What is the message of the poem, "West Indies USA?"

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beateach eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Stewart Brown’s poem “West Indies USA” presents the juxtaposition of socio-economic statuses and cultures in San Juan, Puerto Rico as seen by a traveler. The plane travels through airports located on a number of islands in the West Indies. Each island is associated with a different country until the plane lands in San Juan, Puerto Rico, which is a United States territory; “the Dallas of the West Indies.” The pilot reminds the passengers of United States regulations that do not allow them to disembark from the airplane if they are traveling on. While they fly over San Juan the traveler notes “San Juan’s fool’s glitter” that exists in the tangle of streets, the shacks, and the high-rise condominiums. Portions of the island of Puerto Rico, especially around the beaches of San Juan, are Americanized while other areas struggle with their identity and poverty. The message is that although Puerto Rico is a US territory, it once “belonged to someone else” and vestiges of that time still exist.