By Christine Baltazar ‘17. Art by Christine Baltazar ‘17.
Besides snorkeling in the warm waters of the Caribbean Sea and dining at all-you-can-eat buffets onboard a cruise ship, there was one unforgettable memory that I carry with me from my 2010 family trip to the Caribbean: observing a boatman on small yellow wooden boat selling tropical fruit floating along the shore.
The “Fruitman” (as he had apparently labeled himself on the side of his boat) would row back and forth along the seashore, peddling his goods to the people snorkeling in the surrounding clear, blue waters of the Bahamas. He would occasionally stop when one of the swimmers asked how much his fruit cost. In his wake, many tourists were seen sipping fresh coconut juice through a straw poked into a young coconut or carrying a pineapple back to their family sunbathing on the shore.
What made this floating boat special, however, wasn’t the fruit the that the Fruitman sold, but the colorful array of international flags used as sails. It was a sight of reds, whites, yellows, and blues representing the world. He had strung them together into a makeshift shade, and as he sailed by, many people would smile and point, most likely trying to spot their own flag amongst the bunch. It was actually a very interesting sight to behold. The United States, Jamaica, Canada, China, Germany, the European Union, Spain… all together peacefully and gently waving in the summer breeze. Not only were the flags aesthetically pleasing against the backdrop of the cerulean sea, it was also a very smart marketing strategy for the Fruitman. Since his livelihood consisted of peddling his fruit near a shore frequented by international tourists, his display of different flags resonated with the visiting foreigners and definitely increased their likelihood of purchasing delectable fruit.
I found it fascinating that the boatman would use such a simple yet effective and colorful method to entice people to buy his fruit. I remember thinking how nice it was to see that even when one is abroad, there are still bits and pieces that that remind you of home. Even something as basic as a flag can harness so many memories of places you’ve traveled to or stir up one’s loyalty to their home country.
So last year when I was figuring out what I should paint for my final project in VISA 100, I automatically knew that this would be my inspiration. Based off of a small photo my father had taken before buying a fresh pineapple from the floating vendor to bring back to my mother and me, I was able to recreate the scene and the boat as it was when I originally saw it while snorkeling nearby the seashore.
In a way, “The Fruitman” and his flags are a statement of solidarity that we sometimes forget in life; all of us, no matter what country we come from, float together on the sea called life.
And that you should buy pineapples. They’re delicious.