Sainte-Anne, Guadeloupe, November 2017, canon digital, ©Sylvie G
In Sainte-Anne, the beach is beautiful and the weather very hot. So I spend a lot of time under the coconut trees, between swimming sessions, and the hobby of rigor is watching people go by. It takes time for me to realize that the guy who « dries » his pareo in fact shows tourists the different prints he has in « store », that is to say a big basket. The young woman who wears a different bikini every five minutes is actually part of the Beach Vendors Association of St. Anne. In addition, there is a donut seller, the tourment d’amour seller, the jewelery seller, the men’s bathing suit seller, the coffee and mint tea seller. I look at them, thinking that this is a very pleasant job, walking all day on the beach. But after a while, I realize that this is a rather difficult job: the sellers walk all day, barefoot, in the hot sand. The sun hits them on the head, the baskets are heavy and the incomes, no doubt thin. The donut seller is the favorite of children. He stops to chat with them and their parents, or the people he knows. He goes back and forth until sunset. But it’s the swimsuits ladies that impress me the most. They manage to convince women on the beach to buy a bikini, a swimming suit , or a kind of skirt that can turn into a dozen outfits. I observe the one that seems most convincing. She negotiates with a woman wearing a black swimsuit; she puts on one, two or three swimsuits on top of each other, explaining each time with great gestures the miracles that the swimsuit will perform for the figure of the lady. The lady does not like the print of the first (I agree). Then the saleswoman shows her a rectangle of fabric that can turn into all kinds of outfits to hide what the lady does not want to show. She shows her a more flattering print and convinces the lady to try it (over her own swimsuit), but it is too small and the salesgirl runs somewhere to get a bigger size. Then another piece of cloth, which once again serves to flatter her silhouette. After an hour of effort, the lady buys a swimsuit and a small piece of fabric. I thought that this stuff was selling for about twenty euros but I learn that these two pieces must total a hundred euros, which seems very expensive for these little bits of fabric, but it seems to me all the same that the seller has worked hard to achieve this result (the seller (men’s swimsuits sellers have an easier task, the only questions being size and color). A little later, I learn, while chatting with Alexandra (sometimes taxi, sometimes working at the market, former trapeze artist and GO at the club Med) that these vendors have formed an association to fight against attempts by Club Med to ban them from the beach Caravelle (because beach sellers reduce the profits of their own shops). They went to court to defend their case and won. It turns out to a very difficult job (especially for the skin), but they manage to make a living (Alexandra did it herself for two years). And much more difficult than spending the afternoon under a coconut tree.