Guess who’s back!
Hey there, communication enthusiasts. This marks the beginning of a new vein in The Art of Communication. Today begins our journey into the world of communication within the Caribbean context. And what better way to start than by telling you a little more about the Caribbean?
Let’s hop to it!
When people ask me where I live, I say “Barbados”, a little tiny island in the Caribbean. I used to get extremely irritated when I was asked if Barbados is a part of Jamaica or some such thing. But what is it that people really think of when I say ‘the Caribbean’?
I could imagine for many people outside of the Caribbean, it’s the popular places – Jamaica, Trinidad, the Bahamas maybe. For others it might be the ‘infamous’ places – Cuba and Haiti, the Dominican Republic. Some within the Caribbean only consider the English-speaking countries. When it comes down to it, it’s really hard to map out where the Caribbean ends or begins.
This confusion is actually what makes the Caribbean such an interesting place to study. It’s a historical, cultural and linguistic hodgepodge of a place.
So how do we go about defining this word, ‘Caribbean’?
Apart from the history of the word ‘Caribbean’ emerging out of the etymon ‘caribe’ – which the Spanish conquistadors used as an excuse to label, disparage, and exterminate the indigenous peoples – the history of the Caribbean itself comprises a legacy of metropolitan dominance, forced labour and territory wars.
Historically, Caribbean people are all united by the similarity of their struggle against colonial powers like the British, Spanish, French, Dutch, and sometimes even the Danish and the Swedish.
See why we have such a diverse population now? Each power, each labourer brought with him/her the customs and culture of their country, and those cultures interacted to form creole cultures.
I suppose then it becomes easy to separate the Caribbean different by which place was ruled by who, or even for some countries to want to distance themselves from such a tragic back-story, but it seems so…separatist. How ironic.
The thing is people also try to look at geographically. The same way we can ascertain the state borders in the US and we see those lovely signs that say: “Welcome to” this state or “Now Leaving” another state.
The Caribbean just seems to be one giant grey area in comparison. We want to say “any island touched by the Caribbean Sea” or “any island in the island chain” but either way, the generalised claims we attempt to make always seem to include or exclude someone.
We don’t all share the same political structure either. We got another potluck that consists of colonial dependencies, independent states and associated states; we’ve got mainland territories, and large and small island states.
Ethnoculturally, we’ve got all sorts of combinations happening too. Europeans, West Africans, East Indians, and Asians all interact and intermingle to produce arguably one of the most ethnically, linguistically and politically diverse areas of the world.
Can you tell I’m proud to be from the Caribbean yet? No? Let me tell you what being Caribbean means to me then.
We’ve just been over how difficult it is to define and/or demarcate where the Caribbean starts or ends. I think that the inability to define it is actually a good thing. I literally live in the heart of something that breaks the mold. I live in the middle of this place that has maintained the reputation of underdog borne out of its tragedy, and transformed that reputation into something that is surprisingly and subtly powerful.
My whole region teaches me a life lesson every time I think about it. Do you know how beautiful it is to be a poster child for one of the most tragic periods in human history and come out a strong as we have? Resilience. Individuality.
So welcome to the Caribbean.
You are here.
A little Caribbean island girl