Posted in Caribbean Connections, Environment

Sustainable Tourism in the Caribbean

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The Caribbean is often associated with tantalising images of captivating, blue waters lapping on white, sandy shores; lush, green forests encapsulating villages; and birds freely soaring through azure skies. Consisting of over seven thousand islands, islets, reefs, and cays framed by the Gulf of Mexico, North, South, and Central America, the Caribbean is one of the most revered tropical tourist destinations in the world. The region is a biodiversity hotspot, with an extensive range of rich ecosystems; many of which are vulnerable to the manifestation of the effects of climate change and other anthropogenic occurrences.

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Posted in Caribbean Connections, International Relations

The Caribbean Community Honours Castro

On 26 July 1953, approximately 160 young men stormed the Moncada barracks in Santiago de Cuba, Cuba in a revolt against then dictator Fulgencio Batista. The revolt, spearheaded by a 26-year-old lawyer, Fidel Castro, did not succeed at first. However, it marked the beginning of almost six years of revolution that eventually re-shaped the political structure of Cuba and also affected the greater Caribbean region. Alongside key figures such as Che Guevara, Raúl Castro, and Camilo Cienfuegos, Castro and his revolution succeeded in ousting Batista.

After the Cuban Revolution, a new era dawned in Cuba. It saw the rise of Castro, becoming both a revered and reviled leader who stood firmly against the western capitalist system, principally embodied by the United States at the time. During the height of the Cold War, Castro also opted to form close ties with the Soviet Union.

Cuba loses its revolutionary leader

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Posted in climate change

The Weakest Link

 

A Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) report warns the Caribbean to prepare for increased drought due to climate change. The Caribbean accounts for seven of the world’s top thirty-six water-stressed countries and FAO defines countries like Barbados, Antigua and Barbuda, and St. Kitts and Nevis as water-scarce with less than 1000 m3 freshwater resources per capita. These island nations already encounter drought events every year, with low water availability often impacting agriculture and water resources. Governments and utility companies across the region have implemented measures such as bans on watering lawns and washing vehicles, and water schedules. However, in an interdependent world and considering that drought is intensified by climate change, there is critical work to be done at international level.

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Posted in Caribbean Connections

The Evolution of Calypso and Birth of Soca Music

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In the first of this three-part series dedicated to Calypso History Month, we learned that calypso is a genre of music which has played a very important role in the processes of confrontation, revolution, and revival in the Caribbean, as well as the invention and establishment of the Caribbean identity and heritage. Secondly, we saw that, overtime, women have risen from obscurity to become strong pillars in the development and internationalisation of calypso music, allowing for greater diversity and a more holistic view of Caribbean society.

Now, we look at the fluidity of calypso and the effect time has had on this genre.

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Posted in Caribbean Connections, gender

The Rise Of Calypso Woman

“ They want to see your whole anatomy, they want to see what you doctor never see. They want to do what you husband never do, still you ain’t know if these scamps will hire you. Well if is all this humiliation to get a job these days as a woman. Brother they could keep their money, I go keep my honey, and die with my dignity!”

– Singing Sandra, Die with My Dignity

Calypso is an authentic Trinbagonian pastiche. It is almost impossible to imagine a true examination of cultural creation in Trinidad and Tobago that does not include calypso. If you mean to truly understand Trinbagonian, and by extension Caribbean culture beyond what may be skimmed from the top, it is important to delve into the genre. The lyrics and harmonies will create a deeper understanding of a Caribbean identity composed of quintessential variance. Likewise, calypso provides a sonic focal point for insight into the Caribbean woman’s existence.

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Posted in Caribbean Connections

Songs from the Sugar Fields

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“…all Caribbeans know, more or less intuitively that in the final analysis, the only sure possession the undertow of history has left them is their paradoxical culture.” – Antonio Benitez Rojo

Out of the ashes, we rise.

Darkness will always make way for the dawn, and just as mother nature defies logic and shoots fresh grass from beneath concrete, the human spirit endures. Drawing on these principles, we observe the most famous musical genre coming out of the Caribbean – Calypso.

The diversity of the music in the region is hinged on the influence of our enslaved ancestors as well as the external forces that impressed upon the society over time.

Music plays a significant role in the construct of cultural identity. As one of the most complex forms of human cultural expressions, music epitomises a culture’s most fundamental values. During the dark times of slavery, Africans rose up together and cried out, drawing on the culture from which they were uprooted, mixing it with their new surroundings, and creating harmonies which told the story that was being created for them.

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Posted in Caribbean Connections

An Open Letter to Racists

“The trouble around difference is really about privilege & power-the existence of
privilege & the lopsided distribution of power that keeps it going. The trouble is rooted in a legacy that we all inherited, and while we’re here it belongs to us. It isn’t our fault. It wasn’t caused by something we did or didn’t do. But now that it’s ours, it’s up to us to decide how we’re going to deal with it before we collectively pass it along to the
generations that will follow ours.”
—Allen G. Johnson, Writer and professor of sociology

Dear Racists,

Warning: The following may enlighten and help you to understand the dire situation that the human race is in.

We have a problem. Discrimination, in all its forms is highly unattractive. It is an ugly monster which when displayed has power to spread into the hearts and minds of its victims, settling there, causing massive destruction. It wields such power that it has caused human beings to turn against each other and snuff out the breath of their neighbour in the name of an ideology that places one person in a supreme position compared to another. Lack of understanding, compassion, tolerance, and acceptance feeds this monster.

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Posted in International Relations

Puerto Rico: A Country or a Colony?

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It appears that the legacy of colonialism has not been completely exorcised from Caribbean society. Puerto Rico has been under the rule of the United States (US) since 1898, and today, Puerto Ricans are rising up against what many consider a blatant attempt at neo-colonialism and furtherance of systemic inequalities through the continuation of total political and economic dependence. Struggling to assert sovereignty, even after having it denied of them, citizens are resisting the imposition of the “Puerto Rico Oversight, Management, and Economic Stability Act,” or the PROMESA law.

What is the PROMESA law and why is it inciting such strong opposition?

The PROMESA law, which translates to ‘promise,’ is a plan by the Natural Resources Committee of the United States House of Representatives for the establishment of a Fiscal Control Board to manage Puerto Rico’s public finances. For Puerto Ricans however, one problem lies in the fact that PROMESA grants that board the powers of a super government over the Constitution of Puerto Rico, along with general authority to restructure public debt. It is forecasted that the board will work for a minimum of five years and would consist of seven members, all selected by the President of the United States.

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Posted in Music

Madman’s Rant – David Rudder

The Caribbean is well-known for its infectious music. Whether it’s the vibrant clinking of a bottle and spoon, the dramatic beat of the tassa drum, the calming strum of the erhu violin, or the thunderous vibration of the steel-pan, music is synonymous of a Caribbean experience. The diversity of the people is reflected in the diversity of the music found throughout the region; a fusion of African, Indian, Chinese, Middle Eastern, European, and Indigenous influences. Calypso music is one of the most symbolic genres, having gained international popularity since the early 1900s, after it was developed in Trinidad and Tobago in the 17th century, traced to the West African Kaiso music brought by enslaved Africans.

Overtime, there have been countless Calypsonians who have done the genre proud, by sharing positive or noteworthy messages about society and politics. One such person is David Rudder. Born in Belmont, Trinidad and Tobago, Rudder grew up surrounded by pannists at the nearby Belmont panyard, started singing at a young age, and even sang backup vocals for Lord Kitchener, who is known as the grandmaster of calypso. His music has been coloured by his various religious backgrounds – Spiritual Baptist, Anglican, and Catholic, and the authenticity of his reaching into the past and drawing on the deep African roots of the genre. With such tremendous influences around him, David Rudder became one of the most successful calypsonians in the world.

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Posted in International Relations

Brexit & the Caribbean: A case of Dependency

From Belize in the north to Trinidad and Tobago in the south, and the array of beautiful island nations between, Caribbean people share a crucial characteristic which has shaped the Caribbean identity existing today – a tumultuous history of slavery and indentureship. African slavery and European colonisation in the Caribbean are inseparable; it was the basis upon which our societies were developed. For centuries, human beings were imported in mass quantities, untold millions, across the Atlantic Ocean and made to work under inhumane conditions. For the English-speaking Caribbean, this reality entwined our countries with the economies and societies of the colonial master – Britain. These ties, although ostensibly cut, still hold a very real noose around the Caribbean economy today; understanding this idea is key to understanding the effects of Britain’s exit (Brexit) from the European Union (EU) on the Caribbean.

It brings to question whether Caribbean nations are truly free from colonisation or have fallen prey to neo-colonialism. According to the Caribbean Dependency Theory, an economic and socio-political review raises the belief that ‘freedom’ and ‘emancipation’ have been an illusion proliferated by the powerful metropolis in order to maintain domination instigated by colonisers. It suggests that even today the decisions of the neo-colonisers have major trickledown effects, depicting how the aforementioned ties still define and control the Caribbean reality. This leaves Caribbean economies highly vulnerable and ensnared in a cycle of debt and dependency.

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