Will Saint Lu­cia’s Youth De­fend Her with Vigour and Valour?

The Star (St. Lucia) - - COMMENT - By Clau­dia Elei­box

Re­cently I ven­tured on a trip to the isle of An­tigua. Not open-mind­edly, I had read ‘A Small Place’ by Ja­maica Kin­caid. It’s a blunt es­say, a sub­stan­tial length to be printed as a book by an au­thor who seems to have gen­er­ated some ha­tred for her home­land. Kin­caid tar­geted the An­tiguan gov­ern­ment at its core, ma­te­ri­al­iz­ing an un­of­fi­cial ban from the coun­try for her­self.

I also heard that An­tigua was bor­ing, and I re­mem­bered trav­el­ling be­fore, for the short­est of weeks, and be­ing home­sick. What could take me away from sweet Saint Lu­cia? The tem­per­a­ture was in the high eight­ies over there, like you’d ex­pect in any Caribbean island, but it felt five de­grees hot­ter.

To my dis­may (be­cause I didn’t want to prove the An­tiguans right), af­ter travers­ing the so-called main road, I learned this island has a lit­tle more magic than I ex­pected. An­tigua isn’t bor­ing; there is a bal­anced blend of na­ture and de­vel­op­ment. Wild piglets and other an­i­mals make their way on the road­side and ev­ery­where “de­vel­oped” looks like sub­urbs, while many of the fa­cil­i­ties ap­pear well kept, as far as the eye can see. St. John’s, the town, looks cleaner (be­cause there’s an en­forced law against lit­ter­ing) than I’ve ever re­mem­bered Cas­tries for twenty-one years, and on the beaches I met life­guards, hired by the gov­ern­ment.

I did not get a chance to ex­pe­ri­ence An­tigua’s smaller at­tach­ment, Bar­buda, but the white and pink sand of the main­land’s un­sul­lied beaches was enough to cap­ture my heart. I can tes­tify that An­tiguans will not let you leave with­out in­still­ing in your mind: “We have 365 beaches, one for each day of the year!” I agree, they should be proud, and I re­mem­ber a for­mer col­league who hails from An­tigua speak­ing only of the per­fec­tion of the island. She was also the one who rec­om­mended the Kin­caid novel.

But still, I could not suc­cumb to the An­tiguans’ con­stant claims that their land is the best. I was ac­com­pa­ny­ing a group of teenagers from my church and I was older than most of them but not by many years. I had to be an ex­am­ple. I had to re­mind ev­ery­one that Saint Lu­cia is still sim­ply beau­ti­ful, tourist board logo change or not.

Distress­fully, we went to the Sir Vi­vian Richards Sta­dium where the lawn is im­mac­u­lately kept and the drive­way to­wards the main en­trance fea­tures a high stan­dard ten­nis court. Flow­ers and palm trees create the per­fect bal­ance, and a statue of the man him­self stands erect on the side of the car park.

When we en­tered the sta­dium, I still didn’t lose my bat­tle with the An­tiguans, but the rest of my group sure did. We had the priv­i­lege of view­ing the stands of the empty arena where the seats are coloured and co­or­di­nated to recre­ate a mas­sive ver­sion of the An­tiguan flag. Oh, if only you could see it with your own eyes, mes­mer­iz­ing even while va­cant, as birds that are found ev­ery­where in An­tigua pa­raded on the field in the af­ter­noon sun.

Im­me­di­ately I heard some­one ask, “When can Saint Lu­cia ever have na­tional pride like that?” Well, my ef­forts were surely in vain; the ques­tion lin­gered as a sharp jab in my side. Then the re­sponse pricked me even deeper: “I know, we can never be so cre­ative; all we do is build things half­way or de­stroy it.” I couldn’t save Saint Lu­cia’s dig­nity then; soon lo­cal so­cial is­sues be­gan spilling from each teenager’s mouth. The gov­ern­ment was men­tioned, as well as poor health­care, dirty streets and the equiv­a­lent in soca lyrics.

But, even in those 90 sec­onds of bear­ing the painful in­sults on be­half of my home­land, I had to be proud of our youth. They are aware of the un­fair­ness they face, and can feel the con­stant de­fi­ciency of im­por­tant sys­tems in our so­ci­ety. Even the in­ef­fi­ciency of the pass­port and reg­istry of­fice was com­mon knowl­edge to them. Maybe this is hope that we can make a mean­ing­ful dif­fer­ence in our time.

Fi­nally, I had one point against An­tigua (not one to be cel­e­brated though), be­cause I no­ticed their young peo­ple knew noth­ing about the island ex­cept that it has 365 beaches. While my youth group stood dis­cussing with an­guish the un­for­tu­nate sit­u­a­tions at home, those from An­tigua were not sure if Vi­vian Richards was still alive.

Sir Vi­vian Richards Sta­dium: should Saint Lu­cians take a page out of An­tigua’s cre­ativ­ity books?

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Saint Lucia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.