28 November 2008

National heritage day honors American Indians


PORTLAND, Ore. “For the first time, federal legislation has set aside the day after Thanksgiving” for this year only” to honor the contributions American Indians have made to the United States.

Frank Suniga, a descendent of Mescalero Apache Indians who lives in Oregon, said he and others began pushing in 2001 for a national day that recognizes tribal heritage.

Suniga, 79, proposed his idea to a cultural committee that is part of the Portland-based Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians. The organization took on the cause of a commemorative day, as did the National Congress of American Indians and other groups.

Congress passed legislation this year designating the day as Native American Heritage Day, and President George W. Bush signed it last month.

The measure notes that more Americans Indians than any other group, per capita, serve in the U.S. military. It also cites tribes' artistic, musical and agricultural contributions.

"The Indians kept the Pilgrims alive with turkeys and wild game," Suniga said. "That's the reason it was attached to the Thanksgiving weekend."

After the Thanksgiving weekend, Suniga said, he and other advocates plan to lobby to place the Native American Heritage Day on the nation's calendar annually.

It isn't certain, however, that all tribes would agree that the fourth Friday in November is the best day to recognize their contributions and traditions.

"Thanksgiving is controversial to some people," said Joe Garcia, director of the National Congress of American Indians.

The holiday marks a 1621 feast in which English settlers and Wampanoag Indians celebrated and gave thanks in Massachusetts for their harvest, but it was followed by centuries of battles and tense relations between the United States and tribes.

Unfortunately, tribes have had virtually no time to plan events to commemorate Native American Heritage Day because the legislation creating it was signed only last month, noted Cleora Hill-Scott, executive director of the Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians.

"What's difficult is this day is going to come and go without much being done." she said.

10 November 2008

Yale not returning Peruvian artifacts

LIMA, Peru – On Sunday the State Newspaper El Peruano reported the 2006 agreement with Yale University to return to Peru the more than 40 thousand Inca artifacts removed from Machu Picchu had dissolved over disagreements. In response, the Justice Ministry of Peru began developing a law suit against Yale. According to El Peruano, government officials could not immediately be reached for comment and calls to Yale were unanswered at the time of publication.

30 October 2008

King Austin's "Progress"

I have been working and thinking about this particular project, featured below, for a while now. It is my newest "open source music video" featuring a Trinidadian calypso by King Austin (Austin Lewis), from 1980. I owe King Austin an enormous debt. I first heard this song in the pub of the University of the West Indies in St. Augustine, Trinidad, one afternoon in mid-August of 1990. It sucked the wind out of me from the very first time, and the song has stayed in my head ever since then. It shaped my approach to the study of international relations, specifically critiques of the Eurocentricity of international developmentalism, as propagated then by Dr. Herb Addo at UWI. It was further fed by the works of George Aseneiro and then Ashis Nandy. Layered with these extra readings and schools of thought, it eventually formed part of the basis for me to enter anthropology (although it was almost literally a toss up between anthropology and sociology that would make my final choice).

The song is a critique of the ideology and practice of progress, from the vantage points of environmental unsustainability, exploitation, inequality, and the resultant social strife. At least part of the vision is inspired by Christian teaching. Yet, his vision is one that has come to be strongly supported by recent scientific research. Indeed, in the days leading up to my concluding work on this video, a striking item was published by the BBC: "Earth on Course for 'Eco-Crunch'." It seems that we will need two planets to sustain our current level of consumption, environmental degradation, and growth in population.

Austin Lewis is a modest, unassuming man, who has made the most and very best of the learning made available to him. He says in an interview, "I love every human being very much. It doesn't matter where you are from. I love all the people and I want to tell them, God bless and have a happy new year." King Austin asks, as you will hear, some of the primary questions of philosophical importance in what has become an urgent project of utopistics. You can read the complete transcription of the lyrics, as usual, at Guanaguanare's site, where she also links the message of the song to Steel Pulse's "Earth Crisis" (you can see the video there, or in my vodpod).

Enough from me, or at least enough text:

29 October 2008

U.S. Marines in Arima, Trinidad

U.S. Marine Sea Stallion flies low over Barataria on Sunday, Oct. 26, 2008

The Mayor of Arima, Adrian Cabralis, and presumably the Deputy Mayor as well (Ricardo Bharath, who is also the head of the Santa Rosa Carib Community) played host to a contingent of U.S. Marines who are in Trinidad for "Operation Continuing Promise" (CP 2008). This mission comes with little in the way of an advance public announcement, most Trinidadians being very surprised to see two U.S. Marine Sea Stallions flying low and scouting areas along the East-West Corridor on Sunday morning. The government of Patrick Manning is aligned with the Bush regime in the U.S., and this "humanitarian exercise" in an island strategically located a mere seven miles from the Venezuelan coast comes as Venezuela prepares to host joint naval exercises with Russia in a matter of days.

Prime Minister Patrick Manning (left) and George W. Bush, June 2007

This exercise represents part of a new thrust on the part of the U.S. military to develop its troops' cultural familiarity with zones of potential military action, so that they are better accustomed to the language, terrain, climate, and broad cultural makeup of the theaters in which they are deployed. This comes as part of the U.S. military's new enchantment with "culture" and the exercise of "soft power," a means of avoiding the costly and messy outcomes of unleashing massive firepower without first enmeshing itself in local networks. Similar efforts are planned as part of the U.S.' new "Africa Command" (AFRICOM), launched this month as well. In addition, the Caribbean region is seeing the reconstitution of the U.S.' Fourth Fleet, a move seen as a threat by a number of governments in the hemisphere, including those of Brazil and Venezuela.

Captain Walt Towns, of the United States Navy and commanding officer of the USS Kearsarge, tries his hand on the steel pan at a welcoming ceremony for the ship and its contingent at the Arima Town Hall, Arima, on Monday, October 27, 2008.

With its obssession with the "global war on terror," and the sheer butchery visited on civilians in Afghanistan and Iraq on the part of American invaders and occupiers, it is disheartening -- to say the least -- to see Arima, and the Carib leader, play host to such forces without a hint of protest, or even simple questioning. It is also disappointing to see those in power turn culture into a playful showcase, forgetting the long role of culture as resistance to colonialism and imperialism. It makes one wonder about the name of the ruling party too -- the People's National Movement: Which people? What "nation" do you serve? What "movement"? And one must wonder why a nation in the middle of a petroleum and natural gas export boom, erecting one new skyscraper after another, suddenly needs a few Marines to come and treat local foot fungus and fill cavities.

Wake up.

For more see:

US ship to provide medical help
NEWSDAY, Tuesday, October 28 2008

US Marines in TT
NEWSDAY, Sunday, October 26 2008

22 October 2008

Indigenous Colombians Protest for Land Rights; Shot & Beaten

POPAYAN, Colombia (CNN) -- Thousands of Colombian Indians plan to protest government policies on Tuesday in the country's second-largest city, marking more than a week of demonstrations against the nation's free-market economic policies.

Indian leaders in the mountains of southwest Colombia announced during the weekend they were gathering as many as 20,000 protesters and would begin to march Tuesday on the city of Cali, an industrial and agricultural hub.

At least two Indians have been killed and more than 80 have been injured in the protests, which began October 10 and have included a blockade of the Pan-American highway. The government says as many as 70 security force members, mainly riot police, have also been injured.

During the past week, protesters throwing rocks and firing sling shots, catapults and Molotov cocktails, have clashed with riot police, who fought back with tear gas, rocks and batons.

The Indians also say the security forces have been shooting at them with rifles and canisters packed with shrapnel. President Alvaro Uribe has denied that police and army forces have been using lethal force against demonstrators, but medics say they have treated scores of Indians injured by bullets and shrapnel.

The protesters allege one of their own, 27-year-old Taurino Ramos, was fatally shot in the head by police. The police have made no official comment.

A formal autopsy was not conducted because the Nasa tribe, to which Ramos belonged, opposes autopsies for cultural reasons.

Seven Indian tribes in southwest Cauca and Valle del Cauca provinces launched the protests to coincide with the date of October 12, known in the United States as Columbus Day and in much of Latin America as Dia de la Raza, or Day of the (Indian) Race.

Latin America's Indian communities equate the discovery of the Americas by Christopher Columbus in 1492 as the start of the Spanish colonial invasion, which led to millions of Indian deaths in wars and from disease. The Spanish invaders drove the Indian populations off their ancestral lands and deep into jungles and mountains, as they plundered resources, including gold and silver.

Since then, the Indian population has become an ethnic and economic underclass in Colombia and in most of Latin America. They rank among the poorest sectors of society.

The Indians have called for the government to fulfill previous pledges to give more land to Indian reservations, guarantee better health care and education, and to stop big business and multinational companies from encroaching on their lands.

Under the Colombian constitution, all subsoil rights belong "to the nation," which effectively means the government can, and has, granted mining rights to national and multinational corporations on lands claimed by Indians.

The Indians, whose lifestyle and religion is connected closely with preservation of the environment, are bitterly opposed to unrestricted mining in their territory.

"We oppose these types of indiscriminate mining activities allowed under the new mining code," Luis Fernando Arias, secretary general of the National Indigenous Council of Colombia (ONIC), told CNN by telephone.

Indian leaders describe their protest as "anti-capitalist." They see their struggle as another reflection of growing worldwide concern over free market economic policies and financial management, which they say were to blame for the recent meltdown in global stock markets.

"The capitalist system our government imported from the United States is a failure. The world is bankrupt," Aida Quilcue, a protest leader, told CNN.

"This shouldn't just be a fight by the Indians but by everyone in Colombia and across the world who rejects this deadly capitalist model."

About 1.3 million Indians divided among 102 tribes or ethnic groups are living in Colombia, the government estimates.

The government argues the Indians are well provided for with more than 66 million acres of reservations.

But Indian authorities say the statistic is misleading since much of the land is jungle, mountain or swamp -- and protected as an environmental reserve. They say almost 500,000 Indians have no land at all.

Last week, Indian protesters briefly blocked the Pan-American highway, a symbolic target as well as a major trade route for road cargo traveling the length of South America.

The highway was conceived in 1923 as a way to unite the Americas. It runs some 29,000 miles (48,000 kilometers) from Alaska to Patagonia at the southern tip of South America -- broken only for a few miles between Panama and Colombia in a lawless region of thick jungle.

15 October 2008

Movimiento Indigena Jibaro Boricua

The web site for the non profit organization Movimiento Indigena Jibaro Borica (Movijibo) has moved. The new location can be accessed using this link. You may also find them on FaceBook.

Interesados en adquirir ejemplares del libro “Puerto Rico”: La gran mentira, y/o ejemplares del Disco Compacto de Kassabe, escribir o comunicarse con los autores a:

Uahtibili Baez y Huana Naboli

HC-02 Box 7529

Camuy, PR 00627

(787) 214-5763


14 October 2008

Taino events in the DR

La UASD acoge hoy el Seminario Cultura Aborigen de Quisqueya: Hacer memoria viva del olvido
El Consejo de Ancianos/as de la Sociedad Taína Guabancex Viento y Agua, el Departamento de Historia y Antropología de la Universidad Autónoma de Santo Domingo (UASD), y el Honorable Ayuntamiento de San Juan de la Maguana, en ocasión de la rememoración anual mundial del 12 de octubre de 1492, día del llamado Descubrimiento de América, Encuentro o Choque entre Culturas, tienen el honor de invitarle al Seminario Culturas Aborígenes de Kiskeya, que se realizará con el objetivo de continuar los trabajos de revitalización y puesta en valor de nuestras culturas ancestrales.
Estos trabajos se orientan hacia la declaración de nuestras plazas ceremoniales como parte del Patrimonio Cultural de la Humanidad.
Viernes 10 de octubre, 2008
9:00-9:30 a.m. Registro.
9:30-10:00 Palabras de bienvenida
Mtra. Fátima Portorreal, Antropóloga, Consejo de Ancianos/as, Guabancex Viento y Agua
Dr. Dioris Antigua, Director Departamento de Historia y Antropología, UASD
Arq. Hanoi Sánchez, Alcaldesa Municipio de San Juan de la Maguana
10:00-10:45 ¿Qué pasó en el Santo Cerro? Dra. Lynne Guitar (antropóloga e historiadora), Consejo de Ancianos/as, Guabancex Viento y Agua.
10.45-11:30 Un estudio sobre El Areíto de Anacaona. Lic. Julio César Paulino (antropólogo y etnomusicólogo).
11:30-12:15 p.m. Lecciones de los aborígenes de Kiskeya. Mtro. José E. Guerrero (antropólogo).
12:15-1:00: La agricultura en la época de los aborígenes. Lic. Rafael Puello (antropólogo).1:00-2:30 Tiempo libre2:30-3:15 La herbolaria indígena en Kiskeya. Mtro. Brígido Peguero (etnobotánico).
3:15-4:00 Tras una lógica del arte rupestre aborigen. Sr. Domingo Abreu (espeleólogo).
4:00-4:45 La pertinencia de la herencia indígena en el Caribe. Mtro. Carlos Andújar Persinal (antropólogo).
4:45-5:30 La conquista del cacicazgo de Higüey. Mtro. Amadeo Julián.
5:30-6:15 Niti, un nombre olvidado del territorio del Maguana. Ing. José Enrique Méndez.
6:15-6:30 Cierre. Licda. Glenis Tavarez (antropóloga), Consejo de Ancianos/as, Guabancex Viento y Agua.Maestro de Ceremonia: Mtro. Antonio Yaguarix de Moya (psicólogo social), Consejo de Ancianos/as, Guabancex Viento y Agua.
Sábado 11 de octubre, 2008
Excursión a los centros sagrados de la Geografía Mística de San Juan de la Maguana (cupo limitado)
Para más información escríbanos: guabancex@gmail.com
Fecha de Publicación: 09 de Octubre del 2008

12 October 2008

International Indigenous Peoples Gatherings: 2008

We know from both the blogs of the United Confederation of Taino People and that of the Caribbean Organization of Indigenous Peoples, that October 14, 2008, will see a gathering of the members of COIP in Arima, Trinidad, timed to coincide with the annual Amerindian Heritage Day that was officially instituted by the Government of Trinidad and Tobago in 2000. (For more, see "Amerindian Heritage Day to be Celebrated in Trinidad.")

In roughly the same period we are again seeing some large-scale transnational indigenous organization in other nations as well. Of course in the current state of ever more severe financial crisis and heightened air travel costs, one has to wonder how much longer these gatherings can be sustained. In some cases, the state, or international organizations funded by states, or nongovernmental organizations funded by individuals and corporations, have paid for some of these gatherings, and one should expect some "squeeze" to occur. Hopefully, this will mean more organization and communication across the Internet as an alternative.

Here is news of some of the other gatherings to taking place:


10 October 2008

On October 8 Prensa Latina reported that the Second International Congress of Indigenous People of America (Abya Yala) had begun in the Venezuelan state of Zulia, focusing on imperialism. The multi-national event, to be run until October 12, will also debate topics related to the strengthening of Indian-American peoples sovereignty.

It is expected that 100 international delegations and over 500,000 representatives from Venezuelan ethnic groups will attend the meeting. Nicia Maldonado, Venezuelan minister for the Indigenous Peoples, stated that the Congress will start with a caravan from the Cojoro parish church, to support the Bolivian people and President Evo Morales.

The closing ceremony of the event will coincide with festivities for the Day of Indigenous Resistance (which used to be known as the Day of the Discovery of America, to mark the anniversary of Christopher Colombus “discovering” the Americas.

From Prensa Latina itself:


Caracas, Oct 8 (Prensa Latina) The Second International Congress of Indigenous People of America (Abya Yala) starts Wednesday in the Venezuelan state of Zulia, honing in on imperialism and other issues.

The multi-national event, to be run until October 12, will also debate topics related to the strengthening of Indian-American peoples sovereignty, among other key issues for native communities.

The locality of Cojoro is the venue of the congress and it is expected that one hundred international delegations and over 500,000 representatives from Venezuelan ethnic groups attend the meeting.

Nicia Maldonado, Minister for the Indigenous Peoples, stated that the Congress will start today with a caravan from the Cojoro parish church, to support the Bolivian people and President Evo Morales.

Seminars and work groups will also tackle topics like the US empire's attacks against the progressive people for social justice and sovereignty, like Venezuela and Bolivia, spokespeople from the organizing committee said.

The closing ceremony of the event will coincide with the Indigenous Resistance day of festivities, in other places called Day of the Race, marking 516 years since the controversial discovery of America by the Europeans in 1492.

Missions from United States, Surinam, Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Honduras, Panama, Peru, Paraguay, Guatemala, Mexico, Nicaragua, Uruguay and Venezuela, among others, announced their assistance.


2008 World Indigenous Peoples Conference focuses on education

1 October 2008

Indian Country Today

MELBOURNE, Australia – Preparations are under way for the World Indigenous Peoples Conference: Education (WIPC:E), to be held on the traditional lands of the Kulin Nation in Melbourne Dec. 7 – 11. The conference is a triennial event attracting people from around the world to celebrate and share cultural diversity, traditions and knowledge with a strong focus on world indigenous education.

This year’s conference is expected to bring more than 3,000 people from countries such as the U.S., Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Taiwan, Norway, Bangladesh, Botswana, Vanuatu and many others.

WIPC:E provides delegates a forum to come together, share, learn and promote indigenous education policies, programs and practices. Mark Rose, chairman of the conference’s Knowledge Committee, said, “Delegates represent unique communities with their own cultural traditions and differing stories of colonization. But what always strikes me are the overwhelming similarities. We all strive for indigenous self-determination. We all want our indigenous languages recognized and preserved for generations to come. We all live with competing knowledge systems and want our children and our children’s children to achieve academically while remaining strong in their culture. WIPC:E provides a forum where indigenous issues are at the forefront, where indigenous people can drive the agenda.”

The Victorian Aboriginal Education Association is hosting this year’s event, the theme of which is “Indigenous Education in the 21st Century – Respecting Tradition, Shaping the Future.” According to Rose, this is the first year the conference has been hosted by a community-run indigenous organization.

The first day of the conference will begin with an opening ceremony and a traditional welcome by elders of the Kulin Nation and members of the WIPC:E team on behalf of the indigenous peoples of Australia. After the welcome ceremony, indigenous groups and individual delegates will have an opportunity to respond through speech, dance, song or other form of cultural expression. A number of performances by local indigenous musicians will also be part of the opening and closing ceremonies.

WIPC:E has the potential to positively impact the educational outcomes and lives of indigenous peoples across the globe. “Participants can share their experiences of what has and what hasn’t worked in their own communities,” Rose said. “They can learn from each other and discuss how to adapt differing educational models for their own community needs.

“We hope WIPC:E delegates return home with new ideas, new strength and new inspiration. We hear so often about ‘indigenous disadvantage’; WIPC:E is a chance to celebrate indigenous achievement on a global scale.”

Three sub-themes will be explored during the five-day event: “Respecting Tradition,” “Living with Competing Knowledge Systems” and “Beyond the Horizon.” Respecting Tradition will visit issues such as “growing, connecting, celebrating and maintaining traditions through education,” “building history,” “pathways to knowledge” and “language and identity.”

Living with Knowledge Systems will be the second day’s focus and will look at topics such as “defining education,” “the impact of culture and education,” “understanding the present culture of educational institutions” and “exploring knowledge systems.”

Day four will see delegates focusing Beyond the Horizon – building on the themes of WIPC:E 2005. These will include “shaping our own futures,” “thriving in the education system,” “engaging community” and “resilience.”

The closing ceremony will feature a huge concert at Rod Laver Arena, home of the Australian Open Tennis championships. There will be performances by international delegates and some of Australia’s indigenous performing stars. There will also be a handover ceremony, during which One Fire Dance Troupe will hand the honor of hosting WIPC:E to the next nation.

International keynote speakers will include Marie Battiste, a Mi’kmaq educator from Canada. The 2008 recipient of the National Aboriginal Achievement Award, she is the director of the Aboriginal Education Research Centre at the University of Saskatchewan and co-director of the Aboriginal Learning Knowledge Centre, a national project of the Canadian Council on Learning. She is also a technical expert to the United Nations, Auditor General of Canada, and an executive member of Canadian Commission for UNESCO.

Professor Octaviana Valenzuela Trujillo, from the United States, is also a keynote speaker. She was elected the first vice chairwoman of the Pascua Yaqui Tribe of Arizona. She then became the chairwoman, and during her years on the tribal council established the first Department of Education and played an important role in state and national legislation.

International keynote speaker professor Graham Hingangaroa Smith from New Zealand is a well-known Maori educationalist. He was the first teacher of a Kura Kaupapa Maori school, which has grown to more than 80 publicly funded schools.

Australian indigenous speakers include professor emeritus Colin Bourke, an adjunct professor and council member at Monash University and WIPC:E 2008 patron; Lester Coyne, representing the Federation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Languages; Aboriginal Corporation for Languages board member Bruce Pascoe; and Alf Bamblett, an elder and leader within the Victorian Aboriginal community who has been instrumental in shaping many Victorian Aboriginal community organizations.

With the meeting taking place in one of Australia’s largest cities, delegates will have the chance to explore unique bush landscapes during a day of site visits to rural cultural centers, including a volcanic lava flow that houses relics of ancient indigenous farming methods. Delegates will have a chance to network at night with the local aboriginal community and are encouraged to participate in the Parade of Nations during the closing ceremony.

A related seminar being held the day before WIPC:E on Dec. 6 is the Education International Indigenous Educator’s Seminar in South Melbourne, Victoria. This seminar is free of charge and is intended for delegates who are also attending the WIPC:E 2008. For more information on the seminar, visit www.ei-ie.org or contact Rebeca Sevilla at either rebeca.sevilla@ei-ie.org or +32-2-224-0611.

For more information about WIPC:E 2008, or to register, visit www.wipce2008.com.

07 October 2008

A nation imagined...a Caribbean reality

“Becoming a nation is different from and broader than the process of forming a state: a state is a political structure, whereas a nation is a shared culture, a sense of common destiny” (Martin-Barbero)

Cricket has long been the common factor in the English-speaking Caribbean with regional competition dating over a hundred years, and a West Indies cricket team being created as a symbol of the homogenity of the region and a sign of the hegemonic intent of the Empire to form a West Indian nation, the ill fated West Indian Federation being the other manifestation. Following the failure of the Federation and with the advent of independence, the subject of a West Indian identity was played out on the cricket fields of the world, “Calypso cricket” coming to represent a West Indies imagined.
As the independent nations have forged ahead into the international arena independently, in the absence of a unified West Indian position; the relevance of a West Indian culture forged by cricket, the social institutions which are its legacy and the relevance of a sport that is limited by colonial history to societies subject to the effects of globalisation is being questioned not on the fields of play but beyond the boundary, among the spectators.

The way West Indian cricket is consumed both in the media and at the ground has changed, reflecting the shift away from a West Indian identity in the case of the latter while blaming the death of West Indian cricket on the fictional West Indian nation in the case of the former. Cricket continues to form a significant part of the social fabric of the West Indian nation states, however the game itself is no longer the site of conflict, this has been supplanted by the forms of national expression evident in the way each island consumes its cricket.

West Indies cricket was first posited as an expression of West Indian identity, a celebration of the constituent inputs of this region of immigrants; by CLR James in his seminal work ‘Beyond A Boundary’ (1963).The formal study of cricket’s significance to the development of a West Indian society coincides with the Independence movement in the region. In fact, Grimshaw notes “the imminence of independence and the publication of Beyond a Boundary were intimately connected: they were part of the same historical moment.”

In an effort to imbue the region with a sense of identity, cricket was and continues to be seen as a metaphor for social expression in the region. All the societal upheavals as the region moved from crown colony government to self rule through federation to independence were reflected in both the composition and fortunes of the West Indies team, with arguably the greatest of all West Indies teams coming at the end of the region’s independence movement.

By elevating cricket to an artform and concentrating on the aesthetics of the West Indian game, James makes the point that the game itself as played in the colonial West Indies is itself according to Graves (1995) “social resistance against British colonialism.”

Having provided the newly independent West Indian islands with a historical context for their independence struggles, James’ work continues to influence most scholarship on the topic of West Indies cricket. Whereas James and other cultural critics see colonial cricket as a channel of resistance, others see it as “a white cultural re-inscription of black West Indian culture.”

Burdened by James’ observation of the importance of cricket to West Indian society, most contemporary media reports concentrate on the declining success of the West Indies team and conclude that as goes our society so too goes our cricket. The West Indies cricket team, representing as it does the fiction of a West Indian nation is the only sport team that is held up as a reflection of contemporary society. In this era of globalisation, “the claim that cricket is ‘a means of national expression’ is just untenable, especially in the last two decades or so, when capitalism has moved into a globally integrated phase” (Surin).

06 October 2008

On Leaving the Caribbean

Excerpts From a Culture Jumpers Diary...

I woke to the familiar sound of Spanish being spoken in the apartment stairwell. Parents were walking children to the bus stop. The dust had settled after the initial rough landing in our new American city, so far from our Caribbean home. It was time to settle in regardless of how dizzy or out of place we felt. The new sights and sounds were something we would simply have to get used to, after all, we were no longer in Cibao, and over the years culture jumping had become a matter of practice for us.

Smiling Mayan eyes peered out at the bus stop from a tightly wrapped bundle tucked neatly in a baby stroller. The crisp cold morning breeze stung my badly chapped lips, as I turned to face a sun that refused to warm me. These are the contrasts, adding to confusion, that contributes to my dizziness.

The grocery stores in the United States are larger than I had remembered. The range of products spread over a few acres of warehouse shopping included everything from home improvement and clothing, to a shocking display of twelve different kinds of olives. They did not however, have the regular olives or achiote I needed for the arroz con gondules. These were the cultural comforts that I would have to learn to leave behind.

Entering Starbucks was much like taking a passage through time, leaving the bright cold outdoors and being enveloped in a thick aroma of warm cafe while a jazz piano oozed from the speakers above. A menu boasted dozens of drink varieties swimming with corn sweeteners when all I craved was a simple café con leche with a spoon of real cane sugar. Next door to Starbucks was a little 20 by 20 Mexican grocery which carried the olives and a few spices I had unsuccessfully searched for at the larger grocery. There I discovered I could sadly replace the pasteles of Navidad with tamales. …It was going to be a rough Christmas.

The sound of the coquí singing after an afternoon rain has been replaced with the call of Canadian geese soaring above. It was both comforting and confusing to see a family of otters taking a swim. They never seem to take notice of me as I press the button and wait for the walk signal to grant me permission to cross the busy highway. Wild strawberries are planted at the local mall which has a woman's clothing store sporting ''Cacique'' underwear. I inquired within as to how the store got its name. The manager informed me, “I think it is European.” …Of course, isn’t everything?

At times I feel at home in the familiar surroundings and with the expectations of life in a small (and sometimes small minded) US city; like when the apartment manager asked me for my green card. At other times I feel like I have arrived on a new planet to discover life and document sub species for classification. Some things have not changed a bit, racism and ignorance abound here, while other things have changed too rapidly for me to take in, with highways replacing wetlands and nesting grounds. Then there were those twelve different kinds of olives on display at the mega grocery.

Twelve different kinds.

15 September 2008

Turtle Woman Rising: Drum the Heart, Heal the Earth

Turtle Woman Rising "Drum the Heart, Heal the Earth" will be held in Washington DC. on October 10-13 2008 in front of the White House.

Under the auspices of THE INTERNATIONAL COUNCIL OF THIRTEEN INDIGENOUS GRANDMOTHERS, Turtle Women Rising is being organized by SFC Eli PaintedCrow, a 22 yr. retired Army Veteran who served in Iraq in 2004. A Native American from the Yaqui Nation, grandmother of 8, and a mother of 2 sons who both served in the military, she has been called upon by her consciousness and her spirit to play and pray for peace.

This is a call out to all women who are invested in our future. Our mother is in need of healing; our hearts are in need of connection. Our children are in need of protection. Our lives are in need of saving. Join my sisters and me and we will unite our energies to raise the vibration of the Universe. Let us speak to the Earth Mother (Turtle Island), and let her know that we are taking action towards her healing. Let us realize our strength and power as women and together we will shine in our light of Love and Peace.

Most important let us speak to each other’s hearts and hold the energy of Peace. Peace cannot be given; it must be created in the hearts of the living. We cannot demand Peace, we can only become it. We cannot fight for Peace we can only live it. When the hearts of the people understand the power in the sharing of resources and in the re-creation of inter-dependence the world will know abundance, safety and joy for all living things. We will know Peace.

Every culture holds the energy of the heartbeat that lives in the drum, giving all people this ability to share in the language of the universe, the sound of life. The drum beat is a form expression that allows our spirits to speak to each other’s heart. It is a way to connect to all life without creating disagreements. Every living thing has a vibration, a heartbeat. This vibration has the power to heal, transform and raise consciousness to our minds, heal our hearts and activate our bodies and feed our spirit.

You are a Turtle Woman Rising and we need your Light:

button Come to DC and take part in healing our planet by creating strong vibrations of Peace in front of the White House.

button If you cannot be in DC then help create a strong vibration to reach the White House by participating in daily drumming individually or as a group where you reside. Drumming can be at home or at a local Political office that needs positive energy.

button Sponsor someone to participate in the healing that will take place in Washington D.C.

button Pass the word around to your friends and neighbors.

button Be a spokesperson for Peace when the opportunity presents itself.

button Support Organizations that promote peace that you identify with.

There is also a call out to our warriors for security and firekeepers. Please contact Eli at info@elipaintedcrow.org. Turtle Women Rising is honored to be a fiscal project of the Center for Sacred Studies (CSS), a California 501c3 nonprofit organization, through THE INTERNATIONAL COUNCIL OF THIRTEEN INDIGENOUS GRANDMOTHERS.

10 September 2008

First Taino-Jibaro Festival and First Artisan-Cultural Fair of Guayaney

This news, kindly sent to me by Dr. Carlalynne Melendez of the Liga Guakia Taina-ke, a not-for-profit cultural conservation and ecological protection organization. The first news, with blogs marking the event, involves the first Taino-Jibaro Festival of Guayaney, held this past May. See:


The main objective of that Festival was to unite the communities of that region and to create community networks.

The second news concerns an important and exciting upcoming event, with an interest in expanding its participation to indigenous peoples from across the Caribbean. The Liga is currently organizing the First Artisan-Cultural Fair of Guayaney (December 5,6,7 2008). Those interested should contact Dr. Melendez at lynemelendez@yahoo.com.

Finally, the Liga also has a radio program: Guakia Inkayeke Ahiyaka (Our Community Speaks), transmitted by Radio Walo in Humacao. You can listen to the program online at: http://www.waloradio.com/portal/ or at http://ahiyaka.blogspot.com/. The program airs each Sunday at 9:30am (Puerto Rico Time).

07 September 2008

UC Berkeley Begins Destruction of Native American Sacred Site

Thanks again to Tony Castanha for passing this along:

BERKELEY, CA- University of California police moved in yesterday morning and cut many limbs and branches of a Redwood tree and cut down twelve Oak trees that have been protected by tree-sitting protesters for the last 21 months. Five people were arrested as they peacefully pleaded with arborists not to destroying the trees of the Memorial Oak Grove deemed a sacred burial site to Ohlone Indians.

Twelve trees were cut today and the University says they will continue cutting 46 over the weekend. Four protesters remain in a single Redwood tree in the center of the grove. Arborists trimmed most of the branches from the Redwood tree occupied by the four remaining tree sitters. Cutting the branches made it virtually impossible for the tree sitters to move from tree to tree. A spokesman for the campus said that within three days, the University would no longer honor its agreement to ensure they had adequate nutrition and water. The tree sitters currently only have one liter of water to share between four people as they sit in 90 degree heat.

The Memorial Oak Grove is regarded as a sacred place to Native American people and is documented as such by UC Berkeley's own Anthropology Department. There is evidence of 2 shell mounds sites in the area, with 19 ancestral remains found within them. Along with UC Berkeley's attempt to develop on a sacred place, they are guilty of housing over 17,000 sacred remains and objects. UCB currently holds the largest human remains collection in the United States of which it is not in compliance with the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA)

"I brought my five year old daughter and two month old son out today to bear witness to the massacre of sacred life," said Morning Star Gali of the Pit River Tribe and co-chair of Advocates to Protect Sacred Sites. "The cops responded by yelling to move them behind the median. I asked if they would stand by as complacent if it was their grandmother' s gravesites being desecrated. I want my children here to witness the destruction of sacred life and how important it is to protect it. I wanted them to witness the cops, arborists and UC Officials that participated and cheered as the trees came crashing down from bulldozers. This exhibits the ongoing Human Rights abuses committed by the University. They refuse to comply with NAGPRA by holding 13,000 of our ancestors remains hostage, they illegally reorganized NAGPRA with no tribal consultation and now they continue to desecrate sacred burial grounds."

The Memorial Grove is a native Coast Live Oak ecosystem. Native oaks support the most complex terrestrial ecosystems in California. The California Native Plant Society CNPS has stated that the Memorial Oak Grove is "an important gene bank for the Coast Live Oak." Every one of the oaks in the grove should be protect by law and the Berkeley Coast Live Oak moratorium forbids cutting mature Coast Live Oaks in Berkeley. UC refuses to recognize the law. The grove is also part of a National Historic Site. The Stadium and landscape is a memorial to Californians who died in World War I.

The tree sitters are urging people to come and show support for the trees and bear witness to the University of California's blatant disregard to sacred sites and native ecosystems.

05 September 2008

Healing plants

Before there were "blogs", we at Biaraku had an ongoing forum of ideas that we distributed via email. I thought it would be a good idea to revisit some of the themes that we covered. Now there are even more resources on these subjects on the web.

Gina "Rixturey" Robles-Villalba



Part of the Taino heritage to the world has been the addition of native healing plants to the pharmacopoeia of medicinal knowledge. Our abuelos and abuelitas always have used this knowledge to their benefit before the advent of modern science, hospitals, and pills.

Maria Dolores Hajosy Benedetti has written a wonderful book called "Earth and Spirit: Healing Lore and More from Puerto Rico" (©1989, Waterfront Press) that delves into this rich heritage from the point of view of the practitioners of popular and herbal medicine. Through interviews from all over the island, she brings together this tradition and systematically lists remedies for a number of ailments as well as list the English, Spanish, Latin and botanical names for the plants mentioned in the book. This book is available in English and Spanish.

This healing lore comes close to home, for we all can remember an abuelita or parent who made home remedies -- the guarapos and alcolados -- for a variety of ailments. To remedy a head cold, my father would make a guarapo of cloves, cinnamon, apples and lemons, sugar to taste, and to this mixture add a dash (or more) of rum.

On the web, TRAMIL is a project dedicated to the investigation of traditional popular medicines of the Dominican Republic, Haiti and the other islands in the Caribbean Basin. It was initiated through the efforts of enda-caribe, the Laboratory of Natural Substances of the Faculty of Medicine and Pharmacology, Port o Prince, Haiti, the Federación de Asociaciones Campesinas de Zambrana-Chacuey, República Dominicana, and the dispensary of SOE de Thomonde, Central de Haití. Their web site (in Spanish) is http://www.funredes.org/endacaribe/Tramil.html

Another book in English, "CARIBBEAN HERBS AND MEDICINAL PLANTS AND THEIR USES" edited by Kevin Harris & Mike Henry, takes a look at some of the herbs and medicinal plants found in the Caribbean, with advice on how to use them wisely, moderately and regularly, it also explores some of the myths and legends associated with these herbs and plants.

31 August 2008

Letter from Leonard Peltier

Many thanks to Tony Castanha for forwarding this:

AUGUST 24, 2008

Greetings my friends and relatives,

First of all, I can't express to you, near as much as I'd like to. The sincere appreciation I have that you would gather together remembering all the political prisoners, hostages and myself the way you have.

Gatherings like this are extremely important because it reminds people of the sacrifices that are made daily through out the world for freedom, justice, and a clean and sane environment for our future generations. The powers that exploit our resources and people will always be there, generation after generation.

And the creator will always call upon people to stand against that exploitation. Even if the creator does not call. Any just man or woman, with any semblance of justice, be it spiritual, social or environmental, He will find cause to take issue with those enemies of humanity and nature.

One of the reasons I am so appreciative is because I want you to know, from where I stand the gatherings that you do mean so very very much to the other political prisoners, other hostages and myself. It is an extreme importance that political prisoners and hostages not be forgotten. Not necessarily for the sake of the prisoners and hostages themselves, but for the sake of future generations. To appreciate and protect and jealously guard the freedoms they possess; that was paid for with someone's life. I think the most difficult times for a political prisoner or hostage, is when people start to forget what their sacrifice was about, when people become complacent because of some economic level they have attained, and forget the sacrifices that were made and the danger of them losing those gains is imminent. And I know from personal experience, the joy I feel when I receive letters of appreciations or visitors and that is second to the joy I feel when I know that my efforts were not in vain. And there are young people taking up the cause and responsibility of regaining our lost freedoms and resources.

I dearly miss the touch of friends, I dearly miss walking through a forest or across a meadow or even through the traffic of a busy street, or feeling the wind blowing against my skin, directly, rather than a window or some chain link fence.

But with all this, I can't express to you how at a great loss I would feel if the reason and cause of the many political prisoners and hostages throughout the world was forgotten. Swept aside, because people become too comfortable with their status quo.

I have been here for 33 years that is more than half of my life. I would give almost anything to go home. But I won't give up,

I would give almost anything to be with my family. But I won't be quiet.

I would give almost anything to say goodbye to this place, but I won't say goodbye to my beliefs and our struggle.

I would give almost anything to walk out this door and never return. But I will never walk away from the love of my people.

When I think of the things that I hear and see in the media, about how many different special interest groups, speak of various subjects, like the right to live, or pro-life, I cant help but think, of the children around the world, who never get a chance to live because of the exploitation of their resources of their country and their people.

All of the destruction that is taking place here and abroad is a direct result of people, special interest groups, whose interest is primarily wealth and taking more than they need.

The religious people or should I say The spiritual people of America, and anywhere else for that matter, should seek to aggressively band together to stop the unjust wars that truly impact primarily the common man, the common man who in his village or farm, city or anywhere else is destroyed, by bombs, from the various governments. Governments; Who in the name of nationalism and patriotism seek to gain political power and control over someone else's resource and political system. They should actively band together and identify the things they have in common rather than dwelling on their differences. Perhaps I am rambling too much in my statement, after 33 years in prison and 63 years upon this earth, much of this time spent thinking, praying, analyzing, and mediating, on the information that I gather from various forms of writings, books and observations, I somehow feel I have a little bit of a right, to say what I think and feel.

I love you all and I am so honored that I would be invited to make a statement to you. And if I could hug each one of you individually, I guarantee you would damn well be hugged!

I have never given up in my struggle for freedom.

Freedom is a natural inclination of all living creatures up on the earth. Even a newborn will struggle when held too tightly.

I deeply regret being in prison I deeply regret losing family members while in here, I deeply regret all the wonderful things in life that I have missed, but I will never regret standing up for my people for as long as I can draw my breath. My heart is with them always, and my heart is with you today.

So long for now; I will remember you in my prayers and until next time.

Keep the faith.

Your relative always

In the spirit of crazy horse,

Leonard Peltier


30 August 2008

Guyana's Indigenous Peoples on the Periphery

An article in The Guyana Review titled, "Guyana's Indigenous Peoples: Still Languishing on the Periphery" (posted May 28, 2008) features an interview with David James, the former head of the Amerindian Peoples' Association (APA).

David James, who is the legal adviser to the APA, outlines some of the shock being suffered by indigenous communities in the face of the invasion by loggers and miners, and foreign corporations:
Those communities that have borne the brunt of the environmental damage are very resentful. They are resentful of the social effects of mining and timber harvesting – especially mining – which include the introduction of large amounts of alcohol, illicit drugs and prostitution camps. These activities take place either within the mining areas or close to the mining areas.

There are cases in which some communities are so resentful of these practices that they have sought legal redress. There are at least three cases that I am aware of where communities have initiated legal action to protect their rights. The success in these cases has been limited primarily because the court process is very slow.

What the communities feel is that their protection is best assured through the granting of full rights including sub—surface rights. This would mean that they would have full ownership of the resources and better control of those resources. Of course access also means that they would benefit from those resources.

James also describes the many ways that the rights of indigenous communities have been severely undermined by natural resource development, and the limited recourse they have under the law, especially as they do not possess rights to that which lies beneath the soil they live on. James calls for a revision of Guyana's Amerindian Act to bring it in line with the government's own endorsement of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples:

There is a need for the Amerindian Act to be amended particularly because in 2007 the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples was approved by the General Assembly. That Declaration ought to be the guide for legislative reform in any country. The Amerindian Act was passed before that Declaration was approved but the approval of that Declaration essentially means that those states that have voted for it are saying that they consent to abide by its very lofty principles. Therefore, the Amerindian Act as it stands now falls far short of many of the rights standards that are contained in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

James ends the interview by describing the overall environment of confrontation between indigenous communities and the state. To the extent that earning foreign exchange to help purchase foreign imports continues to be the dominant developmentalist logic in Guyana, I don't think James is wrong in showing a lack of optimism for the future.

29 August 2008

A Short History, and a Call for Contributors

First, let me welcome you to


This is a “renewed” blog in terms of site redesign, renaming, and building on its precursor, The CAC Review, which first started in early 2003 on the kacike.org domain.(1)

It is new in some ways as well: over the past few months I have been rethinking, sometimes agonizing, over the slow and diminishing level of academic collaboration that in the end came to mark the 10 year existence of the Caribbean Amerindian Centrelink. One of the main problems was that I was the centre of all web updates and content management, and began to suffer “broker overload” which suffered from additional aggravating problems external to the network. Within the past year, email started to grow to oppressive heights, and in fact there are many messages from as long as 10 months ago that I have yet to answer, and probably never will. Many contributing authors would submit files loaded with problematic code, and then begin to grow increasingly anxious, even upset, when for many months I had not posted their works, and soon the demands became pointed. In the meantime, when communicating with collaborators, I rarely got responses, except from the usual reliable two or three persons. The rest would remain totally silent, as if being listed as an “editor” was all that mattered. In other respects, I felt that I was being pinned down and locked within a narrow niche, that I could not express myself freely, and that I would remain permanently “on call” thanks to my past (and remaining) research on the indigenous peoples of the Caribbean.

That is why I had to create the Watchman blog, and why I have been so busy at Open Anthropology. It has been as if I had a ton of things to get off my chest.

Most of all, however, I also grew increasingly uneasy and unhappy with the centrality of the non-indigenous academic (myself), in an indigenous field. With so many indigenous Caribbean persons actively online, making excellent use of the web, and showing great sophistication and advanced knowledge of web design and coding, there was no real reason why I had to continue to be the broker/overlord through which information passed (and got stuck in a bottleneck).

Simple solutions to simple problems led to some very exciting results. For example, to not have to manually update a HTML directory of researchers (that link will expire soon) each time one wanted a new photo, or to correct an email link, or to alter a single word (or delete a duplicate “the”) I placed the responsibility for updates back with the researchers. That was the first step in creating the Indigenous Caribbean Network, which has now grown to large and dynamic networking proportions, far beyond a mere directory of researchers, and instead becoming a lively site for rich cultural, political, historical, and political discussion, not to mention audio-visual collaboration. I actually try to limit my presence there for fear of being sucked in for too long.

NING offered pages that members could update themselves, and that was the only reason I first chose NING, because I had no other means (i.e., coding knowledge or software) available for those listed on that old “directory of researchers” to update their own entries. I asked them to sign in to NING, roughly a third did, and the rest are “lost.” What really propelled the network was the onrush of indigenous Caribbean persons, and archaeologists, two of the main groups in the network.

All of the above then really got the ball rolling. I realized that one of the problems was the limitations imposed by static HTML pages, administered by me, on domains I owned, using private accounts that I paid for. That worked to ensure that sites such as the Caribbean Amerindian Centrelink, and even KACIKE: The Journal of Caribbean Amerindian History and Anthropology, would remain firmly in my weakening hands, regardless of best intentions. At the same time I began to fool around with content management sites, and soon realized that I could use WORDPRESS to create such a site, and use GOOGLE PAGES to archive KACIKE, so that a new group of contributors could directly access those sites on their own, post as they wished, and nobody owned it.

Hence, slowly but surely, the Caribbean Amerindian Centrelink is mutating into the Indigenous Caribbean Center, while KACIKE is going defunct, at least until new editors wish to take control of it (and when they do, lack of HTML knowledge won’t be an excuse, and the site is free so there are no ownership issues, no "accounts to settle").

The renaming issue stems from exchanges that are too long to summarize here adequately. From 1998 doubts began to be aired about use of the term “Amerindian” (popular in Trinidad, and among a diminishing group in Guyana) that misled me to believe that the term was appropriate. For many instead, it is either too racial, too exclusive of miscegenated groups such as the Garifuna, or sounds too much like “American Indian.” “Aboriginal” sounded derived from Australia to many, despite the fact that it is also in official and common use in Canada. Indigenous was both wide and ambiguous, and now that all of the old efforts are being undone and unwoven, it seemed like an appropriate time to install the renaming.

And why “center” instead of “centre”? Because I am fed up with American readers writing to point out that I “misspelled center.” And what happened to “centrelink”? That is the funniest one: I came up with the name while in Trinidad at the same that the Australian government renamed its welfare agency Centrelink. For years we were getting massive numbers of visitors from Australia, and at one point, even centrelink staff email (how many BBQs were derailed by my silence in neglecting to point out that the intended recipient would never get their email?) When I once boasted that Australia was one of our top three sources of traffic, an Australian Centrelink administrator wrote to tell me that it was because our site sounded like their welfare agency, and had a more memorable URL (centrelink.org). My response was that it was sad to see how many Australians were in dire need of welfare.

27 August 2008


From a poetic exchange on the Indigenous Caribbean Network, reproduced with the permission of the author, Axel Garcia


I am revolution.....Being born "Spic" in an alabaster complexion.

My Grandfather couldn't see beyond my green eyes, so it was my skin I grew to despise. But "Papi", hold me, speak to me, tell me about "La Isla" with its swaying palm trees. Tell me bout Don Pedro, sing to me Ramito, dime de los esclavos.

Cause I, Papa, have been searching an eternity of years it seems, to understand the visions in my dreams; of a Taino reaching out his arms, trying to warn me of the harms....That Amerikkka and its democracy, will blind us with its glorious "Land of the free" ....

What price did you pay, Papa, if at my hue, the whiteness of my being, tu rechasa?

I am the victim of "O beautiful with gracious skies", while another of my kind dies! But don't put that on the radio or the TV, there is no room between the weather forecast, the Mets and the Yankees....

You see I am the revolution, as each day I fight, when in the mirror my enemy stares back with might. And yes Papa, I've scarred my skin with my flag tattooed again and again, so when the day comes of the concrete revolution, my "pale" body will lie next to all my fellow Puerto Ricans!!!

And Abuelo, when you see me again, I will be covered in the souls of my Indians....


Mami & Papi: This is Not a Puerto Rican Obituary, by tainoray

From a poetic exchange on the Indigenous Caribbean Network, reproduced with the permission of the author, tainoray:


For many of us Puerto Ricans our parents' childhood was very poor.

Boriken to them was hunger.

Access to a proper education was difficult.

They didn't come to America for a vacation, they came for a better way of life.

When they came here a lot of cheap jobs were waiting for them.

They worked the kitchens, swept the floors, served the food

Sound familiar???

They worked 40 hours for 20 hours pay if they were lucky

"Mucho trabajo, poco dinero," they said

They lived in rat and roach infested buildings but at least they had a roof over their head

Food in their bellies

They played the numbers looking for that pie in the sky

When they came hear nobody ever heard of Puerto Rico

They called them Spics, Wetbacks

They whistled at our mothers they new they were fine

They tried to beat up our fathers until they learned they could fight

They never complained

They never went anywhere

They told us to go to school and become somebody

They took us to the Villas and the Puerto Rican Day Parade

They kicked the St. Patricks Parade to the curb

They fed us rice and beans, pasteles & lechon on Holidays

All that good stuff

And to La Iglesia on sundays

They taught us their culture

They came home tired

We inherited the slums, many paid the price

But we are still here

I'm just trying to tell their story with this soliloquy

God bless them

This is not a Puerto Rican Obituary

A giant statue of Christopher Columbus has found a new home in PR

For discussion of this piece, please see the Indigenous Caribbean Network


SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico

A giant statue of Christopher Columbus has found a home after years of sitting in pieces in a park in the Puerto Rican city of Catano.

The city paid US$2.4 million to bring the 310-foot statue to Puerto Rico ten years ago, but then couldn't raise the extra cash needed to erect it.

Now, Catano Mayor Wilson Soto says port management company the Holland Group has agreed to take the disassembled, bronze and steel statue off his hands.

The company plans to install it in the western city of Mayaguez, where it runs the port. The town is set host the Central American and Caribbean Games in July 2010.

600 Ton Statue of Columbus (1998 article)

For discussion of this piece, see the Indigenous Caribbean Network


Published: December 21, 1998

Police Officer Adan Vargas Maldonado tried to picture what a 30-story-tall bronze statue of Christopher Columbus would look like.

''I don't imagine it beautiful, but attractive, yes,'' he said as he kept watch on the mammoth head and other statue parts, strewn about in a park, awaiting assembly. ''It'll be something supernatural for Puerto Rico.''

Such lukewarm views are an improvement over the reaction in almost every American city that has considered but rejected the statue by Zurab K. Tsereteli, the Russian sculptor who gave it to the United States as a gift of friendship in the early 1990's.

In South Florida, cities like Miami Beach and Fort Lauderdale passed on erecting the 600-ton monument because of its size and the costs involved, about $25 million for shipping and assembling. In Columbus, Ohio, which debated adding the statue of Columbus at the helm of a ship to its other memorials in honor of the explorer, some nicknamed it ''Chris Kong,'' and American Indians said it glorified someone who represented ''500 years of genocide.''

But where some see a colossal headache, others see a potential moneymaker. The statue is about to settle down in Catano, a city of 36,000 better known for flooding, industrial pollution and playing ugly duckling to San Juan, its neighbor across San Juan Bay, but whose leaders expect soon to blossom as an international tourist attraction.

Plans call for the statue, which would rise here 295 feet above sea level, to become the centerpiece of a waterfront tourism complex, which would also feature a pedestrian mall, restaurants, shops and boutiques, inspired by Epcot Center in Orlando, Fla. Proponents say the complex, a short ferry ride from the cruise ships that anchor at San Juan Harbor, could draw 500,000 visitors a year.

''This is going to put Catano on the map of the world,'' said Sergio Cordero, a Miami consultant who is manager of the statue project here. ''People will recognize it like they recognize the Eiffel Tower or the Statue of Liberty.''

Not everyone in Catano thinks it will be money well spent, given the city's municipal problems, but officials are trying to win people over by focusing on the future.

The unlikely but impressive journey from Russia to Catano of the monument titled ''Birth of the New World'' began last February, when Anibal Marrero, the vice president of the Puerto Rico Senate, heard that the statue needed a home. Mr. Marrero, whose district includes Catano, said he thought it fitting that the gift be given to Puerto Rico, an American territory on which, unlike the mainland, Columbus actually set foot during his second voyage in 1493. (Puerto Rico's national anthem includes the lines: ''When to its beaches Columbus arrived, with admiration he cried: 'Oh! Oh! Oh! This is the pretty land I'm looking for.' '')

Senator Marrero, who said the statue honored the man's daring spirit rather than his conquest, said he also envisioned new jobs and an economic bonanza for Catano. The city has one of the most majestic waterfront views on the island and is already the site of a popular tourist attraction, the Bacardi rum plant. But it does have problems, Mr. Marrero said, including an unemployment rate of about 13 percent and a disproportionate number of public housing projects.

After enlisting the support of Catano's Mayor, Edwin Rivera Sierra, who earmarked $3 million to bring the statue's parts to the island, the two officials put a project team together and exchanged visits with Mr. Tsereteli, whose large-scale art is found all over Moscow and in cities like New York.

Mr. Tsereteli had presented scale models of the statue to both President Bush and President Clinton and, last September, to the Organization of American States, on the occasion of its 50th anniversary.

The statue depicts Columbus standing at the historically inaccurate wheel of his ship (maritime historians say ships from Columbus's day steered by a bar directly connected to the rudder), his right arm raised in a greeting. Three sails snap in the wind behind him while the three caravels are positioned on a map of the New World at the base.

The statue arrived here in more than 2,500 pieces, some from St. Petersburg, Russia, and some from the United States, where the 11-ton head had unceremoniously languished for six years in a Fort Lauderdale warehouse after South Florida turned the statue down. By contrast, when the head got here last October, a welcoming delegation from Catano was waiting at the dock.

''I feel like a child receiving a gift from Santa Claus,'' Mayor Rivera Sierra, whose statue-related exploits have been the subject of both ridicule and song, told The San Juan Star as he wiped away tears.

Many of the Mayor's constituents, however, are extremely angry over the statue's cost, which officials plan to cover through a $30 million private bond issue. The officials say Catano would only profit, and any expenses related to the statue would be reimbursed, but residents wonder why a monument is the focus when many of their streets still flood every time it rains and some neighborhoods lack sewage hookups.

''That money should be used for necessities, like more hospital services, more police officers,'' said Rafael Roman, 84, a Catano native who was talking with friends one recent evening in the town plaza. ''That statue is not going to resolve anything sitting there. It's throwing taxpayers' money into the trash can.''

Another Catano resident, Luis Ortiz, 47, said, ''We're just praying Catano doesn't sink.''

But if visits to the park where the statue pieces rest under 24-hour guard are any indication, Catano got itself a hit. Officer Vargas Maldonado said visitors from all over the island had already come looking for ''la cabeza de Colon'' -- the head of Columbus.

One recent afternoon, several parents with children stopped by. ''It's a well-done job,'' said Marco Prieto, 8, who visited with his father and two brothers. ''The Mayor has shown great intelligence.''

''The nose has holes and everything,'' his 12-year-old brother, Giovanni, reported excitedly.

The statue has another enthusiastic ally in Gov. Pedro J. Rossello.

''I just picture an imposing structure at the entrance of San Juan Bay which can be seen by air, sea and land and which will be a landmark in United States territory where Christopher Columbus actually landed,'' the Governor said.

Assembly by the sculptor and a crew of about 50 Russians is expected to start in mid-1999, pending environmental and other permits. Officials say they had to rush the transportation of the statue before all studies were completed because of the fear that political instability in Russia might prevent a move.

Unveiling is scheduled for the anniversary of the first sighting of the New World, Oct. 12, 2000.

''It's a beautiful monument,'' Mayor Rivera Sierra said in an interview on Thursday. ''I have no doubt it's going to be a success.''

Caribs' Santa Rosa Festival, August 24, 2008

High Mass in Arima
Monday, August 25 2008

Voices were raised in song and prayer yesterday as parishioners left the Santa Rosa Roman Catholic Church in Arima to begin a street procession honouring the first of the New World saints, Santa Rosa de Lima.

The early Spanish missionaries dedicated the mission of Arima to St Rose who is honoured as “The Divine Patron of Arima.” According to the oral tradition of the Carib Community, St Rose appeared to a group of three hunters of the Carinepogoto tribe when the Mission was founded.

Even though the actual feast day was Saturday August 23, the day of St Rose’s death, was celebrated in a high mass from 9 am yesterday by parish priests, including Msgr Christian Pereira. The large church overflowed with adoring worshippers — young and old. Even the temporary seating area outside was filled to capacity.

After the mass ended, the procession was led by a cross bearer and altar servers and followed by the Carib Queen, Valentina Medina and members of the Arima Carib Community.

The church bell tolled as the statue of Santa Rosa was removed from the church and placed in the back of a van for the procession. The statue was beautifully decorated and garlanded in pink, yellow, red and white. The rain threatened but held up as the large crowd made their way through the streets of Arima.

26 August 2008

My New Blog: One Day for the Watchman (1D4TW)

I have been busy working on an offshoot blog, One Day for the Watchman, which is now live. “One day for the watchman” is a line from a Trinidadian proverb, about everyday being for thieves, but only one day is for the watchman, that one day which is the last day for the thieving, and it is usually meant to convey the idea that wrong doers will meet their end. One can read more of these proverbs, selected to suit the themes of the blog, under “Words of Wisdom.”

1D4TW will not be replacing or substituting for The CAC Revuew, but it will do some very different things. Posts that originally appeared here will remain, with some copied over to create 1D4TW. The themes of the 1D4TW will be broader and more political, allowing me to express and engage in issues and forms of writing that I sometimes produced here, but felt reluctant about doing so, or felt limited.

The key foci of 1D4TW are, as listed under the “about” section which is retitled “Wha’ yuh say?“:

  • radical indigenism and cultural revival
  • the international politics of indigenous struggle
  • Caribbean cultural identity, creolization, difference, history, and autonomy
  • the politics of independence and decolonization
  • critique of imperialism, capitalism, and modernity
  • politics after the state, the world market, and Western hegemony
  • anarchy and autarky
  • ways of life based on self-sufficiency
  • rethinking human-animal, our impermanence

My thanks to Guanaguanare (also Guacara Dreamtime), Black Girl on Mars, and the late Dr. Roi Kwabena for the obvious inspiration for this new blog. Also, my thanks to thumbprints.co.tt’s Free Speech photo website featuring some amazing Trinidadian graffiti.

From Guacara’s post on “Le Roi” I will end with some of Roi Kwabena’s famous signature lines that appeared at the end of his email messages:

swim deep as manatee
levitate as a kolibri
chanting like a macaw
blowing like sandfly

fly high like a condor from los iros to guayaguayare

wade as an anaconda
dig deeper than anteater

glimmer like the green horsewhip…

11 August 2008

"For Sale": Stolen Taino Artifacts from the Dominican Republic

Over the past few days I have been contacted by a certain "Lai Tran," writing from either Champs or Marseilles in France, advertising for sale a number of artifacts, all shown below, which appear to be Taino artifacts, though a couple of items may not be genuine originals. No prices were mentioned, nor was the name of the collectors. I was told that the items were taken by two collectors who lived in the Dominican Republic, who have a second house in Nassau, and they "built buildings, public roads and 2 private airports." They found some of the items themselves, and others were obtained from workers and farmers. Some items were collected from "known Dominican collectors and antique dealers in Nassau." The entire collection shown below is currently being held in France.

According to a knowledgeable correspondent, it is illegal to remove such items from the Dominican Republic, but there is little that can be done to get them back. In addition, there are lax controls in place to prevent travelers from leaving the country in possession of such items. According to this one source, what is shown below is the tiniest tip of an iceberg, and even a "vast percentage" of items held in storage at the Museum of Dominican Man have disappeared. In addition, it is alleged that dealers in Taino antiquities have found buyers among officials of the Dominican state.

Posting images of these items is one way to keep track of what has been removed, and a way of posting a "beware" notice to any potential buyers: we know that these items have been illegally removed, and your purchase will also be illegal.

This message has been forwarded to Taino colleagues working in museums in the U.S. as well representatives of the United Confederation of Taino People and the Taino Nation of the Antilles.

May the day come that colonial Indiana Jones figures stop raiding the Caribbean as if it were their private, personal, plaything to be raped at will.