In the months following President Trump's inauguration, tourist interest in the Statue of Liberty is on the rise. The New York Times reports that approximately 170,000 people took the ferry service that travels from Manhattan's Battery Park to both Liberty Island and Ellis Island in January, an 18 percent increase over the same month last year. In February, 171,000 boarded one of the boats, an increase of 15 percent year over year. Both months reportedly broke ticket sales records for the ferry company, Statue Cruises.
Granted, one reason for the surge could be New York's mild winter, but an equally plausible explanation lies in our current political climate.
Since Trump's election, Lady Liberty has been seen on protest signs, in political cartoons, and on covers of magazines and newspapers.
The statue, with its inscription of Emma Lazarus's famed poem "The New Colossus," has always been representative of both America's immigrant past and its political freedoms, but in the wake of the Trump administration's increased nationalistic rhetoric and discussions of wall building and immigrant bans, the statue is becoming an even more poignant symbol for some who stand in opposition to the President.
Since Trump's election, Lady Liberty has been seen on protest signs, in political cartoons, and on covers of magazines and newspapers. Just last month, a banner reading "refugees welcome" was unfurled without permission on the statue's pedestal. It was quickly removed, but images of the demonstration spread quickly on social media.
The sentiment is changing not only the number of people visiting the statue, but also how they experience it.
“People are definitely paying more attention,” King Bradley, a gift shop employee, who works near the Statue told the Times. “They’re asking more questions.”
He also recalled a woman crying in the store, “She said that it’s sad that the statue is supposed to mean freedom and liberty and all these things and we don’t actually have that here,” he said.
Certainly, some park-goers came to see the apolitical reasons, but the Times interviewed upwards of 30 recent visitors to the statue for their story, and many of them cited "the divisive national debate on immigration" as the impetus for their trip.
“It’s not a coincidence that we came here,” Ana Felpeto, whose parents came to the United States from Cuba in 1959, said about her family. “It’s for a very specific reason. These kids have grown up American, so it’s very important for them to pass those messages and values on. Especially in this time we’re in, this is the time to do that.’’
This story originally appeared on Townandcountry.ph.
* Minor edits have been made by the Townandcountry.ph editors.