I finally got the chance to visit a McDonald’s in Fiji. I had to look closely, but what I noticed was definitely a reflection of what makes up modern Fiji.
The first thing to notice was that there were six different value meals available. Big Mac, double cheeseburger, chicken sandwich, fish sandwich, chicken nuggets, and regular old pieces of chicken. Why is this worth mentioning? Because 2/3 of the menu wasn’t beef and 1/2 of the menu was chicken.
If you looked at the full menu, every item that had beef in it had a small (beef) label next to the item. Why the issue with beef? If you spend any time in Fiji you’d see it right away.
About half of the population in Fiji are Indian, and hence, you got a lot of Hindus.
The population distribution in Fiji isn’t just reflected in the menu at McDonald’s. It has in one way or another, been responsible for much of the political turmoil which Fiji has experienced in the last fifteen years, how its political and economic structure is based, and of course its history.
For starters look at a map of the pacific. Most of the island countries would be impossible to find if their names were printed on the map. Fiji, however, is easy to see. It is by far the largest country in the region, which means it has the potential for the greatest amount of agriculture.
Fiji is also unique in that it was asked to be colonized by the British. (That isn’t an imperial fable to make the British look good either. They asked because they saw it as a way to end conflict on the islands and they knew they’d be colonized by someone, so they picked British.) The British used Fiji to grow sugar cane. They also needed workers for the sugar cane fields.
The largest British colony at that time was India, so India became the source of most of the laborers for the sugar cane fields in India. (The same thing happened in Guyana in South America. Guyana remains the only county in the Western Hemisphere where the largest religion is Hindu.) Indian workers came to Fiji to earn money never left.
Fast forward to independence in the 1960s. Most of the important events which have occured since independence have had something to do with the Indian population in some way or another.
Land ownership in Fiji is heavily tilted to favor native Fijians. There are also set aside positions in the parliament for ethnic groups. Because of the landownership rules, Indians end up owning many of the stores and businesses in Fiji, similar to how Jews and Chinese often wound up business owners in places where they lived.
In 1988, there was a coup in Fiji which was due largely to increasing role of Indians in Fiji in the government. Since then there have been several other coups, the most recent being in December 2006.
The end result of all the instability is that enough Indians have left Fiji to give native Fijians a majority again.
So….there is a heck of a lot behind having chicken on the menu.