Our Heritage: Keeping Tradition and Culture Alive (Copyright ©2008)

Domnitjen , March 2008

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Our tradition, culture and heritage are what define us as a people; our roots intertwined as one, united and strong.

The Caribbean Diaspora is fast becoming a topic of great significance in the local, regional and international media, emanating an urgent awareness on West Indians abroad to embrace their own cultural identity while maintaining strong family ties. A necessary initiative, as the influence of the Western world poses a threat to cultural practices of developing countries.

In my own experience living abroad, there were countless times when my inherited Dominican psyche has made me proud.

Reflecting on my early days, I remember fondly and not so fondly the innate morals and values that affected the decisions I made, from what I eat, drink and wear, to the way I speak, behave, greet elders and the list goes on. For instance, it would be a disgrace to eat on the street, call an adult by the first name, shake your head ‘up’ and ‘down’ (for yes) or ‘left’ to ‘right’ (for no) when spoken to.

When it came to discipline, the saying ‘spare the rod and spoil the child’ was very popular in our house.

On the culinary side, I was not turned on by the thought of having to eat ground provisions or dumplings even, and I hated lentil soup! Meal times were always a difficult time for me but even more so for my mum. She was always quick to point out how much nutrition I would gain from the yams, dasheen and green bananas. But that was not quite the end of it. As many of us remember, our parents had this ‘genius’ idea of withholding treats if we did not clean our plates. Treats ranged from going to the sea, making our own tamarind balls or having a thirst-quenching ice-pop. You know which sounded more appealing!

Now, as an adult, you can find me in the kitchen cooking up a storm, with ‘fig and cod-fish’, ‘dasheen pie’, ‘pumpkin soup’ with a ton of dumplings and lots more West Indian delights.

As far as education went, expectations were generally high. You either learned or learned to learn the hard way! Homework was to be completed in good time, not the morning before it’s due. Otherwise, you would be one of those sorry kids dreading report card day, with those omnipresent remarks, ‘Homework incomplete’, ‘Talkative’, or ‘Satisfactory, Needs Improvement’. The shame and embarrassment would linger on if you were to repeat the class, and have the rest of the school or village know that you were a ‘duncecat’.

When I sit back and reminisce my childhood days, it makes me smile, for I now realise why it was so important that I appreciated those idiosyncratic West Indian practices and embrace my culture and identity, which makes me who I am today. But, just between you and me...I still don’t like lentil soup!

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