We say we are “Caribbean” like we’re really all one ubiquitous people connected by something other than location. We do have a common spirit linked by rhythm, color, passion and a level of afrocentricity. But the language barrier between the Spanish, English, French and Dutch islands makes it so that we may as well all be at a family reunion where no one knows anyone else, and every cousin is five times removed.
On an average day, those of us from the English-speaking Caribbean don’t cross reference with each other, much less with folks from the Spanish-speaking islands. When we come to the US, we often gather with our own nationals, but feel like kindred spirits when we hear the sing-song lilt of another English island accent. We may begin to mingle with Trinidadians and Jamaicans who share reggae and soca, Bajans who gave us Rihanna, and so on. But while Americans often think to visit the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico for a Caribbean experience, a West Indian person will usually want to visit the US if they’re still back home, or want to go back home if they’re in the US. We just typically like our adventures presented in a language we easily understand.
That said, among the three largest Spanish speaking islands it is Cuba, the one treated like a pariah by the US that is most present in our general consciousness. The island’s communist regime and decades old friction with the United States has perhaps cast a bit of a stigma on Cuba in our eyes. Regardless, the Engilsh-speaking Caribbean islands have continued to maintain diplomatic relations with her.
Most of us don’t know why the chasm between Cuba and the United States has remained so wide and deep when so many other previously strained international relationships with the US have been resolved. We do know that the idea of ostracizing so many of our fifth cousins so harshly and for such a long time, doesn’t seem right.
Calibe Thompson is a personality, author and the Executive Producer of “Taste the Islands”, premiering on South Florida’s WPBT2 on April 27th at 7:30PM. For your free preview of her 2015 collection of writings, Things I Probably Shouldn’t Say, visit www.calibe.net.