We’ve all seen the rum commercials on TV.. bus built in the 50’s, brightly painted and overflowing with people, farm produce and livestock, as it makes in way (late) to town. Or movies (like the series on Netflix set in Belize) where corruption, drugs and a general overly laid-back lifestyle is the norm. As a son of the Caribbean it’s very frustrating to say the least, as I know this sort of stereotype is inaccurate and very hurtful.
YES! We know how to have a good time (luv to fete), we know how to relax and our general take on life is.. come what may and we’ll deal with it. But this sort of ‘attitude’ is mistaken for something totally different when the media decides to portray us and our region.
Let’s clarify some things so if you’re not familiar with the Caribbean you won’t be forced to ask ignorant questions based on what you see in the media.
- We are VERY hardworking and industrious.
- Many of us do regular jobs (Teachers, Doctors, Lawyers, Public Servants, sales Associates, Managers, IT Specialists etc) and not everyone wants to braid your hair or sell you beaded necklaces. Please treat those who cater to you when you travel here, with some respect.
- Education though High School is mandatory and free. We also have our own Universities and Colleges, along with the ability to travel abroad to pursue such education should we choose. Basically we have a very educated population.
- While we do cater to tourism for the most part, it’s not the only source of income for some islands.
- NO we don’t all smoke weed and drink rum. It should not seem strange when I say I’ve never participated in the smoking of the herb! Many of us who do enjoy the odd adult beverage will certainly reach for the top shelf Scotch, Brandy, Sherry and Wine… which are readily available.
- Ganja (and other drugs) will land you in JAIL!
- Yes, for the most part ‘cussing’ in public is an offence and can land you in jail also.
- We don’t all speak with a “Jamaican” accent. While the Jamaican accent is ‘attractive” to mimic, you WILL find different ‘sexy’ accents on every island. In Trinidad and Tobago, Dominica, St Vincent and St Lucia we also speak ‘broken‘ French, known as Patois! Though not as common as it once was, especially in Trinidad and Tobago.
- We were once colonized by the English, French, Dutch, Spanish and at the turn of the 17th century Portuguese merchants traded in the Caribbean, so you’ll find that not all the Caribbean is English-Speaking and remnants of such colonialism is very evident in our everyday life (legal system, architecture, food, culture, government, education system etc).
- Spicy food is NOT the norm, though we do produce some of the hottest peppers in the world and spices are VERY evident in our cuisine.
- Voodoo is not the “official” religion of the Caribbean. Christianity remains the most practiced religion, but you will find many Hindus, Muslims and various other religious beliefs. Curacao is home to the oldest synagogue – Mikve Israel – in continuous use in the Western Hemisphere; it was founded in 1651.
- Transport. YES! you will find older model cars lovingly cared-for and in use, but the majority of automobiles you’ll see in use are new/modern. The same sort of vehicles you’ll find in North America, Japan and Europe. We have our own inter-island airline (LIAT) and some countries do have their own national airlines (Air Jamaica, Caribbean Airlines). In many countries just about every family owns at least 1 car and in doing so we’re now seeing traffic jams and other problems associated with having too many vehicles on the road.
- We enjoy the same sort of lifestyle a person living in North America would experience (freedoms, technology, communications, media, shopping, education, health care and general lifestyle). Any modern convenience you’re accustomed too, so do we!
- We know our history and we’re very proud of our heritage, culture, food and contributions to the global village.
- We play to WIN and have ‘fun’ in the process! Don’t confuse our confidence with being cocky.
- Terms like “Farm To Table”, “Locally Grown/Raised” and “Organic” are NOT new to us.
- You will find different races living, working and playing together (even sharing each other’s religious celebrations) throughout the Caribbean.
- There’s Dominica and Dominican Republic.. two different countries in the Caribbean. Trinidad and Tobago, while two islands… is ONE country.
- We don’t live in shacks on the beach!
- We do have cities (though small), towns and rural villages. NO we don’t live in coconut trees in the tropical rain-forest.
- Reggae is but one of the various genres of music we’re known for. Some of the styles to gain wide popularity outside of the Caribbean include bouyon, cadence-lypso, calypso, chutney, compas, jing ping, punta, reggae, reggaeton, soca, and zouk.
- While there are a few bad apples, for the most part our protective services can be trusted and will gladly assist you.
Hopefully the points above helps you better understand my Caribbean and her people and you’ll look past the idiotic ways we’re portrayed in mainstream media.
I’d love to get your take on ways you’ve noticed that the media inaccurately illustrates island life and her people.. please leave comments below.