There is something about Sunday mornings wherever one happens to be around the world. A serenity, or maybe it’s just somnolence. The best day to take stock of the past week.
Here in St Croix, as I sit on the gallery the only jarring element to my morning is the clang and clank of the chain of an inter-island cargo vessel docking across the bay, but it is a short-lived clamour. A bannaquit, the yellow-breasted Caribbean equivalent to the cheeky robin redbreast, is chittering around in the coconut-encrusted palm, cockerels are heralding the new day in a chorus that echoes across the island. The easterly breeze is swaying bougainvillea in a tangerine and magenta waltz, and a solo frigate bird swoops in a stately minuet high above the harbor searching for breakfast.
A very different scene to yesterday when the Christmas Crucian Carnival kicked off before dawn with J’ouvert, at Bassin Triangle in Christiansted. What is usually a music-filled event with crowds tramping good naturally after the band floats turned into disappointment as police moved in to quell not just one fight, but several between youths of different factions.
The merging of generations is one of the aspects I love about island life, and so those young people spoilt not only their peer’s entertainment but that of young, middle-aged and old, whose condemnation will, hopefully, have as much effect as whatever charges are brought by the authorities. As always, the actions of a few spoilt a day of free entertainment for the many when the entire event was later cancelled, and disheartened revellers straggled back to their starting point. Across one chest heaving it’s way up the hill was emblazoned the words, No Regrets. I wonder?
Rather like lumping all African countries under one umbrella, so too are the islands of the Caribbean and, like Africa, it is only on reaching the shore does one appreciate how different each country, each island, is. But sadly the island chain does have some similarities, and on the face of it, those would seem to linked to a breakdown in family structures. Domestic violence is rife, so verbal and physical abuse becomes the norm for impressionable minds. Young men, and women, grow up without a constant father-figure which can open the door for another adult, who perhaps not for altruistic purposes, steps into the breach. Unemployment is high. Another entry point for those wishing to tempt the vulnerable into a life of crime, and promised easy money. And gangs. That desperate need to belong to a tribe, any tribe, which promises to have your back, your welfare at heart, no matter the price you might be expected to pay.
On the whole gang-related violence on this particular island, tends to be in prescribed areas with little spilling into most of our lives. There is an almost laissez-faire attitude amongst some, an attitude of let them duke, or shoot, it out as long as it doesn’t impinge on our lives. But inevitably the contagion does spread, as it did at J’ouvert yesterday.
Romantic tales of privateers and buccaneers litter the shores of the Caribbean. Sugar and rum have their own place in history, with the shame of slavery still hovering amongst the plantation ruins. Independence has come to many with pride of individual island countries evident. But as the fight for self-determination fades into distant memory, the current youth appear to have little to grasp, little of which to be proud, little to strive for, despite the valiant efforts of many in the communities. Politicians promise the world but rarely deliver. The best we can hope for is transparency of government but that too seems a distant dream on many of the islands, as corruption and violence lead the way. The temptation of easy money too large to ignore whether for those in power, or those searching for something to which they can belong.
Maybe the disruption yesterday morning accounted for the less-than-usual crowds lining the Boardwalk, and the heavier than normal police presence, as we waited for the sun to dip and the lights to flash on the boats lining up for the annual Boat Parade. Decorated dinghies, motor boats and yachts passing through the narrow waters between Protestant Cay and Christiansted.
There was no disappointment this time as revellers limed to the sounds of a Bob Marley cover band. Rum and roti, amongst other fare, fueled the party as Santa, and a covey of elves, handed out candy canes to already hyped children.
As fairy lights were doused an expectant hum settled over the crowd and then, boom! The first of many fireworks sizzled skywards erupting in a cascade of white, blue, red and green sparkles. The exuberant flashes and bangs, the sighs of oohs and aahs, welcome sights and sounds compared to the flash and bang of guns, the glint of knives, the cries of pain and sorrow and loss.
St Croix, like everywhere, has her blips, her unruly element, but time and again she shows her mettle, shakes off the misdemeanours of a few and, as this morning, shimmers in the brilliance of the Caribbean sun.