t’ings before we went to school. I’m so much accustomed to this.”

Like many Virgin Islanders, Miss Lillian is concerned that discipline of youths in the islands “isn’t like it used to be.”

Joblessness and school dropouts loomed large among the problems I encountered. Among others: Fresh water must be ra­tioned; power outages plunge homes and ho­tels into darkness with annoying frequency; new schoolteachers from the States often quit in midyear, unable to cope with crowd­ed classrooms and difficult dialects.

Fountain Valley

In addition, the stress between the West Indian newcomers and native blacks pro­duces serious rifts in the polyglot society. And, although Fountain Valley turned out to be an isolated nightmare, the urban-scale crime rate is troublingly real.

No less real are the islands’ charms. I succumbed to duty-free shopping and island-made rum in frothy piña coladas. To dazzling clear waters unsurpassed for wreck and reef diving. To around-the-clock carni­vals and throbbing steel-drum bands. To native dishes like kalaloo, a spicy meat and seafood stew, and custard made from sour-sop, an exotic local fruit.

I even found St. Thomas traffic nearly tol­erable. Islanders find hospitality an expression of local pride, and good busi­ness. When motorists stopped in West Cay mid-road to chat—a perverse local habit—barely a horn objected.

Phil, an electrical engineer from Chi­cago, brought his family to St. Croix in 1971. Their West Indies-style home, with daughter Sara’s horses tied up outside, has wooden louvers instead of windows—and no bars.

“Our house is a dwelling, not a place of refuge,” Phil told me. “If we ever get to that point, we’ll move.”