Google has marked what would have been the 113th birthday of pioneering African-American jazz poet and social activist, Langston Hughes with a Doodle on its homepage, the Geopolitical and Conflict Report has announced. He was a true friend of the Caribbean, especially of Haiti, so we join in the celebration of his birthday.

The animated sequence shows a caricature of Hughes at his typewriter as lines from his poem I Dream a World appear.

Hughes was born in 1902 in Joplin, Missouri, and largely raised by his grandmother while his mother looked for work. His father – with whom he had troubled relationship – had left the family and travelled to Cuba and Mexico in an attempt to escape the racism that was rife in America at the time. Hughes joined his father in Mexico and agreed to study engineering so long as he could attend Colombia University. He left the following year due to racial prejudice.

He travelled to West Africa and Europe, before returning to the US taking various jobs before meeting the poet Vachel Lindsay while working as a busboy at a Washington hotel. Lindsay was impressed with Hughes’ work and became his patron.

By now, his work was appearing in magazines such as The Crisis, the official magazine of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, and his first poetry collection The Weary Blues (1926) was published.

After gaining his degree at Lincoln University, Hughes returned to Harlem, where he remained for the rest of his life apart from trips to the Caribbean and the Soviet Union, where he was drawn to the idea of Communism like many black writers and artists of his time in segregated America.

His work was influential during the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s, which saw Hughes and his contemporaries Zora Neale Hurston, Wallace Thurman, Claude McKay, Countee Cullen, Richard Bruce Nugent, and Aaron Douglas, criticising the racial prejudices through their work which stressed a ‘black is beautiful’ theme. Hughes also wrote what amounted to their manifesto ‘The Negro Artist and the Racial Mountain’, which was published in The Nation in 1926.

On his work, Hughes is quoted as saying: “My seeking has been to explain and illuminate the Negro condition in America and obliquely that of all human kind.” He hoped to inspire black writers to be objective about their race and embrace it, though felt the young writers of the Black Power movement of the 1960s were too angry.

In 1930, Not Without Laughter was published, the first of many novels and short stories. He was also a prolific writer of non-fiction and a playwright over the next four decades.

He died on May 22, 1967, from complications following abdominal surgery, aged 65.

For the original report go to

Posted by: lisaparavisini | February 1, 2015

Building bridges through mas

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This article by Shereen Ali appeared in Trinidad’s Guardian.
From Black Indians to First Peoples, Unconquered explores the potential of mas.

“We miss the point if we see ancestry only in terms of blood,” said Sunity Maharaj on January 22, speaking at The Cloth Propaganda Space at the event Unconquered, part of a series of informal talks on mas and T&T Carnival traditions as expressions of identity.

Ancestry, ethnic heritage and race are major shapers of our culture in the islands, especially in T&T which is so ethnically mixed. Yet apparently, there haven’t been too many open, tolerant talks about all of this, talks which help us to connect rather than divide. Yet many generations ago, the language of love found a way to unite Africans and Amerindians, giving birth to the first of many mixed races in Trinidad. It was a mixing of cultures as well as blood that’s a part of much change in the wave of new blends of people, influences, beliefs and ideas in our common island space.

The Unconquered talk session reminded us of some of our earlier peoples and traditions, notably the Amerindians, and later, the so-called “Black Indians”, offspring of Africans and Amerindians.

Black Indian mas

Unconquered began last year, led by writer Attilah Springer and fashion designer Robert Young. Springer said her research into mas band leader George Bailey inspired her to explore other masquerade traditions. George Bailey (1935 -1970) was the man whose magnificent African costumes gave a sense of pride to many T&T citizens who had never before seen such realistic historical mas applied to African heritage. Bailey in the early 50s formed a group called Unconquered; so Springer pays homage to him, and artists like him who used art as a form of social activism, by adopting the Unconquered name.

The first Unconquered session last Carnival prefaced the launch of the mas band Black I, produced by Robert Young’s mas group Vulgar Fraction. Black I was a collaboration of modern and old-time Black Indian mas, which is a mix of Amerindian and West African masking rituals that exists in Trinidad, Louisiana and South America. These masquerades involved special dances, songs and even language, explains Springer in her blog (, as mas warriors would use their own Creole expressions based on Aruacan, Yoruba and patois to yell out and reenact their playful warrior mas.

This year, Springer challenged the audience to “consider our space unconquered—by greed, by stupidity, by dotish politicians’ complacency.”

A tall order, given the fact that our space has in fact been politically conquered, many times over, by many peoples and through many forms of technology—from the sword to the gun to the television set. Her challenge was spiritual—the unconquered resilience of the survivor—but only a handful of people came to hear it.

Ole talk and J’ouvert play

The actual session was like an open mike night of improvised talk mixed with a little philosophy, cultural history and some J’ouvert play. It meandered in parts. Maybe that was the point: to just start us talking to each other.

Speakers at Unconquered 2015 included Christo Adonis, the peyai or shaman for the Santa Rosa First Peoples community; Anderson Patrick, leader of the Warriors of Huracan mas band; journalist and Jouvay Ayiti convener Sunity Maharaj and Nari Approo, a veteran 87-year-old mas player.

Springer spoke of the lack of connection to the mas for many people today, in an era when you can just click online and get your costume in a box. She said part of the journey of Unconquered is to understand the value of ritual. For her, she said last year her mas involved harvesting her own black cobeau feathers at Icacos, from the found body of an unfortunate electrocuted vulture, to be part of her costume: she found it traumatic. She reflected that perhaps the personal act of making beauty (whether it’s making a costume, or creating a j’ouvert ritual) out of sometimes brutal conditions, is the secret of a good (meaningful) mas.

Peyai Christo Adonis said true spirituality knows no boundaries across different cultures, and that in his own traditions, indigenous people would use masks of birds and other animals for certain rituals. He said he saw J’ouvert as a form of play and good humour. On how he felt about the historical brutalities of colonisers against first peoples, he said: “…We have to heal….and if white people want to hold us around dey throat, or we want to hold white people like an albatross, I ent toting that load!”

Mas as a tool for change

Journalist Sunity Maharaj spoke of the idea of mas as present in our lives, not just at Carnival; it can be a potent form of expression, she said. Through the Jouvay Ayiti mas camp, started in 2011, she’s been involved with J’ouvert as a tool for education, protest art and transformation. Jouvay Ayiti won the small band J’ouvert category in 2012 and 2013. This year, it’s playing a mas called Arandara Ponahara—Land of the First Peoples; it is the first part of a trilogy about reparations.

On Caribbean ancestry, she said: “If I am Trinidadian, if I am Caribbean, my ancestors are First Peoples….We miss the point if we see ancestry only in terms of blood, only in terms of biology, because there is a civilisation here….Once we can jump over the wall that the colonialist experience has created here and told us—you are in the Great House; you are not in the Great House; you are in the barracks, this is your place…..Those walls have survived so intact in the 21st century that people can live in a small island like this, and know nothing about how the other lives.”

The masquerade of unity

“What we have mastered is masquerade,” said Maharaj, “where there is a space in which we are all talking and we believe we are sharing with each other and that we can get along with each other—and then we go behind the walls where we really live, nobody (else) is inside of that.

“So a critical role that the Lloyd Best Institute sees for itself is really bridge-building. It’s discovery, it’s opening up ourselves to each other….That is part of the liberation aspect of (not masquerade but) the mas… I want to challenge people to make the distinction between biological ancestry and cultural ancestry.

Because immediately you see yourself as a Caribbean person, and you see Banwari as the mother of your civilisation, nobody is going to stop you”— from reaching out to truly learn about your neighbour’s way of life.

Maharaj then spoke of the network of indigenous knowledge from all cultures here that we can learn from, in folk medicine and other areas. And she commented on the divisive nature of state funding for ethnic/cultural events, where money is given to Divali Nagar, for instance, or to Emancipation, without any requirement that the celebration embrace the national community, and have a component that expands understanding for those not directly involved in the celebrations. She said recognising different cultures is not enough, because you’re then just recognising separateness.

The “action man”

But the highlight of the night was easily the elderly “action man” Nari Approo, who’s played all kinds of mas, from robber to imp to fireman to sailor, along with his fellow mas player Anderson Patrick from the Warriors of Huracan band. Sliding on the ball of their feet, dropping to the floor in an acrobatic back-roll, rolling and then leaping up, giving blood-curdling shrieks and yells, and chanting in their own strange creole Afro-Indian tongue, the two men’s exhuberance startled and delighted the audience.

“I like action, I is de action man. If I don’t have action, I can’t play mas, you know,” said Approo.

Approo’s eyes were bright with remembrance as he reminisced on the mas he has played most of his life—a martial mas where you could never just “jock yuh waist and wine”—far from it. These veterans had to know (and rehearse) the ritual moves of their character; know specific call and response chants; be in full character on the road while they had fun and at the same time claimed their free warrior selves.

“Long time, everything is practice, you know. You playin dragon, you playin robber, you have to practice, and talk to defend yourself…. You had to pray for protection before you start… ‘Heee-gooah-heee goooahh— okaaaae-na-woooe-…’ (chanting an invocation) ….When you goin up de road, is war you know! ….(sings a Black Indian chant of challenge) …If you can’t talk and defend yourself, you can’t come on de road, you know! Coz I lick you down with a piece of wood—a sword, but is wood!”

War—but a playful kind of war, involving proud hand-made costumes, ritual challenges, call and response chants, fighting talk, nimble acrobatic moves, specific dances for each different kind of mas, and sometimes, depending on the mas, makeshift drums made from old cheese boxes with goatskins on top, which they’d beat to different pounding rhythms down the road.

Now dat is mas.

For the original report go to

Posted by: lisaparavisini | February 1, 2015

Cuban Tree Frog Hitches a Ride to the Hudson Valley


An amphibian stowaway inspires a range of scientific enquiry in a sixth-grade classroom, Mark Wick and Alison Rooney report in

The best lesson-planner out there couldn’t have devised a more ingenious way to impart ecological knowledge to a classroom of sixth-graders. About a month into what has now turned into an extended and multilayered learning experience, a visit to Haldane teacher Mark Wick’s classroom was a window onto hives of excited student activity.

One small group was clustered around a whiteboard, conferring and posting data to it while another group stared fixedly at one of the tanks holding reptiles and amphibians lining one wall in the science and ecology classroom. A girl was determinedly drawing a colorful poster replete with frogs and bubble captions, while still more kids had research books open, scrutinizing them. No one looked bored or disengaged.

What was the educational magic producing this practically unreal classroom alchemy? It was “El Duque,” a fairly small, kind of beigy-brown frog, whose journey from parts unknown — but certainly far south of here — to the first-floor classroom that he now calls home, has propelled the transformation of these students into observational scientists in the making.

Here is the tale of El Duque, told by Wick, who teaches science and ecology, the latter a quarter-year rotational “special” class that each of the four sixth-grade classes slots into during the course of the year.

About six weeks ago, my friend Mandee texted me from her job as a manager at Home Depot in Cortlandt. She was bringing plants in from outside on one of those brutally cold days when all of a sudden, a tree frog jumped out of one of the plants. She asked me if I wanted to keep it in my classroom until the weather warmed up in the spring. Of course I obliged. When she brought it to my house, my initial observation was that it was a native gray tree frog, Hyla versicolor. Upon closer inspection, I started thinking otherwise. I noticed the patterns were slightly different, the toe-pads and eyes were slightly larger, and it was lacking the classic bright-yellow band on the inner thigh.

I then started researching what else it could be, knowing very well that it was not at all native to our area. I searched online until I found an image of a similar-looking frog. The caption on the picture said it was a Cuban tree frog. Well, how the heck could that be possible, right? So I started looking up information about Cuban tree frogs (CTFs), and as it turns out, they are a completely invasive species in Florida, and now parts of Georgia. They’re taking over and actually eating Florida’s native tree frog species. I then started piecing it together that perhaps the plants at Home Depot came from Florida and the CTF hitched a ride!

At this point I felt that I needed a second opinion, so I reached out to a few local biologists, herpetologists and some other nature-nuts like myself who might have some insight. One of these people was Ed McGowan, who I knew had a background with snakes and other local animals. He ended up forwarding my email to a guy named Al Breisch, a former herpetologist from the DEC. Al ended up writing back saying that it very well could be a CTF, as I had suspected.

Now it was time to bring the project to my ecology students and sort of start over with them. I had them do a ton of research, basically retracing the steps I had gone through on my own. We used the new Makerspace room and used the iPads to compare images of various North American tree frogs. All my students knew was that it was a frog that was found at Home Depot, and it was possibly a nonnative species. I divided my class into groups, each with a different job.

The ‘communications’ group reached out to more people who might offer some assistance, including Dr. Steve Johnson from the University of Florida. One of my students emailed Dr. Johnson a picture of our frog and a description of how it ended up in our classroom. Dr. J emailed back with confirmation of it being a CTF, and he was amazed that one made it all the way up to New York!

Another part of his response included something that really caught my students by surprise, and presented a somewhat controversial, but real-world issue. He wanted to know if we’d be willing to euthanize the frog, preserve it in alcohol and send to his lab where he would add it to his records. He also said he might end up putting it on display in the Florida Natural History Museum. This obviously stirred up some emotions, as the kids have become quite attached to our little amphibian friend.

It turns out that it is actually now illegal in New York state for students to euthanize a living creature. In a small Socratic session, kept to a minimum because emotions were high, with strong attachments to the now-named El Duque — called so in honor of Orlando Hernández, the Cuban-born Yankee pitcher from the ’90s, after Wick deflected a student’s suggestion to call him Fidel Castro.

A discussion was held posing the questions, “What if our school was located in Florida, where CTFs are considered pests? Would you feel differently?” A group determination was made that El Duque should be allowed to live out his natural life in his new classroom home (which could be five years or longer, in captivity), and then when he passed, he would, per instructions from Johnson, be frozen and sent to the researchers at the University of Florida, where he would become a part of science history: the first Cuban Tree Frog to officially be recorded as making it to New York state.

Wick showered the kids with questions: “Would he survive better in the wild or in our tank?” Multiple hands went up, with the consensus that threats like competition and bad weather present dangers for the frog in the wild. He pointed out to the class that he noticed changes in El Duque’s skin color lately, and threw it back to the students: “Who did the research on this and can tell us why?”

It was the students who researched the CTF’s natural habitat and tried to recreate some of the forested and high-humidity aspects of it. The kids monitor the number of crickets he is given (and since he is nocturnal, he doesn’t eat in front of them) and the number left the next morning to record his diet. Meanwhile, a film crew is documenting the whole experience. The class is “taking the reins on everything. It was a student who ‘found’ Dr. Johnson. There’s no set curriculum in ecology, so this fits perfectly,” said Wick.

Guests have come to the classroom because of what has unfolded. Kali Bird of the Hudson Highlands Land Trust visited and did a presentation on invasives. For the students, this is memorable. One of them, Kevin Van Tassel, said:

It’s amazing that it could come all the way from Florida, perhaps without food and water, in the back of a truck. When we first got him he was jumping around, but he doesn’t do that anymore, probably because he’s getting what he needs, every day. I like learning this way because it’s a hands-on experience. I like hands-on experiences better than reading from a text in a book. Here you study the smallest details, like the brown spots on its back.

Seems it was one small hop for a Cuban tree frog, but a giant leap in learning for a sixth-grade class.

For the original report go to

Posted by: lisaparavisini | February 1, 2015

NYT Op Ed: Why Are Cubans So Special?


This op-ed piece by Ann Louise Bardach appeared in The New York Times.

Every Cuban knows the “wet foot, dry foot” drill: Risk fleeing to the United States and get caught at sea, and you will be sent back to the island; but if you wangle just one toe onto dry land, you’re home free. From there, typically, it’s a fast track to permanent residency, and eligibility for all manner of benefits, from green cards to welfare, then citizenship — all compliments of the Cuban Adjustment Act of 1966. Indeed, for almost a half century, Cubans have been the most privileged immigrants in the United States.

The repeal of this Cold War relic of immigration policy is long overdue. Last week, on the same day that the highest-level American diplomat in almost 40 years arrived in Cuba, the Miami-Dade County Commission unanimously voted to petition Congress to revise the act. Should the commission get its wish, the “wet foot, dry foot” policy, devised in 1995, would likely also be upended.

Most Americans are under the impression that the Republican Party is unequivocally opposed to amnesty for immigrants. In fact, it has long backed a blanket amnesty — but only for Cubans. For every other hopeful immigrant, the party’s message has been clear: “Deportations, deportations, deportations,” to quote Jorge Ramos, the Walter Cronkite of Spanish-language television. Why?

One answer is that the 2.1 million Cuban-Americans have been, until quite recently, a rock-solid Republican constituency. There is also a race and class issue. Unlike most of Central and Latin America, Cuba does not have a distinct indigenous population (the Spanish slaughtered almost all of the native Indians of the island). Hence those fleeing the Castro regime in the 1960s and ’70s were almost entirely white, educated and middle or upper class.

In 2014, the number of Central and Latin American migrants sharply declined. But for Cubans, it was a record year. About 30,000 took to the Florida Straits or arrived via Mexico (the preferred route for those who can afford the flight). Unlike the Mexicans, Guatemalans, Salvadorans and Haitians — most of whom received the heave-ho — each Cuban was welcome.

Word, and worry, has spread that the two pieces of legislation that make up the Cuban Privilege might not be around much longer. Since Dec. 17, when President Obama re-established relations with Cuba, the waters between the two countries have been swarming with migrants.

Last month, 481 Cubans were intercepted or rescued from jury-rigged rafts and boats — a 117 percent increase from the previous year, according to the Coast Guard. Many are not so lucky. Some migrants try five or 10 times before they successfully cross the 90 miles of water. How many have not made it? Thousands for sure over the last 50 years — making the Florida Straits one of the world’s largest aquatic graveyards.

Cuban authorities have demanded an end to the Cuban Adjustment Act, claiming the policy causes a brain drain. (Of course, they never acknowledge why more than a million Cubans have risked their lives to escape.) The vote in Miami last week had different motivations: Commissioner Bruno Barreiro, whose family members were beneficiaries of the act, argued that the Castro brothers have long exploited the law to ship out dissidents and to infiltrate spies into the exile community. And El Exilio Historico (the old guard) complains that the new arrivals are economic migrants, not political refugees fleeing communism — the law’s raison d’être.

While all this is true, there are more compelling reasons to end the Cuban Privilege. One of them is fairness. Are Cubans seeking a better way of life really more deserving than, say, refugees fleeing death squads or drug cartels?

Another is its enabling of a veritable crime syndicate: According to a recent series in The Sun Sentinel, a small cadre of Cubans specializing in Medicare and insurance fraud have bilked American taxpayers and businesses out of more than $2 billion since 1994. Even when caught and prosecuted (many, if not most, flee back to Cuba before capture), they cannot be deported, because Cuba refuses to accept them.

It is not at all clear if these two relics of immigration policy will be scotched; the State Department has said they are not on the table. Much depends on the Hispanics in Congress, whose colleagues expect them to take the lead. But the three serving in the Senate happen to be, yup, Cuban-American: Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz and Robert Menendez.

None have especially strong bona fides among most Latinos. Indeed, being second-generation white Cuban exiles puts them at odds with the overwhelming majority of Latinos in the United States, who are of mixed race or indigenous descent. Ted Cruz, who is not fluent in Spanish, has been called as Hispanic “as Tom Cruise.” In 2012, an anti-Rubio commercial on Spanish-language TV ended with the tag “No Somos Rubios” — a pun meaning both “We’re not Rubios” and “We’re not blonds” (or whites).

But if Mr. Rubio and Mr. Cruz are serious about their White House ambitions, they will need the votes of Latinos. That means they need to see to it that fairness dictates immigration reform. And that means the end of the Cuban Adjustment Act and “wet foot, dry foot.” So three Cuban-Americans — members of a group that enjoys an unprecedented, coveted status — could well decide the fate of millions of their less fortunate Hispanic brethren. Now that’s rich. Only in America.

For the original report go to

Posted by: lisaparavisini | February 1, 2015

Immigration Rules in Bahamas Sweep Up Haitians

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This article by Frances Robles appeared in The New York Times.

Kenson Timothee was walking down the street when a uniformed officer asked him a question that sends Bahamians of Haitian descent like him into a panic these days: Do you have a passport?

Mr. Timothee, who was born in the Bahamas to illegal Haitian immigrants, wound up jailed in immigration detention for six weeks. He is one of hundreds of people swept up in a fiercely debated new immigration policy in the Bahamasrequiring everyone to hold a passport, a rule that human rights groups say unfairly targets people of Haitian descent.

Mr. Timothee had proof that he was born in the Bahamas, but because he had trouble obtaining his absentee father’s birth certificate, his application for Bahamian citizenship was never completed.

“I showed them that I had applied for citizenship, but they said that wasn’t good enough; as far as they are concerned, you are not Bahamian, you are Haitian, and you need to get deported,” Mr. Timothee said. “I don’t know anything about Haiti.”

On Thursday, the Bahamian government announced that the new policy would go a step further: By next fall, schools will be asked to ensure that every child has a student permit. The annual $125 permit and a passport with a residency stamp will be required even of children born in the Bahamas who do not hold Bahamian citizenship.

The tough new policy echoes similar stances around the region, where new citizenship policies and anti-immigration measures have overwhelmingly affected Haitians, who are fleeing the hemisphere’s poorest country and are the most likely group to migrate illegally in great numbers. The top court in the Dominican Republic ruled in 2013 that the children of illegal immigrants, even if they are born in the country, did not have the right to citizenship.

Facing an international backlash, the Dominican government came up with a plan to prevent tens of thousands of people from becoming stateless, but months later, few people had managed to complete the process. With few successes to tout, in October the Dominican government extended the application period for another three months.

In Turks and Caicos, a top immigration official vowed early in 2013 to hunt down and capture Haitians illegally in the country, promising to make their lives “unbearable.” The country had already changed its immigration policies in 2012, making it harder for children of immigrants to obtain residency. Last year, Turks and Caicos said it would deploy drones to stop Haitian migration.

In Brazil, politicians considered closing a border with Peru last year to stem the tide of Haitians, and last month, Canada announced that it would resume deporting Haitians.

Here in the Bahamas, Mr. Timothee’s arrest coincided with stepped-up immigration raids in predominantly Haitian shantytowns, where people who lacked passports or work permits were apprehended. When illegal immigrants ran from officers, the agents knocked down doors and took their children, and the photos of toddlers being carried away circulated widely on social media.

Since the policy took effect Nov. 1, children born in the Bahamas have been deported with their parents, and others with Haitian-sounding names have been pulled from school classrooms, human rights observers said. The government acknowledges that even Bahamian citizens with French surnames are frequently arrested by mistake. In September alone, 241 Haitians were deported, according to government figures.

Though 85 percent of Bahamians support the new policy according to one poll, it has set off a round of international condemnation. A Florida legislator called for a tourism boycott of the Bahamas and organized a protest at the nation’s Miami consulate. Citing some of the more alarming cases, including that of a pregnant Haitian woman who gave birth on an immigration detention center floor aided only by other detainees, several international groups have asked the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to intervene.

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Immigration officials in the Bahamas say their policies do not target any particular group, provide a better sense of who is living in their country, and could deter thousands of Haitian migrants from taking to the high seas each year in boats that often sink.

“We had situations where 100 people were showing up every day; that’s unsustainable,” said Frederick A. Mitchell, the Bahamian foreign minister. “That situation had spiraled out of control.”

Annette M. Martínez Orabona, director of the Caribbean Institute for Human Rights, said she recently visited the Bahamas to investigate the new policy, arguing that it fit into a broad context of immigration crackdowns in the region.

“It’s all guided by discriminatory practices toward persons of Haitian origin,” she said.

Children like Mr. Timothee’s 5-year-old daughter are in a particularly precarious legal situation, she said. If nationality is passed down by blood and Mr. Timothee has no citizenship, then what passport would his daughter get?

“The third generation is in a black hole,” Ms. Martínez said.

In the Bahamas, the Constitution says that people born there to parents who were not citizens have the right to apply for citizenship between their 18th and 19th birthdays. In a country where one in 10 Bahamians is of Haitian descent, many people never apply, and others face years of administrative delays, leaving an untold number of people in the country without documentation.

The new policy forces them to apply for a passport from their parents’ country of origin. Americans who have children in the Bahamas regularly get United States passports for them, and this is no different, Mr. Mitchell said.

“There’s nothing wrong with being Haitian,” Mr. Mitchell said.

But the people affected by the new policy are leery of obtaining citizenship from Haiti, a country most of them have never visited.

“It’s a trick,” said Fred R. Smith, a civil rights lawyer in the Bahamas who has become the policy’s most vocal critic. “Once you apply for a Haitian passport, you’re already a citizen of another country, and you no longer fit into a category where the Bahamas is under an obligation to give you citizenship. You are no longer stateless.”

He said the government had routinely descended on an area, apprehended a few hundred people, and “hauled off” anyone who could not produce papers on the spot. The majority of detainees are released when their relatives or employers come to the detention center with their paperwork.

Some people have been deported even though they were born in the Bahamas. People like Mr. Timothee, whose citizenship status is pending, wind up in limbo. Others, like Rose St. Fleur, have been sent home with an admonishment to carry their paperwork.

Ms. St. Fleur, a 29-year-old Bahamian citizen, said she had been picked up twice since October. She was 32 weeks pregnant when neighbors watched agents drag her down the street onto a bus, she and her neighbors said.

“When they asked me my name and I told them, they said, ‘That’s a foreign last name,’ ” Ms. St. Fleur said. “I told them, ‘Yes, but I am a Bahamian citizen.’ ” She said they replied, “You still have to come with us.”

Many people have not been able to obtain documents because the paperwork required, including certified copies of both parents’ birth certificates, is difficult to obtain. The Haitian government, itself crippled by political infighting and a halting recovery from the earthquake five years ago, has been unable to speedily produce records for the hundreds of thousands of people in the Dominican Republic and the Bahamas who are suddenly in need of decades-old birth records.

Because of delays in obtaining Haitian passports, thousands of Bahamians are now at risk of having no nationality at all.

“The person who may have a delay in getting papers is not stateless,” Dwight L. Beneby, the Bahamas’ assistant director of immigration. “It’s not that we’re trying to get rid of people or trying to get out of giving them citizenship. If you are here, let’s know who you are.”

Francois Guillaume II, who was Haiti’s minister of Haitians living abroad when the policy was announced, said the new policy came without warning.

“It’s troubling when we have cases of people who have never lived in Haiti and are sent to a country that is completely foreign to them,” said Mr. Guillaume, who lost his position in a recent ministerial shuffle. “It must be traumatizing for them.”

Most of the Bahamian-born deportees were children, but one was 18 years old, and it was unclear why she was not given the opportunity to seek legal residency, he said.

“I don’t think there is an anti-Haitian sentiment in the area; I believe there are countries experiencing social pressure and are trying to look for solutions,” Mr. Guillaume said. “Some solutions are rash. Sometimes they are politically motivated. Nonetheless, we hope the solutions respect international norms.”

For the original report go to

Posted by: ivetteromero | February 1, 2015

Mexican Caribbean Switches to Eastern Standard Time


Gay Nagle Myers (Travel Weekly) writes that the Mexican Caribbean — which includes Cancun, Cozumel and the Riviera Maya — will change time zones today (February 1) when the state of Quintana Roo changes from Central Standard Time to Eastern Standard Time (EST). 

What that means for tourists is an extra hour of daylight on the beaches, which will increase competitiveness with other destinations on EST (Florida, the Bahamas and Jamaica, for example), according to Jesus Almaguer, CEO of the Cancun Convention and Visitors Bureau.

“The added sunlight should also generate reductions in electricity use for hotels and restaurants in the area. The new time will align with the same time at 22 U.S. airports, including New York and Miami, and eight Canadian airports,” he said.

The Mexican government gave the green light to change the state’s time zone last December, after more than two years of efforts by the state government and several hotel owners in Cancun.

For original article, see

Posted by: ivetteromero | February 1, 2015

Teresa Cárdenas’ “Perro viejo”

perroportada7“Perro Viejo and the Revindication of the Black Individual,” is a review by Indira Ramírez Elejalde of the new novel by Teresa Cárdenas, Perro viejo. It is a novel that addresses the issue of the slave trade told from the perspective of an old slave who travels to the past and back to the present, “in order to build a story that brings us to one of the great wounds of American history, slavery.” It was one of the ten winners of the Casa de las Américas 2005 award.

That work is part of a significant group of novels and stories that stand out for their attractive proposals in handling “difficult themes.” These are defined by Alga Marina Elizagaray as subjects about those dark zones of life that are little explored: dysfunctional families, rafters, social differences and homosexuality, among others.

They also stand out for playing with folkloric elements, the representation of the magic-religious universe of African-Cuban culture and the figure of the black individual as a leading character of the stories.

The last few elements that speak of the writer’s interest in revindicating the black individual imply validating a race to which she belongs.

The novel presents transtextual relations with what could be understood as literary backgrounds and other works by the writer. One could mention El Monte, by Lydia Cabrera; Yan el Cimarrón, by Edwigis Barroso, Cartas al Cielo and Tatanene Cimarrón, by Teresa Cárdenas. In each of them elements are seen that, in their evolution, have been determinant in the construction of the homonymous hero.

[. . .] Among the themes discussed one finds love, old age, death, violence and freedom of the human being. These are interspersed in the treatment of slavery, the central theme from which other problems inherent to it are also derived such as runaway slaves, the loss, search and reencounter with identity, the fear of the black, the longing for Africa and racism.

Recreation of the life of slaves is achieved by showing their religiosity, the presentation of representative legends of their culture and elements that make up their magic-religious universe.

Also noticeable is an affiliation to the tradition of representing the black in Cuban literature, and at the same time presenting an enslaved individual in the 21st century who breaks the line of leading characters who invaded the literature of the 1990s.

[. . .] In like manner, the novel broaches the symbolic nature of the El Colibrí hiding place, which represents the materialization of that emancipative ideal. Although no one knows its exact location, all maintain that it exists, and perhaps it is reasonable to have hope in the place that bears the name of a little bird with short wings, difficult to capture and practically impossible to detect in the hills. [. . .]

For full review by Indira Ramírez Elejalde (in English), see

For a full review by Sofía Grandés (in Spanish), see

Posted by: ivetteromero | January 31, 2015

Art Exhibition—“La Lucha, Quisqueya and Haiti: One Island” 


DNAinfo writes about an exhibition opening next week, where Dominican and Haitian artists will come together “exploring the sometimes-turbulent history between the two groups sharing the same Caribbean island.” “La Lucha, Quisqueya and Haiti: One Island” opens on February 6, 2015, at the Rio Penthouse Gallery, and will run through February 27. It will feature works by 27 artists, including photographs, paintings, sculptures, clothing design, and live performances. There will also be an artists’ talk on February 21. The Rio Penthouse Gallery is located at 10 Fort Washington Avenue, New York, New York.  

Yelaine Rodriguez, a 24-year-old Dominican-American fashion designer, is curating the show in partnership with the Haitian Cultural Exchange after spending time studying art in the Dominican Republic.

Rodriguez came up with the idea for “La Lucha” — which translates to “the struggle” or “the fight” — after attending the renowned art school Altos De Chavon. The curator, who was born and raised in The Bronx, was surprised by what she learned about Dominican history from veteran artists at Altos.

“They really educated me,” Rodriguez said. “Like about how we celebrate our independence from Haiti, but not from our colonizers. It showed me how we try to separate ourselves so much.” She recognized the same division among the expatriate communities in New York City. “I started researching artists and I realized that I didn’t know many Haitian artist, even though there are strong communities in Harlem and Brooklyn,” Rodriguez explained. “I realized that even in New York, we were separate.”

When she returned to the city, Rodriguez contacted Brooklyn-based nonprofit arts group the Haitian Cultural Exchange with the idea of organizing a group of Dominican and Haitian artists who could explore their shared history.

“La Lucha” is the first project to grow out of that effort.

Sable Smith, a Haitian-American artist, is contributing photographs from a larger video project she created on the role of memory in Haitian history. “The relationship can be contentious,” Smith said of the Haitian-Dominican dynamic. “There is this tension, and sometimes that can seem like something that is almost inherited from one generation to the next.”

Smith’s piece, “Excerpts from the R&RDM Institute,” cuts up and remixes photographs and written recollections from two traumatic events in Haitian history: the 2010 earthquake and the Parsley Massacre. During the latter, tens of thousands of Haitians were killed under orders from Dominican dictator Rafael Trujillo. [. . .]

For full article, see

Posted by: lisaparavisini | January 31, 2015

Bob Marley’s 70th: Jamaica plans birthday bonanza


Jamaica is gearing up to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the birth of late reggae superstar Bob Marley, TVNZ reports.
The singer, who died in 1981 aged 36 after a battle with cancer, would have turned 70 on February 6.

The Jamaica Musical Theatre Company, in conjunction with Tuff Gong International, the record label Marley founded, are offering the stage musical Nesta’s Rock, which focuses on the youth of Bob Marley.

The One Love Concert Series will take place during the first week of February in Negril, where artists such as Lutan Fyah, Anthony Cruz, Mackie Conscious and Marley’s long-time backup singers Marcia Griffiths and Judy Mowatt will make appearances.

On February 6, the Bob Marley Museum in Kingston will host a series of symposia focusing on several topics, including: Reggae Music; Reggae and Fashion; and Marijuana and the Economy.

Other scheduled events include a concert on the Kingston waterfront featuring Jamaican and international reggae artists and the One Love celebrity soccer match scheduled for February 18.

Marley, one of the best-selling artists of all time, is Jamaica’s most famous son and the most prominent exponent of both reggae music and Rastafarianism.

He received The UN Peace Medal of the Third World in 1978, was posthumously inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1994 and the BBC proclaimed his One Love as Song of the Millennium.

For the original report go to

Sentilia Igsema, born in 1930 in the Dominican Republic to Haitian immigrants, poses with four generations of her family in Batey La Higuera

Amnesty International said on Friday that tens of thousands of Dominican-born Haitians are at risk of being expelled from the Dominican Republic with the approach of a Feb. 1 deadline to apply for naturalization, The Latin American Herald Tribune reports.
The Dominican government launched last June a court-mandated National Plan to regularize the status of undocumented residents, most of them migrants from neighboring Haiti.
“When, the deadline expires at midnight, the hopes of tens of thousands of vulnerable people will collapse. Thousands of people will run the risk of being expelled from the country,” the director of AI’s Americas program, Erika Guevara Rosas, said in a statement released here.
And even if those people do manage to stay in the Dominican Republic beyond Feb. 1, their future will be “terribly uncertain,” she said.
“It is time to put an end to this crisis. The simple reality is that, when the vast majority of these people were born, the then-applicable Dominican law recognized them as citizens,” Guevara Rosas said. “The deprivation of that right, and the creation of insurmountable administrative obstacles to be able to remain in the country, constitute a violation of their human rights.”
Amnesty complained on Thursday about the deportation of 51 people from the Dominican Republic to Haiti, including 30 Dominican-born children and their mothers.
The Dominican deputy interior minister, Washington Gonzalez, told Efe Friday that a total of 6,937 people born in the country to undocumented-immigrant parents have applied for naturalization.
The deadline for applications will not be extended, he said.
In the past, the Dominican government cited unofficial estimates of around 1 million Haitians living in the country, most of them illegal immigrants working in agriculture and construction.
The Dominican Republic and Haiti share the Caribbean island of Hispaniola, with Haiti in the western portion.
Though both countries are poor, Haiti is destitute, and Haitians cross the border to do work that many Dominicans will not do, such as harvesting sugarcane.
Haitians have been the target of mob violence in recent years and the Dominican government has been widely criticized for its treatment of the migrants.

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