Posted in Caribbean Connections

When Architecture Tells A Story

As of July 2016, there were 1,052 United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) World Heritage Sites scattered across the globe. They are considered to have cultural or natural value and so should be safeguarded for future generations. There are currently 22 UNESCO sites spread across 13 islands in the Caribbean: Barbados, Bermuda, Cuba, Curaçao, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Haiti, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, Suriname, Puerto Rico, Belize, and Jamaica. 15 of these have a cultural designation and 7 have a natural designation, and Cuba dominates the list, with a total of 9 UNESCO Heritage Sites.

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The high level of diversity in the Caribbean is evident in these Sites, but they also give a peek into the history and complexities of the region. A region whose cultural identity has been impacted by many forces and is tied to a colonial past.

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Posted in Caribbean Connections, International Relations

Thaw in the Time of Trump

With President Trump’s stance against immigration, what will be become of recent progress in the U.S. – Cuba relations?

Cuba’s relationship with the United States of America (U.S.) has been afflicted with scepticism and antagonism since 1959. This was the year Fidel Castro and a group of revolutionaries eliminated Fulgencio Batista’s U.S. – backed regime in Havana and began reshaping the country’s social and economic systems. Establishment of a socialist state allied with the Soviet Union began, and for the next 50 years, each U.S. administration implemented and enforced policies that economically and diplomatically isolated the Caribbean country and further strained Cuba – U.S. relations.

There was a wisp of hope on the horizon when, on 17th December 2014, U.S. President Barack Obama and Cuban President Raúl Castro had the first face-to-face discussion between U.S. and Cuban heads of state in more than half a century. They announced the beginning of a process to normalise relations between the two countries. The leaders initiated meetings to restore full diplomatic ties and eased travel restrictions. Many had strong doubts it would come to be, but then came the election of U.S. President Donald Trump.

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Posted in Caribbean Connections, gender

#LifeInLeggings: Caribbean Women Reclaim Power

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Gender-Based Violence (GBV) and sexual harassment are issues of increasing importance in Caribbean society, where women are hyper-sexualised and masculinity is often demonstrated in the ability to exert power over women. However, Caribbean women have been rising up against GBV by using social media as a tool. A great example of this is the #LifeInLeggings movement. This online mobilization encourages women who are victims of GBV and sexual harassment to use the hashtag to help educate society about the prominence of the issue, change male attitudes and behaviours toward women, and develop policies to support women who are affected by GBV.

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Posted in Caribbean Connections

The Greatest Show on Earth

It is impossible not to notice when Carnival season comes around in the Caribbean. Months in advance, Soca and Calypso music (and all their variations) take over the airwaves, and as February draws near, fêtes (parties) are in greater abundance and a multitude of tourists flock to our shores from far and wide. Then you know, it is undeniably Carnival season.

On the 27th and 28th of February this year, masqueraders will descend upon the streets of Trinidad and Tobago, Guadeloupe, Haiti, and Martinique, and other Caribbean countries. They will don vibrant costumes in raucous and colourful displays of national pride, with the biggest carnival in the Caribbean region kicking off in Port-of-Spain, Trinidad.

Various versions of Carnival take place all around the world, but what makes the Caribbean Carnival so popular? What keeps people religiously coming back each year? Some locals would say “It’s a vibe, it’s a feeling,” but at the crux of Caribbean Carnival is its culture. Culture is a top commodity for the region, feeding the tourism industry, which is the crown jewel for the majority of those islands.

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Posted in Caribbean Connections, Environment

Sustainable Tourism in the Caribbean

12593495_1031408240216035_1785622583137120740_oLas Cuevas Beach in Trinidad

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 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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