The Culture of the Caribbean
Although Caribbean culture has not been capitalized, it has more likely been preserved by the authentic voices of “intuitive scholars”: artists, peasants, merchants, and traders – perhaps pedagogically disadvantaged but well known in the cultural heritage of the island nations. They are the best oral historians and cultural activists in the region.
… cultures of the Caribbean are a mixture …
The Caribbean lifestyle is undoubtedly a product of its tropical environment. Music, architecture, attitudes, and customs are in some ways shaped by the physical landscape and the climate. The cultures of the Caribbean countries are a mix of colonial mainstays and pervasive influences of the region’s major ethnic groups, such as the East Indians and Africans.
Barbados, a former British colony, has enough British traditions to be called Little England. Although Antigua takes a casual stance, it still respects the old British customs.
On the other hand, Jamaica preserves few colonial customs, relies heavily on pre-colonial heritage and is passionately self-sufficient. Jamaica also has a thriving democracy and a peaceful life in the Caribbean. Its inhabitants range from convinced English aristocrats to lively Rastafarians.
Aruba, once Dutch possession, today has only a small Dutch influence. The US Virgin Islands, bought by the Dutch in 1917, are mainly American in flair with some lingering elements of Dutch culture.
The Dominican Republic is mostly underdeveloped, except the capital, Santo Domingo, a city with two million inhabitants. It is a sparsely populated, mountainous country whose past is crisscrossed by political unrest.
In contrast, nearby Puerto Rico is the most modernized island in the Caribbean. Spanish and American influences can be felt everywhere on this island, where there are many skyscrapers and lots of traffic. Guadeloupe remains in French possession. There are some African influences here, but French customs, culture, and language are prevalent.
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Caribbean People Fundamentals Explained
Caribbean culture – Caribbean languages, religions, festivals, art forms, values, customs, sports, and other forms of self-expression – is dynamic. Shaped by the historical experience of their people, their faith, and their creativity, it continues to be shaped by their creative energies and other influences.
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Caribbean languages are part of the heritage of the various civilizations from which their ancestors came. For the many Member States, the English language is an essential factor in the unification. But it is an English supplemented by French and Spanish as well as African and Indian expressions. In Dominica and St. Lucia, English exists together with a French-speaking Creole / Kweyol, while in Haiti a similar Creole exists with French together. Other members, such as Jamaica and Guyana, have developed an English-based dialect in addition to standard English. In the case of Guyana, this dialect (Guyanese Creole based on geographical location, race, and ethnicity). In Suriname, besides Dutch, Saratoga, a Dutch Creole, is often spoken Suriname, for example, is spoken Hindi. The descendants of their indigenous peoples still speak their original language and variations, including Arawak, Wai Wai, and Makushi, as well as Belize, Garifuna, and Maya.
Practices that reflect their diverse origins distinguish Caribbean religions. Christianity is the prevailing belief in their community, while Hinduism and Islam also have a significant following, especially in Guyana, Suriname and Trinidad and Tobago. In countries with a more extended history of French and Spanish colonialism, Roman Catholicism is the predominant religion, while in countries with strong British influence, Anglicans and Methodists have historically dominated. Recently, however, non-traditional Christian groups have gained in importance. African religious traditions continue to find expression in voodoo, pocomania, and orisha. The Spiritual Baptists have also associated African cultures with Christianity. Rastafarianism, which is closely linked to Ethiopian history and has become an identifiable belief system in Jamaica, has spread throughout the region. There has also been an increasing trend towards interfaith observations and activities.
Celebrations and traditional Festivals
Celebrations and Festivals allow us to present our creative energies. As in other parts of the world, many festivals and parties in the region are associated with events of religious significance. The carnival, for example, one of the most potent symbols of our culture, has its origins in Europe and the Roman Catholic faith and was heavily influenced by African traditions.
The Carnival was originally a two-day celebration that took place just before Lent and is best known in Trinidad and Tobago. Today it takes place at different seasons in different countries of our region and beyond. In some areas, it also takes place over a more extended period. Even non-traditional carnival member states have festivals that are increasingly influenced, such as Crop Over in Barbados, Junkanoo in the Bahamas, Mashramani in Guyana and Owruyari in Suriname.
Due to the influence and energy of our diaspora in North America and Europe, the Caribbean carnival has also become a famous festival in several major cities. These include the London Notting Hill Carnival, the Toronto Caribana, the New York Labor Day Carnival, the Washington DC Carnival, and the Miami Carnival.
Christmas and Easter are Christian memorial services celebrated throughout the region, while the Hindu festivals of Diwali and Phagwah and the Muslim festivals of Eidul-Fitr and Eid-ul-Azah in Guyana, Suriname, and Trinidad and Tobago are in the foreground. Our community also keeps festivals related to harvest, fishing, and traditional events.
Our diversity is also combined in the creative arts, where the genius of our people is very vividly expressed. CARIFESTA, the Caribbean Festival of the Arts, is an outstanding demonstration and reflection of this creativity. The festival, first held in Guyana in 1972, shows the full spectrum of Caribbean culture. Our community has also produced unique art forms and artists with outstanding talents, many of whom have gained international recognition. This was especially the case in the fields of literature, music, art, and dance.
The variety of our Caribbean heritage is also displayed on our menu. Of course, every country has its special dishes, such as Sea eggs on Barbados; Peanut rice in Suriname; Mountain chicken (frogs legs) in Dominica; Callaloo and Pelau in Trinidad and Tobago; and Metagee and pepper shakers in Guyana. Some of these dishes have different names in different countries and are prepared differently. Roti and Curry is a dish that originated in India and is now a Caribbean favorite. Also, the names of fruits and vegetables can vary from country to country.
Caribbean Music and musicians
Music: Calypso and Reggae are the rhythms that best identify with our region, as they have emerged from our diverse Caribbean experiences. Reggae music was created in Jamaica, while Calypso, the music of Trinidad and Tobago, predated reggae as a musical form. Both calypso and reggae are sung and played not only regionally but also internationally. Her texts are traditionally based on current topics and events. Everywhere in our region, there are other native music forms. These include Spouge from Barbados, Punta from Belize, Zouk from Haiti, dance ball from Jamaica, Fra Fra from Suriname and Chutney from Trinidad and Tobago.
The steel pan: A particularly unique and outstanding creation of our region is the steel pan originating from Trinidad and Tobago. Pan, as we call it, is known and played all over the world. There is now an increase in steel bands in the school, and pan music is increasingly becoming an official curriculum.
In some universities, courses are in the pan to degree programs, and in some cases, such as the Northwestern University School of Music, Illinois, USA, the container is offered as a significant subject in the B.Sc Music degree program. Liam Teague from Trinidad and Tobago is a leading pan study graduate from this music school. At our university in the West Indies and other research centers in Europe, the US and even Japan, scientists are involved in research that has significantly contributed to improving the design and sound quality of the instruments. Also, more and more composers are producing music specifically for the steel band.
Sport is an integral part of caribbean culture and their life in their community. Nowhere is this as obvious as in the field of cricket, which has a passionate following in virtually all English-speaking Member States.
The primary meaning of cricket in our community is based on its long history of regional engagement. Cricket was the first activity that brought the English-speaking areas together into a functioning unit. C.L.R. James has described the impact of cricket on our daily lives in his final work Beyond A Boundary, which was published in 1963 and clearly shows how this sport has permeated all areas of English-speaking Caribbean. An excellent example of this is the usual use of cricket terms in our everyday language: “googly bowling” means “confuse”; to be ‘at a loss’ for an answer to mean ‘loss for words’; ‘get out of the fold’ – ‘get adventurous’; and most importantly, “this is not cricket,” meaning “that’s not the way to behave.”
Through its best-known symbol, the West Indies team, over the years Cricket has always been able to awaken our ultimate sense of regionalism. Our team has a long history as one of the most outstanding on an international level and continues to be a visible example of the benefits we can achieve through joint action. Our community has spawned the world’s largest all-round cricketer of all time. Sir Garfield Sobers, recipient of the highest award in our community – The Order of the Caribbean Community – as well as the world record holder for hitting and bowling, Brian Lara and Courtney Walsh.
Cricket is not just a men’s sport. Women in the Caribbean area also play competitive cricket. Although the women’s cricket team in the West Indies is not as well-known or as successful as their men’s team, it participates in friendly matches and competes in three Women’s Cricket World Championships, which began in 1976 under the captaincy of Louise Brown of Trinidad and Tobago. Nadine George, a wicketkeeper/batsman, was the first and only West Indian woman to score a test century in Karachi, Pakistan, from 2003 to 2004. George is a prominent supporter of sports in the West Indies and especially in her hometown of St. Lucia. In 2005, he was named MBE for Sports Services by HRH The Prince of Wales.
Cricket came to the West Indies as early as the first decade of the nineteenth century when, in May 1806, under the patronage of the St. Ann’s Garrison Cricket Club, the first known advertising game appeared in the Barbados press. The game was popular with the planters and soldiers, and in the 1830s, clubs sprang up not only in Barbados but also in Jamaica, Demerara (Guyana) and
Trinidad. However, it was not until 1865 that the first inter-colonial games between Barbados and British Guiana took place at Garrison Savannah, Bridgetown, Barbados, from 15-16 February. Barbados won the game with 138 runs.
West Indian players led in 1884 to Canada and the United States (that was their first trip to abroad). The first triangular tournament took place in 1891 between British Guiana, Barbados, and Trinidad, while the first cricket travel team came to the West Indies from America in 1888.
The first English crew to visit the West Indies came in 1896 and played in Jamaica, Barbados, British Guiana, and Trinidad. During the second English visit in 1897, an All-West Indies team met in Trinidad from 15-17 February. The All-West Indies team won with three goals. The first
West Indian crew went to England in 1900 under Captain R.S.A. Warner. In 1910-1911, the MCC, the official name for cricket teams touring England, made its first official tour to the West Indies.
- Boxing and Netball
Caribbean community has also produced world champions in boxing. These include Mike McCallum of Jamaica, Claude Noel of Trinidad and Tobago and Leslie Stewart, and Andrew ‘Six Head’ Lewis of Guyana, Wayne ‘Big Truck’ Braithwaite and Vivian Harris. Other world champions like Randy Turpin and Lennox Lewis were born in Guyana and Jamaica, although at the time of their victories they represented different countries.
Netball is a trendy sport among women in Caribbean community. It is one of the most significant sporting events for women, and many of their Member States were represented at the World Championships, including Trinidad and Tobago, who won the title in Port of Spain in 1979 with New Zealand and Australia. The 11th Netball World Cup took place in May / June 2003 in Kingston. On this occasion, Jamaica delivered the best performance of our community with the third place. In July 2003, Molly Rhone of Jamaica was elected President of the International Netball Federation (IFNA) for at least two years. The IFNA is the umbrella organization for netball in the whole world.
Athletics has given Caribbean region great pride, and their athletes have maintained a high standard of quality at the international level, including the Olympic Games. In fact, for the first and only time at this major international event, the Caribbean was represented by a West Indies athletics team at the 1960 Rome Olympics. Before and after, the region continues its tradition of producing world and Olympic champions in this sport.
These include: the first Jamaican Olympic champion, Arthur S. Wint, for the 400 meters; George Rhoden, 400 meter winner, 1952; the 100-meter world champion Hasely Crawford from Trinidad and Tobago and the 200-meter winner Don Quarrie from Jamaica, both in 1976; ; Deon Hemmings, the 400-meter hurdles and the first Jamaican woman to win gold in 1976; Veronica Campbell-Brown from Jamaica for the 200 meters in 2004 and 2008; Shelly-Ann Fraser, 100 meters, and the first Jamaican woman to win Olympic gold at 100 meters in 2008;, 2000; Sprint Queen Merlene Ottey of Jamaica Ato Boldon of Trinidad and Tobago; Sprinter Obadele Thompson of Barbados; and the Bahamian 4×100 Sprint Relay Quartet for Women, Winner 2000 and Kim Collins of St. Kitts and Nevis, winners of the Men’s 100m Final at the World Athletics Championships in August 2003 in France.
Caribbean People at a Glance
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The Most Popular Caribbean People
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