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"Caribbean"?

What does “Caribbean” mean? Is it just a geographical description, or a cultural definition, an aspiration, a state of mind? I’ve been thinking about the question of “Caribbeanness” a lot lately, and a few days ago I jotted down some of my thoughts over at my personal blog. Here’s some of what Lloyd Best wrote on the subject back in 1971, in his seminal essay “Independent Thought and Caribbean Freedom”. This most recent bout of musing was triggered off by this post over at David “Oso” Sasaki’s blog, in which he wonders how best to define “Caribbean” for the purposes of Global Voices–i.e. whether territories like Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, and Belize should be covered by GV’s Caribbean editor (our own Georgia Popplewell) or their “rest of the Americas” editor, David himself.

I’d be very interested to hear what readers think–not just on the specific Global Voices division-of-turf question, but on the bigger question of what “Caribbean” really means, or can or could mean–in its widest sense. Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below–and, Caribbean bloggers, why not post something on the subject at your individual blogs? There’s obviously no hard and fast answer, but a round of collective self-searching might produce some fascinating, unexpected results.

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Nicholas Laughlin

Nicholas is the editor of Caribbean Beat and editor of The Caribbean Review of Books (CRB). He is also one of the administrators of the contemporary arts space Alice Yard and the Bocas Lit Fest (The Trinidad & Tobago Literary Festival). His reviews, essays, and poems have been published in various periodicals.View Author posts

3 thoughts on “"Caribbean"?”

  1. I think people expect too much from the concept of togetherness. Ever noticed that the more "together" you are/feel with something or someone, the more you tend to take it for granted. Over the years, we have taken for granted what it means to be "Caribbean" or "West Indian". Or was there any meaning to start with?

    Not sure. But here are my thoughts. I think that we are easily defined as a group of islands. A geographic definition. Being Caribbean as a Trinidadian, sometimes means being mistaken to be Jamaican. Then there is the wow factor. "Mate! It must be so cool living close to the beach!"

    As islands, we have our different dislikes and nods of approval for each other. But when it comes to brass tax, we stand alone. As independent nations, for that is what we are.

    I think the Federation idea how many moons ago, would have been the diluting of our identities as islands. Which to me, would have been an absolute waste.

    I read somewhere the other day, that Trinidad and Tobago is the industrial powerhouse of the region. Exactment I say! No other island can boast of that. Individuality. And what of Barbados and Jamaica as tourism powerhouses? And the smallers islands for their spices and pink and black sands. Bananas. The list goes on. We are all different. Individual.

    Only in Grenada do you say "Ankle" for "Uncle. And the Bajans know how to wuk it up. Only pipsers like Lara and Yorke could come from T&T. And yeah plant going up in Point Lisas like mad.

    The music scene is increasingly competitive. Soca, Dancehall even the Jazz Festival scene. Dancehall is going mainstream. Soca will follow. But then Soca is found on the European house scene with beats reminscent of Chris "Tambu" Herbert, beckoning me to chip on the dancefloor. So we not doing too bad.

    Living amongst the first-worlders, I know that they yearn for someething different. But they can only handle one at a time.

    One thing I have learned living in London, is that nothing is before its time.

    Bringing me back to the Caribbean.

    The time is near for us to face the world as a region on the economy front. For we cannot sustain ourselves as separate entities. Actually, of course we can. But together we can do more.

    But people-wise, sport-wise, accent-wise, food-wise, we are very different as islands. As a Trini, our qualifying for the World Cup has nothing to do with a victory of the region. is a T&T ting. And I never smile and walk away when my accent is mistaken for Jamaican.

    But i do smile if I hear a Jamaican accent on the platform far less the Trini man at Earl's Court station.

    They remind me of home. My home in the Caribbean.

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