Friday, July 29, 2011

Garifuna Music

. Soul Jazz Records Presents The Black Caribs Of Belize
. Garifuna: Ancestral Travellers Of The Caribbean
. Soul Jazz Records
. 2011

It was the brilliant, sadly brief international career of Andy Palacio that most recently brought attention to the music and remarkable history of the Garifuna people, the so-called black Caribs. Since his death, his work has been continued by Aurelio Martinez, another fine singer-songwriter and guitarist who is appearing at Womad this weekend. The Garifuna are descended from black African slaves who managed to escape from captivity during a shipwreck off the Caribbean island of St Vincent, back in the late 17th century. They intermarried with the local Carib population, and are now scattered across Central America, including Belize, where this set was recorded. Produced by Stuart Baker, the founder of the Soul Jazz label, it's very much a followup to his album of rara street music from Haiti last year. Like that set, it's finely packaged, and veers away from commercial songs to concentrate on traditional styles, from lengthy, hypnotic passages of drumming and chanting to the call-and-response styles of dugu religious ceremonies.

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Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Comments on the Argyle Airport

For decades all international travellers to and from St. Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) have had to deal with the sometimes humiliating experiences of having to change flights, usually in Barbados. Often times, they would complain of the scutiny and time consuming immigration checks. Several, in fact, seemed to have resigned themselves to coming to SVG as rarely as possible.

There have been reported instances as well where persons en route to St. Vincent to get to the Grenadines have been literally taken by couriers from the hub location where they were to take the flight that brings them directly to mainland St. Vincent.
There is the argument as well that the lack of an international airport has deprived SVG of much needed financial input including forein currency. As a monocrop economy, the island has grown to become a major importer of goods and services, even importing what it has the capacity to produce locally.

Early in the political life of the post-colonial St. Vincent and the Grenadines, its longest serving prime minister proclaimed that an international airport on the mainland was not probable because there will need to be two runways--one for taking off and the other for landing. This was said, it seems, due to the mountainous nature of the island. St Vincent is the second most mountainous island in the Eastern Caribbean archipelago.

One of the spill offs of that first official verdict on a possible international airport on St. Vincent was that it was nepotistic in nature. You see, the then Prime Minister, Sir James Mitchell, was a native of Bequia, the largest Grenadines island. Persons in the Grenadines have always seen themselves as a separate people from the mainland Vincentians. So a sort of competitive animosity had been developed.

To add insult to injury, Prime Minister Mitchell also said that Canouan, another of the Grenadines island, had the capacity to take a large enough runway to accommodate the LIAT aircraft that was landing on the mainland, along with small jets.

That would mean that mainlanders would have to travel to Canouan before they could have boarded a regional air carrier.

The idea infuriated Vincentians on the mainland. There were some other comments being made by Sir James from time to time that made mainlanders feel they were being insulted by their prime minister. For example, he would say that when the mainland runs out of banana, the Grenadines would still have fish; that mainlanders had a breadfruit mentality; that Jesus Christ could never have been born in St. Vincent because there are no virgins on the island.

So, you see, the then prime minister's allegedly informed opinion on an international airport on mainland was being taken in less than pleasant acceptance.

A new government with a new prime minister was elected in 2001. Not too long after that it became known that the Unity Labour Party (ULP) government led by Ralph Gonsalves intended to make good on a promise to deliver an ainternational airport on the mainland.

That seemed to have reopened a can of worms. The political pundits all started throwing their punches; however, the ULP stuck to its guns. The area airmarked as the suitable site was a on the eastern side of the island in an area known as Argyle.

Argyle was an area of several hundred residents who had built middle income to upper level income houses on their property. These people had to be relocated by the government. In the process of these relocations, the government sold lands from the Grenadine island of Bequia, home of former Prime Minister Mitchell, to raise moneys to pay the removed home owners for their lands.

The completion of the airport was scheduled for 2012; however, it has now been set for 2 years later, in 2014. Part of the problem has to do with the gigantic tasks of bringing the airport site to a level field, thus eliminating the hills and valleys. There has also been much discussion on the availability of finances to keep the project going.

The majority of the work is being done by countries that have pledged their support in what the St. Vincent and the Grenadines government is calling "a coalition of the willing."
I recall once being in the vicinity and talking to a very reliable source who admitted that the engineers and leaders on the ground where the physical work is being done were concerned that they were not seeing monies flowing at the proper pace needed to keep the project on schedule.

The contract for the commencement of the building of the terminal buildings was signed a few weeks ago; however, looking at the sight will reveal that a lot of ground work still needs to be done. You are not seeing a runway clearly shaped as yet.

Another concern is that Argyle has been known for being very windy. It is on the Windward side of the island, taking the brute force of the prevailing North East Trade Winds. Will planes be able to land or take off safely?

The clock is ticking, and in a way I suppose that even the critics are secretly hoping that St. Vincent and the Grenadines will finally have its own international airport.

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Monday, July 25, 2011

Another Ambassador?

On a positive note, the House Foreign Affairs Committee passed a bipartisan amendment sponsored by Engel and Mack that calls on the State Department to open embassies in five small Caribbean countries — Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, St. Lucia, St. Kitts and Nevis and St. Vincent and the Grenadines — where the United States has no diplomatic missions.
Under this amendment, five of the more than 800 U.S. diplomats currently serving in Afghanistan and Iraq would open one-person missions in these countries as they are phased out from their current posts in coming years, at no cost to taxpayers. Cuba and Venezuela already have embassies in these small Caribbean nations.
My opinion: The Republican-controlled House Foreign Affairs Committee, presided over by Rep. Ileana Ros Lehtinen, R-Miami, lost its marbles by calling for cutting U.S. funds to the OAS.
The OAS is one of the few places where Washington can sit together with most countries in the region, friends and foes alike. At a time when China and the European Union are playing a growing role in the region — the Europeans in recent years created the Ibero-American Community of Nations in a little-disguised move to compete with the OAS — withdrawing from the OAS doesn’t make any sense.
Granted, the OAS is a monument to diplomatic frivolity and political theater, but it’s a much-needed forum for the smallest countries in the region, and Washington needs it more than some of its foes.

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Sunday, July 24, 2011

SVG Photos

A marvelous collection of photographs associated with St. Vincent and the Grenadines can be found at:

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Apple Store Access for SVG

Apple is widening the reach of its App Store by expanding its availability to 33 additional countries, bringing the total number of covered countries to more than 130.

The 33 new countries include multiple small islands, African nations, former British colonies, and Eastern European states. By making the App Store available in these countries, Apple is allowing customers to purchase and download applications — and allowing developers to submit apps for approval.
Some of the new countries include Algeria, The Bahamas, Ghana, Iceland, Nigeria, Uzbekistan, and Yemen, although the new countries aren’t listed on Apple’s website yet. The list includes: St. Vincent and The Grenadines

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Friday, July 22, 2011

ARC The Magazine is a review of caribbean art that is online. Well worth the look.

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Tuesday, July 19, 2011


Posted by Jon Lee Anderson

These are traumatic times for Venezuela’s President Hugo Chavez, who recently revealed that he was suffering from an unspecified form of cancer. Last week, Chavez asked his National Assembly for permission to return to Cuba, where he spent most of June, for chemotherapy treatment. It was there that his illness was first diagnosed and he underwent an operation that removed a tumor “the size of a baseball as Chvez described it, from his pelvic area. Chavez was upbeat, saying he was “loving life” as never before. Yesterday, a smiling Raul Castro was shown on television greeting Chávez warmly at Havana’s airport.

Chvez's decision to go to Cuba for his medical treatment—and to continue ruling Venezuela from there, in characteristic defiance of his domestic political critics—caps a long public love affair between the extroverted Venezuelan, who assumed power in 1999, and his proclaimed political mentor, Fidel Castro. So great is Chávez’s admiration for Fidel, and for his go-it-alone example in a hemisphere traditionally dominated by the United States, that Chavez has ruminated aloud about an eventual merger of the two allied states into one called Venecuba.

Chavez has also made a barter arrangement in which Cuba, a country generally strapped for energy, receives Venezuela’s oil in exchange for the expertise of tens of thousands of Cuban doctors, teachers, and athletic instructors. In a neat irony that is not lost on Chavez, the U.S. continues to buy the bulk of Venezuela’s oil, essentially subsidizing his largesse to the longtime American foes in Havana.

But Chaves attachment to Fidel and to his brother Raúl (who now runs the island as President following Fidel’s retirement, in 2008) is something emotional, too, deeper than mere politics. Some of the Chávez children have spent extended periods in Cuba living and studying, and his older brother, Adan, was for years his personal ambassador there. Chavez himself has travelled to Cuba scores, if not hundreds, of times during his thirteen years as Venezuela’s President, treating Cuba, in effect, as an offshore territory in a joint revolutionary enterprise in which, despite his bigger pocketbook, he has always seen himself as the junior partner.

In 2008, while reporting on Chavez for The New Yorker, I accompanied him on a twenty-four-hour visit to the Dominican Republic. We were boarding the presidential plane for the return flight to Caracas when Ch√°vez suddenly turned to his entourage and yelled excitedly: Let's go to Havana.‚Äù His aides sighed and rolled their eyes îit was a typically impulsive move by Chavez‚ but they were not unhappy.

We did go to Havana, and Raul Castro awaited us on the airport tarmac. (He had become President two weeks earlier, because of Fidel's own prolonged illness, diverticulitis, which nearly killed him.) After the greetings, Chávez vanished with Raul and the rest of us did not see him until we were back on the jet the next day. He had been to visit the ailing Fidel, he informed us, beaming: Hes fine and send his best to all of you!”

In a way, there is already an informal Venecuba: the Boliviarian Alliance for the Americas, or ALBA, economic bloc of states (Venezuela, Cuba, Bolivia, Ecuador, Nicaragua, Dominica, Antigua & Barbuda, St. Vincent and the Grenadines) that Chavez has helped sponser and subsidize. In his vaunted Bolivarian revolution, Chavez seeks to shift the region away from dependency on the United States by redefining Venezuela‚ and ultimately Latin America political economy through fraternal ties and new, socialist forms of barter trade and other exchanges with like-minded governments. Though not all of them are as closely allied as the ALBA countries, there are now left-of-center governments in power in a majority of Latin American states, including Brazil (which poses a hugely successful, competitive countermodel to Chvez). That this trend has come about at all is due in large measure to Chaves influence and oil-boom-fuelled economic subsidies‚Äîand to his Cuban ties, too‚Äîat a time of markedly waning U.S. power in the region.

If it transpires that Chavez has to spend another six months shuttling between Havana and Caracas for his treatment (as his Vice-President Elias Juau suggested recently) having also continued to administer Venezuela affairs from there, it will be yet another remarkable threshold he's crossed. Chavez is already Latin America's ultimate comeback kid, a former army paratrooper who won Venezuela's presidency in 1998 in a landslide after being amnestied and released from prison for a failed armed rebellion. That revolt of Chavez‚ in 1992, took place nearly forty years after Fidel Castro began his own revolution in Cuba with an armed raid against the eastern Moncada army barracks. It was an attack in which most of Fidel‚Äôs followers were gunned down, and for which he was imprisoned, only to be released two years later in an ill-advised amnesty granted by his country‚Äôs dictator, Fulgencio Batista. When Fidel left prison, in 1955, he made his way to Mexico to organize another rebel army. That one, of course, was ultimately successful.

Upon his own release from prison, in 1994, the first thing Chavez did was to fly to Cuba. He was hoping to meet his hero Fidel so as to seek his guidance about his political future. To Chavez’s great surprise, when he landed in Havana, Fidel was waiting for him at the airport.

Photograph: Raul Castro greets Chavez at the Havana airport, March 10, 2011. Prensa Presidencial - Miraflores.

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Our experience is that the best nurses in Boston are from the Caribbean, and that the nurses left in the Caribbean are nothing to brag about. I think Dr Kahn is right.
One of the ways to encourage nurses to remain in T&T is to boost their salaries. That was one of the suggestions by Health Minister Dr Fuad Khan in response to the migration of nurses from Trinidad and Tobago. Khan said the shortage of nurses was a “serious problem.” He added: “What I think we have to do is to start a different criteria and method of training nurses and I am thinking of introducing the patient care system where we will have patient care assistants going into the system and working themselves up to become nurses.” Khan was speaking to reporters at the opening ceremony for the 19th meeting of Regional General Nursing Councils  at Kapok Hotel, Maraval, yesterday. He said nurses could not be prevented from leaving the country but if their salaries were boosted perhaps it would be an incentive for them to stay in T&T. He added: “What we have to do is to increase the salaries, hopefully, and keep them more comfortable.
“What I do say though, is that if the nurses start to become specially trained nurses and go into the BSc (degree) and RN (registered nurse) they will be eligible for  better salaries so it will be a win-win situation.” Nurses from Barbados, Belize, Bahamas, Grenada, Jamaica, St Vincent and the Grenadines and Monsterrat were at the meeting. In his feature address, Khan told the gathering the value of nurses to the region could not be underestimated. He said nurses were invaluable to the delivery of healthcare and issued several challenges to them.
Khan challenged the nursing fraternity to develop innovative examination methods to test practical and theoretical knowledge, to use their knowledge and experience to advance healthcare within Caricom and to ensure there was an appropriate audit system in place for nursing activities. (RR)

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