Abundant and Inventive Caribbean People So Very Unafraid of Poverty

When the Jamaican legend Bob Marley sang
In the abundance of water, the fool is thirsty,

he was referring to the wide expanse of opportunity generated by Caribbean people evolving out of the crucible of slavery and indenture as one of their key learning experiences upon  arrival in this new, strange world they came to  know as home.

Without coming to a clear realization of the many treasures wrapped around  their  fingers, our ancestors valiantly sought to rediscover themselves in new identities hitherto unimagined.

This new quest was channeled  into the blind search for mechanisms to cope with an oppressive present that loomed so large and ominous that it was a case of hell or high water or devil take the hind most.

This is how they found themselves instinctively breaking the branch of a hibiscus  plant,  crushing it at the end and creating a home-made disposable tooth brush called a datwan.

Looking for a quick meal? No problem: just grab two big stones and place them together with some wood in the middle and, using a new-found  flat    iron , you simply spread well-kneaded flour on oil to produce a bake or a roti to be shared by all just like in today’s  pizza hut.

What about washing your  family’s dirty clothes? Go to the river bank and, amidst the rich laughter and raucous jokes which can be

barely discerned above the rush and roar of the nearby falls, simply dip the clothes  by selected parts into the water, soap then  slam it clean of dirt on the rocks of the river bank.

For gourmet food, you may secretly salvage the discarded bones, feet and tails of animals killed  for the master and transform them into the main ingredients of a beautiful, nutritious ox tail  soup or pig foot souse.

You marvel at your magical concoction as you watch  the house master –  so pleasantly surprised at its delicious taste  –  repeatedly collects his Saturday share, drinking it down so  voraciously  that he does not feel any sting from  the hot sauce running  down the sides of his arms and his big white belly. 

These actions represented the signature moves by our people who overcame their new world and cut a path along which their children could pursue their destiny.

It was almost as if, like the black man  without roots in Orlando Patterson’s “An Absence of Ruins”,  preoccupied  himself with  things which he did not understand but could not afford to discard.

Listen to Patterson: 

I am busy going nowhere, but I have to keep up the pretence of going to going in order to forget that I am not.    

The Guyanese poet Martin Carter expressed a similar feeling when he declared 

I do not live to dream

But dream to change the world

As all these pioneers  have been continuously throwing themselves  forward against all of dreams with hope and faith as the sacred talismans to help them realize their goals and aspirations, written in a language their auditory reception systems  still have problems understanding, yet visioning  on for the children they will never see. 

They have been doggedly changing the landscape to cut and fit  their own culture in  their own special way of being  while at the same time learning to live with the rest of elements of a motley crew that comprises the new West Indian civilization.

 Chinese, Portuguese, German Jews, Lebanese, Syrians, British, Irish, French,  free blacks and “Merikens”: so many   different peoples who came here – and are spawning new, unique species –  mainly at the invitation  of an enterprising Spanish governor named Don Jose Maria Chacon who wanted to swell the island with foreigners to  augment the small Spanish and fast dwindling native Amerindian populations in his charge.

This is the rich history reflected in the various exciting names and landmarks spread throughout the Caribbean such as in

  • Port of Spain, Trinidad, after the Spanish presence
  • Champs Fleur, east Trinidad, where the slaves fled in search of peace and quiet from their white slave hunters
  • The beautiful confusion that runs through every platform of our politics
  • The Maroons of Jamaica
  • Indian Trail and Calcutta #1, 2 and 3 – where the East Indians worked the sugar fields, and
  • Fort Richmond, Grenada, where Prime Minister Maurice Bishop was assassinated.
  • The numerous different houses of religion and places of worship spotted over the region
  • The Temple in the Sea, built  by Sewdass Sadhu, Waterloo, Trinidad

This is the same phenomenon which abounds in the various mixtures of blood lines as reflected in the special architecture of the women, especially in Trinidad where each individual considers his or herself to be a republic as people seek expression of self in their finest hour.

Could this be the reason therefore why we now spread out our wings  all over the world as we invade the lands of our previous master and take control in the very enterprises and systems which they had used to bring us to heel and to hell?

Look at how we are reigning in all kingdoms with people like:

  • Kamala Harris is Vice President of the USA
  • Derek Walcott of St Lucia and Vidya Naipaul of Trinidad and Tobago won Nobel Laureates in Literature.
  • When African Hero Nelson Mandela came to Trinidad he tried hard to not show his rage to a beaming Prime Minister Patrick Manning  who – mistakenly  thinking that Mandela would be most pleased  to meet with him as PM of TT first – inadvertently omitted to include  World Cricket Star Brian Lara  in the welcoming party.

A most apologetic Manning later arranged for the  Prince of Port of Spain to be flown  to personally meet the now happy Mandela.

*The Steelband, Calypso and Carnival of Trinidad and Tobago is a most sought after gem all over the world

*As is the Reggae of Jamaica, The Oistins Fish festival of Barbados and the Hosay of Trinidad and Guyana.

* And what about Angel Falls of Guyana

With all this going for Caribbean people, it’s inevitable that we shall soon take over this world of clay and mould it into the  ideal piece of work which, apart from the fine material emanations in our new construction, we can also envision and actualize the best  outcomes of what is most possible for a people who’s time has come.

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