Volume No. 1 Issue No. 90 - Monday February 26, 2007|
Qualitative Bites - Long time global Huckster
As I write, a discussion runs on Dominica’s Kairi FM on the Caribbean Single Market and Economy. A caller makes the observation that right now June 30, 2005, there is an abundance of mangoes on island.
Pineapple is also in season. He is recommending that we do something with all that fruit. A pity, we cannot as yet penetrate the US market with our fruits and ground provisions. After fifteen years embedded with a US Administration, Dominica’s 80s government had not succeeded in securing that trade.
I see mangoes on sale in New York and I shudder sometimes. Those from Mexico cannot meet the measure of cream found naturally in a Dominican mango. The Haitians had a sweet one on the market, selling at US$1.69 and rising. Imagine that. Think of what we should get for a julie. It hurts.
I see tubers claiming to be yams, tannias that boil hard, breadfruit that tastes flat, Avocadoes look like they’ve been aborted. Ripe Colombian and Ecuadorian bananas peal with a sound. Grapefruits are pale, and limes are hard to squeeze.
A jelly coconut sells on Merrick Boulevard in Laurelton, Queens for US 3 dollars. A lot of the food looking West Indian comes from Florida, Louisiana, Haiti, and Jamaica. Their food never tastes, is never as naturally rich as Dominican food. It will never be. This, they will refer to as an opinion.
Dominican women hucksters plied the waters to Guadeloupe, Montserrat, St. Kitt’s, Antigua, St. Martin, even Tortola, Virgin Gorda, St. Thomas and St. Croix, feeding. It is a lucrative tradition that should’ve been wholly supported and legally protected by the island’s 80s Administration which could have, on account of its connections with the US, pressed for air-shipment of the island’s agricultural products to the mainland.
Four or five years ago, there was talk among those Dominicans not familiar with the microcosmic global sea-trade, that Dominica was a mere parish in the Caribbean. They wanted us to think parish, but not adopt an awareness of a geographically close American market, preferring rather to sustain trade with Britain. Dominica could sell peppers to Canada, but not its abundantly natural agricultural products to the southern and north-eastern United States.
Little did they know these Creole hucksters, like the island’s musicians were engaging other cultures, speaking French, Takki Takki, Spanish, and Papiamento. They were dancing in other clubs, buying other seamstresses and tailors clothing, attending churches in the lands on which they traded, practicing obeah too, meeting people from outside their chosen zones of economic activity, exchanging addresses, traveling to those countries on holiday, developing relations, having children, marrying, establishing businesses in those lands, returning to their own country of birth and supporting the welfare of their elders and extended families.
A global fire burnt in their blood and bones, a fire that lit and burnt with every other fire that was ever lit under these West Indian skies. In their silences, they watched and praised the Spirit of the living God for placid waters, full moons, helpful winds. They returned with silver and gold, even in their teeth.
They returned with perfumes, spices, jewelry, accents, news about politics, social change movements, pieces of fine cloth, cotton, dyed fibres, rugs, rums, cans and cans of foodstuff produced in northern lands. In truth, a young man from my home-town could be in the streets of Rome today and in his island bed tomorrow.
That was more than two decades ago. Another could be on a steel-haul in the gulf of Spain today and in his hometown within a week, his head rolling from side to side as he sported his Mediterranean sun-glasses. Global, the mono-croppers believed, could not have its center except in the developed first world, among first world peoples, I suppose.
Editor’s note This is an extract from Steinberg henry’s “Cool Readings” which he’s completing for publication. “Cool Readings” is a lively reflection on Global and Dominica issues from a distance, from the Diaspora. Toward the end the text plunges into Calypso and the spirit of Carnival into Lent).