|Volume No. 1 Issue No. 91 - Monday January 29, 2007
|Back Home for the South East Reunion |
Dr Emanuel Finn
My trip over the Christmas holidays helped to sharpen my love and appreciation for my island home because it was the inaugural south eastern reunion in the Au Vent region of Dominica.
The region stretches from the boundary of the Morne Trois Pitons National Park from Grand Fond to Pte. Mulatre Bay in the south, along the rugged windward coast.
It has a total population of 3,360 residents and 1248 households. La Plaine is the largest community with a population of 1,032 residents and 548 households followed by Grand Fond and Delices.
The leadership of these agricultural communities joined hands and together attempted to share their history, local culture, have fun and look towards the future as one collective region.
The first step in achieving this objective was a two-week festival and reunion. The leaders and organizers need to be applauded for their vision, hard work and dedication.
In spite of the over all reunion success there were some noticeable gaps in the coordination and planning efforts. Two reasons that were most cited for the gaps were the large size of the south eastern area and the different dynamics of the various communities.
There were private and pubic perceptions that La Plaine was getting most of the attention and the major evens were taking place in that community at the expense of the other communities.
This was almost inevitable as La Plaine has always been viewed, even more so today, as the provincial capital of the Au Vent region and the hub and anchor community in Dominica’s south and central east.
In a conversation with an organizer of the successful Grand Bay reunion, he expressed that his committee rejected the idea in the initial planning of including the surrounding communities in the reunion because all the attention would be on Grand Bay.
Approximately ninety-five (95) La Plainians returned home from abroad to participate in the reunion compared to a handful of expatriates from the other communities who made the trip.
In all fairness to the organizers, a concerted attempt was made to share the spot light on all the communities.
In spite of these few shortcomings, the reuion was a wonderful effort and testament that Dominicans can organize themselves and be progressive and bridge petty national political lines and identities.
Special thanks go out to the leaders who had the vision to organize the series of events. It was definitely a great effort and start which will undoubtedly be built upon in the future taking in account some of the hard lessons that were learned and experienced.
My family and I had a chance to experience life in all the communities from the mountain village of Grand Fond, and the hamlets of Morne Juane/Riviere Cyrique. We spent time in Boetica with its population of 155 people and 59 households and where only 13 students attend the government primary school.
We also renewed acquaintances in Delices, and spent time relaxing at Jungle Bay Resort at Pte. Mulatre Bay.
Sleeping in my room in La Plaine and waking up to the crow of roosters was quite a treat. Introducing my kids to life as I knew it when things were much simpler was most nostalgic and special.
They experienced activities such as roasting breadfruits on the banks of the river while fishing, and the process of harvesting bananas for export. We attended Sunday mass at the small Catholic Church, which was the center of life many years ago.
My wife and I took our two daughters to Case O’ Gowrie where the rolling hills meet the base of the La Plaine Mountains and paid tribute at a small monument to our fore bearers who were ‘cut down’ by British forces in 1873 during the land tax riots.
I explained to our girls that their great grand uncle was one of the four peasants who fell at that spot during that uprising.
The highlights of the reunion were the two Stella performances at the La Plaine school of the Chemin Lateng (lake road) play, the Christmas tree lighting ceremonies in the communities and the heritage day in La Plaine where all the communities displayed their past and what our forbearers used in every day lives.
One of the most important events was a symposium which was held at the Delices Government School in the shadow of the Watt Mountain not too far from the banks of the mineral rich waters of La Riviere Blance.
Sessions such as agricultural diversity, undiscovered natural environment as a world heritage asset, eco-tourism and the challenge of accessing resources for development for the south east were presented.
Parliamentary representatives Abraham Brown of Grand Fond and Ron Green of La Plaine and Senator Petter St. Jean and other local village leaders contributed to the dialogues and discussions.
Other speakers were attorney and owner of the 480 acre Pte. Mulate estate, Mrs. Singolla Blomquist-Williams, businessman Sam Raphael proprietor of Jungle Bay Resort, Washborne Cuffy and architect Severin Mckenzie among others.
This writer presented a power point presentation entitled,’ The Role of the Diaspora in the Sustainable Economic Development of the Au Vent Region and Dominica. A development plan will be developed from the proceedings of the symposium.
A special guest at the symposium was mayor of the southern city of Saint Ann, Martinique. Monsieur Garcin Marisa and his deputy who were guests of Honorable Green, talked about investments and developmental cooperation opportunities between the south east and his city.
They stressed on the fact that the southeast is a prime region for a highly successful organic farming industry.
Of course the festival would not be completed without music and entertainment. The Mid Nite Groovers played in Grand Fond at an oldies dance. Chubby and the boys played superb under the cool breeze of Morne Macaque and Morne Trois Pitons in that most in-land mountain Dominican community.
On the night of December 29th, Swinging Stars and the calypso monarchs who hail and/or have roots in the south east such as Dice, Element, Scrunter and others, ‘brought down the house’ at La Plaine School.
It was very special for me as I danced and laughed in the same spot where I sat as a naďve and nervous country kid taking the Common Entrance High School exams which gave me a ticket out of Au Vent .
On a warm September morning in 1972, I left for the ‘bright lights’ of Roseau and then the world.
There I was a few decades older and back in that same spot which decided my fate. It was indeed a special and nostalgic night because I was definitely back home where it all began for me many years ago.