“Home of the Blessed”, “Rainbow”, “Land of Clouds”, “Land of turtles”, that is how the original inhabitants of these beautiful islands described what we know today as St Vincent & the Grenadines … our colonial legacy ! And when you research who saint Vincent was, you learn that he was a break-way monk from the catholic church … do we really ‘overstand’ our history ?
Following this ‘controversial’ issue (it really isn’t), our historians will no doubt provide some clarity in the public domain as this country moves towards republican status, because no national, one who understands his/her history, will want to perpetuate what a European power has forced upon many parts of the developing world, many of whom have already reverted to the original name of their country.
Zimbabwe was forcefully changed to Rhodesia, named after notorious Cecil Rhodes, but Zimbabweans could not stomach that imposition and reclaimed their rightful name Zimbabwe, same with Nambibia, Campuchea, Myanmar, Malawi and several independent countries, once former colonies, which made the right decision to revert to their original names. And as an aside, the late Bob Marley and the Wailers were guests of honour when Zimbabwe became independent on April 18, 1980. On that occasion and celebration, the song “Zimbabwe”, was rendered by Bob, with the opening lines: “Every man got a right to decide his own destiny”.
So what about the islands that are now referred to as the Caribbean. All of the Caribbean islands save Barbados, have had indigenous names by the inhabitants whom the Europeans met living here. Camerhonge is now Grenada, Hewanorra is now St. Lucia, Malliouhana is now Anguilla, Wadadli is now Antigua, St. Martin/St. Maarten was Soualiga, just to pull a few randomly, but our country is unique in that there were three different ethnic groups living here (Taino, Ciboney and Garifuna), each having their own name for the island group, one which has been ‘bastardized’ by our beer company and the other known name which has been given its rightful place with the naming of their organisations, like the Youlou Pan Movement, Youlou Arts Foundation and Youlou Radio Movement and Hairoun Dance Theatre … who are ALL on the right track. These organisations must be commended for their progressive outlook and understanding of their history.
So going forward, I do not foresee great difficulty in reverting to one of our original names as we move to republican status, shedding most of our colonial shackles which are still cramping and paralyzing our people mentally, yes, mentally. Some “Vincentians” and other Caribbean nationals have such a fixed colonial mindset, that it is difficult for them to accept their true identity. They feel happy and content to be literally and figuratively suited and straight jacketed in a colonial mindset, that benefits only a FEW.
It is time to break free, it is time to get rid of the colonial shackles that are stifling our development, that are still evident in our laws, in our education system, diet, culture, names and even religion. There is also a school of thought that our flag, which was designed by a Swiss national, should be replaced with a motif taken from one of our artful petroglyphs. Let the discussion continue, re-ignite the passion for the recovery of our real heritage, long live the indomitable spirit of Chatoyer ! Let us epitomize that spirit, with meaningful action !!!
Hairoun Home of the Blessed
Becouya Land of Clouds
Canouan Land of turtles
Begos * A collective name for the grenadines. *Verification required.
Donald De Riggs.