An article by Gary Younge in London’s Guardian newspaper focuses on Caribbean families who are returning to their home islands decades after having migrated to Great Britain. Here are some excerpts from the lengthy and quite interesting essay, which you can access through the link below.
Eustace Maxim thought I might be the cable technician. An appointment had been made for no definite time, so there was nothing to do but wait. But from the vantage point of his veranda in Jimmit, with its panoramic view of the Caribbean Sea, there are worse places you can watch the world go by. When he thinks of what he’d be doing now if he’d retired in Plaistow, east London, he says, “If I was in England, all I would be doing is staying home and watching television.”
Instead he is back on the island of Dominica, the place where he was born, which he left and to which he has now returned. The end point on a lifelong project across oceans, aspirations, cultures and generations that has landed him pretty much right back where he started. His story is a common one. “I left Dominica when I was 23,” says Maxim, 72. “Going to England was a means to an end. I never intended to spend so long there. I wanted something better for my children, and everyone was going at that time.”
Like many, if not most, his plan was to go, make some money and come back a few years later. But the work he found at Ford, Standard and Cable and finally as a security guard for the Royal Bank of Scotland was barely enough to sustain the life he had, let alone provide savings for the one he dreamed of. “The gold fell from very high in the sky,” wrote John Berger in A Seventh Man, of the immigrant experience in Europe. “And so when it hit the earth it went down very, very deep.”
So Maxim, who left in 1960 and came back in 2004, kept digging. “Five years is very little. You go to achieve something. You don’t want to come back worse off than when you left.” While he was in England, he made a life. Children, then grandchildren came, and 43 years passed. And he kept squirrelling away so he might first buy land, then build and finally return. “It was a hard life,” he says. “You try to make yourself as comfortable as you can. It was not a difficult decision to come back, but I used to worry about not coming back.”
In the end he spent longer in England than he has in Dominica. There are signs of England everywhere: despite the heat, his carpets are thick, his sofa fluffy. On the walls are pictures of his offspring in graduation finery. But no matter how long he was away, Dominica, he insists, was always home. He never considered himself English, and after four decades his accent doesn’t carry the slightest trace of it. “There is a freedom I feel here,” he says. “I have the hot sunshine on my back and can have a dip in the river or the hot springs.”
Maxim may never have considered himself English and may now feel home, but not everyone sees it like that. Some in Dominica brand him an outsider, yet another returnee with their airs and graces – English ways and English money.
“People say this, people say that.” He shrugs. “I ignore it. They think you have all the money in the world. You try to tell them what you had to go through to get it, but they don’t want to listen.”
For the article and photo credit for the image of Eustace Maxim above, go to http://www.guardian.co.uk/global/2009/nov/28/caribbean-returnees-gary-younge