Close your eyes for a moment and think about the sound of waves lapping along the beige sands of a Caribbean country, where the sun is piercing and warm. Breathe deeply as you envision the scene.
It’s beautiful, right? But this is also one-dimensional. The current American understanding of Caribbean nations tends to rely heavily on what that nation can provide, whether that be from a tourist experience or coveted tropical products. There must be stunning views, spectacular food, and grand parties to even make it to an average person’s radar. Fortunately, Caribbean nations are more multidimensional than that. The diversity within borders and around the sea is a force to be reckoned with and the history is integrally rich when providing context to today’s modern world. Part of that history involves the formation of solidarity networks under the rule and/or intervention of corrupt or failing governments.
One political trend the Caribbean has dealt with has been the imperialistic interventions of Western or Global North countries. Haiti is a prime example of this kind of action. Because of the numerous extreme weather events Haiti has experienced in the past few decades like hurricanes and earthquakes, Global North countries have portrayed themselves as heroes for Haitians when providing aid and resources during and after the crises. Additionally, when Haiti has become politically unstable due to gang activity, Western nations have been quick to offer “assistance” when in reality there are ulterior motives behind these “gifts”. The prolonged involvement of states like Canada, the U.S., and France has only caused more distress to Haitians and disabled their chances to become powerfully self-sufficient.
Look at the following quotes reacting to recent Western cries in favor of saviorism and meddling:
“What comes first in Haiti: disaster or foreign intervention?… The view from Haiti is generally different: foreign intervention causes disaster” (Bhatia 2022).
“This latest intervention is not a defense of Haitian democracy, instead, it prevents it from taking root. Past and recent interventions have been diametrically opposed to the will of Haitian people and have only benefited the interests of the small Haitian elite, who in turn benefit gangs and multinationals” (CaribbeanSolidarity.org).
The common sentiment within Haiti is that the people are united enough to solve their own problems. They are in solidarity with one another and who are we to question that? The Haitian people know better than anyone what is best for their country and the children that will grow up there to become the next leaders. They have formed their own political party, Fanmi Lavalas, also known as the people’s party of Haiti, and have kept fighting for a better Haitian democracy despite numerous attempts of destruction by internal and external powers.
Haiti is not alone in its oppression but that isn’t to say their experience is not unique, because each Caribbean nation faces distinct challenges when determining its independence from imperialistic regimes. Instead, I say Haiti is not alone to signify that solidarity is built by Caribbean, Latin, and Black people from all over, despite representing different flags. It is common to say within the Caribbean community that we are many nations, many islands but one people. Our histories and battles intertwine to become shared in a sense so that when one nation struggles, we all feel it, no matter if we are home or living abroad. Caribbean solidarity is a part of the Caribbean identity.
There are more stories of bravery and togetherness within the Caribbean context that could and should be shared, but for now, let’s reflect. Think back to that breezy scene from the opening line where the sun is warm, the waves are coming and receding, and the sand is right beneath your toes. Now, understand that this scene belongs to a people who a constantly being threatened to have their land, identity, and independence stolen. These people are sovereign, but it is not easy for them to be this way, and solidarity is one of their best options to remain strong in the face of corruption. Whether in Jamaica, Belize, Guyana, or Cuba, these people are real and are fighting modern-day oppression.
Is your community also facing similar battles? Do you feel you know what would work best for your people, but your voice is being quieted? You aren’t alone. You can make a change and it can start small but be so impactful that it reaches people in places you have never set foot in. We are in solidarity with your dreams for a better world.
Please take some time to listen to this powerful message from the Prime Minister of Barbados where she acknowledges the problems we face today and calls for solidarity and change from the people at the top who often create problems and ask others to solve them. And take some time to ask yourself: how am I helping, advocating, and familiarizing myself with issues that affect all of us humans, not just myself?
Author’s Note: Hello dear reader! I am an intern at VASEN from George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia. I’m studying Sociology and Spanish and this is my senior year. My mom is from the East Coast of Belize, a culturally Caribbean country in Central America and my dad is African American so I consider myself Afro-Caribe. I am passionate about immigration reform and environmental justice so working with VASEN has broadened my awareness about the local needs for expertise in these areas while I’ve previously been made aware of national and international needs.