As predicted in earlier blog in March, the mass exodus of Haitians fleeing chaos did not materialize. While the Turks & Caicos, Bahamas, and South Florida were all on high alert for an armada of boat people about to descend en-mass on the shores, the numbers did not change much if at all. Which calls into question the quality of the information authorities are relying on about Haiti. Do they really understand the situation there with all its nuances? I’m skeptical.

In recent weeks, the steady migrations of people in rickety boats continues to depart from the coast of Northern Haiti at roughly the same pace as before. Indeed, over the past few weeks we have seen interceptions of boats close to the west side of Provo and some making it to the beach, which is more or less “normal.” Not for the first time, a boat recently arrived near the super luxury resort of Amanyara, which, of course, dramatically highlights the stunning contrast of vast wealth coming face-to-face with desperate poverty.

That image of Haitians scrambling off their sloop with nothing but the clothes on their backs onto beach next to where high-end tourists are paying upwards of $15,000 a night for a room reflects an emerging new social reality. And that is that the very rich and the very poor are going to be seeing more of each other and maybe even spending some quality time side by side. How exactly is that going to go over when it becomes clear that it’s not a one-off? Will the very wealthy, upon seeing extreme deprivation and desperation up close, be repelled? Will they want to vacation somewhere else where such unpleasant encounters with the impoverished can be avoided and allow them to properly enjoy their tropical sojourn? Or will the sight be an eye-opener that spurs them to take action, to find a way to lessen the pain of the destitute? The ├╝ber-wealthy can at times be quite empathetic and generous to the unfortunate and thus transformative.

Either way, the harsh reality of the very rich and very poor in close contact–jarring, perhaps for both–is only likely to increase since neither poverty in Haiti nor the opening of luxury accommodations in Turks & Caicos is about to recede anytime soon. The temptation pay $2000 to human traffickers to cross the dangerous 130 miles of ocean in hopes of reaching the shores of a land with the prospect of work is simply too great. Meanwhile, TCI residents–locals and expats–are already living in proximity to poor Haitians, many undocumented and dwelling on the fringe in hidden shantytowns or in the bush with barely a tarp overhead. Nobody knows, but some have suggested that as many as 4000 people fall into that category or around 10% of the entire population of 40,000. Is that something we just get used to, a underclass that becomes a “new-normal?” Or does it create a backlash? My guess is both.

Watch this blog for thoughts on how that will shape the future of these islands and perhaps foreshadow what’s to come in other societies.