Digital Library of the Caribbean Universidad de Puerto Rico

Material Information

Uniform Title:
Sargasso (Río Piedras, San Juan, P.R.)
Added title page title:
Abbreviated Title:
Sargasso (Río Piedras San Juan P. R.)
Physical Description:
v. : ; 28 cm.
University of Puerto Rico (Ri´o Piedras Campus) -- Dept. of English
University of Puerto Rico (Río Piedras Campus) -- Dept. of English
Place of Publication:
Ri´o Piedras P.R
Río Piedras, P.R
Creation Date:
Copyright Date:
twice a year[2002-]
two no. a year[ former 1984]
irregular[ former <1987>-2001]


Subjects / Keywords:
Caribbean literature -- Periodicals   ( lcsh )
Caribbean literature -- History and criticism -- Periodicals   ( lcsh )
Puerto Rican literature -- Periodicals   ( lcsh )
Puerto Rican literature -- History and criticism -- Periodicals   ( lcsh )
review   ( marcgt )
Spatial Coverage:
Puerto Rico


Additional Physical Form:
Also issued online.
Chiefly English, with some French and Spanish.
Dates or Sequential Designation:
Vol. 1, no. 1-no. 10 (2000) ; 2001-
Numbering Peculiarities:
Volume designation dropped with no. 3; issue for 2001 lacks numbering; issues for 2002- called 2002, 1-
Issuing Body:
Edited by the faculty and graduate students of the English Dept., University of Puerto Rico.
General Note:
Title from cover.
General Note:
Some issues have also distinctive titles.
General Note:
Latest issue consulted: 2004-05,2.
General Note:
Has occasional special issues.

Record Information

Source Institution:
University of Puerto Rico
Holding Location:
University of Puerto Rico
Rights Management:
All applicable rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier:
oclc - 12797847
lccn - 85643628
issn - 1060-5533
alephbibnum - 002422411
System ID:


Material Information

Uniform Title:
Sargasso (Río Piedras, San Juan, P.R.)
Added title page title:
Abbreviated Title:
Sargasso (Río Piedras San Juan P. R.)
Physical Description:
v. : ; 28 cm.
University of Puerto Rico (Ri´o Piedras Campus) -- Dept. of English
University of Puerto Rico (Río Piedras Campus) -- Dept. of English
Place of Publication:
Ri´o Piedras P.R
Río Piedras, P.R
Creation Date:
Copyright Date:
twice a year[2002-]
two no. a year[ former 1984]
irregular[ former <1987>-2001]


Subjects / Keywords:
Caribbean literature -- Periodicals   ( lcsh )
Caribbean literature -- History and criticism -- Periodicals   ( lcsh )
Puerto Rican literature -- Periodicals   ( lcsh )
Puerto Rican literature -- History and criticism -- Periodicals   ( lcsh )
review   ( marcgt )
Spatial Coverage:
Puerto Rico


Additional Physical Form:
Also issued online.
Chiefly English, with some French and Spanish.
Dates or Sequential Designation:
Vol. 1, no. 1-no. 10 (2000) ; 2001-
Numbering Peculiarities:
Volume designation dropped with no. 3; issue for 2001 lacks numbering; issues for 2002- called 2002, 1-
Issuing Body:
Edited by the faculty and graduate students of the English Dept., University of Puerto Rico.
General Note:
Title from cover.
General Note:
Some issues have also distinctive titles.
General Note:
Latest issue consulted: 2004-05,2.
General Note:
Has occasional special issues.

Record Information

Source Institution:
University of Puerto Rico
Holding Location:
University of Puerto Rico
Rights Management:
All applicable rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier:
oclc - 12797847
lccn - 85643628
issn - 1060-5533
alephbibnum - 002422411
System ID:

Full Text

25 Interviews
Celebrating Caribbean Voices

2010-11, Special Issue

1 2010-11, Special Issue

M 2010-11, Special Issue

7 Editorial
Tiempo Nuevo


The following donors made this special issue possible:

Wilfredo G6igel and Alma Simounet
Ram6n Gonzilez Cordero,
President of Empire Gas Company of Puerto Rico
Luis Martinez, President of Airs 'R Us
Jose Luis Figueroa and Marvia L6pez

SARGASSO 2010-2011, Special Issue
Celebrating Caribbean Voices: 25 Interviews

Sargasso, a peer-reviewed journal of literature, language, and culture edited at the University of
Puerto Rico, publishes critical essays, interviews, book reviews, and some poems and short stories.
Sargasso particularly welcomes material written by/about the people of the Caribbean region and
its multiple diasporas. Unless otherwise specified, essays and critical studies should conform to
the style of the MLA Handbook. Short stories should be kept to no more than 2,500 words in
length, and poems should be kept to thirty lines. All postal mail should include a S.A.S.E. See
http://humanidades.uprrp.edu/ingles/pubs/sargasso.htm for more information. For inquiries or
electronic submission, write to: sargasso@uprrp.edu.

Postal Address:

P.O. Box 22831, UPR Station
San Juan, Puerto Rico 00931-2831

Don E. Walicek, Issue Editor

Don E. Walicek, Editor
Lowell Fiet, Founding Editor
Maria Cristina Rodriguez, Book Review Editor
Katherine Miranda, Contributing Editor
Aileen Diaz, Administrative Assistant
Editorial Board
Jessica Adams, Independent Scholar
Mary Ann Gosser-Esquilin, Florida Atlantic University
Eduardo Perez Montijo, University of Puerto Rico, Arecibo
Peter Roberts, University of the West Indies, Cave Hill
Ivette Romero, Marist College
Felipe Smith, Tulane University

Jose de la Torre, President of the University of Puerto Rico
Ana R. Guadeloupe Quifones, Chancellor, Rio Piedras Campus
Jose L. Ramos Escobar, Dean of Humanities

This issue was made possible with partial support of the Faculty of General Studies.
Published in collaboration with the Editorial Tiempo Nuevo.

Layout: Marcos Pastrana
Front image: Painting "Serie Andaluza V," Manuel Bartolom6 G6mez y Romin

For journal information and subscription form visit Sargasso:

Impreso en Colombia por www.nomos.com.co

Opinions and views expressed in Sargasso are those of the individual authors and are not necessarily
shared by Sargasso's Editorial Board members. All rights return to authors. This journal is indexed by
HAPI, Latindex, MLA, and the Periodical Contents Index. Copies of Sargasso 2010-2011, SpecialIssue as
well as previous issues, are on deposit in the Library of Congress. Filed May 2011. ISSN 1060-5533.

Table of Contents

Introduction IX
Don E. Walicek

Voices of the Maroons 3
Interviews by Frances R. Botkin
Memories of Home and Cultures for the Future: Stories from 15
Montserrat, an Interview with 'Camille'
Interview by Tracey Skelton
G6nero, memorial y la vida rural: Entrevista con Dofia Placida 26
Interview by Light Carruyo
A Literary Journey The Caribs of Dominica: Survival, 36
Resistance and Resurgence
Interviews by Melinda Maxwell-Gibb

Jalil Sued Badillo y el camino hacia una historic indigena 51
Interview by Wilfredo G6igel
Another Haiti is Possible: Elie and Senatus 65
Interviews by Beverly Bell
Of Dignity and Struggle: An Interview with Alicia Rodriguez 74
Interview by Mae Teitelbaum

A True, True Teacher and Translator: An Interview with Elizabeth 91
(Betty) Wilson
Interview by Mary Ann Gosser Esquilin
Trafico cubano: Achy Obejas re-escribe la diaspora 105
Interview by Katherine Miranda
Anguilla's Oral Tradition: An Interview with Poet Patricia Adams 114
Interview by Don E. Walicek
Frank Martinus' Legacy: The Role of Native Speakers 129
as Linguists in the Advancement of Linguistics as a Science
Interview by Yolanda Rivera Castillo



Entrevue avec le Professeur Bernab6: D6fis et strategies pour la 132
preservation du Creole martiniquais
Interview by Diana Ursulin Mopsus

The Meandering Mind and the Film Image: 145
Interview with Earl Lovelace
Interview by Raquel Puig Campos
Considering Velma Pollard: A Conversation 152
Interview by Dorsia Smith
The Dialectic between the Popular and the Legitimate: A 167
Conversation with Sidney Bartley
Interview by Abdoulaye Gaye
Ras Kassa The Guru: Counterpoints 178
Interview by Marsha Pearce
The Emergence of Chutney Music: A Guyanese Perspective, 186
Interview with Ian E. Robertson
Interview by Ferne Louanne Regis

Conversation avec Maryse Cond: 'Race et identity 201
culturelle aux Antilles'
Interview by Marika Preziuso
Border Matters: An Interview with Ana-Maurine Lara 207
Interview by Sobeira Latorre
Cuando las Margaritas Hablan: Una conversaci6n 218
con Luz Maria Umpierre
Interview by Beatriz E. Ramirez Betances
Teatro cubano, teatro puertorriquefio "... las dos alas ..." Una 230
entrevista de Vivian Martinez Tabares
Interview by Lowell Fiet
Trinidad Beneath the Surface: A Conversation with Elizabeth Nufiez 235
Interview by Brooke N. Newman
List of Contributors 247

SARGASSO 2010-11, Special Issue


This special issue of Sargasso commemorates its twenty-fifth
anniversary. The journal began in 1984 as a small collaborative
effort with a strong vision, but without steady funding. Addressing
diverse Caribbean topics over the years, its issues have featured
academic essays, interviews, short fiction, poetry, and book reviews.
Today it has grown into an interdisciplinary peer-reviewed publication
with a dedicated staff and institutional support. This volume marks
these accomplishments with a collection of twenty-five interviews.
I chose the interview as the feature genre for this issue because
those previously published by Sargasso constitute an important part of
its tradition. Conversations with scholars such as Gordon Lewis and
George Lamming, for example, stake out concerns and challenges that
to this day inform conceptualizations of the Caribbean. Publishing
and translating interviews contributes to the very type of pan-
Caribbean dialogue that these and other figures identify as important
in addressing interregional relationships. Past Sargasso interviews with
respected authors from each of the region's main language groups,
among them Lorna Goodison, Luis Rafael Sanch6z, and Patrick
Chamoiseau, attest to its commitment to such efforts. These projects
have nurtured the acts of looking forward and looking back that make
anniversaries so worthy of celebration.
Several goals informed the visualization of this issue. Since its
planning stage, the volume was imagined as one that would contain
interviews in various Caribbean languages, engage various fields of
inquiry within the Humanities, include essays from various locations
within the region, give deserved attention to smaller islands infrequently
addressed by researchers, and juxtapose work by graduate students
with that of established scholars.
As the Table of Contents suggests, these goals have shaped this
final product. The volume includes interviews in English, Spanish,



and French. Diverse in terms of content, some contributions explore
research areas that have guided work in Caribbean Studies since its
inception, including the Atlantic Slave Trade, colonialism, national
sovereignty, race relations, oral culture, and migration. Other interviews
consider themes often marginalized within academia; examples include
indigenous cultural traditions, the incarceration of political prisoners,
gender and sexuality, responses to "natural" disasters, and discourses of
popular media. Regarding geography, this issue addresses the realities
of approximately a dozen Caribbean islands or countries. It includes
an interview from the Dutch Caribbean and voices from three lesser-
studied islands of the Eastern Caribbean: Anguilla, Dominica, and
Montserrat. In addition, the collection situates the voices of renowned
experts alongside those of junior scholars.
The twenty-five interviews included in this volume have been
organized in five thematic sections: memory, activism, language,
popular culture, and writing. The order in which they appear is meant
to highlight connections and tensions that exist among them. Readers
are likely to encounter links and common topics of discussion across
them, a reminder that these sections have been conceptualized as
interconnected and overlapping rather than mutually exclusive.
The first section is "Memory." In this opening selection, Francis
R. Botkin presents two Jamaican Maroon colonels, Frank Lumsden
and Wallace Sterling. Their conversations focus on the history of
their communities and the contemporary significance of Three-
Fingered Jack, a legendary runaway who lived in the late eighteenth
century. Next comes Tracey Skelton's interview with "Camille," a
young woman who ponders the meaning of home and struggle on
Montserrat during the late 1990s, the period in which the island was
transformed by a series of volcanic eruptions and the relocation of
a large percentage of its population. The conversation that follows
is equally rich in ethnographic detail. In it Dofia Placida, a woman
from rural Dominican Republic, looks back on her life as she shares
ideas about democracy, gender, and respect with Light Carruyo. Local
sociocultural dynamics also figure prominently in Melinda Maxwell
Gibb's interview with Carib Chiefs Irvince Auguiste and Garnette
Joseph on the island of Dominica. These leaders contextualize the

SARGASSO 2010-11, Spedal Issue


past in terms of their community's contemporary accomplishments
as well as its challenges, altogether undermining dominant views that
portray their culture as static and extinct.
The volume's next section draws attention to different types of
activism. It begins with Wilfredo G6igel's recognition of Jalil Sued
Badillo's contributions to knowledge about the early indigenous
societies of the Spanish Caribbean as a form of "indigenous activism."
The two interviews that follow, completed by Beverly Bell, take
place in Haiti after the country's catastrophic 2010 earthquake. Bell
presents democracy activist Patrick Elie's views on the role of the
shock doctrine in reconstruction. She also relays journalist Elizabeth
Senatus' description of impressive grassroots organization in one
of the country's many camps. Senatus describes activities like the
founding of a women's organization called Shining Star and argues
that work done at the camp level should serve as a model for national
reconstruction. Critiques of colonial dominance and the state emerge
again in Mae Teitelbaum's interview with Alicia Rodriguez, a former
political prisoner who has struggled for Puerto Rico's independence.
Rodriguez recounts her dramatic trial and the concerns behind her
denouncement of US colonialism.
The section on language begins with Mary Ann Gosser Esquilin's
interview with literary translator and educator Elizabeth ("Betty")
Wilson. Their conversation underscores the role that translation
plays in rethinking traditional notions of literary canons, establishing
comparative perspectives, and promoting scholarship on Caribbean
literature. Next, writer Achy Obejas, translator of Junot Diaz's
Pulitzer-prize winning novel, The Briefand Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao
(2007), is interviewed by Katherine Miranda. Obejas comments on the
relationship of Cuba with its diaspora and the centrality of language
in this dynamic. Issues of translation and linguistic difference also
inform my conversation with Patricia Adams, Anguilla's most well-
known poet. Her reflections on writing explore history and memory
as tools that enhance understandings of the contemporary Caribbean's
sociolinguistic realities and related social forms. In the next contribution,
Yolanda Rivera Castillo converses with Curagaoan educator, linguist,
and writer Frank Martinus. They discuss Papiamentu, native speakers'



linguistic intuitions, and theories of language competence. The other
linguist interviewed is Jean Bernab6 of Martinique, co-author of the
1989 seminal essay "Eloge de la creolit6." Speaking with Diana Ursulin
Mopsus in the last selection, he elaborates ideas about creolization,
Atlantic history, and theories of language and culture.
The fourth section is dedicated to popular culture. All of its
contributions center on the Anglophone Caribbean and three feature
Jamaicans. In the first interview, Raquel Puig Campos speaks with
award-winning writer Earl Lovelace of Trinidad and Tobago. They
discuss the significance of film in his works and its place in his larger
creative process. Following comes Dorsia Smith's conversation with
the esteemed Jamaican writer and lecturer Velma Pollard. Reflecting
on various connections between popular culture and writing, Pollard
describes her early research in Loiza, Puerto Rico, the significance
of the Caribbean short story, and social problems to be addressed
in fiction. Next, Abdoulaye Gaye discusses views of popular and
"legitimate" culture with Sidney Bartley, Director of Culture for the
Jamaican Ministry of Education, Youth, and Culture. This provocative
interview addresses the state's views on topics including African
retentions, dancehall, and the island's Creole. In the next selection,
Marsha Pearce converses with Jamaican video director and filmmaker
Ras Kassa. Ras Kassa articulates how a politics of representing
the Caribbean can create a "legacy of substance" that encompasses
politics, business, culture, and everyday life. In the final selection,
Ferne Louanne Regis interviews Ian E. Robertson about the origins of
chutney music in Guyana. Robertson argues for the gradual emergence
of this genre, integrating personal anecdotes and commenting on the
significance of regional context.
The fifth and final section, which is dedicated to writing, opens with
Marika Preziuso's interview with the acclaimed Guadaloupean author
Maryse Cond6. Their conversation probes various facets of Antillean
identity in historical and transnational context. Next, in conversation
with Sobeira La Torre, Dominican American author Ana-Maurine
Lara discusses how afro-latinidad and gender inform her writing
process. Puerto Rican poet Luz Maria Umpierre is the section's second
writer with origins in the Spanish Caribbean. Now based in the US,


Umpierre reflects on Puerto Rico's Festival de la Palabra, the literary
collective Homoerdtica, and human rights activism in an interview by
Beatriz E. Ramirez Betances. In the follow contribution, Lowell Fiet
dialogues with Vivian Martinez Tabares, researcher and Director of
Theatre at Casa de las Am6ricas in Havana, Cuba. Martinez Tabares
comments on her roles as critic and editor of the journal Conjunto and
describes various collaborations that link her to Puerto Rico. Finally,
Brooke N. Newman speaks with Elizabeth Nunez, the award-winning
author of seven novels. Nunez candidly responds to questions about
Trinidad and Tobago and her motives and goals as a writer.
While the publication of this anniversary invokes celebration, the
context within which it has been completed is a matter of great concern.
The University of Puerto Rico at Rio Piedras is currently in the midst
of one of the longest student strikes in modern American history. The
institution, along with public universities in Great Britain, Italy, The
Netherlands, The Philippines, the continental US, and other parts of
the world, faces serious challenges, among which are severe budgetary
cuts and substantial increases in tuition and fees.
For almost a full calendar year the campus has been the site of
troubling realities. The actions in question include the removal of
campus gates, higher student fees, attacks by riot squads, drops in
enrollment, police brutality, restrictions on freedom of speech, and the
banning of gatherings and peaceful protests. In addition, the bachelor
degree programs in Hispanic Studies, English linguistics, and several
other areas were recently put "on pause." These offerings may be
eliminated, as has recently happened with programs in literature and
languages in North American and European institutions. Many
believe that recent and forthcoming reforms will undermine the
integrity of academic disciplines, drastically reduce the opportunities
of students from socioeconomically disadvantaged backgrounds, and
lead to smaller numbers of university-educated professionals.
This crisis draws attention to perhaps one of the most consistent
messages across decades of scholarship on the Caribbean, the need
for a different kind of economy. The voices celebrated in this volume
represent pre-disciplinary traditions crucial to any worthwhile project
of reconstruction: dialogue, self-contemplation, negotiation, and



art. These traditions are powerful enough to show masses of real
people that economic growth can never be the ultimate human value.
Treasured by some and trampled upon by others, this latter idea has
special resonance among students demanding accessible and affordable
high quality public education in the Caribbean, a region charged
historically with the extra burden of proving that its inhabitants are
neither expendable nor inconsequential.
A splendid group of people assisted in bringing this anniversary
volume to fruition. Alma Simounet and Wilfredo G6igel deserve
special recognition and thanks. They graciously secured the additional
funding that made this volume possible. Maria Cristina Rodriguez and
Lowell Fiet backed the idea behind this project from the beginning.
Additional thanks to the members of the Sargasso Editorial Board for
their ongoing work; Katherine Miranda for comments on contributions
and stimulating advice; Aileen Diaz for assistance in daily operations
and Spanish editing; Diana Ursulin Mopsus for French editing; Alicia
Pousada for the journal's website updates; and Jonathan Correa for
assistance at the very end. I also thank the contributors for their
enthusiastic responses to this project.

Don E. Walicek, Editor
January 2011

SARGASSO 2010-11, Special Issue


History does not belong only to its narrators, professional or amateur. While some of
us debate what history is or was, others take it in their own hands.
Michel-Rolph Trouillot, Silencing the Past (1995)

Voices of the Maroons

Interviews by Frances R. Botkin
Towson University

In 1780, the notorious rebel
"Three-Fingered Jack" Mansong
escaped from slavery into the moun-
tains of Jamaica and murdered hun-
dreds of travelers before he was killed
by a Maroon in 1791. The following
interviews are part of a larger project
that uses a constellation of narratives
about Three-Fingered Jack to exam-
ine the transatlantic exchange and
transformation of stories about slav-
ery, colonialism, and their aftermaths.
The Jamaican Royal Gazette pub-
lished the first known account of Jack
Mansong (1780), issuing the gover-
nor's proclamation for the reward and
capture of the dangerous runaway.
After 1799, accounts of his life associ-
ated him with obeah (obi), an Afro-
Caribbean system of beliefs and a Three-Fingered Jack
symbol of rebellion on the Jamaican plantation. Jack's obi captured the British
imagination, prompting over twenty biographical accounts in the Romantic
period alone; adaptations of the story circulated in the US (in the nineteenth
century) and Jamaica (in the nineteenth, twentieth, and twenty-first centu-
ries). To this day, Three-Fingered Jack remains a shadowy and ambiguous
figure in Jamaican oral and literary culture.
Most accounts ofJack's life disregard or misrepresent the role of the Wind-
ward Maroons in this significant chapter of Jamaican history. The voices of
Maroon colonels Frank Lumsden and Wallace Sterling unite these legends
of black resistance in colonial Jamaica, and in doing so they illuminate the

Celebrating Caribbean Voices: 25 Interviews


dynamic and evolving process of storytelling and history in the Black Atlantic.
Eurocentric histories of the Caribbean too often neglect the lives of the Ma-
roons who were the first to successfully force the British to acknowledge their
independence. On June 23,1739, Maroon military leaders Captain Quao and
Nanny signed the Windward Peace Treaty on June 23, 1739, ending an eight-
year war with the British. In Jamaica, the Maroons continue to keep their cul-
ture and history alive in four semi-autonomous communities: Moore Town,
Charles Town, Scotts Hall, and Accompong. Colonels Frank Lumsden and
Wallace Sterling -like their counterparts in Scotts Hall and Accompong-
welcome visitors into their communities to hear their stories and learn about
their cultures.

Interview with Colonel Frank Lumsden
June 20, 2009 in Charles Town, Jamaica

Frances R. Botkin: May I ask for a formal introduction, please, Colonel

Frank Lumsden: I'm Frank Lumsden. I'm the Colonel for Charles Town and
I'm also the Public Relations Officer for the Maroon Secretary of Jamaica, a
body that was formed by all the Colonels in the formal communities. They
are Accompong, Charles Town, Moore Town, and Scott Hall. We signed this
so that we could advocate with one voice for the things that affect us most.

FRB: Can you tell me a little bit about Maroon history, about who the Maroons are?

FL: Who the Maroons are...is a [laughter]...it's a long story. However, to be
succinct, they're a people whose love for freedom was the same as a breath of
air because they could not live under slavery. And so, they were prepared to
take the first opportunity to take to the bush, which they did.
Now, the simple thing to say is that they were runaway slaves or they
were released slaves. However, it's more than that because Maroons came
with Christopher Columbus. They were cattle herders for them, they were
tradesmen, they were mercenaries and they were actually the people who
brought Columbus here. The first shipment was Moorish, and some were
Maroon leaders, the early Maroon leaders. [Like] Juan de Bolas. They

SARGASSO 2010-11, Special Issue


fought a protracted war with the British from 1655 until 1738-39 when the
British signed a peace treaty with them. For the first time in British history,
they signed a peace treaty with the Maroons.
They're mainly from the West Coast of Africa: Ashanti, Asanti, Fanti,
Cromanti people. We speak a dialect of Twi, a Ghanian dialect. And our
customs and rituals are Akan in nature. A lot of it is African retention, some
of it Caribbean invention. They fought from ambush; the idea of camouflage,
of guerilla warfare, this is really where it originated. The fighting is what re-
ally separates the Maroons from the rest of slavery, and their preparedness to
risk all for freedom.

FRB: So, Colonel, where did you grow up?

FL: I grew up in Charles Town and Buff Bay. My grand aunt, Tun Tun or
Justina Campbell, was the colonel for Charles Town.

AK: I'm sorry to interrupt, but was she the only female colonel, or have there been
other female colonels?'

FL: She, to my understanding, was the only female Colonel. But, then it's
coming from the lineage of Nanny, who herself female was the military leader,
spiritual leader for all the Maroons.
Okay. My grand aunt, Justina Campbell -or "Tun Tun" as she was named,
meaning black- was the colonel of Charles Town. She was also the spiritual-
ist, the slang, Obi woman And as I grew up, my mother would take me as a
child for frequent bush baths. These baths were to protect me from evil spirits
and from whatever negative forces that may be out there to hinder my path.
And so these bush baths would clear the road, [chanting] "Clear the road, oh,
clear the road oh, Maroon a come, clear road oh." So, today in Charles Town,
I have no fear of anyone's spells, because I know that my grand aunt would
never allow anything to happen to me.
And growing up in the bush, shooting birds, I learned all of the calls of the
birds and know birds on sight, know their habits. So that really fitted me now
for my present work as a tour guide, taking people to the tour in Sambo Hill
or the tour in ruins of the eighteenth-century coffee plantation.

1 Alan Kolb, videographer, joins the conversation from behind the camera.

Celebrating Caribbean Voices: 25 Interviews


INTRVR2: So, when you were growing up in Charles Town and Buff Bay did
you know the story ofThree Finger Jack? Can you tell me what you ever learned or
heard about Three Finger Jack?

FL: There are many stories about Three Finger Jack or Jack Mansong. But,
perhaps the most appealing or the closest is from Shackleton, Bobo Shackle-
ton, who through oral history, he was telling me about the capture of Three
Finger Jack: that Quashee, the Maroon, actually cut off two of his fingers in
an earlier dispute, was seeking him, and he was told by the very same Obi
woman who was protecting Jack Mansong that they had to go through certain
steps before they could actually go in search of Three Finger Jack.
And the first step began with a hawk appearing at noon in the sky and of
course, he had to shoot the hawk. If he [Quashee] didn't, there's no point in
going after Three Finger Jack. Once, having done that, then he was to go to
village, where a little dog would then take him to where Three Finger Jack was
hiding. And when Quashee found Three Finger Jack, Three Finger Jack said,
"You're brave. You come again." And Quashee said, "Yes, but this time me
sanctified," meaning that he was baptized in a Christian church because this is
what the Obi person had told him. Before doing that, he was to be confirmed
in an English church before going after Three Finger Jack. Because this was
the only protection against which he wasn't being protected.

FRB: Oh, because he was already protected by obeah. I think I understand Jack
had obi protection, so the obi woman knew that Quashee had to get at him from a
way he wasn't protected.

FL: Yes. His protection is not unlike Achilles, when Hera dipped him for
protection, she held onto his heels. And so he was vulnerable at the heel. In
the same manner, Jack Mansong was vulnerable to someone who was baptized
in the Christian church. So, when Quashee said, "I been baptized," this un-
nerved Jack for a minute, and he exposed himself. He broke and ran from
hiding and he was shot, and being shot then, Quashee finished him off, and
severed his head, and had the head as proof. He collected his reward for kill-
ing Three Finger Jack.

AK: What was the reward?

FL: There was a reward, a huge reward out on Three Finger Jack's head. But,
I suspect, in reality, Quashee was really finishing old business more so than

SARGASSO 2010-11, Special Issue


going after the reward because of the first fight that he had with Jack Man-
song. He was just finishing business.

FRB: What kind of business do you think he and Quashee could have had un-

FL: Many times when a slave leaves the plantation, they're challenging the
Maroons in terms of who is the baddest man around. Sometimes this chal-
lenge is enough for Quashee and Three Finger Jack to have a fight. Look at
Tacky. Tacky was a Cromanti Chief, and he gathered around him Cromantis,
and one of his stated goals was to destroy Maroons. Now, when the Maroons
sent for him to come in and talk, he wouldn't have any of that. And so, the
Maroons decided that they were going to take him down to show who was the
baddest man around. So, more so than doing the British bidding, it was really
a matter of personal vendettas.

FRB: Were there other reasons Maroons wanted Jack dead?

FL: The Maroons would want Three Finger Jack dead because the Maroons
favored order. They like order, and Three Finger Jack was disrupting that
order because he threatened just about everyone who had any kind of estab-
lishment. So, yes, the Maroons would want him dead for more than reasons
than just the reward on his head.

FRB: When Three Finger Jack terrorized the plantations, what was his mo-
tivation ?

FL: Three Finger Jack's motivation for the, let's call it "the crime spree" that
he went on, was complicated. A lot of times the individuals who were cap-
tured were themselves, in Africa, significant individuals. And so, coming here
and freeing themselves, they were attempting to maintain, to recreate, to get
back some of that personal glory, the personal satisfaction of being significant.
And so, the robbing of plantations certainly was more than just satisfying his
physical needs, but also satisfying his psychological needs of being once again
a great person.

AK: What was the relationship between Maroons and slaves who escaped from the

Celebrating Caribbean Voices: 25 Interviews


FL: The relationship between slaves and Maroons is really a complex one.
In the beginning, the British would release a slave to appear as a runaway with
the promise that if they could deliver the Maroons or their hiding places, then
they would have their work lessened on the plantations. So, the Maroons in
the beginning, would pick them up, treating them as runaways, and would
expose their secret hiding places to them, only to see that same slave leading
the British directly to their hideouts.
And, so the Maroons now, when they picked up a slave, he had to
either take a blood oath, which Africans understand that if you break a
blood oath, then you not only affect yourself, but it affects your future
generation and your past generation. And so, if they weren't serious about
joining them, then they wouldn't take it. And if they didn't take the blood
oath, they were either enslaved -yes, Maroons had slaves- or they were
killed or returned to slavery.
So when the Maroons signed their peace treaty, part of it was that they
should pick up slaves and return them. They were very ambivalent about that.
However, they had liaisons with slaves on the plantations, both for sexual pur-
poses and for information because, what they call the "invisible people," the
slaves who worked in the big house, were almost invisible and people spoke
their plans as if they weren't there. And so, they could tell the movement of
the troops, which they passed on to the Maroons. And so the Maroons aug-
mented their numbers by slaves who did run away.
The relationship was a mixed one because the Maroons also had to fight
Black Shots. Black Shots were slaves that were loyal to the British, and so
the Maroons had to kill a number Black Shots, some of them they knew by

FRB: So, was Three-Fingered Jack a good guy or a bad guy? More ofa hero or a

FL: During that period, who was a good guy? Henry Morgan was Gover-
nor of Jamaica, he was a cut-throat brigand, and he was considered a good
guy. So was Sir Walter Raleigh, so was Rodney, you know. And so, the ques-
tion of Three Finger Jack, is about the stature of the man, the effect he had
on the social landscape of Jamaica during that period. He terrorized here
for a long time, and he was really terrorizing the British. Jack Mansong was
the enemy of the plantation owners, and he made the area unstable. So, the

SARGASSO 2010-11, Special Issue


effect that he had is much larger than the monument [in St. Thomas Parish]
The monument that they have for Three Finger Jack in Portland is really
much too small. It doesn't show the greatness in terms of reputation or in
terms of physical size of the man, Three Finger Jack. It was almost a privilege
to have your estate robbed by Three Finger Jack.

FRB: What about Quashee? Do you consider him a hero because he killed him? Is
he considered a hero amongst the Maroons?

FL: Quashee is considered among the Maroons as a hero, not necessarily because
of the killing of Three Finger Jack, but because of his exploits during the war,
during this struggle, as someone fighting military strategies for the Windward
Maroons. So, it is more than just the killing ofThree Finger Jack.

FRB: What characteristics are important to be a hero in Jamaica, and Jamaican
history, or in Maroon history? A monumental figure?

FL: I'll speak about what Maroons consider heroes: the ones who really
played significant roles in the eighty-five years of armed conflicts that led to
the signing of the peace treaty. Because, when you think that perhaps Jamaica's
greatest achievement is the fact that the largest, the greatest power on earth,
which was the British Empire, signed for the first time in its history a peace
treaty with the Maroons. I still consider that the most significant achievement
of Jamaica. The men and women who fought, who sacrificed, to make this
come about. And especially the ones in particular who played significant roles
such as Quao, the invisible hunter.
Everyone in Jamaica knows if you can't catch Quao, you catch him shirt.
In other words, he moves so fast that you can't catch him; it's only his shirt
that's left behind. And he signed the peace treaty with the British for the
Windward Maroons. The stature of their fighting ability and actually what
they succeeded in doing make them heroes, because they achieved their pur-
pose and their cause influenced a whole generation of people. These are whom
Maroons consider their heroes.

2 A historical marker commemorating Three-Fingered Jack sits at the eleven-mile marker on
the road from Kingston to Morant Bay in St. Thomas parish. Largely unvisited, the monu-
ment is mentioned in the Lonely Planet Guide to Jamaica.

Celebrating Caribbean Voices: 25 Interviews


FRB: It seems that the Maroons work within communities. You talked earlier
about order versus disruption, and it sounds like crucial to Maroon success was their
sense of community and their collaboration.

FL: Absolutely. They all coalesced under the banner of freedom; this was their
love, and it was this single idea that made them successful. And the order is
reflected in today, in that in all societies in Jamaica, crime and violence is at
its lowest in Maroon communities. I couldn't tell the last time there was a
murder that has taken place within Moore Town, Charles Town, Scotts Hall,
or Accompong. Yes, we have petty criminals, petty crimes, but, in a lot of ways
because the Maroons did martial themselves, this crime really didn't take on
much more than that.

FRB: The reason that I wanted to hear what you had to say about Three-Fingered
Jack is because the story has been told by mostly by the English and by afewJamai-
cans. For example, the Jamaican Pantomime in 1980, written by Ted Dwyer and
the Jamaica Youth Theater Production ofTed Dwyer's Mansong last year. But be-
cause a Maroon killed Three Finger Jack, it seems to me that he is apart ofa Maroon
history that's separate fromJamaican history and that's a different story and needs to
bepart of the many threads that make up the fabric of the tale.

FL: I think that you're absolutely correct in saying that, because the fact he
was killed by a Maroon and actually got his name because of the fight with
a Maroon definitely makes him part of Maroon lore, makes it linked with
the Maroon history, and certainly should be treated as such. And hence, my
saying that Three Finger Jack should be made more out of than he is, or that
the monument shows. Because, the Indians, you know, say that your stature
is shown by the stature of the enemies; so the stature of Three Finger Jack
should be elevated.
I don't think that you're really going to get the true and full story of who
Jack Mansong was. And the need for us -when I say us, I mean Jamaicans-
to really and truly glorify significant people regardless of their reasons for
what they did. It's part of our history, a significant part of our history, and so
should be glorified beyond what is happening now because certainly, Three
Finger Jack, as a character, is certainly greater than a lot of these characters
from comic books and movies, and so I really appreciate what you're doing
with Three Finger Jack, and really, let his story be told.

SARGASSO 2010-11, Special Issue


FRB: Cool, good. Thank you very, very much.

Several days later, Colonel Wallace Sterling discussed the history of Three-
Fingered Jack. Colonel Sterling had more to say about historical memory
in general than about Three-Fingered Jack; however, his comments intersect
with and complement those of his colleague, Colonel Lumsden.

Excerpt from Interview with Colonel Wallace Sterling
June 22, 2009 in Moore Town, Jamaica

FRB: You seem very young to be a colonel.

Wallace Sterling- I'm fifty-one years old. That's very young but the thing about
it, you know, one becomes a colonel here through a democratic process. You
can be appointed or you can be elected. Once you become the colonel, and
you are colonel for an indefinite period of time, there's no limit. You can be a
colonel for ten years; you can be a colonel for one year. Until the people decide
to get rid of you or until you decide to leave the position.
You know the word colonel is something that is new to our foreparents'
vocabulary. You have a leader, a chief... It is how the British try to equate
leadership of the Maroon community with that of the British Army, because
the Maroons were seen as a militia and therefore, the leadership structure
should follow that of an army. And basically, that's a term that was used so.
As far back as one can remember, there have always been colonels or captains
and majors and so on and so forth. So, we have always had colonels as it were.
I succeeded one that was here for thirty-one years.
Then there's always a council that goes with the colonel. The colonel does
what he does in consultation with the Council. It's a council that comprises
elders, comprises young people, comprises women, and everybody. You ap-
point these people or you elect these people to the council. That's basically
how it goes. And duty of the colonel in the Council is to try and see to the
needs and the well-being of the people in the community.

FRB: Have you lived in Moore Town always?

Celebrating Caribbean Voices: 25 Interviews


WS: Well, yes in a sense, in that I was born here and I grew up here, and I
would have spent most of my life here, except for maybe eleven years of that
time . and by being away I mean that I would have been away from the
community for nine months at a time, and then I would come back for like,
three months. And even during that time, I would still be coming to Jamaica,
maybe on a weekly basis, but not necessarily inside the community of Moore
Town. So, you know, one could only say that between '84 and '95, when I was
going in and out. But, for all the rest of the time, I've been here and except
for anytime before or after that time to make like, a trip overseas or something
like that.

FRB: While you were growing up, did you ever hear stories about Three-Fingered

WS: I remember talking to my father, and the fact of the matter is Three Fin-
ger Jack was a clever man, he was a good fighter, and you know, the Maroons
always love a good fight. And you know they would have respect for people
who are good fighters because when you go with and fight against somebody
who was a good fighter and you manage to overcome them, then you know
you would have done something.
But, I think how people choose to look at things in present day Jamaica
- if you're going to some community, persons inside a community who are
responsible for all the mayhem in this society are glorified, you know. You
talk about Dons and so on and so forth, and you might want to ask a separate
question: Why are these people who do so many wrongs villains on one side
and on the other side they are the heroes, you know? Three Finger Jack could
be viewed in context like that, in some ways. Some people would want to have
him around; others wouldn't want to see him around because of his lifestyle,
because of the way he did things. And it is on this premise, it depends on what
one wants to extract, the view that one wants to see, in history.
If history is told as it should, in more ways than one, then sometimes we're
left pondering, you know. But then again, history and things like that are gen-
erally told from the viewpoint of the person who is doing the writing, and they
actually can choose to omit one significant event. If you look at something
like the Bible, it gives you an intense report of the sojourn of the Hebrew
children in Egypt. But nowhere in the history of Egypt -the writings- do
you find anything about them being there because of their exit, and what hap-

SARGASSO 2010-11, Special Issue


opened to the Egyptians before they left was not what was really pleasing to the
Egyptians, so they have no need to recall that.
So, you know, the world is like that. To this day, people go out and they
choose to write that which interests them, and there are persons who are very
objective in what they write and the others who are looking for a story to put
into a particular mold. And if they don't get it like how they want it, then they
can pretty much, you know, manufacture it to suit themselves.
And so something like you writing about Three Finger Jack is putting
a story forward; and as a writer you look at this well-known story [and] you
ask: How should I depict it? Should I put Jack as the hero or do I want to
put him as a villain? And then some other hero will come up and slay him
or something like that. You know, it depends on the public that you want to
satisfy. So, one way to look at all of these things is that things will happen
in a country from time to time and you know, people will have their different
outlook. It depends which side of the fence you're sitting on, how you want to
view these things.
People like him will come about from time to time, and you have to look
at this society as it existed back then, because sometimes one of the mistakes
that we make is that we try to take incidents that happened 100, 150, or 200-
300 years, or 500 years ago and try to put it into today's perspective when the
conditions that rise to the incident is not necessarily as it exists now. And
you know one tries to cast one's mind back to the period in which the thing
And you know, Jamaica wasn't the kind of country that we know it to be. It
was a country that was dominated by plantation owners, to the extent that
they had their own monies, like a bank has its check and its own logo. Money
was like that then. So, when you live in society like that, things could happen.
Three Finger Jack Mansong could maybe... look at himself like the Robin
Hood of Britain. But the mistake he made, he tried to prey on the Maroons,
you know, that was a no-no.

FRB: So, was that the motivation ofthe person who killed him?

WS: Like I said before, you know, the Maroons like a good fight. If you think
you are clever, they believe that they are more clever than you. So, they would
go there and they would stop at nothing to put an end to his activities. And
that's basically all it was with Three Finger Jack.

Celebrating Caribbean Voices: 25 Interviews


As much as I can remember as was told to me by the elders. I mean there
are other persons who might have different views and different things but, in
Jamaica, you say "you don't buy something with braata, you don't sell it with
braata," meaning that you never get it with anything extra put onto it, and
you're not delivering it with anything extra. As was told, that's how you are
delivering it because, you have no interest in trying to add to it or subtract to it
or anything like that, because these are incidents that happened so long ago.
And for whatever its worth, we talk about it today. At some point in time
again, other people are going to talk about it, and everybody's going to have
their twist to it, it's not like when things happen today. You know, you have
people out there with cameras and stuff like that, and you know, doing a fairly
accurate recording of it. Because even these days when you have cameras,
people can stage things.
You know, so, I guess that's how we got to look at them... yeah.

SARGASSO 2010-11, Special issue

Memories of Home and Cultures for the Future:

Stories from Montserrat, an Interview with 'Camille'

Interview by Tracey Skelton
National University of Singapore

June 1998

n this interview 'Camille' (her pseudonym) speaks for herself as she tells a
story of a significant time in her life of twenty-four years.1 Her narrated
memories and experiences date from July 1995 through to June 1998. July
1995 was the beginning of an on-going volcanic eruption on Montserrat, an
Overseas Territory of the UK. Major evacuations of the east and southern
parts of the island took place in 1995, 1996, and finally, in 1997; Plymouth
(the only town) and eighteen villages were permanently evacuated and many
have been completely destroyed by pyroclastic flows. A dozen villages were
evacuated as part of an exclusion zone.
Two thirds of the island's population lost their homes, villages and communi-
ties. All were relocated to the north of the island, but many relocated to Caribbean
islands, Canada, the USA or the UK. The island's airport was damaged beyond
repair in 1996 and a ferry service was provided to link Montserrat to Antigua.
The population dropped from 11,500 to a low of 2,860. In the north evacuees
were placed in makeshift forms of shelter army tents, schools and churches,
never knowing which would be the final evacuation. Eventually 'shelters' were
built. Large metal container-size, rectangular-shaped constructions with doors at
both ends and minimal windows, housed the evacuees. People slept on 'cots,' hard
green canvas stretched over a metal frame (without a mattress), twenty to twenty-
two people to a'shelter.'There were just two toilets with showers, one large laun-
dry sink, and one very basic kitchen per 'shelter.' Many Montserratians resided in
these basic quarters for more than three years.

1 The interview was conducted as part of a project called 'Montserratian identities: subjects
ofan enforced Diaspora' funded by the Royal Geographical Society and HSBC Bank Small
Grants project in 1998.

Celebrating Caribbean Voices: 25 Interviews


In November 1997 almost fifty families or households were given the keys
to new 'houses' in Davy Hill. These houses, built on Crown Land, were com-
missioned by UK Department for International Development (DfID) from
the US company, Brown and Root, a huge global construction conglomerate.
Skilled Montserratian construction workers watched as the company erected
pre-fabricated 'emergency temporary' dwellings that did not match the ver-
nacular and cultural design of Montserratians households.
Camille's interview2 provides an insight into the meanings of 'home' for
the tiny Eastern Caribbean island of Montserrat and the strength of cultural
identity for future formation in the face of natural hazard and ensuing disaster.
Through her words, memories of Montserrat before and after the ongoing
volcanic eruption emerge. The personal and the political blend as intimate
experiences of living through, and with, the volcano, are narrated alongside
the evacuation, relocation and re-development practices of local government
and the UK colonial power.
Camille is a Montserratian woman who is a daughter, sister, aunt, nurse,
stalwart of her church, and an evacuee from the volcanic zone. She was evacu-
ated from her home village of Harris in the east and relocated first to the
west (Salem) and then finally and permanently to the north (Brades and Davy
Hill). However she is also a remainedr/ stayer' on the island, despite the op-
portunities to 'flee' to the UK. Her interview focuses on all these social and
cultural identities as lived, daily experiences (past and present). Camille tells
an evocative story of a Caribbean home which has been partially destroyed by
the volcanic eruption, but remains firmly entrenched in memory. She charts
the deterioration of community life due to intense geographical disruption
and political neglect by both governments. However, there is also a narrative
of the resilience and rebuilding of a sense of place and belonging through col-
lective memory and community solidarity. The story includes despair and loss
but also shows hope and thankfulness.

2 This interview is transcribed verbatim to catch the quality of Montserratian expression;
however, for the interview Camille spoke her 'best English.' My questions are in italics, the
responses from Camille in plain script. This reinforces the integrity of the interview, with
or without 'authorial' context. My only interventions appear in square brackets; they act as

SARGASSO 2010-11, Special Issue


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Celebrating Caribbeon Voices: 25 Interviews



Interview/ Story/Narrative/ Testimonial
Tracey Skelton: Where did you live in Montserrat before the crisis and in what
kind of house?

Camille: I lived in a four-bedroom house in Harris Village, on the eastern
side of Montserrat. Just before the crisis mummy was making a baby so we
built an extension in March. There was seven of us -mother, father, my three
sisters, two grandchildren and me- how many that? Wait...there was eight of
us! My brother was born in May 2005 so that's nine. Daddy wasn't working,
but he's a mason, Mummy taught at the nursery school. I was in my nursing
training, everyone else still at school.

TS: When you relocated how many ofyou moved and where did you all go?

C: All of us moved the first place they move us to was Salem school campus.
Then the second movement was to Brades primary school. The last movement
I didn't exactly move with them because I was working at the hospital, then
I left there and met them in Brades school again, and then after moved to
Brades Shelter.

TS: Can you remember where you were when the volcano started and how you first
heard about it?

C: Well it was Bible study night, it was a Tuesday night and I was at church,
and we heard a policeman come and say, "You all have to go home immediately,
because the volcano has awoken." Now we were surprised because we never
knew we had a volcano because at school they told us that our volcano was
dead -dead- so had prayer meeting and then we left and went home. Then
during the night we just heard a rumbling up in the mountains and we were
a bit scared eh, because we had heard about volcano in other places, like the
one in Martinique, so all of those stories came in, and came back to us and so
we were a bit scared.
The next day we didn't see anything up in the mountain...the mountain
looked the same, only you would hear this rumbling up there, it sounded like
a jet plane. Then after that they had venting you just saw steam rising up out
of the volcano, you just see little things and as the months went by you had
different vents all around the mountain side. Then after that you had ashing.
You could see the steam vents very clearly from Harris. It was like a chimney

SARGASSO 2010-11, Special Issue


but instead of black smoke it was white, billows of white stuff coming out,
constantly and a kind of hissing sound all the time. Then we had the ashing
and the volcano let off, instead of steam coming out of those holes you would
have black, dark, ashes coming out of the volcano, they came up in the air and
they went to town side, to Plymouth, none came into Harris and when they
fall it sound like rain, the whole place would get dark.
I was still going to and from work at this time it wasn't really bothering
me, but when we had a big ash fall you would have the whole place covered in
blackness. Then another time the hospital compound was just white. It looked
like it was snowing, we couldn't get our work done because everything that you
touch had ash on it and so we had to move [...]. We moved to a school in St.
John's, the primary school. Then we moved back into the Glendon Hospital,
back to Plymouth, it was just before hurricane Marilyn. We didn't want to
come back into town. But the government said that the population is in town
and so we have to come back to serve them. Moving the hospital was rough.
The nurses, we had to do everything.

TS: What else started to happen about the volcano?

C: Pyroclastic flow. It happen ... the first one I remember was on April third
when we had to move, in 1996. That morning I was down in Long Ground
[the eastern most village and directly under Chances Peak] and I heard the
rumbling and everything down there and I got frightened and so I came home.
Came now to Harris but I had to go to work for twelve o'clock because the
head nurse told me I had to come in to a clinic. When I came to the hospital
she got a phone call about one o'clock and I saw the nurse there shaking...and
when she come out she up and down and up and down and she not saying
anything to me so I ask her and she say that the volcano have a crack in it,
that the mountain have a fissure, so we have to move immediately. I didn't see
my family for two whole days. They had to move too.
We moved the old people at Madison Memorial Home. I had to be making
up bed for them, opening out cots for them, put on sheet and everything and try
to make them comfortable. I didn't leave there until eleven o'clock in the night.
It was two days after and I ask where Harris people had gone and I learned that
they had taken Harris people to Brades. I went to Salem again, but the ash
was killing me because Salem was full of ash, I couldn't stay there. So I packed
my things and I went and stayed with Mummy and them in Brades. They

Celebrating Caribbean Voices: 25 Interviews


were in the school. I went back to Harris' because I didn't have anything and
so I had to go back for my things. That was the last time I could go back.
Later we had more pyroclastic flows, you could see them from over here
because the sky would get dark and you'll know when it's a pyroclastic flow
because it goes up into the air, the ash billows like a big mushroom, like a
bomb, then you know it will have a pyroo' flow and you listen to the radio to
learn where it went.

TS: So you were in the Brades shelter system. How long did you stay there and
what was it like?

C: It must have been a year, over a year because we came out and came here
in November 1997. It was frightening, confused and it wasn't nice at all living
in the shelter, I'm not really talking about Daddy's death, but the whole time.
When we move down into the shelter from the school they promised us that
they were going to divide the shelter in two for our family and another family,
they never did it though. We had no privacy whatsoever, you had to be careful
how you slept because you know it was one open place, you didn't have space
to store your things you had to push everything underneath your cot. I didn't
like living in the shelter. In our shelter there were about twenty-one people.
It was horrible. The people was thief like what! You put your things in
the refrigerator and when you come you couldn't meet your things. It was
people from the other family; we knew them from Harris you know to say
"Hello, how you doing" just things like that. But then to know somebody and
live with them is two different things.

TS: What was it likeforyourfamily?

C: Moving into the shelter break down our family. It was horrible for every-
body. Daddy moved halfway through and went to the States, he had to go and
get work. The discipline level drop. Children do what they feel like, parents
blaming it on the volcano. My little sister, Marielle, got pregnant. If we were
in Harris Marielle wouldn't have got a baby...I mean you don't know what the
future might hold, but definitely that would have been out of the question.
Being in the shelter do more bad on the family than good. Like Christum was
born in the May and the volcano started in the July so he has only known
this life from the volcano.

SARGASSO 2010-11, Special Issue


TS: Then you were relocated here to Davy Hill?

C: Oh well that was a blessing, that was a blessing moving out of the shelters.
After Daddy died me say we can't live here anymore, so Mummy went to them
and she talk to them. We couldn't stay near the bed, his bed was right there,
and then the man was still there, the man who he got into the fight with, we
couldn't stay there. [One night Camille's father caught one of the men from
their shelter standing very close to his youngest daughter's bed while she was
sleeping, a major argument and fight ensued. Her father collapsed and died
of a heart attack. Using her nursing training Camille tried to revive him, but
he died in her arms.] But we couldn't move but Mummy begged them to do
something, to do what they had promised at the start because we still having
to see that man everyday.
So at last, we had waited over a year, and we got the shelter divided into
two [...] Then when we heard they were building houses Mummy wanted
to still say in the shelter because they provide us with food, free water, free
light, you had to spend no money, just free life, but it was an expense to
our emotional health and to our physical health. I say, "Mummy, we have
to get out." When they build the houses I say "Mummy we gonna believe
God and we gonna get one of the houses we going to get one." Mummy
went to the Chief Minister and he say that the houses build here are for
Long Ground people those were the first person that ever evacuate. I say
"No we have to get one, we have to get one of the houses." I prayed about
it, eh, I really, really prayed and when they call us and they tell us that we
get a house I was so happy. When we were leaving the shelter other people
were sad that we were going but I didn't even care, I was so happy just to
get out of the shelter.
I hate the shelter because that is where my father died! I don't want to
hear the word 'shelter.' You see Daddy died in February 1997 and Loretta left
in February 1997 to go to the family in Tortola [under the Red Cross tem-
porary adoption scheme to give children time off the island to continue with
their studies in another British Overseas Territory] and have a break away
from everything, she just eight. They still have her because they say that they
feel uncomfortable sending her back while the volcano is still active. [The
family had quite a battle to get Loretta back to Montserrat she returned
when she was nine.]

Celebrating Caribbean Voices: 25 Interviews


TS: What do you think about the layout here at Davy Hill?

C: I don't like it, it's too close. I am accustomed to my banana trees dividing
me from my neighbour but when you look out the grass is not even growing
here, the soil is hard, hard, it's barren land over here. We can't grow anything
here. They took people assortedly from the villages that move. It's a mixed
village. There is no unity here, there is no community here, we don't have a
community centre that people could meet in together, it's just one divided up
place. You only tell your neighbours "hello," you don't go up on the doorstep
or veranda and sit and chat like you used to do in Harris. When you wake up
you don't call out "morning" to those next door...it's just like living overseas.

TS: How do you feel about living in the north versus the east?

C: I miss the east. The east was more ... you could say friendly. Maybe it's
because we come over here...we still have this hope to go back, we don't want
to get too close to the north. Our lands in the east are more fertile, more soft,
but these lands over here are hard, over here is dry, to the east it's lush, green
up there.

TS: You've decided to stay in Montserrat, so do you still feel, despite the changes,
that you are a Montserratian?

C: Yes I am a Montserratian, no matter where I go I will still be a Montser-
ratian. I feel so because I have not lost my country, my country is still there, I
still feel I have been brought up as a Montserratian, our culture is still here, so
I haven't lost anything really, I'm a Montserratian. It's different though...

TS: What do you hopeforyour future as an individual?

C: With me right now I want to pursue academic studies, I want to go away.
I want to go further in my nursing. I'm a nursing assistant at the moment I
want to do my RN programme. Possibly mid-wifery, or go into a different
field in nursing, maybe go into cardiology or something or gerontology. I
don't plan to settle down yet, I don't plan to get married yet, at the moment,
but things could change.

SARGASSO 2010-11, Special Issue


TS: What do you think will happen to Montserrat in the future?

C: We gonna come back, we are already coming back! I mean the volcano is
kind of quietening down at the moment, we can't go back there so we are go-
ing to try and develop the north. The north will be a bit crowded, everything
in it, but we could do it. There's going to be an airport in the north, it's going
to be a crowded little place. We don't really have factories here, we need to
have factories and to get people to come in and develop the island. We need to
start planting our grounds again, getting our agriculture back because we have
to import all the food.

TS: What do you think will happen to the Montserratians who have relocated off

C: Well, I think they would come home one day, they would come home.
The reason why they left is because of not having some place to stay, some of
them are naturally afraid of the volcano but the majority of them it is because
they don't have no place to stay. But once we get developing and houses are
built they will come back. They miss Montserrat, they really do, they might
be working over there but Montserrat...I don't know what is so special about
Montserrat but it's always in their heart, they long to come home. One of
these days they should be able to come home, no-body is stopping them, it's
just that there is no place to stay. The problem for everyone is the land; there
is no land here, even the Government, can't get the land, the north people they
don't want to sell their land, they only want to lease it but you can't build your
house on it then. Land is a problem.

TS: What do you think will happen to the Montserratians who have stayed on the

C: What will happen to us? We will be looked over -it's started all ready-
they have nurses that went, left during the crisis and went to get their break
and they coming back and they are sending them to train and we who are here
all the time are still waiting to get some kind a training. Those who went off
are getting a lot of priorities and those who are here and took the brunt of it
still taking the brunt of everything.

Celebrating Caribbean Voices: 25 Interviews


TS: What did the British Government do to help Montserrat?

C: Well I just want to thank the British Government for helping us. We are
so grateful for their help, they gave us food, from the very beginning they send
in helicopter, all kind of big plane that we never see before, landed with food
for us. They sent all kind of officials here to find out our problem, we are very
grateful to them. Housing, money, you hear about a lot of money, if we didn't
have the British Government, if we had been independent, then we would
have been poor, very poor, but they are helping us a lot. Well they wanted to
take us, but they gave us a choice you either stay or you come to England. We
thank them for the medical help; I mean what more could we ask for? I think
at one point they wanted us off the island because the volcano was behaving
bad why develop when the volcano was behaving bad? But now you can see
that they are really pulling in their resources to get this island developed and
the volcano quietening down and everything, and they give Montserratians a
chance to live in England.

TS: Do you think they should have done anything differently?

C: I think the shelters was the thing. It was supposed to be a temporary thing
but it stayed on too long, we were getting into three years, people in there
three years and that's not supposed to be. The shelters are supposed to be in
an emergency like when you have a hurricane and everybody go there, but
after that people should be in their private houses. I tell you it's the land that
is the problem.

TS: What do you think about the Montserratian Government? How have they
handled things?

C: Well, three chief ministers! You know in crisis people are unsure, but I
think things are stable at the moment. Mr. B have a mouth on him and he
knows how to talk and he has done a lot of changes. They changed from
vouchers now to cheques, so you could you get good food stuff with them,
instead of having canned food because it was mostly canned food that they
used to bring in the shelters. So now they change and you could buy whatso-
ever you want. Under his Government we moved into these houses and more
houses have been built since then. You have the ferry service getting better,

SARGASSO 2010-11, Special Issue


you know, Montserrat is getting more comfortable to live in now it's getting
better, sometimes you even forget there is a volcano on the island.

TS: What did you enjoy about life in Montserrat before the crisis?

C: Oh I miss Harris. Harris is where I grew up, I miss going to Paradise for
walks, I miss the banana trees around the house, I miss the breadfruit tree,
miss the paw paw [papaya] tree, I miss the big stones in the yard, I miss the
lime tree, I miss our neighbours, used to go by the house, sit down and chat.
I miss the field, overlooking the field there, I miss walking down the road and
saying hello to everybody that I meet, I miss going to church, I'm telling you I
really do, going to church, I miss Harris on the whole. The people have gone,
you hardly have a lot of people from Harris here right now that you could
actually say I'm going by someone who used to be there in Harris. I miss the
old people in Harris; many of them have died. My whole life was there...
But Harris has changed, it's not the same because you know the volcano went
through there, it wouldn't be the Harris that I remembered.

TS: Last question, do you think you will stay in Montserrat or relocate?

C: One of these days I have to move not because of the volcano but because
of my career needs. You see because of the changes at the hospital I have to
think about my future. We have less patients and the workload is less because
the hospital is much smaller, its just one building, we used to have three build-
ings, so work is lighter and people go away, we don't keep our critical patients,
we send them away, they go to Antigua, St. Kitts or Guadeloupe, they go by

Update: Camille is still living on Montserrat, she has married and two years
ago was allocated her own Government/ DfiD funded house in a newly
developed area of the north. In 2003 she was awarded a scholarship to study
in the UK for degree in nursing. Camille graduated in 2007 with a first class
honours degree. She is now in charge of all elderly care on Montserrat. The
newly furbished hospital means that the majority of Montserratians, and
particularly expectant mothers, can be treated on island. Now babies are born
in Montserrat and so are Montserratian by birth.

Celebrating Caribbean Voices: 25 Interviews

G6nero, memorial y la vida rural:

Entrevista con Dofia Placida

Entrevista por Light Carruyo
Vassar College
Junio 2000
El Cibao, La Reptiblica Dominicana

he beauty of having the opportunity to provide a fuller -yet always
humble and partial- transcript of a person's life story, is that the tex-
ture, tone, and dynamism is more readily conveyed. Dofia Placida was born
circa 1939 in rural Dominican Republic and this interview documents the his-
tory of Manabao. Readers familiar with rural Dominican life will recognize
several familiar tropes used by campesino(a)s of her generation. Perhaps the
most canonical is "respect" during Trujillo's rule. She eventually blurs respect
with "fear" in the course of our interview ("I feared my husband because I re-
spected him"). She provides an explicit critique of gender inequalities, and yet
she also reveals the nuances and contradictions of gender and power as experi-
enced at the level of the body, family, community, and nation. Dofia Placida's
interview, which took place in El Cibao in June 2000, is part of the collection
of oral histories and ethnographic detail that have informed a larger analysis of
the construction of local knowledge about gender, development, and progress
in rural Dominican Republic.1

1 I am grateful to the students in the Gender and Development Master's Program at the
Centro de Estudios de Genero, Instituto Tecnol6gico de Santo Domingo who partici-
pated my course "G6nero y Relatos de Vida: Abordajes Criticos al Trabajo de Campo" in
2008. The members of this incredible group provided invaluable insight, in particular, they
helped me think through Dofia Placida's discussion. I also thank Mario Sosa for work on
this transcription, and Don Walicek for the opportunity to share it. Above all, thanks go to
Dofia Placida for being generous with her time and knowledge. Her name is a pseudonym.
A more extensive discussion of gender and development in the region can be found in my
ethnographic study Producing Knowledge/Protecting Forests: Rural Encounters with Gender,
Ecotourism, and InternationalAid in the Dominican Republic (Pennsylvania State 2008).

SARGASSO 2010-11, Special Issue


En los tiempos de antes
Light Carruyo: Ddnde nacid?

Dona Placida: Yo naci aqui mismo en este paraje. [Tengo sesenta y un afios.]
Mama y papa fueron nacidos en La Vega. Y luego cuando ya tenian yo creo
que mi papa vino de diecinueve afios y mi mama vino de catorce. Aqui se
enamoraron -eran primos hermanos- se enamoraron y se casaron, hicieron
Antes de nosotros estar, por aqui no habia nada. Lo que habia era much
monte, ya no, ya ahora aqui hay carretera, aqui hay de todo. Antes no entraba
un vehiculo. El papa de mi papa y de mi mama fueron los que exploraron esa
montafia. Ellos se pusieron a trabajarla. Se pusieron a trabajar, hicieron su labor
muy buena. Alli cogia mi papa, muchacha, hasta de 30 cargas de habichuela. Es
decir, para decirte mejor, alli mi papa cogia cosecha y a veces era para darla por tres
pesos la habichuela. No valia nada. Antes el que conseguia un chele, el que tenia
diez centavos era rico. Pa' ti, por ejemplo, venir donde mi, "Placidapr6stame diez
centavos," id6nde los iba a conseguir? Es que no existia el dinero antes. Lo tuyo
no valia nada, por eso es que digamos que el tiempo de ahora es much mejor.
Recuerdo que de once pesos era la carga de habichuela. Riete ti, pero con once
pesos tdi podias tumbar un gobierno, pa'que lo sepas. Ya no, ya ahora cualquier
muchacho tiene mil pesos entire el bolsillo.
Cuando a papa le lleg6 el tiempo de sacar la c6dula, salieron tres hombres,
dique ricos. Sali6 papa a buscar un chele prestado. TRi sabes lo que es un che-
le? Ya eso no se ve. Y no hall quien se lo prestara. Cuando Trujillo, habia
que tener todos los documents completes. Palmita, libro y la c6dula. Eran
los tres golpes. Yo naci en la era de Trujillo y me crie en la era de Trujillo. Mi
papa sigui6 para arriba, y volvi6 donde un senior que le dijo: (iPero ve todavia
el ho para conseguir esos cheles! No mi vida, mira, la vida de antes -) 'No
compadrepues, yo le presto los tres cheles, tres cheles le presto yo, si usted quiere." Le
dijo el senior. Era -te voy a decir que era bien- no te voy a decir que era mal,
porque yo misma me la hallaba bien. ~TTu sabes por qu6? Por el motivo del
respeto. Hoy no hay respeto, pero antes t~ podias amanecer con esa puerta
abierta y no te pasaba nada. Quiza yo venia y te lamaba, "Light, Light, iesa
puerta estd abierta!" Ya mismito venian y me denunciaban y era con cdrcel que
yo iba a pagar. Cuando Trujillo habia responsabilidad y eso es lo que menos
hay ahora que estamos en democracia. Pero la democracia que tenemos cual
es? Que ti no eres duefia de tu vida.

Celebrating Caribbean Voices: 25 Interviews


Ginero, democracia, y el significado de "respeto"
LC: gCdmo es la democracia?

DP. La democracia es que si td, por ejemplo, sales por alli ti eres amable con
todo el mundo, que nadie se va tropezar contigo. La democracia tambidn vie-
ne, que las mujeres sobre todo disque no valiamos nada antes. Disque no mas
valiamos en el sanitario y en la habitaci6n [se rie]. iTodavia lo decian! En eso
la cosa ha cambiado por el motive que ya las mujeres tienen libertad igualito
que el hombre. Si t- no tienes derechos, no te puedes equivocar. Tambien un
hombre puede abusar de ti. Si a ti te levan estropeada, ese hombre no va a
tener porque salir de la cdrcel en toda la vida. La mujer en antes lo que vivia-
mos era oprimida.

LC: j Que quiere decir una "mujer oprimida"?

DP: La mujer oprimida y la mujer humillada, era de cuando, por ejemplo, te
tengo este ejemplo, en antes yo tenia que rogarle much a Herman para venir a
hacer esta reuni6n contigo, y si 1l me decia, "td no vas," yo no iba a venir. Si l6
me decia, "No ti no vas pa'lla, ,a qu6 demonios td vas pa'lla? ,a qud? Dime?
Cuidado con ustedes dos, cuidado en que compinche estdn ustedes dos." Eso
era, en antes. Y yo temblaba, porque yo le tenia miedo a mi marido porque yo
le tenia respeto. Igualmente al papa y la mama.
Los esposos de antes, hasta para ir a misa. "Quiero ir a misa." "CA qu6
seri que to vas pa'lla? A que?" La mujer no iba. Ya no. Hoy en dia, yo me
alisto, yo prepare un bulto -que yo tengo uno de esos fuertes- yo lo Uieno de
todo y cuantas cosas, y cuando Herman me ve a mi preparando eso, me dice
"ta d6nde vas ti?" Y yo no le digo a 61, "Yo voy pa' la capital." Yo prepare mi
bulto, me bafio, y me voy. "Cuando to vienes?" "Cuando tu me veas." En antes
no se podia eso [se rie] en ante habia que ser firme. Hasta para ti regresar.
"CA qu6 hora td vienes?" "Cuidado si td te quedas, que ti sabe que lo esto y lo
otro." Ya no, ya eso no existe.

LC: gEn lapareja de ustedes?

DP. En la pareja de nosotros.

LC: YYlas demds?

DP: En la de los demas, no te voy a decir porque en los demas, hay todavia
mujeres humilladas. Hay mujeres que hasta para ir a un velorio, para ir a un

SARGASSO 2010-11, Special Issue


paseo, para venir a una entrevista, eso tiene que ser muchas complicaciones, y
muchas preguntas, y acariciarle al marido a ver si la deja ir. Mira, si a mi me
gustaria bailar, estoy libre, mira, pie y mano. Mi cuerpo esti suelto comple-
tamente. (Por qu6? Porque yo le dije a Hermin en el tiempo que yo me cas6
con 61, "Mira, lo inico que yo no quiero es celos." Nunca me ha celado ni yo
tampoco lo he celado. Por el motivo, que somos en libertad los dos. JTi no
ves? Es que yo digo que yo este cuerpo lo celoyo.

LC: Como logrd esa relacidn?

DP: Yo era una mujer, una muchacha, muy humilde. No por dirmela, yo
era una muchacha que yo no hablaba ni con mis hermanos, con nadie. Yo era
horrible, muy tremenda, tu ve, odiosa. No te voy a decir otra cosa. El hombre
que me enamoraba a mi, era para nada, porque lo mandaba casi al carajo de
una vez.
En eso, se enamor6 Hermin de mi. En poco tiempo nos casamos. Es de-
cir, yo me fui con 61, yo no me cas6 con 61 primeramente. Pero qu6 pasa, yo era
una nifia, doncella, quien me hizo mujer fue 61, cuando yo me meti con 61 era
una nifia como acabada de nacer. Tenia veintid6s afios, pero mis senos sobre
todo, cuando yo tenia veintid6s afios estaban mis duros que esa pared. Yo no
habia sido manuciada de hombre, nunca ningin hombre. Porque yo dormia
con mi hermana. Pero qu6 pasa? Que entonces, en eso yo sali embarazada.
Al poco tiempo nos dejamos me fui a mi casa y estuve un afio sola. Cuando
un dia, bueno, vino y me dijo que nos casiramos, le digo yo, mira: "iTu sabes
como yo me caso contigo? De la inica manera que yo me caso contigo es
cuando td dejes la costumbre que tu tienes de td pelear, pelearme a mi delante
de la gente."
Ti sabes que yo me cri6 muy delicada, como pobre. No habia una mu-
jer mis delicada que yo, como pobre. Le dije: "mira el dia que ti intentes
abochornarme, o decirme algo delante de la gente, coge un cuchillo mejor y
mitame que alli, tu me abochornaste, me mataste."
Y alli pas6, me dijo que si. De alli se puso -era un hombre, ya td sabes,
un hombre mujeriego- y de alli pa' lante, nos casamos, y ese hombre duraba
abajo cinco dias bailando, bailando, y sabia yo que era con la otra. Y yo alli.
Pero nunca yo le decia nada, yo le guardaba su ropa limpia, se la planchaba,
volvia y se ensuciaba, y era asi que estaba, hasta al fin, que lo atraje, lo atraje
con mi amor y mi acaricia, porque lo inico que le vale a una persona es aca-
riciarle la otra. Alli lo tengo, mi marido, alli qued6, porque yo lo supe atraer.

Celebrating Caribbean Voices: 25 Interviews


Pero c6mo fue? Con mi acaricia. Yo no celindolo, ese bailaba, duraba cinco
dias alli, bailando, llegaba, lo recibia, volvia y se iba y asi, hasta que ve donde
esti hoy.
Primeramente viviamos malamente, en rancho, en un ranchito, mira, que
podia sacar uno [el brazo] por una brecha, yve al estado que hemos legado. YY eso
viene de qu6? De la uni6n entire esposo y esposa. Porque una mujer que llegue el
marido [y diga]: "Pero ven acd, y este reguero?" [Y ella grita]: "Pues anday quitalo hi
o anda lagranputa de hiMamd que te lo quite. "Eso no lo puede decir, el acabando de
llegar porque de alli es que viene la guerra. Si 1 Ulega y "Ay excisame, se me olvidd
quitarlo." El dice "Estd bien" Lo voy y lo quito. Pero sin provocarlo a 6l, no. Si
yo decia Herman, "yo me quiero ir a talparte," 61 me decia "th eres la que sabe"yo
me iba. Tui estabas preguntindome de mi venta de dulces, yo con ese dulce, yo
lo vendo y yo no tengo que decir, "Hermdn dame cien pesospara elpasaje." Y si
cojo prestado, se lo devuelvo. Para que 61 no me diga, "No, ti no puedes." Es
como yo te estaba diciendo ahorita, yo prepare mi bulto, yo me alisto, Hermin
no me pregunta "gCuando tz vienes?" "Cuando th me veas."

Memorias de agriculture, alimentaci6n y bienestar
DP: Antes era una vida horrible. Hasta para td comer, a pesar de todo, la co-
mida era una cosa especial. Por que mira hoy lo que se esti comiendo es cosa
contaminada. Porque lo inico que nos estamos tomando -el agua- que no
esti contaminada ahora mismo. Antes, lo que tui te comias, si td te comias un
pedazo de pldtano, un pedazo de batata o yuca o pedazo de yautia, si td hacias
un sancocho de care y de habichuela o de lo que fuera era con cosas natura-
listas todo. Porque antes no se usaba veneno para nada. iNo habia quimica de
ninguna clase! Si td te tomas una taza de leche de res, es contaminada. Porque
cuando t-i a esa vaca hasta pa' parir tienes ti que inyectarla para que pueda
tener el becerro. Y que si despuds lo tiene, entonces queda mal de parto, hay
que inyectarla pa' que se salve. Y toda esa contaminaci6n nos la tiramos no-
sotros, eves? antes no se sufria tanto como se sufre ahora. Las cosas de antes,
mira, por ejemplo, td cogias, te voy a poner esta cosa, esta verdura, ensalada.
Entonces se cogian los tomatoes, los ajies, la lechuga, yo me recuerdo que le
deciamos a una, "chicoria."

LC: iQue'eseso?

DP: Una lechuga. Al repollo era coli, lo que le decian antes, y se daban esos
repollos asi [grandes], pero era para tu comertelos, no eran para salir y venderla

SARGASSO 2010-11, Special Issue


a la calle. No como ahora que vienen los camiones, no. Tfi sembrabas tu
piececita de repollo, de coli, vamos a poner, te estoy hablando de lo de antes.
Sembrabas un canterito de chicoria, otro de ajies, otro de tomatoes, tomatoes pa
td arreglarlo con huevo. Que era bastante riquisimo y era todo, todo natural lo
que td comias, eran cosas riquisimas, cosas buenas, que en vez de hacerte dafio,
te hacian bien para td cuerpo, los nifios de antes no sufrian de nada. No. Y hoy,
mira, hay de diarrea, hay v6mito, salpullido cuantas miles de cosas que se
le presentan, pero ide qu6 es que viene eso? De la contaminaci6n. Eso era lo
de antes.
Ahora lo que esti mis ficil se ve mas ficil es el dinero. Que claro que
si, esta mejor. [Pero] ahora mismo nadie esti trabajando aquf. Todo el mundo
esti produciendo, no mis la tayota. Y quikn se mantiene con tayota? Con
tayota no se hace un sancocho. Una ensaladita, quizi. Td sancochas unas po-
cas tayotas, bien limpiaditas, haces una ensalada pones los huevos a sancochar,
todo picadito y bien. TO te la tiras bien preparadas. Pero que antes no se veia
eso. antes era much comida. To sembrabas un conuco de viveres y a ti se te
podrian viveres porque todo el mundo tenia.

LC: Pero lo que no tenian era como conseguir dinero.

DP: El dinero. El dinero era escaso. Y la ropa si, la ropa habia que comprarla,
pero antes [se rie] antes podias tu durar hasta tres afios con una sola ropa [se
rie]. Si claro, porque antes la ropa no se usaba como ahora. No habia tanta
preferencia. Porque ahora nosotros lo que estamos es que presumamos. Que
si yo me pongo este trapito de bata, yo me siento bien. Pero antes yo podia
coger hasta alli [al rio] ir a lavar, secar, y esperar que se me secara atris de una
piedra para volv6rmela a poner porque no habia ropa [se rie]. iNo habia!

Genero, propiedad y el hogar
DP: Entonces dicen que si td le nacias hembra [a tus padres], eras una propie-
dad. Por ejemplo, te casabas con un hijo de Herman, vamos a poner. Hermin
tenia que darle un cuadro a ese hombre, para que te hiciera tu casa. Por eso es
que dicen que las hembras nacen con su propiedad.

LC: 1El que se iba a casar conmigo tenia que dar...

DP: Para ponerte tu casa.

LC: Yahora jse usa eso?

Celebrating Caribbean Voices: 25 Interviews


DPR No, ya no. Ya, imaginate ya cada quien vive como Dios lo ayude. Eso era
un requisite -ideologia- de antes. Ya no, ti pasas los dias como Dios te ayude,
cada quien se defiende como pueda. Si por ejemplo, yo tengo ese colmadito
ahi. Ahi esti mi casa, bueno en mi casa nos fajamos entire 61 y yo. Entonces
nadie puede ir adentro y meters entire nosotros. Porque antes todos vivian en
una misma casa, se casaban tres y cuatro gente y se quedaban viviendo en la
casa. En mi casa fue asi. En mi casa se casaron mis dos hermanos mayores,
los dos mas viejos y ellos se quedaron viviendo en mi casa hasta que hicieran su
casita. Ahi procrearon ellos tres en mi casa viviendo todos juntos. Y era asi
antes y eso ya no existe. Ya ti te casas con un j6ven y "hay que buscar laforma
de que me hagas un ranchito." Si quiera cuatro bloques pegados y si ti consigues
comprar dos yo y compro dos y ya son cuatro. Ya eso es asi que esti. Antes, el
hombre tenia que fajarse mis que la mujer. Y ya, yo mi casa, yo la mantengo.

LC: iYahora la mujer sefaja mds que el hombre?

DP: Mas que el hombre. Porque Herman ya no sabe lo que vale una sabana.
Herman no sabe lo que vale una almohada. Herman no sabe lo que vale un
plato y una cuchara y eso esti todo a cargo mio...

LC: Usted es la que maneja todos los cuartos [dinero] ?

DP No. Yo manejo lo que yo trabajo, lo que yo produzco. Como yo te estoy
diciendo del dulce. Yo gano doscientos pesos, trescientos pesos. Eso es dinero
mio. Eso es para yo mantener mi casa. Porque si ti, por ejemplo, dices "yo voy
a dormir aqui con usted esta noche, ya yo s6 d6nde voy a buscar una sabana alli
en el closet, una buena almohada. Yo soy, no es Herman que pasa la vergiienza
cuando le lega una visit, soy yo. Porque 61, no sabe como presentar, como te
digo yo. Le digo: "Presenta lo queyopresento, que si tzifueras otro," le digo yo un
dia, "t sabes lo que t hicieras, que si tu consigues diez milpesos mepudieras dar dos
mil, a ver que td haces con los ocho mily qud tepresento yo con los dos mil."

LC: .Yque dijo?

DPR Se qued6 callado, porque 61 sabe que 61 ya no compra nada. El no sabe
nada de nada ya. Yo tengo buenas sabanas, yo tengo muchas losas, yo tengo de
todo. Es que las mujeres los acostumbran mal. Yo lo acostumbr6 muy mal.

LC: jEs verdad?

SARGASSO 2010-11, Special Issue


DP Porque si yo me hubiese puesto a que 61 me compraba lo que yo necesi-
tara, 61 no fuera asi. Pero yo lo acostumbr6 a yo fajarme a echar la casa.

LC: j Que le aconseja a [las muchachas] ?

DP Que se fajen. Hay mujeres que el marido tiene que llevirselo todo alli,
porque son mujeres que no son inteligentes que ni siquiera un jugo saben hacer
para poderte brindar un vaso de jugo a ti, que despu6s le pueda dar de propina
cinco pesos o un peso para que lo compare de azicar. Hay mujeres que no dan
para eso. Este es un paraje, una comunidad, te digo yo a ti la verdad, esto es
una comunidad donde se vive feliz cuando supieramos todo el mundo vivirla,
pero somos muy pocas que estamos fajadas.
Si yo por ejemplo gano esos cuatrocientos pesos y Hermin gana cuatro-
cientos son ochocientos. Si se ofrece una gravedad mia o una gravedad de
Herman, si Herman tiene dos mil pesos y yo tengo mil pesos, son tres mil que
da para salvar una situaci6n. Pero una mujer ech'a no da para nada. Una mujer
ech'a lo que hace es que derrocha al hombre.

LC: dQud es una mujer ech'a?

DP: Las que no se mueven. Una mujer que no mis es de la cocina. De cocinar
alli, de fregar el platico, darle comida, lavar un trapito, pero no se aplican de
coger un coco, guayarlo para limpiarlo y venderlo a otro. Yo cuando veo una
gente animada entonces inventa, yo la admiro y yo la puedo ayudar tambien.

Genero y educaci6n
DP: Yo estudi6, pero tampoco fui una alumna muy recibida. Porque cuando
me pusieron a la escuela, td sabes, tdi has ido a la iglesia de alli abajo? Ti
sabes de aquel lado frente a la iglesia del lado del rio, ti has mirado para allay?
Ahi mismo estaba la escuela. Y mira yo donde era que yo estaba [lejos]. De
ocho afios, de nueve afios. A pie y descalza, antes no se usaban zapatos. Cuan-
do yo iba a la escuela, yo iba descalza, yo me recuerdo que yo iba descalza. Nos
compraban zapaticos, pero los llevibamos quitados desde alli y llegando a la
escuela nos los poniamos.

LC: Pa'no gastarlos?

DP Si, cuando saliamos de la escuela, volviamos y nos lo quitibamos y subia-
mos con los piecitos descalzos para arriba. Yo estuve un promedio de cuatro o

Celebrating Caribbean Voices: 25 Interviews


cinco afios y no me aprendi ni la "O." No, porque entonces el professor mio...
era un hombre mayor y yo, 61 la cogi6 conmigo de quererme tanto, de estimar-
me tanto, que no me daba clase. Lo que yo sabia era lavar. ,Y qu6 hacia? Que
me daba la ropa de 61 para que yo se la lavara. Porque ahi pegado de la escuela
quedaba el rio. Y me iba a lavar, cuando subia, me ponia un chin de clase y
cogia para mi casa.

LC: Ylepagabapara que...

DP. No, mira un libro 61 me lo regalaba, los ldpiz de color, los cuadernos, todo
eso 61 me lo regalaba. Pero que no me estaba ensefiando nada, despu6s me
llevaron a la capital.

LC: jDe queedad?

DP: Estaba yo de entire diez, once afios. Ya empezando a empuntar senitos
cuando me llevaron alli. La sefiora donde yo estaba tenia tres, cuatro hijos.
Dos hembras y dos varones. No, tres varones y dos hembras. Y yo tenia que
lavarles a los cinco muchachos.

LC: Y eranfamilia suya?

DP! No, nada. Pues amistades y carifios de Papi y Mama. Ellos eran amigos
de la alcaldia y a 61 le cogi6 conmigo y despu6s me levaron a esa casa. El
sdbado y el domingo me llevaban al colegio. Despu6s de ahi venia el lunes
y a lavar y planchar y tal, me dejaban ir dos veces en la semana. Pero estaba
Light, si yo te digo a ti que en esos como ocho afios, siete afios que yo
estuve en la escuela y como seis meses en la capital yo no aprendi ni la "O."
Cada vez que yo veia a alguien leyendo un libro a mi se me querian salir los
ojos porque queria yo leer. Tii sabes que yo le ofreci a La Virgen del Carmen
que me ayudara a aprender a leer para yo hacer una hora santa que la prime-
ra lectura fuera una hora santa a la Virgen del Carmen. Muchacha, a los tres
meses ya yo sabia leer. Light, te digo que tres meses nada mds, en tres meses
sabia de letras. Fue por eso, si yo hubiera hecho si quiera un quinto curso yo
fuera professional completamente, pero no pude estudiar bien. Y despu6s, yo
seguia, leyendo y buscando hasta que aprendi a leer y aprendi escribir. No que
yo s6 escribir much.

SARGASSO 2010-11, Special Issue


La tercera edad
DP: Ya la mente mia es otra. La mente mia cambia. La tuya todavia esta
abriendo, abriendo, abriendo.

LC: [se rie] Mds o menos.

DPR Pero ya cuando td vayas de los cincuenta afios adelante, comienzan a
irse cerrando los sentidos. Ya td si td pones eso alli, a lo mejor al poquito rato,
"iDonde sera que yo large la grabadora?

LC: Si eso mepasa a mi ahora, gc6mo serd cuando tenga mds de cincuenta?

DP. iPues llvalo por escrito! L16valo por escrito que los afios van matando y
van adurmiendo a la persona. Por eso si ti me das "Placida, porfavorgudrdame
esa cinta Placida ey la cinta? Pues olvidate. Si no me la echo en el bolsillo
hasta que ti vuelvas y la reclamas, no te la puedo guardar porque se me olvida
donde la puse. ,Pero eso viene de qua? De los afios, es que ya mi mente no esta
abierta no, ni se esti abriendo, es cerrandose, que va.

El future de la comunidad
DP: Bueno, el deseo que yo tengo para mi comunidad, es sobre todo la carre-
tera. El puente que sea de otra calidad. Y la recuperaci6n. Que se recupere
mis. Porque t sabes que donde van muchos visitantes, la comunidad supera,
crece. Porque nadie se va limpio. ,Entiendes? Aqui llega por ejemplo un
grupo de turismo, y por ejemplo, mandan a hacer una comida alli en mi casa,
o van a beberse un par de cervezas. Algo dejan a la comunidad. Pero eso es
cuando haya carretera. Porque la gente llega porque somos pr6jimos hijos de
Dios, pero no porque estos son caminos de caminar asi. Ah, pero y es ficil?
JT1 salir de la Capital, del Santiago para venir a estropear tu cuerpo aqui brin-
cando en estos vehiculos que td ni sabes si vas a Ilegar viva? La emoci6n mia
fuera esa. Otra emoci6n seria tener una iglesia. Eso si es lo 1nico que yo le
pido al Sefior Jesds. Si Dios me ayudard a mi, mira, si yo pudiera hacer algo,
hacer una iglesia.

Celebrating Caribbean Voices: 25 Interviews

A Literary Journey The Caribs of Dominica:

Survival, Resistance, and Resurgence

Interviews by Melinda Maxwell-Gibb
University of Puerto Rico, Rio Piedras

The following interviews with former Carib Chiefs Irvince Auguiste
and Garnette Joseph were conducted on April 5, 2007, on the island
of Dominica, during a five-day field research trip facilitated primarily for re-
search on indigenous identity and the myth of cultural erasure. The two inter-
views take place in the villages ofTouna and Crayfish River, which are located
in the Carib Territory.
The island, known as Wai'tukubuli to the Kalinago (Island Caribs), and
later given the European name Dominica by Columbus during his second
voyage to the West Indies in 1493, is home to the only official First Na-
tion Reserve in the Caribbean archipelago. According to anthropologist and
historian Dr. Lennox Honychurch, Dominica was settled by the Caribs less
than 100 years before the Spanish arrived in 1492. He estimates that the
Kalinago's control of the Windward Islands lasted from about 1400 to 1700,
"with the last of them holding on to Dominica and St. Vincent for another
twenty or thirty years before finally retreating to the most inaccessible parts of
those islands in the face of English and French colonization" (1984: 21)1. In
Dominica, the Kalinago concentrated themselves in the isolated parts of the
northeastern coast where in 1903 they were eventually granted 3,700 acres of
land by the British Government. In a separate interview, Dr. Honychurch
stated, "they were the last of the Amerindians to enter the region and they
were the last to survive."
The first of the two interviews below is with Irvince Auguiste, who served
as Carib Chief from 1984 to 1994 (two consecutive five-year terms). It is im-
portant to note that Irvince became Chief at the age of twenty-one years and
eight months, thus making him the youngest Kalinago to ever serve as Chief

1 See Lennox Honychurch's The Dominica Story:A History ofthe Island. Oxford: Macmillan
Education, 1984. Print.

SARGASSO 2010-11, Special Issue


of the Territory. During his tenure, one of his first acts was to declare Septem-
ber nineteenth "Carib Day" in commemoration of the Carib lives lost during
the "Carib War" of 1930. He also moved to prevent further encroachment on
Carib lands and request that nonresidents leave the territory.2
On April 5,2007, while driving up the small paved road that would take us
to the Touna Carib community center, I watched eagerly for my first glimpse
of Irvince Auguiste. Ahead of us, walking towards the mini-bus from the
community center is Irvince. Irvince, like many other members of his nation,
comes from a creole background (First Nation, African and either French,
Spanish or English). He greets us in English, the island's official language,
but also speaks Kweyol (the French-lexifier patois used more regularly than
English in homes and informal social settings). He is dressed in jeans, a white
Dominica t-shirt and a Five Nations [Iroquois Confederacy] hat. He smiles
easily and gives a first impression of being very self-confident, yet down to
earth and somewhat laid-back.
Irvince Auguiste speaks softly and invites us to come into the community
center and sit down. He asks if we are comfortable, pointing out a small bath-
room at the end of the building and rolling out the aluminum vented windows
in order to catch the fresh, after rain breeze. We begin chatting about the
community center as he volunteered bits of information about himself.
Irvince and his fellow villagers are in the process of developing a living
Carib village that will highlight the traditional ways of life, such as the plant-
ing and growing of root crops like manioc, taro, tannia and medicinals such
as bois chandelle, aloe vera, chabonique, canne-a-sucre, castor, wormbush,
and masaquazil. They also want to maintain basketry (e.g., making common
market baskets, utility baskets for fruits and vegetables, fishing traps, clothes
baskets, fans); the baking of manioc bread; and fishing and hunting, which
include poison arrow/spear and hand trap fishing and the use of poison arrows
and darts, respectively. Reproductions of traditional buildings, both commu-
nal (council houses) and private (male and female communal sleeping areas)
will be included in the village, as would courts for traditional ball games. The
project encourages the preservation of a rapidly disappearing culture and will
provide an influx of greatly needed tourism dollars, both of which can enable
this settlement to flourish.

2 Under the Carib Reserve Act of 1978, a resident is any person who has resided in the
territory continuously for twelve years and has access to land with the sanction of the Carib

Celebrating Caribbean Voices: 25 Interviews


Before I take out the video camera and set up the microphone, I ask Ir-
vince what he thinks of the oil refinery that the government is proposing to
build. He winces and says, "You know, this is what gets me. We're supposed
to be a "nature" island and here they are trying to develop that industry here.
We have few, but beautiful beaches that are totally neglected and not taken
care of, as well as a feasibly profitable ecotourism industry that needs to be
refined and further developed. Oil refinery...what they should be doing is
developing our agricultural industry. We greatly need, and I've talked about
this for years, a canning industry so that we can utilize all this fruit that goes to
waste every year, because there's more than possibly ever can be eaten within a
season (these fruits include mangoes, oranges, papayas and [others]."

Irvince Auguiste
April 5,2007
Touna Village, Dominica

MM: You are Carib. What does this mean to you?

IA: Well, it is a privilege, first of all, to be a Carib Indian because of our his-
tory. And actually, it says a lot in the sense that we were one of the first nations
to be here, a part of the great Carib civilization, which in today's world makes
it even more important to be Carib. It is in this sense that we are preserving

SARGASSO 2010-11, Special Issue


all the ecological and natural advances that are taking place, by this I mean, we
eat organic food and seek wellness through nature. I think that was the part
of our civilization the Europeans tried to destroy, and fortunately, it's coming
back. And that's why I'm happy to be a Carib right now and live in the great-
est civilization there is!

MM: When you were growing up did you like hearing stories?

IA: Always...always. My parents told and taught me their stories and it was
very wonderful. I miss it very much in the sense that our youth aren't really
too interested now.

MM: What were they about and who told them to you?

IA: My parents told me about how the tribe got here and about that huge
snake that come from South America and come up to this land and how it
was the king of the tribe. They explained how the snake [Tete Chien, the gi-
ant boa of Kalinago myth] settled here upon the reservation and pointed out
a mountain upon which it could be found. They told us how it could turn
into a man and give charms of protection to the people for themselves and the
tribe and said it would disappear back into the ocean when the last Kalinago
disappeared from the land.
That story you mentioned before about us being one people is true [we
had briefly discussed my own Nations' (Cherokee/Creek/Choctaw) belief].
The story is that the Indian people are one nation and that they became scat-
tered across the world, but one day we will join together again. And I don't
doubt that. I see it happening already in my own personal connections and
travels. I remember my mom telling me this and here we are, traveling around
in planes and making contact. I mean, we are one people. That story "We're
one people," it's really true.

MM: Who did you like spending time with as a child and why?

IA: I was the baby of the family. I felt very protected by my father, but I re-
lated more to my mum in terms of storytelling, in terms of planning stuff for
school. If I had a pain, if I wasn't feeling well, it would be my mum. But in
terms of protection, in terms of living skills, my dad took care of that.

Celebrating Caribbean Voices: 25 Interviews


MM: There's a lot of ocean around us, do you like to swim orgo canoeing?

IA: I like swimming, but mainly fresh water. I love the sea, but I don't go
out on the sea at all. I would love to canoe, but that's just not for me...my
stomach's just too weak. I've attempted it, but I just get too sick. Because I
was born on the river, I have more of a fresh water connection. I grew up by
the river and not by the sea. I'd go to the ocean when I was a kid and watch
the kids who grew up on the ocean jump in those big waves, I just said, "NO

MM: Are there any stories here about how you began as a people?

IA: There are, I know there are but I no longer know them.

MM: Who created you?

IA: Well, since we've been christianized I believe it was God, but now that
I'm becoming more tribal, I refer to the Creator as the Great Spirit. From an
Indian perspective, I think it was the Great Spirit.

MM: What do you believe happens when someone dies?

LI: When someone dies? Well, in a Christian sense...no...what I really think
is that they become reincarnated. Maybe as a bird or as another person, you
know that feeling you get when you see someone and you say, "Hey, he re-
minds me of my grandfather." I think they come back.

MM: Are there any kind ofspecial celebrations here, on the reserve, that the rest of
the island doesn't celebrate? Ifso, what are they and why do you celebrate them?

LA: Not exactly. What we're doing now is we have Carib Day or Carib Week
where we try to focus on our Carib identity, history, and education.3 We want
to create more awareness about who we are, not just for the Dominicans, but
for the world.

3 Carib Week is observed in commemoration of the Kalinago uprising that took place in
Dominica on September 19, 1930. During the festivities, the Karifuna Cultural Group,
which has traveled extensively throughout North and South America, performs.

SARGASSO 2010-11, Special Issue


MM: What kind offood do you like to eat? Do you grow any ofyour own food?
What is it?

IA: I like eating food that is grown at home like green bananas, dasheen, po-
tatoes...all of it.

MM: Do you celebrate growing it? Why?

IA: No, we don't celebrate growing any specific thing that I know of. But,
I know that my dad, when he planted carrots, or whatever, would say, "I'm
planting to the Great Spirit to give it help to grow." He'd do this for every-
thing he planted. I always helped my dad when he was working, be it farming
or hunting and he always thanked the Great Spirit for blessing us with food.

MM: Do thepeople ever talk about the "old" days?

IA: Yeah, lots of stories about evil spirits, the dark man (Jumbee/Jumbies),
the darkness itself, and how scary it was during the time before electric lights.
Fascinating stuff...very fascinating stuff, we need to redevelop them [the sto-
ries] to get them out. They're really cute stories...they are! I've been trying to
bring them back through organized oral storytelling sessions, I've even tried
them on my kids and they're so attentive...the scary ones make them jump.
It's so nice; my kids even get up from the television just to hear the stories.

MM: In terms of traditional architecture, what kind of houses did you have grow-
ing up and are they still built that way today?

IA: In the past we had a lot of straw houses; from straw we went to wood
shingle houses and from those to cement, with either full cement structures or
cement with wood and zinc roofs. I prefer wood to cement, but we get hur-
ricanes here, so a wood house would have to be built really strong to survive.

MM: Ispoke to Lennox Honychurch and he said, "Our Caribs are reinventing and/
or reviving their culture. "Do you feel that your culture was ever lost?

IA: It wasn't lost; it was influenced by what was happening around us. It
modified to its environment. I'll give you an example, because French and

Celebrating Caribbean Voices: 25 Interviews


English were imposed on us by the colonial governments, more people had to
learn these languages. Because we had to learn these languages, we stopped
maintaining our own language, so we lost it. But it didn't change who we were
as a people. We still kept doing what we did before. We just spoke the Kweyol
or English like everybody else did, because we had to make livings and com-
municate with people outside of the Territory.

MM: Ifyou could reply to Lennox, what would you like to tell him?

IA: There are some things that should not be written or said about our people.
Lennox's information on historical migration is appreciated, but the perspective,
as to the people -describing how we did things and how we do things now and
how we would want to do something in the future- that's for us to do.

MM: Tell me why you're here. You're not gettingpaidfor this interview, what does
this opportunity mean to you?

IA: Giving an interview is always an opportunity to give my perspective and
I always take the opportunity to do one because a lot of stuff has not been
written and a lot of stories have not been done about our people. Maybe it's
because some persons could not find the right persons to talk to, or because
they couldn't find anyone at all.
I'll give you an example: There are people who write books about the
Caribs and they don't know what they're writing about because the person
they talked to wasn't a Carib...it was, perhaps someone else who passed as
one. So I love taking every opportunity to say how I feel, why I feel the way
I do, what we're doing, because it provides the opportunity for that material,
that information, to just go out, particularly with today's technology. I'm get-
ting paid for this because of the information that goes out, one doesn't know
who it goes to or who it just might fall on. And one of these days, we might
just get a whole university coming all the way over here just to visit us and
they'll have to pay for staying here. So, I'm getting paid. I enjoyed doing this,
but I must say when mention is made that the person who is coming has First
Nation blood, some Cher-o-kee, I must pay attention to that.

MM: Thankyou.

IA: It was my pleasure.

SARGASSO 2010-11, Special Issue


Garnette Joseph

April 5,2007
Crayfish River, Dominica

Garnette Joseph served as chief from 1999 to 2004. He was re-elected
chief in 2009 and will serve a five-year term that will end in 2014. Everyone
I spoke to in Dominica speaks very highly of Garnette's service to the people.
He was a very popular Chief who achieved many things for his people while
in office. His contributions include initiatives to promote and preserve Carib
Indian Culture and economic development. In 1993, before becoming Chief,
Garnette was instrumental in the formation of the Wai'tukubuli Karifuna
(Carib People) Development Agency, a corporation that was integral in set-
ting up a tree nursery to assist in the reforestation of the Carib Territory. Gar-
nette also served in the Agricultural Extension Office with the Dominican
Ministry of Agriculture and held a similar position with the Dominican-based
Save the Children Project from 1981 to 1986. The interview took place in
Garnette Joseph's home in the village of Crayfish River.

MM: You are Carib. What does this mean to you?

GJ: Being Carib highlights the resilience of our people to survive in spite of
the odds. It means that our people have been recognized as a group that has

Celebrating Caribbean Voices: 25 Interviews

-r f90 ZZ


survived. A fellow from the Genome Project wanted to find out how we were
able to do it, this is one of the things that I feel good about.4 Myself, my peo-
ple...that we're able to go through so much, yet come out of it. That doesn't
mean that we haven't paid a considerable price, but we're still here.

MM: When you were growing up did you like hearing stories?

GJ: Well, yes actually. I'm blown away by the stories that were told here.

MM: What were they about and who told them to you?

GJ: Actually, the stories that we were taught were from the elders. However,
at the time, I didn't give much thought to it, except that I enjoyed listening
to the stories. Our stories taught morals, but they were not authentic Carib
stories, they were mainly a West Indian kind of story like Anansi, Brer Rabbit,
Brer Tiger, and TiJean. The stories were told to me by people within the com-
munity. But interestingly, when somebody dies, during that nine day period'
after...yeah, around death time...during that time there's a lot of storytelling
and activities that we find quite interesting. That's one of the specific times
that you'll hear stories.

MM: Who did you like spending time with as a child and why?

GJ: Well, actually I enjoyed spending time with my Great Grandmother,
because I wasn't raised with my parents, I was raised with my Great Grand-
mother and Grand Uncle. My Great Grandma was very charming, very lov-
ing, always around for me, always looking out for me, and she always had
something for me. That's why I cherish her very much.

MM: What kind of things do you like to make?

GJ: I've done many things in my life. I did crafts at one time, horn and shell.
At one time I used to draw and paint. Then I got involved in other activities,
more of a political nature. So, I became more active in cultural activities. I

4 The Human Genome Project is an international effort aimed at identifying and mapping
the entire sequence of more than 30,000 human genes and 3 billion chemical base pairs
that make up human DNA.

SARGASSO 2010-11, Special Issue


formed the Dance Troop, I danced, I sang, I drummed and did other stuff
like that. In order to do this, I took a look at Carib dance and music that sur-
vived in South America and utilized it for our own revitalization in this area.
There's still drumming done, but it's more with the cultural groups and the
kids like to use it in dancehall music. It's a way for them to incorporate some
of their own culture into the popular music here in Dominica.

MM: There's a lot of ocean around us, do you like to swim or go canoeing? Do you
still do this or did you do this when you were young?

GJ: Yeah, I love swimming, I love being out in the Ocean. Around us, on this
side, is the Atlantic and sometimes it can be so rough that you can't get into
it. It's almost frightening and it's dangerous. It's like a challenge every day
for us, because now that we have kids of our own, we don't want them going
in there. These days we prefer the river, to be out on the river. I love to be on
the river, we go all the time.

MM: Are there any stories here about how you began as a people?

GJ: Well, the creation stories are stories that we actually had to learn about,
had to find and re-learn. Actually, some of our surviving myths have been
written down in a book, Kalinago Myths: A Retelling, and you'll have a copy
before you leave.

MM: Who created yourpeople? And where do you come from?

GJ: Who created us? The Great Spirit started our life. And we know that
we come from the South. Somewhere from the Orinoco, somewhere from
the South. We have a lot of stories and theories put forth by anthropologists,
you know.

MM: What happens when someone dies?

GJ: When someone dies the body goes into the ground, but the spirit stays alive
and they are watching us, accompanying us, protecting us, and guiding us.

MM: Are there any kind of special celebrations here, on the reserve, that the rest of
the island doesn't celebrate? If so, what are they and why do you celebrate them?

Celebrating Caribbean Voices: 25 Interviews


GJ: Well, not really. We have what we call Carib Week and that comes some-
time during the week of the nineteenth of September. It's a week long, some-
times its dynamic and sometimes it's low-key. This event is geared towards
bringing the community together through cultural performances, games, and
displays of agricultural produce and craft items. It is an occasion in which we
want the rest of Dominica to come to the Carib territory and enjoy this time
with us. It's our time and we must celebrate our achievement as a people.

MM: What kind offood do you like to eat? And do you grow any ofyour own

GJ: I like yams, potatoes, ripe plantain and fish. Provisions. I grow everything
that we eat. I observe the moon phases and my planting takes place after the
full moon. Between the full moon and the new moon.

MM: Do the people ever talk about "the old days?"

GJ: Yeah, they talk about those days, kind of reminiscing their childhood
days and how life was then. I think people kind of miss the nostalgia of those
times. My great grandmother would speak of a difficult life. She used to talk
about how people would work for only one or two cents a day, but it was the
abundance of everything else that was there that made life easier. Economi-
cally, it was difficult, but at the same time very rich in other ways.

MM: What kind of houses did you have back then?

GJ: I was born and raised in a two room wood house. There were still thatch
houses and straw houses back then. As a people, we moved from thatch to
straw, to wooden houses with shingles on the roof or corrugated iron roofs, on
to concrete houses with concrete roofs or wood and iron roofs. I had a wood
house under construction before the last big hurricane in 1979. After that, I
rebuilt, but now I build this concrete house. It's still under construction, but
it's safer for my family.

MM: Ispoke to Lennox Honychurch and he said, "Our Caribs are reinventing and/
or reviving their culture." Do you feel that your culture was ever lost?

SARGASSO 2010-11, Special Issue


GJ: Well, in some aspects, yes, but that is the natural evolution of things.
You always have to go through transition. In other ways, no; however, these
were things we were forced to accept and that came through colonization, the
process of colonization. You're forced to accept certain things, migration, and
creolization, the forced religion that made us lose our language.
Other than that, I see no loss of culture. We maintain our crafts and fam-
ily traditions. We are a separate people. Lennox is coming from a white man's
view, that's just the way he sees it and I understand that. I just try to see his
view and not get angry. It's not worth it. When we have special events we
invite him to come. The only problem is he's kind of middle of the road, stuck
in his ways. I always tell people that we are continuing to evolve. It doesn't
mean that we've lost our identity.

MM: What is the final thing that you would like others to know about you and
your people?

GJ: We are an indigenous nation that has survived colonization. We're still

Having completed the interview, Garnette gives me a copy of Kalinago Myths:
A Retelling by Julius Green. It is a treasure, not only for the receiver of the gift,
but for the person giving it.

GJ: I look forward to seeing you again.

MM: It will be a pleasure to return.

GJ: Thank you for coming here.

At the end of this journey, I realized many things. One of the most im-
portant is best related by Julius Green in his foreword to Kalinago Myths: A
Retelling (2002):

There are those who ignore the significance of our distinct identity and en-
courage us to follow suit. Indeed, they would urge us to merge to the point of
obliteration of ethnic identity although, at times, that unique identity does well
to benefit our entire island economically; they minimize the contribution that
we have made to the history and development of Dominica; and they prey on

Celebrating Caribbean Voices: 25 Interviews


our weakness using diverse mechanisms that have never worked to our benefit.
However, a recognition and espousal of the contribution that the Kalinago have
made is foundational to the genuine development of the country.5 (5)

Erasure or survival? The Kalinago people are a symbol of what is hap-
pening in the resurgence of indigenous identity in the Caribbean. They have
joined hands with the other surviving Island Carib Nations (the Black Caribs
of St. Vincent, the Arima Caribs of Trinidad and the Garifuna/Karifuna, or
Black Caribs, of Belize and Honduras), in order to re-cultivate and refurbish,
not only their kinships, but also their distinct culture. They do so through
the re-learning of their language and re-appropriation of traditional arts. As
the late Hilary Frederick, former Chief of the Carib Territory said, "Before,
we were asleep: Now we must awake from our sleep and move forward." And
move forward they have, exhibiting resilience as well as resistance towards the
myth of extinction. A sense of a united resurgence has served to form and
establish the modern tribal identity of the Kalinago people of Dominica.

5 See Green, Julius. Kalinago Myths:A Retelling. Roseau: Waikada, 2002. Print.

SARGASSO 2010-11, Special Issue


Liberty and equality are good consorts, for, though their claims sometimes conflict,
they rest upon a common basis of ideas which makes them reconcilable. But a most
profound incompatibility necessarily results from the uneasy union which joins de-
mocracy with the accumulated remains ofenslavement.

Elsa V. Goveia, Slave Society in the British Leeward Islands
at the End of the Eighteenth Century (1965)

Jalil Sued Badillo y el camino hacia

una historic indigent

Entrevista por Wilfredo GBigel

Jail Sued Badillo
27 febrero 2010
San Juan, Puerto Rico

Wilfredo G6igel: Esta entrevista espara la edicidn especial delAniversario 25
de la revista de Sargasso. Para la cual desean entrevistar a varias personas promi-
nentes en la isla en distintos campos; uno de ellos es el activismo.
Hoy no vamos a hablar de activismo politico, sino un activismo indigenista.
Yo creo quepodemos identificar a alil como el indigenista puertorriqueno principal
en nuestra historic, por sus studios y conocimientos sobre las cultures indigenas de
Puerto Ricoy el Caribe. Empezamos ambos a laborar con este tema de los indigenas
hace como treintay cinco anios, mas o menos.
j Verdad, Jalil?

Jalil Sued Badillo: Mas o menos.

WG: Que fue lo que te encauz6 a ti en el campo indigenista?

JSB: Bueno, 6sa... 6sa es una pregunta interesante. Cuando yo comienzo
a ensefiar a nivel universitario --que fue por causes imprevistas, no fue por

Celebrating Caribbean Voices: 25 Interviews


dedicaci6n o por interds-- la verdad monda y lironda es que yo entro a
un sal6n de classes para evitar ir al ej6rcito, alli en la 6poca de la guerra de
Viet Nam.
Vengo de mis studios de ciencias political en Nueva York y con un tras-
fondo muy d6bil de la historic de Puerto Rico, pero entonces me reclaman que
yo tengo que ensefiar historic de Puerto Rico. Eso fue tan... tan tarde atras
como el 1966, y cuando uno tiene que dar la cara ante un pdblico sobre un
tema que no conoce, pues, hay que meter mano y hay que empezar de cero. Yo
con el tema indigena, como con el studio de la historic de Puerto Rico, tuve
que comenzar de cero, aprendi6ndolo todo.
Eso tiene una ventaja y es que uno no tiene que aprender los disparates y
tiene menos que desaprender en... Siempre recuerdo un domingo por la tarde,
estando con mi esposa caminando por el Viejo San Juan, me topo con la vitri-
na de una vendedora de Antigiiedades que habia vivido muchos afios en Haiti
-se lamaba "Cool Features"- y que vendia objetos indigenas, y tenia un hacha
en la vitrina. Yo la identifiqu6 como hacha porque la habia visto en el libro de
Miller arias antes, y le comento a mi esposa: "Oye, seri bueno ese objeto?"
Valia veinte d6lares... Este... No lo comprd.

WG: Era muy cara?

JSB: No, no, no. Tenia series dudas de su autenticidad. Ese es el objeto quizds
mis comln indigena que sobrevive en la cultural criolla y le iaman...

WG: Piedra de rayo.

JSB: Piedra de rayo. Asi que mis studios sobre lo indigena comienzan por
esa urgencia de aprender y para el 66 no habia much fuente. Estaba Pre
Historia de Puerto Rico, de Coll y Toste, don Aurelio Tio tenia otros trabajos,
pero el resto de la historiografia indigenista estaba dispersa o estaba en ingl6s
e inaccesible al piblico interesado.

WG: En aquella epoca teniamos un problema, porque es que ninguno de nosotros
verdaderamente aprendi6 historic de Puerto Rico. Lo que sabemos tu yyo de histo-
ria de Puerto Rico lo hemos aprendidopor cuenta nuestra.

JSB: Seguro.

SARGASSO 2010-11, Special Issue


WG: Incluso, hablando sobre los indigenas que no sabia nada, yo recuerdo en el
libro mio de Miller una nota que habia escrito alguien, que decia que la herencia de
los indigenas de Puerto Rico no valla mas de veinte ddlares. Ese... con eso es que
estdbamos bregando nosotros en nuestra epoca.

JSB: Seguro. 0 sea, de lo que estamos hablando no es de... solamente de falta
de informaci6n, es de informaci6n desvirtuada por una historiografia colonial
marcadamente hispan6fila -que era la onda de esas primeras d6cadas del siglo
veinte y que se reafirma bajo el franquismo- y que en Puerto Rico se recibe
eso estableciendo muy poco 6nfasis en el studio de lo que no era espafiol. Asi
que el lugar del desembarco de Crist6bal Col6n cubria docenas y docenas de
libros, mientras que lo indigena eran incursiones de algunos autores del siglo
diecinueve, como esti Coll y Toste, muy poco actualizado y con un enfoque
relativamente negative.
Asi que los que... en la d6cada de los sesenta y los setenta empezamos
a aprender sobre el tema indigena, no solamente tenemos que bregar con la
busqueda de fuentes, sino con la interpretaci6n de fuentes viciadas sobre el
tema. Eso yo creo que desarrolla entonces una agudeza... una necesidad de
leer entire lines, de cuestionar la fuente, que va desarrollando una actitud
critical ante la lectura.

WG: Y en esa epoca dramos pocos los que teniamos esa inquietud, grecuerdas

JSB: Eramos muy pocos, pero yo creo que eran muchos los que ya no
soportaban las percepciones que surgian del Instituto de Cultura o de Ins-
trucci6n Piblica en su panfleteria sobre historic. La d6cada... esa d6cada
que entra a los setenta, es la d6cada tambien de una nueva generaci6n
intellectual puertorriquefia de j6venes mejor preparados --algunos de ellos
que vienen del extranjero-- de unas ideas de revision intellectual que se
estdn dando en otras parties del mundo, asi que el moment yo creo que es
important identificarlo.
Lo que nuestro grupo pretendi6 hacer, segfin se acercan los setenta, no
se hubiera podido hacer cuarenta afios antes, ni treinta afios antes. Ese era
el moment precise para empezar a cuestionar temas que tienen que ver,
mis alli de lo indigena, con la identidad puertorriquefia misma; y eso nos
va a repercutir en la Academia, va a repercutir en las profesiones, en el arte.

Celebrating Caribbean Voices: 25 Interviews


Asi que nosotros... yo creo que somos parte de un... de un moment his-
t6rico que va a ir a repensar la historic cada uno desde una perspective distinta
y nosotros desde el indigenismo.

WG: Ahi-creo que de esos moments histdricos-fue cuando nos conocimos tzy yo,
alld para el 1971, aproximadamente. Recuerdas aquella epoca?

JSB: Bueno, yo hago mis pininos propios y de pronto veo un articulo en el San
Juan Star de un senior que se llama Wilfredo Geigel, que es abogado, haciendo
sus pininos, y entonces yo digo: "Este senior sabe de lo que esti hablando."

WG: Yahicomenzamos lapelea en conjuntopara... para esa epoca, comenzando en
el 71, y los dos teniamos la mismapreocupaci6n, lafalta defuentes que nos ayudaran
a entender todo ese indigenismo, del cual conociamos muy poco, pero sabiamos que
habia algo ahf mas alld de lo que reflejaban los textos.

JSB: Habian unos males que todavia se sufren: no hay museos adecuados, no ha-
bian publicaciones suficientes, las imdgenes de lo indigena en los libros de texto
realmente eran deprimentes. Y nosotros comenzamos. Tuvimos la suerte de
pretender ir a las fuentes originales, que esos son otros veinte pesos. Como
logramos acceso a las Cr6nicas de Indias, por ejemplo, que en la biblioteca
no estaban? Alguien se las habia robado. Pues, yo logr6 cambiarle a nuestro
querido amigo Andr6s Oliver -medico muy conocido- un poco mayor que
nosotros, lo que quiere decir que habia hecho sus lectures un poco antes que
nosotros y estaba dispuesto a cambiarme su colecci6n de libros de Herrera por
una bayoneta de la Guerra Civil Americana.

WG: Pues, a Andres parece que le gustaban los cuchillos, porque yo le cambie un
puial de tres hojas -bien raro, turco-por la Historia de la Navegaci6n Espafiola
de Navarrete.

JSB: Esas cosas que no se conseguian en el mercado todavia.

WG: Y no se consiguen boy en dia tampoco.

JSB: A un viejo professor de arte de la universidad, que se llamaba George
Warreck y que acostumbraba a hacer sus visits de saqueo a yacimientos

SARGASSO 2010-11, Special Issue


arqueol6gicos en Loiza -bellisima persona- le logr6 yo cambiar a Pedro Mdr-
tir de Angleria tambien por otra antigiiedad.
Asi que, poco a poco, ibamos reciclando y obteniendo mejores fuentes de
informaci6n para la revision a la que nos dedicamos despu6s.

WG: Verdaderamente fue una epoca spectacular, porque lograr esos cambios, esos
canjes que haciamos, eso... eso ya no se ve.

JSB: No hablemos de los pr6stamos de libros entire td yyo...

WG: Que continuamos hoy en dia. Hoy mismo tuvimos que hacer eso para una
informacidn de una de mis investigaciones. Y aqu voy a saltar un poquito porque,
apesar de que tu entraste durante todos estos anos en la cuestidn indigenista, de mo-
mento haces un cambio en tu viday tu tesis doctorales El dorado de Puerto Rico,
que es la extraccidn de oro en laprimera mitad del diecis6is. g Cdmo cambiay c6mo tu
ajustas esta vision indigenista tuya con ese cambio aparentemente szibito?

JSB: Bueno, yo voy a Sevilla a estudiar el doctorado, en sabitica, y despu6s
que aprendo paleograffa -estudio de la letra medieval- que es la que le va a
permitir a uno entonces penetrar en la documentaci6n de la conquista, pues,
no encuentro datos sobre el tema indigena suficientes para una tesis -por lo
menos, desde la perspective que a uno le gusta- y lo que se hacia patente en la
documentaci6n que uno iba revisando era los 6nfasis econ6micos de los afios
de la conquista y la explotaci6n econ6mica de los recursos mineros. Eso no se
desprendia de los studios de la historic de Puerto Rico, donde se nos decia
que los espafioles encontraron cuatro pepitas de oro... este... que Juan Ponce de
Le6n se las ech6 en un bolsillo y se acab6; y, de pronto, en Sevilla comienzan
a aparecer cuadernos, listados completes de mineros, cada uno llevando oro a
fundir, con una minuciosidad y una detallaria impresionante.
Entonces, uno va descubriendo que por esa linea tambi6n, de las primeras
economies que se establecieron, uno puede no solamente ir al indio, que es la
victim de todo esto, porque es la fuerza de trabajo, sino tambi6n abundar en
la vision equivocada que se tiene del period de la conquista y colonizaci6n.
Y me tir6 de cabeza. Yo no era muy bueno en economic y tuve que leer los
libros de la Real Hacienda y de los ingresos y los egresos. Yo no era ge6logo
para saber de mineria ni de suelo, pero despu6s de diez afios logr6 montar
el studio de la explotaci6n econ6mica en Puerto Rico y ampliarlo a Cuba

Celebrating Caribbean Voices: 25 Interviews


y Santo Domingo, para lo que hasta ahora es el linico trabajo que se ha hecho
en el Caribe sobre las primeras economies coloniales de Espafia.

WG: Yde esas... de esas economfas coloniales, gcuales tu crees quefueron tus hallaz-
gos mds significativos?

JSB: Bueno, primero, que las Antillas eran ricas en oro. Col6n no estaba
buscando tierras para sembrar y lo que retiene la atenci6n, desde la 6poca
de Col6n, en unas islas aparentemente desprovistas de riqueza es el oro. El
oro es el bien energ6tico que mueve la economic de la 6poca y Col6n tiene la
sagacidad de darse cuenta que esos indiecitos desnudos cargan en las narices
y en las orejas y en los cuellos, oro -y ese oro tiene que salir de algin sitio- y
juega lo suficiente hasta que dan con los recursos mineros.
Ya para el 1503, Santo Domingo esti enviando remesas de oro a Espafia
ininterrumpidamente. Desde el 1510, Puerto Rico; y desde el 1511, Cuba. Asi
que la primera America explotada y rica son las Antillas, no es M6xico ni Peru
-eso viene despu6s.
Asi que es importante... Yo creo que la tesis es important en establecer
unas cronologias correctas de los events. Mis c~lculos me llevaron a postu-
lar el envio de cincuenta toneladas de oro a Espafia en treinta y seis afios.
Para una Espafia y una Europa donde el oro era sumamente escaso, esto
tuvo un impact considerable que les permiti6 a los espafioles, entonces,
quedarse en la zona hasta que expandieron la conquista y la consolidaron
en los continents.

WG: Incluso, dentro de esos studios encontraste los cambios cuando viene la expan-
sidn, porque yo creo que Espafa encontrd o caused unos problems administrativos
en laforma en que estaba llevando a cabo el desarrollo en las Antillas, que tuvo que
ampliary cambiarposteriormente, cuando entra en el continent, no?

JSB: Bueno, el primer ejercicio colonial que levan a cabo en la isla de La
Espafiola, la Corona pretendia tener un monopolio econ6mico de la gesti6n.
No tenia los recursos y la verdad es que la administraci6n de La Espafiola fue
un caos. Fue un caos bajo Col6n, fue un caos bajo Ovando. Hasta el 1508,
que decide entonces abrir el comercio de la colonia a entidades privadas, al
comercio privado. Lo interesante... porque 6se es el afio cuando empieza la
conquista de Puerto Rico, asi que hay un cambio en political: van a haber mas
barcos, va a haber mis gente, van a haber mas recursos.

SARGASSO 2010-11, Special Issue


Asi que, Espafia, que no tenia experiencias coloniales, va a tener que
aprender a la mala y poco a poco como llevar a cabo la gesti6n de explotar
unos recursos ultramarinos, hacerlos llegar a la metropolis, porque 6se es
el objetivo. Lo que pasa es que las Antillas, como primer experiment, fue
tan nefasto que tuvo un costo human altisimo. Cuando uno compare la
explotaci6n minera de las Antillas con la que se legisl6 para M6xico y para
Peru, son dos cosas totalmente diferentes, en horas laborables, herramien-
tas disponibles, etcetera. Nada de eso existia en las Antillas. Y yo creo que
mi tesis logr6 captar esa naturaleza inicial terrible, que no se debia a una
malicia o una malignidad de los espafioles, sino a una brutalidad. A una
incapacidad para llevar a cabo una empresa que les empez6 a resultar muy

WG: Entonces, en esta... Volviendo al tema indigena, esa documentacidn que tu
obtienes en Sevilla -porque tzipasaste mds tiempo copiando que escribiendo en Se-
villa, ,verdad?

JSB: Asi es. Leyendo y fotocopiando.

WG: Y esa... Yo creo que en Puerto Rico el mejor archivo documental que hay de
Espana en Puerto Rico o sobre Puerto Rico es el que tz tienes, jverdad?

JSB: Bueno, ya no. Ya no. El Centro de Investigaciones Hist6ricas de la Univer-
sidad de Puerto Rico, en la iltima d6cada y media, ha estado invirtiendo much
dinero en traer documentaci6n de Espafia y cosas que eran originales, descubri-
mientos mios, como los cuadernos de mineria, todo complete de los primeros
veinte afios, ya estan en... ya estan en Rio Piedras. No estan transcritos.

WG: Que es una diferencia...

JSB: Ahi hay una diferencia, pero... y hoy, digitalmente, se pueden traer nu-
merosos documents, pero durante esa... hasta por lo menos los noventa, las
mejores colecciones documentadas estaban en manos privadas no solamente
la mia, sino otras personas.

WG: j Qud otras colecciones buenas, asi documentales, habian en Puerto Rico de esa

Celebrating Caribbean Voices: 25 Interviews


JSB: Bueno, esti la de Salvador Padilla, que Uevaba ya much tiempo antes
que yo yendo a Sevilla y fotocopiando. Lamentablemente, nunca escribi6.
Ya 61 esti delicado de salud, pero accesibiliz6 su colecci6n. Conmigo fue su-
mamente generoso y yo pude compulsar much document que no conocia.
Contrario a una gran colecci6n que existia desde la d6cada de los sesenta,
en Ponce, que es la colecci6n de Vicente Murga -especializado tambi6n en
el siglo diecis6is- pero esa colecci6n no ha estado accessible a investigadores
puertorriquefios durante cuarenta afios. Y sin embargo, much de esa docu-
mentaci6n esta transcrita en maquinilla en Ponce.

WG: Eso es esencial, porque ahitiene que haber much documentacidn adicionala
la que tzi teniasy la que tiene el Centro.

JSB: Asi es. Yo, tras bastidores y por conexiones y parientes, pues, siempre pude
acceder alguna documentaci6n alli; y, por ejemplo, documents que yo fotocopi6
a finales de los setenta y principios de los ochenta -que yo estuve en Sevilla- y
que estaban en muy malas condiciones, Murga los habia transcrito quizis quince
o veinte afios antes y estaban mis legibles algunos aspects, y en eso, pues, le
ayud6 a uno, pero... pero 61 tenia una orientaci6n no econ6mica, una orientaci6n
religiosa hacia el studio del period. Yo tenia una orientaci6n mis sociol6gica,
mas econ6mica; pero lo terrible es que colecciones tan valiosas como 6sa, en casos
como 6ste, no estuvieran disponible a los investigadores.

WG: Ahora, esa documentacidn que tz adquiriste, no solamente te sirvi6 para el
prop6sito de la tesis, sino la continuacidn de tus studios indigenistas.

JSB: Asi es. Asi es. Hasta el dia de hoy. Mi dltimo libro es Agueyband El
Bravo, que Uleva en el caldero como cuarenta afios y que tiene que ver, en parte,
con mi investigaci6n en Sevilla, y sali6 hace poco. O sea, que siempre hay
much documentaci6n que uno no ha logrado trabajar y que este en el caldero
para, en cualquier moment, seguir saliendo.

WG: Vamos ahora a tocar un tema queyo creo que es unpecado mortal,pero... por
qu6 todavia se estd hablando de los Caribes?

JSB: Bueno, como td bien sabes, en la historic hay interpretaciones de los events
que se Ulevan a cabo por razones de intereses de estado o intereses econ6micos

SARGASSO 2010-11, Special Issue


dominantes. Por ejemplo, el que se ponga a estudiar cualquier aspect de political
international de los Iiltimos cincuenta afios, tiene que tomar en consideraci6n la
Guerra Fria, porque la Guerra Fria divide el mundo en dos mitades y cada mitad
va a interpreter ideol6gicamente los events. Si uno no rompe con esa interpreta-
ci6n political mal intencionada, uno no va a entender los events.
La conquista de America no solamente fue el primer acto de expansion
de Europa hacia Am6rica, es la primera 6poca de justificaci6n de la expansion
hacia unos territories nuevos. Asi que muchas de las interpretaciones de la do-
cumentaci6n de la 6poca, principalmente los cronistas, estin involucradas en
explicar la justicia de los events que se levaron a cabo. Esa dinimica te lleva
a criminalizar a unos grupos y te lleva a idealizar otros grupos. Espafia repre-
senta el cristianismo, Espafia represent la civilizaci6n, y los que se oponen en
Am6rica a eso, tienen que representar todo lo contrario.
Interesante, porque la descripci6n de todo lo contrario tiene que ver con
el derecho... con el derecho divino... los concepts de derecho divino en Eu-
ropa, entire los cuales estA el canibalismo. Asi que, filos6ficamente, uno puede
rastrear esa conjunci6n interpretativa political de la 6poca. Pues, nosotros ve-
nimos arrastrando. Am6rica viene arrastrando una historiografica politizada,
que en muchas parties de Am6rica ya se venia superando, pero que en las An-
tillas no se estaba haciendo a la altura de nuestra 6poca.
Yo me dedico a rastrear que es eso de Caribes, que grupos estdn siendo
identificados, c6mo estin clasificados y cuales son los efectos de eso, y logro
establecer unos patrons. El concept de Caribes es una criminalizaci6n de
unos grupos para poderlos esclavizar, porque el problema mayor que Espafia
tiene en las Antillas es buscar mano de obra para explotar la riqueza minera.
La empresa de explotar unos recursos ultramarinos excedia las capacida-
des econ6micas y fisicas del Reino de Castilla. El Reino de Castilla no era un
reino poderoso de Europa de la 6poca; lo va a ser eventualmente, cuando se
integre a la Espafia Imperial, pero los espafioles no tenian recursos para explo-
tar las Antillas. Si no hay una mano de obra indigena esclavizada y legitimada
para hacerlo, no hay empresa econ6mica. De ahi que el trifico y bdisqueda de
esclavos, primero indigenas y despuds africanos, sea la actividad alas amplia y
mis dramitica de esa 6poca. Trasladar cientos de miles de esclavos de Africa,
o de una parte del mundo al otro, no son events muy comunes en la historic
de la humanidad, y eso se da en las Antillas.
Los Caribes, entonces, son una etiqueta de qui6nes se supone que fueran
los malos en aquel drama, que ya a nuestra altura debemos de reivindicar.

Celebrating Caribbean Voices: 25 Interviews


WG: Y me imagine que, a base del mismo problema que nosotros nos encontramos
hace cuarenta ariosy que estdbamos bregando con unasfuentes limitadas, esasfuentes
se ban continuado, pero, entire las mds importantes, que estd Rouse, elprofesor Rouse,
de Yale, que es el... que es el indigenista caribeno grande de la epoca, tiene que cam-
biar su vision ante laponencia que tz estaspresentando.

JSB: Bueno, yo creo que ya cuando 61 describe, para el 92, su iltimo libro, 61
acepta algunas de mis clasificaciones; y entonces -entre ellas la geografia ca-
ribe, que 61 la tenia entire Puerto Rico e Islas Virgenes- la altera: incluye las
Islas Virgenes como grupo taino. Eso fue una gran concesi6n de los arque6-
logos, que tienden a ser los ratificadores de los disparates de los historiadores.
Porque hoy el tema ya me trasciende a mi por much. El tema caribe se discu-
te con una mayor amplitud hoy dia. Son docenas de historiadores los que han
abundado y se han insertado en la revision de esos concepts. Rouse era de los
mas recalcitrantes. Tenemos unos contrapartes locales, que se iran a la tumba
sin cambiar una... una coma, pero no es lo mismo en los setenta que ahora.

WG: Sin embargo, la mayorparte de los trabajos tuyos estdn sustentados con docu-
mentacidn archivista espanolay no por la cuestidn de la arqueologiapropiamente.

JSB: No, yo creo que yo he tratado de buscar un balance entire las dos cosas.
Mi libro de los Caribes brega con las dos fuentes. Bueno, con la linguistica,
con la documentaci6n arqueol6gica y con la documentaci6n hist6rica. Mi
libro de Agueyband es igual. Yo creo que van de la mano.
La historia... uno tiene que ser interdisciplinario. A veces los documents
alertan a uno, a veces es la arqueologia la que alerta a uno, pero, a la larga, tiene
que haber una... una cierta paridad entre... entire los dos.

WG: Pero tanto en el libro de Agieybana El Bravo, como el articulo que salid en
la revista de... reciente, que estd el articulo tuyo sobre los tainos los tainos estdn ya
en Guadalupe.

JSB: Bueno, yo me he dedicado a llevar el analisis un poco mis alli, porque
mi hip6tesis es que todo el Caribe... dentro de las diferencias regionales natu-
rales que se dan en una region amplia, todo el Caribe estuvo poblado por unos
mismos grupos de, bisicamente, unos mismos niveles de desarrollo. Donde
habia mas desarrollo fue en Santo Domingo y Puerto Rico, pero no son grupos

SARGASSO 2010-11, Special Issue


culturales distintos. Y entonces, uno tiene que levar esa hip6tesis, segin la
evidencia se va fortaleciendo.
Los arque6logos holandeses estin trabajando much esa zona de Guada-
lupe y estin ayudando a reforzar mi hip6tesis de que... de que Guadalupe por
lo menos recibi6 much influencia de las islas tainas chicoides, como le llaman
- tainas mayores es de Santo Domingo y Puerto Rico.
Entonces, yo hago una revision de la documentaci6n desde Col6n y me
encuentro con que hay unos espacios para interpreter mis correctamente esa
situaci6n y tengo ese articulo en Caribbean Studies, se titula "Guadalupe,
itaina o Caribe?" abriendo a la discusi6n, en una 6poca donde hay mIs ele-
mentos de juicio, el viejo tema.

WG: Ytodavia, sin embargo, apesar de que estdn saliendo todos estos articulos, hay
individuos recalcitrantes que se les hace dificil aceptar esta... esta argumentacidn,
porque si nos vamos a basar en unas cuestiones que son relativamente objetivas,
unas interpretaciones vdlidas, gPor quisostener esasposturas que son, hasta cierto
punto, hoy en dia insostenibles?

JSB: Pues, estos son moments en que yo quisiera ser abogado y llevar estas
cosas a juicio. Yo creo que se dilucidarian con mayor premura, pero como...
como la dindmica no es la legal, hay gente que por razones muy persona-
les no aceptan ideas nuevas, pero yo quisiera ponerlo mis ampliamente:
Puerto Rico no tiene una larga tradici6n de discusi6n historiogrifica.
Nosotros no tenemos una larga tradici6n de debate hist6rico, que se
da en algunas otras parties del mundo. Los deponentes contrincantes se
intercambian sus trabajos. "Mira, te di durisimo en este ensayo. Dime qu6
td crees." Pero aqui, en Puerto Rico, no. En Puerto Rico es mis dificil.
Tenemos todavia ese element de insularismo, lo que hace que muchas de
mis hip6tesis y reinterpretaciones hayan tenido, posiblemente, mIs endoso
fuera de Puerto Rico que en Puerto Rico.
Eso es interesante, pero te voy a dar un ejemplo: yo acabo de recibir
una carta de un... de un vecino de Guayanilla, como de veinte piginas,
muy inquieto con el libro de Agueyband, y acusindome de ser un poncefio
insoportable -lo cual no soy, porque yo no soy poncefio- porque yo estoy
poniendo en tela de juicio lo que un sacerdote hace ciento y pico de afios
dijo en Guayanilla; y, primero, dijo que Agueyband vivia alli y, segundo,
que en Guayanilla esta la biblioteca de Agueyband.

Celebrating Caribbean Voices: 25 Interviews


WG: Estamos hablando del Padre Nazario.

JSB: Del Padre Nazario, pero ahora la biblioteca de aquel fraile bonach6n y
despista'o es un museito, asi que hay una institucionalizaci6n. En internet
estin las piedras del Padre Nazario, que las veo por primera vez en inter-
net... por internet. Son localismos al margen de la veracidad hist6rica, que
hacen sentir a la gente insegura. Y entonces... interesante porque hace...
cuestionan el trabajo de uno, pero no en t6rminos de los documents ni
en t6rminos de la evidencia arqueol6gica, pues, sino... Pues, por qu6 us-
ted dice que Ponce es mis important que Guayanilla arqueol6gicamente?
Pues, porque tiene quinientos yacimientos mis que Guayanilla, verdad?
Pero es muy interesante porque se sent y escribi6 una carta entire respeto
y cinismo, verdad?

WG: Digo, personas asi se entiende, pero cuando tz tienes personas academicas o
cuasi academicas, donde no se ve la seriedaden el estudio,fuera depersonas como tz y
dos o tres personas mds, son los inicos en Puerto Rico que estdn tocando el tema.

JSB: Bueno, el tema indigena si, pero la situaci6n se dio con otra series de co-
legas y otras personalidades en el tema de la esclavitud, por ejemplo, del obre-
rismo en el siglo diecinueve. Colegas que desde el studio documental nuevo
postularon rectificaciones hist6ricas y la vieja guardia -la generaci6n anterior,
que habia sefialado otras cosas- jams se lo ha perdonado. No decidi6 asimi-
lar lo nuevo, si no combatirlo. Y por ahi se ha reproducido una historiografia
dual, porque los viejos libros se siguen publicando sin correcci6n y los nuevos,
pues, siguen para un... que se yo, para un piiblico que los... puede tener proble-
mas tratando de compaginar las dos cosas.

WG: Aquf volviendo a la biblioteca de Agueyband, 6se es un tema que yo se que
a tiy a mi nos preocupa, porque hubo uno de nuestros grandes historiadores que se
metid en el tema y trajo la biblioteca deAgueyband y yo creo que eso ha sidoparte del
problema, tambien, de crear unas visions que son totalmente mitologia.

JSB: Y disparate. Hay unas piedras enigmiticas que aparecieron en Guayani-
lla, que yo no s6 que son ni qui6n las hizo, pero decididamente no tienen nada
que ver con los tainos; no son reproducciones de simbolos tainos; no tiene
nada que ver con Agueyband, porque Agueyband no sabia arameo ni sabia lo

SARGASSO 2010-11, Special Issue


que supuestamente decian aquellas piedras, que estaba escrito en una manera
cuneiforme biblica. Asi es que qu6 tienen que ver esas piedras con Agueyband
es el primer disparate. Yo estoy dispuesto a transar, usted me saca a Agueyba-
na del medio y quedese con sus piedras enigmiticas y diga que son... qu6 se yo,
de la Atlantida o algo por el estilo y atraiga turismo.

WG: Eso de la Atldntida me recuerda a una senora que me vio cuando teniamos el
Museo de la Fundacidn, que me trajo una cabeza romdnica que habia aparecido en
un campo, no me acuerdo en que sitio de la isla, pero que corroboraba que Puerto Rico
habia sidoparte de laAtldntida.

JSB: Bueno.

WG: Y asi es que se sigue entonces con la ignorancia, siguen promulgdndose estos
errors que uno quisiera tratar de ver si se van a corregir, pero yo creo que pasardn
generaciones despues de nosotros que seguirdn con el mismo problema todavia.

JSB: Yo creo que si; y yo no quiero sonar pesimista, porque se hace trabajo,
hay gente que lo acepta, pero, por ejemplo, si t-i entras en la computadora a
las piginas web municipales, las histories municipales que estin saliendo di-
gitalmente, en la mayoria de los casos, son disparates. Son disparates, mitos
locales, errors de fechas. No son historiadores los que lo escriben. Yo no se a
qui6n le delegan eso, pero la accesibilidad de esa informaci6n a tanto estudian-
te sobre la historic de su pueblo, mal investigada, incluso superada. Pueden
haber libros que ya lo han superado, pero el que lo escribi6 no lo sabe. Eso
me preocupa, porque es el reciclaje de la desinformaci6n otra vez. Ese no era
el problema nuestro. El problema nuestro era falta de informaci6n. Ahora es
demasiada fuente y no toda acceptable.

WG: Esoyo... yo creo que, enparte, tziyyofuimos responsables de crear ese "tsuna-
mi", porque desde que nosotros comenzamos apromulgar toda esta bisqueday acce-
sibilidad de la buena informacidn, ha salido much bueno, pero ha salido muchofalso
y muchaporqueria, desgraciadamente.

JSB: Bueno, primero, que no nos lo perdonan todavia, pero nosotros, afortu-
nadamente, seguimos siendo muchachitos con ideas novedosas.

Celebrating Caribbean Voices: 25 Interviews


WG: Bueno, yo espero, Jalil, que esta entrevista y estos comentarios que hemos
tenido -que me traen tantos buenos recuerdos de todos... todos estos anos que hemos
trabajado juntos; y comentando y gozdndonos todas esas barbaridades de lo que ha-
cen otros por ahi que no saben lo que estdn haciendo ha sidofantdstica. Yo espero
que esto sirva de... como un estimulopara que otros que tengan la oportunidadde oir
o leer esta entrevista siganpor el camino del bien.

SARGASSO 2010-11, Special Issue

Another Haiti is Possible: Elie and Senatus

Interviews by Beverly Bell
The Institute for Policy Studies

The Shock Doctrine in Haiti: An Interview with Patrick Elie

Patrick Elie, photo by Beverly Bell

April 2010
Port-au-Prince, Haiti

Patrick Elie has long been a democracy activist. Moreover, during Presi-
dent Aristide's administration-in-exile during the 1991-94 coup d'etat,
Patrick was coordinator of the anti-drug unit of the National Intelligence Service,
where he was key to exposing the collusion between the US government and the
military coup leaders. He subsequently served as Aristide's secretary of defense.
Here Patrick discusses how the 'shock doctrine' is working in Haiti, why equality
is essential to rebuilding the nation, and why Haitians need to break from the vi-
sion that the international community has for its reconstruction.

Celebrating Caribbean Voices: 25 Interviews


Patrick Elie: The Shock Doctrine, the book by Naomi Klein, shows that often
imperialist countries shock another country, and then while it's on its knees,
they impose their own political will on that country while making economic
profits from it. We're facing an instance of the shock doctrine at work, even
though Haiti's earthquake wasn't caused by men. There are governments and
sectors who want to exploit this shock to impose their own political and eco-
nomic order, which obviously will be to their advantage.
One thing to watch is a humanitarian coup d'etat. We have to be care-
ful. Especially in the early days, the actions weren't coordinated at all and
they overtook the goalie, which is the Haitian government. The little bit of
state that's left is almost irrelevant in the humanitarian aid and reconstruction.
What is going to happen is that it's not Haitians who will decide what Haiti
we want, it's people in other countries.
This doesn't make sense from a moral perspective, and it also won't work.
A people can't be developed from the outside. What's more, in Haiti we have
a very strong culture. If you ask people if they want the US to take over the
country, even among those who say yes: come back in ten years, and you'll see
that the same people will rise up against the occupation.
We know the Haitian government is weak, and we can't count on it alone
to lead the battle. We all, organized Haitians and our friends, have to stomp
our feet and say, "No, this can't happen. Haitians have to develop their own
country." We need help and support from others, as they say here, to grow the
plantains. But they're our plantains. Haitians have to be the ones to construct
the country we need. We have to be in charge.
We have to speak of the role the international community played before
the earthquake, and how that role contributed to the destruction of the earth-
quake: why there were so many victims and so much damage. The politics of
certain foreign countries -especially the US since the beginning the twentieth
century and, before that, the French- have accentuated the inequality and
impoverishment of the people, especially the peasantry.
The soul of the country is the peasantry, and that's where the true resistance
to attempts to put the country under foreign power lies. So foreign policies have
focused on undermining the peasantry, as well as weakening the Haitian state.
They [the US government] destroyed the Creole pigs [on which peasants depended
as their savings bank]; they destroyed local rice by putting Haitian producers in
unequal competitors with American producers. That's why small producers
couldn't survive in the countryside. That's why the population of Port-au-

SARGASSO 2010-11, Special Issue


Prince swelled so much, and why the houses were so poorly constructed and
in places where people should never have constructed them in the first place.
The result was an earthquake which should have killed some thousands of
people, but which instead killed more than 200,000 people.
The peasant migration to the capitol: it's part of our history, in which
Haitians are meant to be the lowest paid manual workers. Slavery was the
cheapest labor force you could get. Afterward, following the US occupation
of Haiti of 1915-1934, Haitians were supposed to provide the hands to cut
sugar cane on the plantations. Now it's no longer sugar cane, it's manual labor
in the textile factories. For that, it's important to have the political regime you
want, but also a peasantry who has to go to work in the factories for the lowest
price possible after they can't any longer produce enough food even to support
themselves, let alone feed the nation.
I'm afraid that this vision for Haiti exists from many sources, and that this
is the plan that our new friends have for Haiti. We must be very vigilant, and
our friends must be very vigilant.
Politically, Haiti's situation today is like the one after November 18, 1803.
That was the big, last battle that finished the war. Haiti was a devastated
country, but in that case the devastation was caused by a war of liberation.
Then as now, the people were contemplating how they would construct a new
political structure amidst the debris.
Independence was proclaimed on January 1, 1804. The people were con-
fronting very powerful enemies inside and out, who opposed their building
the society they wanted, which was to be built on three rocks [on which Hai-
tian cook stoves traditionally sit]: liberty, equality, and fraternity. As soon as
they took away the rock of equality, fraternity became impossible. Since there
was no cohesion, we lost liberty, too.
Today, we have to put the three rocks back under the stove, or it will tip
over. What this new Haiti needs today is what Haitians wanted in 1804:
equality. The riches of this country are distributed in an imbalanced way. I
don't say that everyone will have exactly the same riches, but everyone has to
have the same chance in life. One thing is land. I can't believe how some
people have such a quantity of land while others have none at all, even though
we are all the inheritors of [revolutionary leader Jean-Jacques] Dessalines. I
don't say that we should cut up Haiti into many tiny pieces so each person has
some; that would be stupid. But it has to be used in a way that gives others a
chance to live.

Celebrating Caribbean Voices: 25 Interviews


Look at access to education, too, where inequality manifests today as
historically. Education is one of the main tools that can bring equality between
citizens. For centuries, the elite didn't let people have education. Now we're
making progress in the number of children who are going to school, but still
the quality isn't good; it's not equal. A country with this kind of inequality
doesn't have a chance to survive this shock.
We have to highlight these questions and insist they get addressed force-
fully, so the Haiti we're rebuilding doesn't look like the Haiti that the earth-
quake just ravaged.
You know that often earthquakes provoke tsunamis, huge waves that
come after the quakes that sometimes cause more damage than the quakes
themselves. I'm afraid that there may be a social tsunami after this earth-
quake. There are people -Haitian and foreign- who, for their own reasons,
can use the frustration of the Haitian people to create disorder, and then use
that to pursue their own agenda. I'm not scared of the plots of Haitian politi-
cians, but when they marry them with other governments or businessmen, it's
always very dangerous for Haiti.
I can't accept that there is no alternative. I see one, but it will take a lot of
work. It will require the Haitian people to begin organizing themselves again.
It will also require a new political class to enter the scene. This political class
is finished; their capacity to propose valid things is spent. For this new politi-
cal class to emerge, we need youth, but youth with training not just formal
education, but political education that can take from their minds the idea that
we can model Haiti on the vision of other countries, and in which we have to
play catch-up. The idea of our adopting the model of supposedly more ad-
vanced countries like the US, that's a choice, too, but it's a choice of death. I
would rather see us, instead of always trying to catch up, break away and make
another path for our own development.

SARGASSO 2010-11, Special Issue


Part of the Dream for National Reconstruction:
Haitian Refugee Camps Model Future Society

Elizabeth Senatus, photo by Beverly Bell

April 2010
Port-au-Prince, Haiti

Translation of interview with Senatus by Agathe Jean-Baptiste

While it should never be the case that a high percentage of the Haitian popu-
lation remains living in refugee camps seven months after the earthquake, still
camp residents have managed to create in a few of those camps a small-scale
model of the type of future society that many would like to see. This includes
democratic participation by community members; autonomy from foreign au-
thority; a focus on meeting the needs of all; dignified living conditions; respect
for rights; creativity; and a commitment to gender equity.

Celebrating Caribbean Voices: 25 Interviews


The Petite Riviere Shelter Center (CHHPR by its French acronym) camp,
near the epicenter of the earthquake outside L6ogane, contains some of those
elements. For one thing, it is run by a group of women whose full attention is
on the well-being and dignity of the community.
Another notable factor is that the camp was started and remains run by
Haitians, both those directly impacted and grassroots allies. Most Haitian
camps are managed with the heavy involvement, if not leadership, of foreign-
ers, either non-governmental organizations (NGOs) or individuals. Certain-
ly, outside help has proven crucial to these displaced people who frequently
struggle on the edge of survival. But in Haiti's thousand-plus camps, that
help has all too often come in the form of management that represses Haitian
decision-making and participation, as well as the potential for community
advocacy for a systemic response to the crisis based on justice for homeless
Part of what makes the Petite Riviere Shelter Center camp work so well
is that it is composed of members of a preexistent community that relocated
en masse after the earthquake. Relations are based on knowledge, if not al-
ways full trust, among individuals. The relationships have made it possible for
governing committees to quickly emerge and function well, and have allowed
agreement on a set of rules to maintain calm and order. Strangers trying to
enter the space are questioned and may not be allowed in, thus offering secu-
rity from violence and theft.
Another advantage this camp has is its physical environment; it sits in fields
under a grove of lush mango trees, in a clean, quiet, rural area. Elsewhere, more
than a million people are forced to lodge in smog-choked median strips amidst
whizzing traffic; in remote, broiling deserts; or in overcrowded urban spaces with
no sanitation or utilities. Survivors remain in these inhumane locales because nei-
ther their government nor any agency has initiated better options for them,
and they have no funds to make other plans on their own.
Elizabeth Senatus is an unemployed journalist who now serves as general
coordinator of the Petite Riviere Shelter Center. Below is her description of
how the camp functions.

Elizabeth Senatus: This camp started on January 12th, the day of the earth-
quake. In shock, everybody in the area went to sleep in a field without sheets
or anything. They spent three days like that, affected emotionally and psycho-
logically because of the strong aftershocks. Some people were scared because

SARGASSO 2010-11, Special Issue


of the rumors that it was the end times, that God was coming. Some didn't
even bother to find out if their houses were collapsed or if they had people
who died; they just went to the field. After four days, they came to this area
under these mango trees; they made little houses out of sheets.
I heard that these people were abandoned and humiliated. I use my lead-
ership and met two or three friends who were from L0ogane. We decided we
couldn't let this situation continue. I asked them to help form this committee,
and that's how we started.
One thing that makes this camp different from most others is that we
formed the management committee not an NGO but young volunteers who
believe that Haiti is a country like any other. What's also different here is the
close collaboration between the members of the committee. It has sixteen
members; I'm the general coordinator and we also have a general secretary,
plus coordinators of other committees like human rights and civil protection,
public relations, communications, and evangelism. We didn't wait for people
to come give us orders; we organized it.
The camp management committee was formed by invitation quickly be-
cause we were in an emergency situation. It wasn't a favorable time to have
elections because it was a disaster.
We've used what resources we have. We don't wait for millions to arrive,
we just create. There's lots of creativity. We've done extraordinary things with
the means we have at hand. That's how we established a children's space,
for example. There are Canadian military who were building an orphanage
behind us, and another woman and I went and asked them for materials for
the children. They gave materials, some tools, and a case of blue plastic tarps.
CARE gave us tarps to create a children's space, too, and a podium. We used
cement blocks from the collapsed houses to build that space. We use that
space for dancing and theater, too.
We borrowed a drum from a vodou priest. We had people dancing with
the drum, like an old lady who lost her son. You know in Haiti, folklore is
a big deal. The drum is the sign of music and the sign of happiness; it al-
lows people to recreate. The drum makes everybody dance; even if you have
problems, you dance. We started the folkloric group dancing like this in the
ancient way, everybody dancing and singing like crazy with no control. We
had kids who went down to dance for May Day by the sea; we even signed a
contract with a team from Canada for one of the little girls to go to participate
in a cultural event in Canada in August.

Celebrating Caribbean Voices: 25 Interviews


We had people living in misery under little sheets. You know the world
was seeing Haiti's image through little sheets. And it kept raining. People
from elsewhere asked me, "Elizabeth, how can they survive like this?" I said,
"It's all because of the drum."
At that time we had more than 150 people, and every time it rained all the
people had to go like sardines under one big tarp that someone had borrowed
to create a health center. So we used the tarps the Canadians gave us to create
spaces for kids to sleep with their parents. Later MUDHA [the Movement of
Dominican-Haitian Women] approached an international agency and helped
us find tents.
Besides the drumming and dancing, we do theater to help people's state of
mind, popular theater that expresses what's happening in the community. We
help farmers organize, we have a women's group, we have an education space
for kids because a lot of schools were destroyed and some of the kids had never
gone to school. We don't follow the same pedagogy as a formal school because
we lack the means. We do something like the club where the kids can learn
and recreate. We have workshops [like jewelry-making] where people learn
skills that can help them economically.
We made uniforms for May 18 [Flag Day], and with our sense of patrio-
tism we went to the street. The kids wore red and blue uniforms [the colors of
the Haitian flag] to give a lesson to hypocritical NGOs and an apathetic state
that's not responding to our needs. We showed them that what our ancestors
left us as our heritage, we still have it. The kids marched in the street, singing
the national anthem, and everyone -parents, people from the diaspora, stu-
dents and teachers from other schools- accompanied us in the streets. People
thought that the organizing had to have been done by a big school in L0ogane;
they couldn't believe that a camp of displaced people could do that.
Like I said, we use whatever resources we can find. For example, for the
dance trainer and the two drummers, we pay their transportation fees to come
here by motorcycle. We collect money between ourselves to do it because we
don't have money from NGOs or from the government. We've never even
been visited by a government representative, not even once after January 12.
We've told other camps with committees not to wait with a begging bowl but
to create, to go out looking for what they need.
The women's organization Shining Star came about when I sat down with
several women who were dancing together. They exchanged about their lives,
about what they used to do when they went to the market together. Men

SARGASSO 2010-11, Special Issue


were sitting around not participating, so one afternoon I said to the women,
"Why don't we form a women's organization?" We did it. Our first activity
was for Mother's Day, with all the mothers of the camp. CARE helped us find
200 gifts for 200 mothers. We also got support from a German mobile clinic
and MUDHA. We did theatre; the mothers were in it. The kids and adults
danced, and we had a buffet where everyone ate. This was Shining Star's first
action as a women's organization.
The women of Shining Star are shadow advisers to the camp committee.
Most of the camp committee is women, too; the men are a little apathetic.
You know that society is made up of men and women and we need the bal-
ance, but you also know that Haitian women are really put down. It has taken
so much effort for women to become doctors and lawyers and such. We want
to hold that balance. But we don't exclude the men.
We know that in this camp, within the families under the tents, women
are being abused by their husbands. This is the reality even though these same
women stand up when we do women's activities.
[Regarding rape] I would say this area is calm. The residents were liv-
ing together before. They know each other, there are things they won't do.
If something like a rape of a woman or girl were to happen, it would be by
someone from some other place.
We have a mission here to prevent children and young girls from fall-
ing into danger. We don't allow young girls to have their own tents here that
would attract young men and facilitate rape. Here kids stay with their parents
in their household. That's how we try to limit sexual violence.
I think it's true that the role women play in this camp make it different, but I
don't think that male chauvinists see it that way. Frankly, if we didn't have a group
of women in this committee we would have failed already. Holding together
people who are living under a piece of sheet, homeless, is not easy. The men are
crossing their arms and waiting. The women get dressed and go out to see what
resources we can find, while the men are waiting to see what we bring back.
We've done so much with this site. When we look at the conditions in
some of the camps in Port-au-Prince, we'd have to say that we've created a
model for how things could be in camps. Others could look at our way of or-
ganizing the camp and use it to do something in a bigger scale. We think that
our camp could form part of the dream for national reconstruction.
It's about understanding, patience, educational, training. It's also about
wisdom, credibility and all that to succeed. Yes, you could say we're a model.

Celebrating Caribbean Voices: 25 Interviews

Of Dignity and Struggle:
An Interview with Alicia Rodriguez

Interview by Mae Teitelbaum

March 28, 2010
Cayey, Puerto Rico

Alica Rodriguez (right) and her mother, Josefina Rodriguez

A warm atmosphere blooms in the house that the sisters Alicia and Lucy
built after spending nineteen years in US prisons for their struggle
against colonialism. Books and patriotic art cover the walls. They have a
pottery studio on the second floor. Dofia Josefina Rodriguez, their seventy-
nine year-old mother, is visiting from Chicago. Despite the injustice they have
endured, Alicia and Lucy continue to work as Puerto Rican activists in the
campaign to free all Puerto Rican political prisoners. With great dignity and
spirit, Alicia narrates her story and speaks from the heart.

SARGASSO 2010-11, Special Issue


Mae Teitelbaum: The singer-songwriter Roy Brown put Juan Antonio Corretjer
'spoem "Boricua en la luna" ("Puerto Rican on the moon") to music, and it has
become one ofPuerto Rico's anthems. Is it true that Corretjer, the national poet of
Puerto Rico, wrote this poem inspired by yourfather's history? Here is a decima
from the poem:

Por un cielo que se hacia
mdsfeo mas mds volaba
a Chicago se acercaba
un pedn de Las Marias.
Con la esperanza, decia,
de un pronto dia volver.
Pero antes me hizo nacer
y de tanto trabajar
se quedd sin regresar:
reventd en un taller.

Alicia Rodriguez: Yes that pedn de Las Marias is my father, but there is another
element to the history of the poem that clearly points to me being born in
Chicago. Why do I say that? Because my father came first from Puerto
Rico in 1951, and my mother followed in '52 with my 2 older sisters and
my brother. I'm born in Chicago, and I'm the first of my family to be born
outside of Puerto Rico. Don Juan Antonio Corretjer knew my family. We
were captured in April 1980, and he wrote the poem "Boricua en la luna"some
months later in December.

MT: Could you tell us aboutyour parents?

AR: My parents were born in the countryside of Las Marias, which is on the
western part of the island. They are sons and daughters ofjibaros. They themselves
were jibaros. They worked the land. My father was a small merchant, buying
oranges or other produce to sell them in town. He also served in the army.
Bottom line for my parents, how I envision them, is that they werejibaros tied
to the land. They were jibaros that worked an honorable job.

Josefina Rodriguez: We were very proud of beingjibaros. My dad had seven
acres of land in Puerto Rico. I was born and raised there. I got married, and

Celebrating Caribbean Voices: 25 Interviews


I had my first children there. I left the country when I was twenty-one years

AR: That generation provided a beacon for us in the sense that being tied to
the land is very powerful for us as puertorriquenos, as an indigenous population.
Puerto Rico is "una naci6n" [a nation]. It is our homeland. From that way of
living, that direct tie with the land, come values. Those values were extremely
essential. They were values that encapsulated the importance of family,
community, and naci6n. It gives roots. It nurtures a sense of pride, national
pride. It's working with the hands, even though it's work from sunrise to
sunset. The value of dignity, the value of sweating, the value of being able to
be self-sufficient, to provide for your family. It's a noble profession. When it's
time for harvest, you call in your neighbors. And payment is another brigade
in the kitchen, bajo elfog6n, and you peel, you chop, and you share.

JR: Those were the most beautiful times of my life.

AR: That basically encompasses how I define my parents. That's our cradle.

MT: What was it like to be a Puerto Rican in Chicago in the 1960s?

AR: Shock. Culture shock. I was born and raised in Chicago, Illinois. It's
ironic that I would say culture shock, but for me it was. For the first five
years I was basically inside the family element. My parents migrated, but they
didn't migrate alone. My aunts were already there. I was with my grandfather
and my grandmother, and my extended family. My aunts lived in the same
building. So to a certain extent I was cocooned, and it was an extreme shock
when I had to go to first grade. There is where I begin to experience what
racism is. I have memories, but I couldn't comprehend the rejection. I felt it
in the pit of my stomach. It's difficult because there were so few of us. When
I went to first grade we were the only Puerto Rican family, let alone persons
of color. It was a Catholic School, and the first grade teacher was a nun. This
nun put me in the back of the room. There was no bilingual education at that
time. I was a disturbance, and she was not going to take time to give me any
kind of special lessons, so it was better to put me in the back.
Needless to say I didn't pass. Not because I was dumb or I didn't have
the intelligence. It was because of pure abandonment based on racism and
discrimination. Once again I went through first grade in that same school.

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When I went to second grade, we transferred. I'm so glad my father transferred
us to a different school. My teacher was Mrs. Trigs. I'll remember her, because
her response was: "you do not belong in the back of the class." It's the first
time I was brought to the front of the class, in front of her desk, and then I
began to excel. She gave me attention, and she began to allow me to feel part
of that classroom. Her vocation was to teach, and nobody was to be neglected
or rejected. In that classroom environment, you didn't learn your Puerto Rican
flag, you didn't learn your history, you didn't learn the nursery rhymes. Your
background was totally erased. You were invisible. But you are who you are.
When I would go home, the faces I would see were the faces of my mom,
and my father, my grandparents; and the language that they spoke, the music
that I was hearing, the records that they would play, and the stories about the
homeland. I knew I had a history, but outside of that home we did not exist.

MT: What were you doing at the time ofyour arrest?

AR: I was a student at the University of Illinois, Circle Campus. I majored
in biology and chemistry. We were captured on April 4, 1980, and I was
supposed to take my finals soon after that date. I was never able to finish.
Juan Antonio Corretjer came to visit us about a week and a half after
our capture. We were captured and placed in total isolation from general
population. There were five of us women. We were housed on the top floor
of Cook County jail behind several doors. It was like a hospital ward with
six beds, five occupied by us. We never came out of that. I call it a cell. The
toilet and shower were in that same space. So there was no privacy, no doors.
We were incommunicado; we didn't have access to telephones, which meant
that we could not call our attorneys. We had no access to visits by attorney
or immediate family. Never did we give them our names- they only had
bodies. We were identified as Jane Does and John Does. Then a counselor
came into that isolated ward, and told us that a Juan Antonio Corretjer, our
international consultant, was going to visit us. They said, the only way that
this international consultant can visit you is if you give us your names. So
we gave them names. I gave them Mariana Bracetti. We're talking about a
government that doesn't know our history, so they didn't in any way, shape,
or form, make the connection that my name was not Mariana Bracetti. They
could not identify this historical woman who sewed the flag for El Grito de
Lares. For practical purposes, we all gave names.

Celebrating Caribbean Voices: 25 Interviews


We're talking about incommunicado. How Juan Antonio managed to
break the barriers is still a mystery. It was a short visit. He wanted to know
if we would give him the authorization to go back to Puerto Rico and begin
to denounce our incarceration. He wanted to begin the struggle for our
liberation. In addition to that short visit, Don Juan Antonio Corretjer also
witnessed how the state began to mistreat us in the courtroom. He saw how
they brought us in one by one, labeling us as John Does and Jane Does. He
witnessed when they finally brought me in as Jane Doe #1. According to the
state, I had two different names Mariana Bracetti, and Alicia Rodriguez. Out
of those two names, the judge decided my name was Mary Rodriguez. The
prosecutor tells the judge I am not Mary Rodriguez, but this judge is in such
a different mind-set, extremely repressive, that he totally disregards what the
prosecutor tells him, and I am stamped with the name Mary Rodriguez. Even
then, we are taking the position of prisoner of war.
Don Juan sees all this. It's in his consciousness. When he writes his poem,
he already knows that the majority of the Puerto Rican political prisoners
were born in Puerto Rico, and I'm the only one born in the USA. He sees a
link with another generation, one that is born over there, outside the island.
He already knew what we faced. My mother is the one that took Don Juan
to Cook County after our capture. Mom can relate first-hand how after that
visit, he came out with tears in his eyes.

MT: What were you accused of?

AR: The primary charge was seditious conspiracy. Seditious conspiracy
originates back to the Civil War between the North and the South in the
USA. It's a charge related to treason. Conspiring to overthrow a legitimate
government or seditious conspiracy is a thought crime. The major contradiction
is not so much the idea of conspiracy, it's the phrase legitimate government.
The United States is not a legitimate government over Puerto Rico. The US
invaded Puerto Rico. The US holds on to the Treaty of Paris that was signed
in 1898, when Spain turned Puerto Rico over to the US after Spain lost the
Spanish-American War. Spain had no authorization to sign a Peace Treaty
in Paris with the US without any Puerto Rican present. There was a charter
of autonomy signed by Puerto Rico and Spain, prior to the invasion, which
stated that at no point in time could Spain speak or participate in any type of
negotiations without the representation of the Puerto Ricans. So this treaty

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is null and void. At no point in time was there a representative of the Puerto
Rican legislature. For many decades, the United Nations continued to defend
the people of Puerto Rico, and they called it for what it was. Puerto Rico is a
colony, punto.

JR: Colonization was considered to be a crime by the United Nations.

AR: Why do I struggle for the independence of Puerto Rico? I was born in
1953. Much later in my adult life, I began to question: Why did my father
come here? Why did I have to experience all this racism? What was happening
on the island? There was an invasion. What began to unfold in that process?
Why did my father have to leave?
There are connections. In that period of the 1950s, the US began to make
moves on the island that to this day, people are realizing, are creating havoc.
In 1948, they passed the Ley de la Mordaza (Gag Law).1 It became illegal for
Puerto Ricans to bring out their flag. Workers were prohibited from striking. In
addition, there was an uprising in the 1950s by the Nationalist party. Over 3,000
people were arrested. Shortly after that, the Decolonization Committee of the
UN insisted on holding the US accountable for the colonial status of Puerto Rico.
The US was asked to submit an annual report about this issue. By then many of
the other imperial countries had given liberation to their colonies, but the US,
to this day, refuses to do it. Instead, the US conveniently began to legitimize
colonialism by giving it a different name. Puerto Rico was given the status
Estado Libre Asociado. Free Associated State. But it's still a colony. That's in
1952. All that is happening, and shortly after that, mama gave birth to me.
On the island a situation of massive migration was set in motion.
Operation Bootstrap was implanted. It had two stages. The first stage entailed
light industry and manufacturing, but they were hard jobs because there was
no protection for the workers. In the second phase, petrochemical companies
came in, like CORCO that set up shop in Pefiuelas. We're talking about a safe
haven for these corporations because they don't have to adhere to any kind of
environmental protection laws. They don't have to pay taxes. They're given
free roads; they're given water, electricity. Massive tracts of land that could be
used for agriculture are given to these corporations.

1 Historian Francisco A. Scarano explains that this law violates civil rights because it gives the
state the legal means to arrest anyone who was "suspected" of conspiring against public security
(730). See his Puerto Rico: Cinco siglos de historic. San Juan: McGraw-Hill, 1993. Print.

Celebrating Caribbean Voices: 25 Interviews


This is where my father comes in. That generation is still tied to the land.
But we begin to see that the farmer can't sell his products. He has no say about
the markets. He is shut out from the market. Subsidized products come in
and compete unfairly with local products. The farmer can produce, but who
is he going to sell to? So what happens to the workers who were producing
coffee and other products? Operation Bootstrap pushed many Puerto Ricans
from the countryside to work in the cities under horrendous conditions, but
it could not provide enough jobs. It is these conditions that began to push
my family out in the 1940s and 50s. All this produced serious economic and
political damage, even affecting the psyche of the Puerto Rican.
In 2000 I had the privilege and the honor to be invited to a conference by
the Pacific Islanders and Asian countries. It was a moving experience, because
I was able to meet with descendants of Puerto Ricans who were also forced to
migrate. They gave me a cookbook of all the Puerto Rican dishes adapted to
what they could get on the Hawaiian islands. They gave me a CD of Puerto
Rican music with the cuatro, but incorporating the lullaby of the Hawaiians.
They began to tell me stories of their parents, [who were treated] like
indentured servants, when they were brought to Hawaii. They lived in huts.
At noon, a siren would go off, and everybody would come off the sugarcane
fields to the center. People came from different countries and Pacific islands,
but they all shared a common thread. They were displaced. The Puerto
Ricans could not communicate with the others, but they began to share food.
"This is ours, from our homeland. This is how we cook our food." It was a
mutual moment of sharing. The harsh plantation history, so widespread in
the Caribbean, extended to the Pacific Islands as well. I was moved by this
connection with our history, and their commitment to maintain Puerto Rican

MT: What were the trial and the sentencingprocess like? Tell us about your decision
to not recognize the authority ofthe US Court System. Do you think that people who
fightfor social justice and social change tend to be more severely punished than people
who commit other acts?

AR: Seditious conspiracy, a thought crime. A week and a half after our
capture, Don Juan Antonio Corretjer wrote a column in EINuevo Dia titled
"Seditious Conspiracy, an Impossible Crime." In the article, he gives a historical
perspective and defines that the United States is not a legitimate government.

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It conquered us, it invaded Puerto Rico. Our struggle is against colonialism.
Juan Antonio Corretjer ties us into the long history of the struggle against
colonialism, and points to the UN that defends nations that are struggling
against colonialism. So we did not put up a defense in the courts because,
who invaded us? The US. We're captured, and they house us in their jails,
and want to try us.
We are anti-colonial combatants. What we said was: "You might have
tried to sweep the title colonialism under the carpet and give Puerto Rico
the new title of commonwealth, but we are not going to be silenced in your
courts. You cannot silence us by criminalizing us, because it is not a crime to
struggle against colonialism. And you are not going to silence us by making us
invisible and by processing us in a domestic court. It is an international case.
We are in your presence, and we are clearly articulating that we will not put
up a defense in a domestic court. We demand that we be taken to a neutral
country, or the World Court, where the case of Puerto Rico be placed on trial."
We understood that the reaction of the US would be to continue silencing us,
criminalizing us, and making us look like we were lunatics.
To this day, we have two companeros, Carlos Alberto Torres and Oscar
L6pez, that are still in that shameful experience, serving now close to twenty-
nine and thirty years of prison, but they have maintained the stance that
Puerto Rico is a colony.2 It is important to acknowledge that because many of
us, from day one, could have put a defense in the courts, and walked out. But
we were treated, not as individuals, but as political prisoners. "Treated" is too
nice. Our rights were violated because we kept one thing clear. Let me explain
this. I didn't walk in as Alicia Rodriguez. I walked in as a daughter of that long
history, that didn't say, "I'm going to save skin because I don't want to do time."
It was a moment to realize: Does this continue, or do I back out? Or do I
continue moving in the direction to insist that the colonial case of Puerto Rico
should be dealt with?
I could have made it easier for the US by staying and participating in that
kangaroo court like many of these corrupt officials that go into the legislature as
part of the colonial system, and allow themselves to be puppets and manipulated,
so that the powers that be can give the illusion that there is a democracy. But
there is no democracy. Our presence, and it continues with Carlos Alberto
Torres and Oscar L6pez, continues to point the finger. The US must be held

2 Carlos Alberto Torres was released on July 26, 2010 after thirty years of prison with
parole conditions.

Celebrating Caribbean Voices: 25 Interviews


accountable for what took place back in 1898 to the present, and for the abuse
and the atrocities of all these years. I was not the first incarcerated there are
so many people before me that faced imprisonment and assassination, like
Filiberto Ojeda Rios, and what they did to the Nationalist party, what they
did against the people who wanted a free independent homeland, to begin
the hard road of developing an economy, and a political system that meets
the needs of the people, so we can contribute to other nations. By declaring
ourselves political prisoners of war what we were saying is: "You can house us,
but we will maintain steadfast that what you are doing is totally, totally illegal."
The US denied we were political prisoners the entire time, but at the same
time they abused us as political prisoners.
There were eleven of us captured, but Luis Rosa and I were separated from
the group with the most severe charges. We were tried with both state and
federal charges. In the state court, we were taken in front of Judge Bailey, an
Irishman. If anyone should have understood the plight of the Puerto Ricans,
it should have been the Irish. Bailey did not want to deal with us challenging
the courts and taking the position of prisoner of war.
When we first appeared in front of him, Luis Rosa and I walked into
the courtroom and we shouted "iViva Puerto Rico libre!" His bailiffs were
like rabid dogs. I love animals, I love dogs, but the best way to describe it
is that they went berserk. They started beating us. They started punching
us. We were removed from the court. Judge Bailey's response was: beat 'em
up, get 'em out, and clear the courtroom. My mother was there, my father
was there, my cousin, Luis's mom, brother, and supporters were there. They
didn't anticipate seeing this. It was a shock. None of them could come to our
defense. They were seeing their daughter, their son, and their cousin, being
beaten up. It was inconceivable that this was taking place. Luis's mom started
screaming. My cousin almost aborted. She almost lost her child because
it was such a traumatic experience. It was a rude awakening of what was to
come. That's what we experienced in court and behind prison bars for the
duration of our time there. Bailey decided to bring me back to court on a
different day without anyone knowing, although the word did get out to my
attorney Michael Deutsch.
I would like to focus on muzzling, because it connects to the period of 1948,
and the Ley de la mordaza, where it was made illegal to express sentiments in
favor of independence. It was illegal for more than two people to meet. The
law prohibited workers from organizing. This law was specifically aimed to

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eliminate Don Pedro Albizu Campos. There was an assassination plot. They
tried their best. So here we are in 1980 in a courtroom [...].
The next morning I'm taken, I'm seated outside the judge's chamber,
handcuffed to the chair. I'm not in a bullpen. I'm brought into the courtroom.
As soon as Judge Bailey comes in, he looks down on me, and points a finger,
and says: "Are you going to keep quiet in my courtroom?" I'm thinking, "You're
asking me to keep quiet? What happened yesterday when I said Viva Puerto
Rico libre? You didn't prevent your bailiffs from beating me up. The response
was unexpected and the abuse was even worse." All this was going through
my mind. So the only thing I tell him is: "I can't make any promises. I don't
know what you're gonna do. I'm here against my will, and I'm handcuffed." He
orders his bailiffs (the head bailiff's name was Rita) and says: "Muzzle her!"
I'm thinking, what is muzzling? They stand me up and they're shoving
handkerchiefs in my mouth, and placing layer and layer of tape outside my
mouth. My arms are handcuffed behind my back. I see more bailiffs walking
in, huge women. I weigh about 115 pounds. I am twenty-six years old. So
when the judge is ready for me, I'm shoved into the courtroom with six bailiffs
who shove me against a table. They put me spread eagle, and my feet are
being stepped on by one bailiff on my left, and another on my right, so I can't
move sideways. I'm pushed and contained in this space by the table and the
As the judge starts to conduct the proceedings, in my head, I think
this is unacceptable. They cannot silence the truth, so I begin to move my
mouth. "No, no, no! I'm not going to accept it. I will do whatever I can do to
denounce this." I manage to free a part of my mouth. Even though I'm not
speaking clearly, I scream that this is taking place against my will, and that
I'm declaring myself a prisoner of war. That's all I can say because the next
thing that happens is that the bailiffs cover my mouth, and pinch my nose so I
can't breathe. They were savages. I'm not breathing. They're poking my eyes,
they're pressing more weight on my feet, and I'm not supposed to protest! I
was so angry, so irate. If you take my voice I can hum! I begin to hum, finding
breath to use my vocal cords. I'm going to go down struggling. I'm still going
to resist no matter what the consequences, 'cause I know I have rights.
Finally, the judge gets so upset, he says, "Remove her, and re-gag her."
Round two is coming up. When I get back in that room, Rita the head
bailiff, pulls the tape from my mouth, rams her hand in my throat, removes
the handkerchiefs, and puts new ones. She says if you were in my country

Celebrating Caribbean Voices: 25 Interviews


(Germany) we would give the orders to line you up and shoot you down. So
they take me back into the courtroom, and I hum. They're jabbing every
opening of my body, and the abuse doesn't stop. The reason Bailey brought
me back to court was to charge me with contempt.
I was sentenced to thirtyyears in state prison plus one year for civil contempt
imposed during the trial process for insisting on shouting "Que Viva Puerto
Rico Libre!" in the courtroom. Luis Rosa and I were given the most state time
because we were the youngest ones. They thought it was going to affect us
emotionally and psychologically. The one-year sentence was for contempt of
court for saluting our people. The federal trial took place nine months later,
and we were taken to the MCC in Chicago. They put together a jury and
tried us and sentenced us in record time three weeks. They did everything
that normally takes years. Again, we did not offer a defense. We went on a
hunger strike because we were housed in deplorable conditions. They had us
living in bullpens next to the courts. We were once again incommunicado.
We weren't allowed visits from our attorneys. The visits that we were getting
were behind plexiglas. There was no privacy whatsoever. Conditions were
wicked. After the hunger strike, they were forced to place us in the general
I ended up serving over nineteen years in prison. The only reason we're not
in prison is because of the success of the international campaign. What began
to unfold is that the people on the outside and family began to pull together
all types of human resources to unmask what was taking place. They began
to publish a community newspaper that was titled Libertad. We wrote many
articles. They would take this newspaper on street corners, to disseminate
what was happening behind prison bars. It was a voice for us to write and
inform about what was taking place behind those prison walls.
More and more people became aware of what was transpiring in Chicago.
The campaign began to expand to other cities. Juan Antonio Corretjer,
working in PR with his network, also began to educate people, giving them
the facts. Years begin to add on. Years. What was local becomes national, and
then international. But it started in Chicago. We were captured about six
months after the Puerto Rican nationalists were released. Lolita Lebr6n and
Rafael Cancel Miranda are invited to speak in different countries. They take
the issue of our incarceration and make it theirs. It's a continuation. So we're
talking about a campaign that begins to expand little by little, and continues

SARGASSO 2010-11, Special Issue