Much like Great Britain did to the rest of the world, trapping them in economic dependency of a mother colony during the 18th century, the U.S.A. keeps their hold on developing countries through imperialism and secondary colonialism. In A Cafecito Story this is the negative message that Julia Alvarez tries to get across to Americans and it’s seen everywhere in the book-in fact it’s the man premise of the book.
Secondary Colonialism as defined by Jamaica Kincaid, “occurs when inhabitants of wealthy, highly developed [usually northern or western countries] convert poorer formerly colonial [usually southern or eastern countries] into sites or objects of useful pleasure” (1224). This is noticed as tourism in simpler terms.
A Cafecito Story features Joe, a lonely financially stable American in need of a vacation who travels to the Dominican Republic (a colony he finds out to inhabit lots of poor workers) to become a tourist for Christmas vacation on a fancy tropical island. Joe argues this is exactly what he needs, “some time to figure out where he was going, maybe mend a broken heart with a new romance-and get a suntan in the bargain” (8).
Without realizing it Joe has made the conscious decision to become a tourist of a poor country and during vacation puts his blinders on to ignore the hardships that take place daily in this country so that he may use their beautiful sunny weather as a “useful source of pleasure.” Joe has taken the poor economic and daily struggles these people go through and chosen to ignore it so he can enjoy their land more than they do.
However Joe becomes interpellated in his process of doing this. He enjoys the Dominican Republic so much he decides to spend his whole Christmas vacation down there and during this time is told to go visit a coffee farmer in the mountains. This coffee farmer teaches him what living in the Dominican Republic is like for people who are not tourists. Joe brings up the subject of how the coffee here tastes better than anything he’d ever had and he wonders why the coffee back home doesn’t taste this way, especially if Miguel the coffee farmer is supplying the Americas with coffee. The answer is urbanization caused by secondary colonialism.
“The new way [of making coffee] you plant more coffee, you don’t have to wait for trees, you can have quicker results, you can have more money in your pocket. Miguel keeps pointing at Joe when he says ‘you'” (21). The people of this colonized country rely on tourism to keep their economy going; they have to rely on the tourist’s money because they don’t make enough on their own and as such they have to cater to the tourist to make sure the tourist’s visit goes as smoothly as possible so they come back next year.
It’s an indirect urbanization of a culture that controls the way the natives live their life. By not even being in the country, simply by buying their products from overseas, Joe and the rest of the coffee-drinking Americans have kept the Dominican Republic trapped in economic dependency. And it is this economic dependency that, as the book continues, Joe goes on to eliminate but it is an economic dependency that exists in far too many places of the world and one this book works to raise awareness of.