By Dr Kwame Nantambu
December 03, 2019
Now that Trinbagonians have already successfully completed their “shopping mayhem” per “Black Friday Sale: Back to Black savings with huge Discounts,” “Black Friday super sale,” “Black Friday 3 Day Sale,” “Black Friday Deals,” “Black Friday Sales,” “Black Friday Weekend Super Sale” plus “Best Black Friday Deals … Today Only” and in the process overtly and scandalously imitating the ex-post United States Thanksgiving Day, Thursday 28 November events/activities, it is indeed apropos to examine the Americanization of specific aspects of life in T&T.
For starters, the first official Halloween celebration in the United States took place on 31 October 1920 but today this original American celebration has become intrinsically and comfortably intertwined with the modus vivendi of the people of T&T.
In fact, stores now offer “Halloween Makeup,” “Halloween Costumes,” “Halloween Specials” and “Halloween Madness Sale”, just to name a few copycats.
The fact of the matter is that the American-oriented Halloween celebration has creeped into this country “in an big way” with children immersed in trick or treating from house to house dressed in appropriate costumes.
On the heels of this American Halloween Trini celebration , one finds that the “luck of the Irish” is also celebrated annually on 17 March with patrons decked out in the traditional green attire on this St. Paddy’s Day —-Go Trini green, yeh!.
And not to be outdone, malls have joined the T&T —American bandwagon by offering “Fall/Winter selection of Coats, Goose Down Sweaters, Scarfs ( a la PM Dr. Keith Rowley siting in the nation’s Parliament), Gloves and more for Children & Adults.” Maybe, just maybe, on the geographic scale, the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago is now posited in the temperate zone!.
Ergo, it need occasion no great surprise to witness a grown, adult Trini male wearing a heavy-duty Winter coat in downtown Port-of-Spain in the boiling/blistering /sweltering hot, hot, hot sun.
Indeed, by far the most detrimental, debilitating and destructive impact/effect of the Americanization of life in T&T occurs in the culinary, as in fast food arena. Trinbagonians have now acquired and overt disdain for local foods. In fact, they desire, albeit crave, American foreign fast foods —-unhealthy or not. Trinbagonians want foreign, period.
The stark culinary reality is “twenty-five per cent of secondary school children and 23 per cent of primary school pupils in T&T are overweight, predisposing them to heart disease and diabetes.” In addition, over a ten-year period, “obesity in children increased some 400 per cent from 2.4 per cent to 12.5 percent.”
In fact, then Chairman of the Joint Select Committee on Foreign Affairs, Marlene Mc Donald once felt compelled to assert very loud and very clear : “Trinidadians are no longer cooking food, even on a Sunday.” Translation: Instead of cooking we food at home, let’s go to KFC for our Sunday family dinner. “We like it so.”
And of course, the backdrop of all the afore-mentioned is the massive proliferation of American fast food outlets in the country. They are ubiquitous, period. They range from White Castle, Subway, Mario’s Pizza, Pizza Boys, Pizza Hut, Pizzeria, Burger King, Mc Donald’s, Church’s Chicken, Royal Castle, Popeye’s Chicken & Sea Food, Wendy’s and KFC.
As a side bar, it is very sad and totally disgusting to witness grown, adult, mature Trinbagonians gladly and proudly too , ordering American pizza between 11:00 – 12 midnight . What a total shame after 57 years of putative political independence.
Now, for the sake of this analysis, KFC was purposely left in last place because of the prime location of one of its outlets in T&T. This American KFC outlet is located smack on Independence Square in the nation’s capital but the American dominance does not stop there. Indeed, when one looks at the building, it becomes very clear and obvious that the marquee of the KFC’s Kernel Sanders ( who is from California, United States) towers over as in over powering the diminutive statue of Captain Arthur Andrew Cipriani ( who was born in Trinidad and Tobago).
The crucial, fundamental questions that immediately come to the fore are: What’s wrong with this picture?. Is this logistical format the sign of an independent people?. Or put another way: Would Americans allow a marquee of T&T ‘s Hosein’s Roti Shop to tower over as in overpowering Abraham Lincoln?. Hell no, period!. Only in T&T.
The first national hero award bestowed upon Cipriani is another question. Cipriani has been lauded as the nation’s first hero. That is NOT historically true, period.
The salient historical truism is that T&T ‘s first national hero is no one else but former leader of the Nepuyo people. He was the most famous Kalinago (Carib) and his name is Hyarima—a chieftain/cacique who established villages throughout northeast Trinidad. Indeed, he was the one who masterminded the total destruction/burning down of Trinidad’s old capital St. Joseph on 14 October 1637. In other words, Hyarima viciously and violently sought to destroy Euro-Spanish colonialism in T&T , period. Ipso fact, this feat makes him T&T’s revolutionary national hero.
More specifically, to his national, historic fame Chieftain Hyarima assiduously adhered to the revolutionary adage/dictum/directive : “Decolonization is always a violent phenomenon”.
On the other hand, Captain Cipriani never sought to violently destroy Euro-British colonialism in T&T. As Mayor of Port-of-Spain from 1925-1940, he fought to work within the Euro-British colonial system thereby fighting for universal adult suffrage, workmen’s compensation, minimum wage, eight-hour work day, old age pension. In addition, Mayor Cipriani fought against child labor especially in the Indian arears on sugar estates, championed the rights of teachers in the assessment of their salaries versus civil servants.
In sum, there is absolutely no doubt that Mayor Arthur Andrew Cipriani tirelessly fought for the rights of “the least of these in society”; hence, history aptly/correctly dubs him : the “Champion of the barefoot man.” No problema!.
Truth Be Told: The statute of former Port-of-Spain Mayor Captain Arthur Andrew Cipriani should be returned to its original, logical, official, historical place , that is, in front of the Mayor’s office of the Port-of-Spain regional Corporation.
Conversely, the statute of Hyarima, the nation’s first anti-colonial, revolutionary hero should stand very tall above all comers at Independence Square, period. He is our nation’s hero!.
In the final analysis, it is very instructive to recall that in 1956, Francisco Slinger (Sparrow) told us in song: “De Yankees Gone” but as reality check presses the fast forward button, oops, they ‘re b-a-c-k. The Yankees/Americans are now back in T&T live and big time , 24-7-365. In other words, the colonized in T&T has replaced the Euro-British colonizer with the Euro-American re-colonizer.
4 thoughts on “Americanization of life in T&T”
American culture covers the airwaves via television, internet, radio etc. After awhile people begin to think despite geographical distance that they are connected to America. The introduction this year of Halloween in a Tobago mall was a shocker. But why? Going from house to house getting candies is not part of Trini culture. Given time it will be!
What is bothersome is the excessive connection. Not just the connection but the whole gambit….
The Captains and the Kings depart … replaced by Col. Sanders and Starbucks.
Naipaul’s Mimic Men comes to mind.
A significant segment of the population has given its soul over to rank consumerism. The problem is $$. The quality of life was better when we had less, i.e. before the ruling classes were inundated with ‘petrodollars’.
It is too late to turn back now. This generation is spoiled and selfish and is not willing to return to the era of the coalpot and standpipe.
It is going to be real ‘ole mas’ when the petrodollars dry up. Check out Peter Tosh’s “Crystal Ball”.
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