Two Visions of Trinidad and Tobago

By Linda E. Edwards

Domestic ViolenceThe screaming headlines of a woman beheaded by “A close family member”- always a husband, were stunning, even for Trinidad’s papers. I found myself again asking why? What can people do to prevent this? The island is really so small that a woman cannot get away from a man who wants to hunt her down. Of course he drank poison. How often in the last five years has this scenario been repeated in Central? I said to myself that I wasn’t going to write any more columns on women being killed by dotish men whom they should have left long ago. Then Ras Tyehimba wrote a piece that gave some hope. A man was talking to men about the serious issue of how they treat women. His piece did not generate half as much comment as did the pieces I wrote first on the issue of land reform in Zimbabwe, and then on the issue of “Indians” pleading for ‘rescue from discrimination’ to the Indian Vice- President. This latter piece resulted in twenty nine comments. There are thirty-two listed, but three are clarification and additional documentation from my own keyboard.

Am I to understand from all of this that the issue of “Indians” claim to discrimination, and my response to it, and the issue of how we finally reconcile the bill due for white colonial exploitation in the non-European world are far more important than the issue of how men in Trinidad , some, not all, treat their wives? Is off with her head to be the new norm in marital relations, after many years of marriage? Is this to replace the divorce court?

There was Julia Cummings, throat slashed in a maxi-taxi in Princes Town Car park, and people thought he was just giving her some cuffs. There is the other wife of forty-six in Central whose husband chopped her up, and casually walked away wiping his blade, as if he had finished work. Then there was the one in D’Abadie who said her husband had sold her son to someone, and moved in with her father. She was found chopped to death on her front porch, and the list goes on, including the soon-to-be graduated teacher at the college whose body was dumped on the road to the college as exams were beginning. Then this week too, the Columbian woman living with the Texan turns up murdered. Who did it? Three foreigners on our soil treating it as the murder capital of the world? If all these dead women could reach out to those living in poor relationships, what would they advise?

And in the elegant magazine, ” The Smithsonian” a beautiful ad for Trinidad and Tobago put out by the Visit people. Green, lush, tranquil.. Also, there are the pictures I downloaded from the newspapers websites, The Guardian, Express, Trinicenter and Newsday, for use in my workshop, in New Mexico. People were fascinated. Indian brides in red saris, other brides in white, double wedding ceremonies for brothers, Emancipation Day Programmes. Chinese Dragon boat races, and the background view of the achingly beautiful road to Maracas Bay. You should go, I advise. Now supposing some took me seriously and arrived this week, would they wonder what part of hell they had ended up in? Would they get on the next plane out?

How do we explain this deadly beautiful place to ourselves? Strangers could leave if they find it oppressive. We, who consider it ours, even if we live away, have nowhere else to go. Each source of pride, touches us with beauty; each stab of pain, hurts.

Perhaps it’s our history. We learned too much about the fate of the wives of Henry VIII. There are too many mighty kings running around the place with a cutlass for a sword, a rope for a sash, and a wine-cup of grammoxone in their hands.

8 thoughts on “Two Visions of Trinidad and Tobago”

  1. “Am I to understand from all of this that the issue of “Indians” claim to discrimination, and my response to it, and the issue of how we finally reconcile the bill due for white colonial exploitation in the non-European world are far more important than the issue of how men in Trinidad, some, not all, treat their wives?”

    In my view, your article, “The ‘Indians’ Are At It Again!“, which was a response to silly, politically motivated and dishonest claims by some Indians of discrimination, was not a well thought out piece. It read as emotive and reactionary instead of insightful and progressive. Some of the responses to your article also appeared to be coming from a similar emotive and reactionary vein.

    Criticisms in the form of an attack on any ethnic group, or even what appears to be an attack on any ethnic group, will surely generate more interest than isolated domestic disputes. Violent domestic crime is often spoken about on radio talk-shows and is widely covered in the media in general (once it’s sensationalized they all cover it), but race issues are not. Race issues usually generate more concern and comments only when groups feel they are being unfairly attacked or stereotyped.

    Most people are not well-informed about race or race issues making it difficult for them to grasp that the historical distortions need to be addressed on an ongoing basis and not only in defensive responses.

  2. In trinidad, domestic violence of men on women is high. But what is the reason? Could it be in the education and values we pass onto our children? Why does it appear to be higher incidences among indo trinidadians?

    Allow me to put forth a theory. In India, generally, women are not looked upon as equals to men. People rejoice when a boy child is born but are quick to have abortions if the find out the child is female. This is changing in India(slowly) now as the country progresses. In trinidad, the indians there (for the most part) are not in contact with india anymore except for the movies and music. They have brought the values of india 150 years ago and kept them in the envelope that is trinidad while the 1 billion in india have continued to change. Hence, typical indo-trini culture/values is indian culture/values 150 years old with a little added from other people’s in trinidad.

    Now in some African societies, woman are treated badly but there is an almost equal amount where they are treated as equals. In many tribes of South Western Africa, the women as seen as the head of the home and control the finances. In addition, the trauma of having to loose your wife and children to the slave trade would make african men even more mindful of how important their wives are. They would pass on this value system to their children and children’s children.

    It’s just a theory which may or may not be correct. And as I always say, I don’t like to generalise. So this is not to say that all indo trini men don’t care for their wives and that all afro trini men treat their wives like queens. These are just my thoughts on the subject for someone to ponder over.

  3. Linda gyul, people still mashing yuh up for that last article. Like they eh want to let yuh live dat down. But you kine ah to blame for that because you is d one who keep bringing it whether directly as in this article or indiractly as in other articles up even though you said you will say no more on the matter.

  4. religion is the problem! all religion is a classed-based, male dominated compendiun of conflicted nonsense that deny human bilogical and physical, historical reality, posing instead backward and ignorant ethical constructs aimed and maintaining class and gender domination rather than truth and liberation of the people of the world from ignorance and nonsense.

    men behave as if women must be loyal to their husbands in every way especially sexually, denying the biological truth that all beings ard driven to procreate, and that this results or demaands a sexauality…or sexual organisation, or regard to sexuality, entirely opposed to curent attitudes, religious dictate and principle.

    men in themselves are total examples of this fact, for while men demand a certain type of sexual behavior from women… they hold themselves to no such limitation and response, if even in sexual matters women are far more capable, durable, than men themselves.

    in a world in which beings are born individual, biological and insecure, the products of biological, historical and social expeerience, learning by direct means and teaching as well as by social osmosis… how de we know what our responses will be in any situation, especially when we factor in the drives that are natural, outside of religion, even begun to consider generally as yet

    humans currently live in an impossible social mix, constricted by philosophical nonsense completely opposed to out natural reality, practising all sorts of derived rituals which generally lead to disaster, like curreent male derived and dominated religious sanctioned monogamous marriage.

    and explosive mix indeed.

    if we must have monogamous marriage we ought to have divorce as easily as we can get married.

    we should also consider a generalised ethical response based on biological reality, that handles love-falling out of love and seperation, just as easily, that removes male pride from the line of fire in all this.

    to acomplish this women must be raised to full equal status period…. and religion eliminated or thoroughly reformed to reflect the equality of women, along with practical ways with which to handle human realtions in whole given all that we have come to know about ourslevse and life in general…with a flexible element that would allow fine-tuning as truth continues to be revealed by human reseach and discovery of the world, the universe and ourselves

  5. Mawtamar, then how do you explain domestic violenece where the parent abuses the child or even the wife abuses the husband. Surly that can’t be attributed to male dominance.

  6. Riaz, those are the effects of a brutalized, former slave society that I keep talking about! Wherever slavery existed, especially in the former British empire, people brutalize each other. Societies that do not “give licks ” to their children have different ways of dealing with conflict. Wives in licks giving societies are just more grown up children.


  7. Linda, note, I wasn’t talking about “licks” or “spanking”. I was talking about abuse…parents who cuff and kick their children. Pick up a piece of furniture and throw it it tham.

    You and Mawtamar have two different but valid points. (Just because I asked him that question doesn’t mean I don’t agree with him to some extent. I’m just using the forum as it was intended as an exchange of ideas). And I had a different point too. But I think it’s a combination of all and some others that we haven’t mentioned that contributes to domestic violence.

    But I think, people have been brutalizing each other even before slavery existed. If you want to believe in the Bible account, then Caine brutalized Abel and nobody was a slave yet.

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