• Romy St. Hilaire

A Radical Caribbean Imagination

In the western gaze, the Caribbean is seen as this tropical lush playground meant for the rich and famous. Wealthy snowbirds from Canada, The US, and Europe escape their winters to vacation in paradise. Half of the Antillean archipelago is still actively colonized by the Americans, English, French, and Dutch. The independent nations include Haiti, Cuba, Dominican Republic, and recently Barbados who became fully independent by detaching their sovereignty from England as a commonwealth realm like Jamaica or Antigua. These islands are often economically punished for their liberation and are still forced to depend on a tourist economy in a state of pseudo policed sovereignty. The social and political situation on the islands vary drastically and are often under the sway of western powers and their best interest. All of this not to mention the massive brain drain and emigration from a region lacking sustainable life mobility as well as damaging effects of climate change.

These islands are rich in diversity (the region speaking dozens of languages both colonial and native creole/patois and having dozens of racial identities a majority of which are black). With all that the region has to offer in terms of beauty, natural resources, and creativity its potential is often squandered by the crushing forces of colonial powers wanting to capitalize its goods for themselves. Decolonization often is used in the context of institutions and systemic oppression but what about the work needed to decolonize active colonial lands. Caribbean thought leaders like Marcus Garvey, Frantz Fanon, Aimé Césaire ect. were all coconspirators in what shaped pan-Africanism, black liberation movements, supporting Palestinian liberation efforts, and more. This region feeds and inspires many liberatory movements. Haiti for instance being the first self-liberated black republic inspired leaders like Simón Bolívar to create waves of change in Latin American countries like Colombia and Venezuela to gain their independence.

How does a region filled with radical imagination and possibility be reduced to a cruise ship destination with little context for its cultural and historical realities? How is it that a majority of its highly educated and skilled workers are forced to migrate elsewhere in order to have sustainable lives? This regional brain drain and exportation of valuable talent has deprived the Caribbean of realizing its fullest potential as a sovereign land. I am passionate about art and believe that art can be an active tool for justice and liberation. Creativity opens the individual to a collective imagination that can transform realities. Some of the work I want to explore is how to integrate that potential in a region forced to dilute its creative capital for cheap tourist dollars.

Tourism is the dominant economic sector in most of the Caribbean with the exportation of natural resources being second. The region is filled with potential for growth and development but I believe that first has to start with changing a collective imagination for locals on the islands. Education, creativity, and access to technology could radically reimagine the Caribbean and it will be exciting to see what future realities could look like in the Caribbean Antilles.

This is the first of a series of Caribbean-themed blog posts. Follow to stay connected

#caribbean #decolonization #liberation #art


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