Yvonne Quetel, a Swedish citizen from the US Virgin Islands, is appealing to Danes to help the islanders cope with the devastation caused by Hurricane Irma.
Appeal to the people
Until 1917, the islands were owned by Denmark, which up until the late 19th century used slaves on plantations to produce goods such as sugar cane.
In the build-up to the centenary marking the sale to the US, there has been much talk of the Danish government issuing an apology, and possibly even compensation, to the descendants of slaves living on the islands.
But now Quetel, a native of St Thomas who still has family on the island, is appealing for help – not just from the Danish government, but also from the Danish people.
She has set up a Facebook page called Adopt A Family USVI, and already hundreds have answered her call.
Hopeless need help
“Would it be too much to ask for Danish families to adopt a family from the US Virgin Islands?” she asked CPH POST. “To send a package or two in the next year?”
According to Quetel, the infrastructure on the islands will take a long time to repair. Her brother’s three children have no hope of returning to school until next year, and there’s “limited food or gas, no electricity – and a sinking sense of hopelessness”.
Nevertheless, communities are pulling together and working hard, and the US Navy has been dropping off supplies, but it is not enough, contends Quetel.
“As happens all too often, those who need it most have the least chance of getting to the handout locations,” she said.
Among the items Quetel suggests Danes could send are: solar string lights, solar batteries, solar iPhone chargers, canned foods and tarpaulins.
A shared history
Despite the century apart, Quetel is hopeful the Danes will rally to the cause.
“I’m just asking as I can see there is still history between our countries and I am quite proud to be part of it all,” she said.
“So often the islands are forgotten – even the president of the US said some time ago he wished he could sell Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands because of their debts to other Americans. We are of no use to Mr President because as territories of the US we cannot vote for the president!”
‘Fireburn’ remembered in fiction
Meanwhile, in related news, a worker rebellion on St Croix in October 1878 provides the backdrop for a new novel set on the islands.
Set 30 years after the emancipation of the island’s slaves, Apple Gidley’s ‘Fireburn’ recalls how a form of slavery persisted late into the 19th century through punitive labour contracts.
The rebellion, which itself was known locally as ‘Fireburn’ (or ‘The Great Trashing’), resulted in 879 acres being burned; the deaths of 60 labourers, two Danish soldiers and 14 civilians; and the execution of 12 of the rebels.
The rebellion was led by three women, and the book tells the story of Anna Clausen, who “challenges the conventions of the day and faces hostility from the predominantly male landowners”.
The female ringleaders were all given prison sentences and served their terms in Denmark.
Purchase a copy here.