Tuesday, December 7, 2010

The Forgotten Lands: San Jesús

San Jesús

Capital: San Jesús
Population: 248,441 (2008)
Area: 1,027 km2
Independence: 1814

Economy: A uniquely dual economy, with a modest import and export trade of information technology and services coexisting with a low-tech, subsistence-style agriculture.
Per Capita Income: US$40,120
Languages: Dialectical French, English, Spanish
Literacy Rate: 98%

“It is fortunate that the world has forgotten San Jesús,” wrote Margaret Mead in 1954. “If we remembered, we would be unable to face the reality we have constructed.” It is unclear, however, why Mead (who never actually visited San Jesús) had such a negative impression of life there. By almost any standard, the largely ignored island nation has fared better than most of its neighbors in the Caribbean. A relatively small population, mostly descendants of the slaves who worked a French sugar plantation that operated from 1762 to 1814, lived for many decades in an environment of unparalleled natural abundance. “On San Jesús,” according to a florid 1923 article in National Geographic, “fruit and gourds rise as if invoked by the farmer’s neat fields, and ocean fish all but throw themselves into the waiting nets of the fishermen.”

There is a strong tradition of schooling and literacy on San Jesús, and since the 1950s the island’s most talented students have often found scholarships to top universities in the United States, Latin America, and Europe. The resulting pool of technical expertise has fostered the blossoming of an active software and information technology industry in a country that has virtually no “hard” industrial technology.

Indeed, San Jesúsians seem immune to many of the siren calls of modern life; in 2008, for instance, it remained the only independent country with no television broadcasting. Tourism is virtually nonexistent, but the rare visitor speaks of beautiful cities with many libraries but no cars, of towns with many farmers but no policemen.

Flag: A white circle on a field of blue. This rarely used banner – it is not flown at public buildings on the island, and indeed is typically seen only at regional political summits – symbolizes the island of San Jesús in the blue Caribbean. White is sometimes taken to represent the purity of Christ, from whom the island, predominantly (92%) Catholic, takes its name. More prosaically, a second tradition holds that the newly independent slaves of 1814 had access only to white sailcloth and to indigo dyes with which it could be colored.

National Anthem: “God Save Our Blessed Isle.”


dhkendall said...

What, no map?

Dr. Kenneth Noisewater said...

Nope. You made this one up too. Also, that flag is just trying to hypnotize me and turn me into a blue zombie. I'm not getting fooled by that. Not again.