Posted by: lisaparavisini | November 22, 2014

MIGUEL ZENÓN QUARTET at The Village Vanguard


This article by Lisa Ellex appeared in Arte Fuse.

To celebrate the release of his new CD, IDENTITIES ARE CHANGEABLE, saxophonist and composer Miguel ZENÓN and his quartet have settled in for a week long run at the Village Vanguard (November 18-23).

One cannot imagine a more perfect blend of high energy personnel as this cohesive ensemble comprised of pianist Luis Perdomo, bassist Hans Glawischnig, and drummer Henry Cole, takes us on a multi-rhythmic ride with Zenón at the helm.  He is ingenious at constructing a set and engaging an audience.  His magnificently composed pieces — with insidiously morphing rhythms — are articulate and poetic and his alto blows the gamut from a brisk and beautiful wind dance to a tumultuous twister.

Zenón’s accomplishments as a MacArthur Genius Grant Recipient, Guggenheim Fellow and multi Grammy Award nominee can easily be eclipsed by the beauty and complexity of his compositions. On his dream-like ballad, “My Home”, Zenón’s voicings are deliciously languid and seductive; a deliriously romantic journey that gradually turns angry — much like a relationship gone wrong.  In direct contrast, the ethereal “Sangre De Mi Sangre”, a playful piece composed for Zenón’s daughter, Elena, illustrates the unadulterated joy only a child can evoke.

Born and raised in San Juan, Puerto Rico, Zenón came to New York in 1998 in pursuit of a life in music.  Now with nine recordings as a leader, his latest project examines his journey and the journey of his people. Focusing on the cultural identity of the Puerto Rican experience in the United States — but more specifically, in New York City — Zenón interviewed scores of these immigrants as well as second and third generation Puerto Ricans to ask what it means to be Puerto Rican in 21st century New York City. His impressions of this exchange inspired and formed the compositions for IDENTITIES ARE CHANGEABLE.

Like the stories specific to each immigrant, each tune here is a unique musical journey, beautifully navigated by a first-rate group of musicians.  Bassist Hans Glawischnig and drummer Henry Cole’s outstanding rhythmic talents create a marriage of superb dynamics, while pianist Perdomo’s solo on the set’s closing “Through Culture and Tradition” is something I will long remember.

The Village Vanguard is located at 178 Seventh Avenue South, New York City

(212) 255-4037

Shows at 8:30pm and 10:30pm.

Tickets $25 Sunday through Thursday, $30 Friday and Saturday.

There is a one drink minimum.

For the original report go to


Katy Guest reviews Andrea Levy’s new book for London’s Independent.

In the autobiographical essay that opens this collection, Levy writes about her early life, growing up in London.

“My mum would get embarrassed if she saw a black person drawing attention to themselves,” she recalls. “It drew attention to her as well, and she hated that.” This brief introductory essay describes how her parents moved to the UK from Jamaica, her own upbringing as a light-skinned black girl in 1960s England, and how she later visited the Caribbean and learned much more about world history and her own. “My heritage is Britain’s story too,” she deftly argues, and this slim collection shows, in ways both subtle and compelling, how this is so.

Most of the stories are drawn from life. In “The Diary”, a woman with an invisible role in a theatre company finds a way to get herself seen. The creepy story “Deborah” was written when newspapers were full of a murder committed by children, and aims to dispel “such simple notions as good and evil”. Deborah is the local naughty girl. It is written from the point of view of a nine-year-old girl for whom sinister aspects creep in only around the edges of her subconscious: “… a coat on a hanger was hanging from the curtain rail – big and dark in the window like a stranger you shouldn’t talk to ….”

There is a neat story about immigrants and asylum seekers, “Loose Change”, which touches on the somewhat uneasy relationship that often exists in Britain between the older newcomers and the new, and a shocking little vignette about fear and racism called “The Empty Pram”. We also get to meet the first ever incarnation of Hortense – the heroine of Levy’s award-winning 2004 novel Small Island – in “That Polite Way That English People Have”. The story was written to be read aloud, Levy says, which may explain why Hortense was so believable and such a hit.

This story and the final one portray the immigrant experience as a disappointing one. Hortense imagines herself as more English than the English, and plans to live “in a nice house with a garden”. Her English employer has sold her a coat – and sold her a pup. The two Jamaican First World War soldiers who join up to fight for Britain in “Uriah’s War” are similarly sold down the river, though with more devastating consequences. Levy reports that her grandfather fought at the Somme, but she didn’t believe it when she heard because men like him have been all but forgotten.

This is a slight collection, but full of important insights. Good for Levy for drawing attention to them.

For the original report go to–an-essay-by-andrea-levy-this-is-a-slight-collection-but-full-of-important-insights-9875936.html


Meet the women who stood up to the paramilitaries – and will continue to fight, The Journal reports.

“WE ARMED OURSELVES. We just grabbed everything there was – sticks, machetes, anything,” says Adriana Porras about the day Libertad’s residents rose up against paramilitaries.

For eight years her town had been terrorised by paramilitaries. 40 villagers were murdered between 2000 and 2004. No one was allowed leave the town without permission.

For breaking rules women were punished by forcing them to wear signs saying ‘I am a gossip’ while cleaning the town square. Rape was common.

“A lot of women in Libertad are victims of sexual violence,” says Porras of the town near Colombia’s Caribbean coast.

In May 2004, the town’s residents said “No More”. They rose up, forced the paramilitary leaders out and sealed off the town. Eventually the military came and arrested the leaders.

Educating women

Porras was a nurse at the time, but decided to dedicate herself to helping the people of the town realise their rights and recover from the horrors of what happened. She began to coordinate state support for the community who were victims of paramilitary violence.

She also worked hard to make visible the sexual violence that occurred. At first, the town’s women refused to report anything that happened. They feared reprisals, had no trust in the law and just wished to pretend it never happened. Many state institutions, after years of control by paramilitaries, had been infiltrated by these groups.

She, along with a national organisation called Colombian Women for Peace Initiative (IMP as per the Spanish acronym), began to educate the women on their legal rights, psychologically heal them and eventually persuaded ten women to report the crimes committed against them.

She accompanied the women on every step of a trial process that took eight years. After 2005 many paramilitaries were given amnesties in exchange for demobilisation, but those implicated in the sexual violence against the ten women Porras led were made serve jail sentences they wouldn’t otherwise have.

“I believe, on a national level, the case that I led is the flagship one in Colombia that signifies what the whole process contains [in reporting sexual violence against women in the conflict].

The threats, the fear which is a lot when there are paramilitaries involved.

About 51% of Colombia’s displaced are women, 20% are men with the rest children. This has led to a situation where “in Colombia, it is often women who take the lead in demanding truth, justice and reparations for victims of the armed conflict”, says feminist group Sisma Mujer’s Claudia María Mejía Duque and Juanita Candamil.


Rape victims

An Afro-Colombian women’s group called Las Mariposas (The Butterflies) recently won the internationally prestigious Nansen award for outstanding contribution to refugees from the UNHCR.

Led by three women, they help victims of Colombia’s internal conflict in the Pacific coast city, Buenaventura, one of Colombia’s most dangerous cities. Its leaders have helped over 1,000 women and families in realising their rights and psychologically helping those who have suffered from displacement and sexual violence.

“I suffered rape since I was a child. Of course this creates a lot of pain and trauma and this has made me want to change that for other people who suffer through the same situation,” says Gloria Amparo, a leader of the group.

We cannot bring back the dead, but we do want a future for our young people. We also must teach them about our culture which has been damaged so much.

Like Las Mariposas, the majority of the residence of Buenaventura are Afro-Colombian.

Under the Victim’s Law, a legal framework was created for many displaced to be restored to the land they were displaced from.

“What’s a really nice thing is that women want to leave something for their children. They work really hard in the process [for restitution of land], in order to leave their children the land,” says Natalia Fernández from lawyer’s group, Yiro Castro, which specialises in land restitution.

“We have cases here to restore 70 families, where 80% of the women are head of the application. They’ve been through every procedure, every route, to the Ombudsman, everything. The capacity to move themselves, keep going, is just sensational,” she adds.

Power games

Only 19% of Colombia’s elected representatives in Congress are female and only two women are represented on the Government’s side at peace negotiations in Havana, Cuba. Despite this, feminist groups like Sisma Mujer and La Ruta Pacífica, have been drivers in major public policy legislation, as shown with the 2011 Victim’s Law, which contained a specific section on female victims, and Law 1257 on gender violence.

Nevertheless, it’s a work rife with danger. In 2012, 78 human rights defenders, male and female, were murdered in Colombia, the highest in a decade.

The use of death threats to silence human rights defenders is widespread. Members of Yiro Castro, La Ruta Pacifica and Sisma Mujer have all received death threats.

Porras’ work, meanwhile, in the area of sexual violence against the paramilitaries has put her in danger. An attempt on her life two years ago forced her to move to Bogotá, where she continues working for her community.

When near her home on the outskirts of the capital Porras needs three armed guards to protect her. She’s received death threats by mail, telephone, text message and in pamphlets.

“They are not playing,” says Porras. “I can’t afford to give them the opportunity. I have to be careful.”

Recently, her sons started to receive threats as well.

I’m not going to shut up. They started to believe I’m not going to. I think that’s why they are trying with my sons. But I’ll continue with the process.

She currently leads another woman from her hometown in a sexual violence case.

‘Sons of bitches’

Another woman, Melissa Martines, who is a victim of rape and displacement, became a leader in district and national boards for peace set up under the 2011 Victim’s Law.

Since joining the boards she has received four death threats by mail as have her colleagues. In one, sent by the paramilitary group ‘Black Eagles’ (Spanish: ‘Aguilas Negras’), they listed the names, Martines’ included, of those who had 30 days to leave or be murdered.

“These are the sons of bitches, displaced, pieces of shit parasites that do nothing but antagonise our society….it’s not important you have bastards for protection, they won’t serve you. We give you 30 days to abandon this city,” says the letter.

The threats force Martines to change location constantly but she will not stop her work.

“Although we keep receiving threats, we keep dreaming of peace and we’ll keep fighting’, she says quoting a piece of Colombian poetry.

For the original report go to

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This article by Josh Surtees appeared in

Wayne Kublalsingh is on an epic 65-day hunger strike over a plan to build a four-lane highway through a wetlands wildlife habitat in Trinidad and Tobago. Emaciated and struggling to stand by the side of his bed, Kublalsingh told VICE News that his self-starvation is “a form of peaceful social war,” against the government of the Caribbean nation.

Nearing death, Kublalsingh was recently hospitalized in critical condition. Local newspapers in Trinidad have suggested he won’t survive the week.

“I’m doing this absolutely for Trinidad and Tobago,” Kublalsingh said. He explained that the hunger strike is, “against the economic crimes committed against the people, against white collar criminality and the government’s failure to account for and justify its actions.”

The issue at the heart of Kublalsingh’s crusade is a highway that is supposed to cut through a UNESCO-listed archaeological heritage site and 13 rural communities on the southern tip of Trinidad, an island off the northeast coast of Venezuela. The government of Trinidad and Tobago has already bought 300 homes using “compulsory purchase orders” — forcefully removing residents from farmlands to make way for a section of the road that critics say could easily go elsewhere.

A Canadian environmentalist claims the bitterly contested nine-mile stretch of road will be used for tar sands mining, a process of extracting oil from sediment that is environmentally dicey.

“All the things that need to be in place for tar sands mining [in Trinidad] are in place,” activist Macdonald Stainsby told VICE News. Stainsby cited a new power station in the area, a recently upgraded bitumen-oil refinery, a new desalination plant, and business meetings between the Trinidad and Tobago government and Canadian mining companies.

Trinidad and Tobago has relied on reserves of natural gas and offshore oil for years, but the energy reserves are thought to be waning and may run out within a decade. The country’s leaders are pursuing a policy of economic diversification, and the stated aims for the highway are to stimulate economic development, encourage rural settlements, and ease traffic congestion.

The general population — including Kublalsingh — supports those aims and the overall highway plan. What they vehemently oppose is the nine-mile stretch of the road that they say won’t benefit the area economically or reduce traffic. Kublalsingh and other opponents have suggested an alternative route.

“We can’t develop until we do it properly, until we can monetize resources equitably,” Kublalsingh said. “Otherwise we are just transferring wealth from one sector to the other — that’s not development.”

Kublalsingh is a former literature, history, and economics lecturer who was fired by the University of the West Indies in 2013 for his protests. He has fought against alleged government corruption for 10 years, and supporters say he has saved the country millions of dollars with his campaigns. In 2010, he forced the government to scrap a smelter plant project because of environmental concerns and health risks it posed to residents nearby.

With a PhD from Oxford and British Army training, Kublalsingh is eloquent, urbane, and intellectual. He is also extremely devoted to his causes. Before he began his current fast, his body had only just recovered from kidney damage from a previous hunger strike in 2012. He retains hope that the highway will be rerouted, but the government has already made significant progress.

Police and soldiers — operating under the orders of National Security Minister Jack Warner, a former FIFA official forced to step down over corruption allegations surrounding Qatar’s 2022 World Cup bid — tore down a protest camp set up to prevent construction work on the roadway. Many local residents have already succumbed to pressure from the government to sell their land. Some poorer families simply could not afford to turn down the financial incentives.

Building the highway will cost the country more than $1 billion. Brazilian firm OAS Constutura is handling construction and using Brazilian workers. Several top OAS executives were included last week on a list of 27 arrest warrants issued by police in Brazil after an investigation there uncovered “strong evidence” that the company was involved in a $23 billion bribery scandal to win contracts from Petrobras, Brazil’s state-run energy company.

Trinidad is no stranger to controversial, multi-million dollar construction contracts. The country has paid vast sums to foreign companies from China, Canada, India, the US, and Latin America. Massive amounts of funding and loans have been coming into the country, but there is limited transparency over the deals and procurement processes.

“Corruption, and perceived corruption, is a constant theme in T&T [Trinidad and Tobago] politics, both real and alleged,” Carver Bacchus, founder and managing director of the non-profit environmentalist organization Sustain T&T, told VICE News. “Allegations have toppled governments, with no government official, to my knowledge, ever being successfully prosecuted for corrupt practices.”

SNC-Lavalin — a Canadian firm banned by the World Bank from bidding for overseas contracts for 10 years because of fraud — was awarded several projects in Trinidad and Tobago. The Canadian government selected the company to design and build a $1 billion hospital in Trinidad, but the deal that was halted when the company’s corruption scandal came to light.

‘We can’t develop until we do it properly, until we can monetize resources equitably.’

Shanghai Construction, a Chinese company, built the country’s National Academy of Performing Arts, for $78 million. It opened in 2010, but four years later it is collapsing and will cost more than $15 million to fix.

A section of the controversial highway that is currently under construction also collapsed recently after heavy rains. One of Kublalsingh’s major concerns is the possibility that eight-foot high banks of earth and concrete from the project could cause permanent flooding in the area.

Green undulating hills around the construction site have been excavated, creating muddy swathes of land waiting to be filled with aggregate. An estimated 1.4 million tons of rock — roughly 189,000 truckloads — is being mined from quarries in the rainforest of the Northern Range mounts and transported south. The oldest archeological site in the Caribbean — the 8,000-year-old Banwari Trace — is also nearby, and construction threatens to destroy or disturb parts of the site.

Kublalsingh and his supporters say building is going ahead prematurely and illegally. Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar is accused of failing to abide by a court recommendation to carry out an environmental impact assessment and cost-benefit analysis before proceeding.

“Forces are lining up against the government,” Kublalsingh said. “The opposition party, the church, civil societies, the university, trade unions — in time the government will become isolated and have no choice but to enter mediation.”

Until then, the activist is clinging to life, sticking to a daily routine of prayer, meditation and saltwater baths to help him through his hunger strike. Broaching the possibility of death, he said he was willing to give his life to prevent the highway from being built.

“A great evil has befallen our republic,” Kublalsingh said. “A chameleon-type evil; a kind of invisible snake which shifts its shape and colors so it’s difficult to stamp the head out. How do you confront it? You have to use your most valuable sword; mine is my life.”

For the original report go to

Posted by: ivetteromero | November 22, 2014

Arnold August, ‘Democracy Still in Motion’ in Cuba

APTOPIX Cuba May Day

In “Arnold August, ‘Democracy Still in Motion: The 2013 Election Results in Cuba,’” Dr. George Lambie writes, “Arnold August has been the most assiduous analyst of the Cuban electoral process for a decade and a half.”  In the introductory editorial of the International Journal of Cuban Studies, Dr. Lambie writes a note on the articles published in the Spring 2014 issue, including August’s research paper on the Cuban political process.

George Lambie is professor of International Political Economy (Globalisation), Literature and Politics, and Latin American Politics at De Montfort University in Leicester, UK and visiting professor of the University of Havana, Cuba. His specialist interest is the Cuban Revolution 1959-date. He is a member of the Editorial Board of the International Journal of Cuban Studies and the author of books and articles on Cuba.

To read the complete editorial comment and the full research paper, see

Photo above from

Posted by: ivetteromero | November 22, 2014

Amnesty International told to stay out Bahamas affairs


Democratic National Alliance (DNA) leader Branville McCartney said that Amnesty International should “stay out of our business” when it comes to the government’s new immigration policy. The immigration policy, which came into effect on November 1, has come under heavy criticism from the Grand Bahamas Human Rights Association, which said the Perry Christie Government’s mass round-up of non-nationals is unconstitutional and is breeding hatred, racism and discrimination against Haitians in that country. A few days ago, Secretary General of the Organization of American States (OAS) Jose Miguel Insulza had also expressed concern about how non-nationals who are unable to show they have permission to live and work there are being arrested.

“They obviously do not know what is going on here” [. . .] “They comment from a distance and not from a reality of what is taking place in our country. With all respect, stay out of our business.” On Monday, the international human rights organization alleged that the government’s policy is “leading to human rights violations” in The Bahamas.

Other critics are Florida State Representative Daphne Campbell and the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights (RFK Center). The RFK Center expressed alarm over the “discriminatory use of the new immigration policies in The Bahamas”.

However, the government has insisted that there has been no breach of the law and no violation of any individual’s constitutional rights sanctioned by the government in the enforcement of its immigrations laws. Speaking to the international backlash on Monday, Prime Minister Perry Christie said while The Bahamas is attuned to its international obligations, it is doing what is “just”, and “what is right”. Foreign Affairs Minister Fred Mitchell is expected to travel to Miami on Saturday to address what Christie has called “misinformation”.

Mitchell said he will also speak to the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) caucus in Washington, DC, soon. On Thursday, McCartney said the DNA has received no reports of the Department of Immigration committing human rights violations, as Amnesty International has alleged. “We encourage the government to continue carrying out the law when it comes to the immigration laws of the country,” said McCartney, a former minister of state for immigration. “They ought to carry them out in a very humane way. The difficulty I am having though is that the problem we have should not have gotten to this stage. “Had the governments past and present not used the Haitian population, in particular, as political pawns, and in some instances the leaders of those organizations, for their own benefit, we would not be in this position.”

For full article, see

Also see

Photo from (2011) related article

Posted by: ivetteromero | November 22, 2014

St. Kitts Eco-Park: Largest Greenhouse in the Caribbean


Caribbean News Now reports that St Kitts and Nevis opened the largest greenhouse in the Caribbean.

At 24 meters tall and more than 14,000 sq ft, St Kitts and Nevis has opened the largest greenhouse in the Caribbean region in a project described as “a dream come true.” That was expressed by Taiwan’s resident ambassador, Miguel Li-Jey Tsao, at a ceremony marking the official opening of the St Kitts Eco-Park (SKEP) on Friday.

“Today, it is the season to reap what we have sown and it is time to elevate the bilateral cooperation between the Republic of China (Taiwan) and its best ally, the Federation of St Kitts and Nevis to a new height,” he told scores of invited guests, including the governor general, the prime minister, other ministers of government, and numerous public and private sector officials, as well as school students.

The Eco-Park is a cooperation project between Taiwan and the twin-island state. It incorporates the successful integration of tourism, agriculture and renewable energy. It boasts what is termed a “4G” concept by being a greenhouse in a glass cabin that uses green energy, and showcases green beauty.” Inside, numerous species of plants grow including local medicinal herbs, roses, butterfly orchids and more. A wide array of tropical fruit trees are spread out around the 20-acre compound. Several other buildings are also on site, including a business centre.

Minister of Agriculture Nigel Carty reflected on the groundbreaking for the SKEP in 2012 and marvelled at the transformation that has taken place. “The Eco-Park signals the way forward for ecotourism and rural development,” he stated. “We are changing the rural landscape of St Kitts and Nevis. This is indeed real progress and real change for the people of St Kitts and Nevis.

“Together the government of St Kitts and Nevis and the Republic of China should celebrate this great day. We have indeed made important strides towards ensuring that the people of St Kitts and Nevis in general have this grand opportunity to experience ecotourism, green technology and the development of a unique agro-tourism product, thanks to the work of the ROC and our government and the unfailing commitment to our people.” [. . .]

[Many thanks to Rod Fusco for bringing this item to our attention.]

For full article, see

Posted by: ivetteromero | November 22, 2014

Bermuda to Host the America’s Cup World Series Event in 2017


Adrian Robson writes about the brouhaha that followed after Associated Press revealed that Bermuda would host the 2017 America’s Cup. San Diego and Bermuda were vying for the top spot; apparently the “tax-free” situation won out at the end. Here are excerpts from Robson’s article:

It now seems certain Bermuda will host the America’s Cup in 2017, following confirmation from a top official in San Diego that the California city has been defeated in the two-horse race to decide where one of the world’s premier sporting events will be held. Quoting an anonymous source, Associated Press reported that a decision had been made and will be announced on December 2 in New York. That has now been backed up by an official involved with the San Diego bidding process.

Several newspapers around the world published the AP report yesterday, but government officials in Bermuda declined to comment. San Diego Union-Tribune reporter Matt Calkins, learning of the decision, launched a scathing attack on the America’s Cup committee, chaired by billionaire Larry Ellison, the owner of Oracle Team USA, the defending champions. It was, he said, “all about money”. Calkins reported: “On Thursday, a local official confirmed to San Diego U-T that the 2017 America’s Cup has been awarded to Bermuda, not San Diego, and dinero seems to be the principal reason why.

“Want to know the new colour of money?” Yeah … that would be ocean blue. Not only is San Diego the better place to host the next America’s Cup, it might just be the perfect place. From facilities, to accommodations, to history, to racing conditions — we trumped Bermuda in nearly every capacity as a potential venue host.

“But there was one thing the Atlantic Ocean island could provide that San Diego couldn’t — a tax-free experience for all the Cup’s participants. What we learned? That even the richest people in the world can sell out.” [. . .] 

For full article, see

Also see

Posted by: ivetteromero | November 21, 2014

Latin Grammys 2014: Rubén Blades wins Best Tango Album

latin-grammys-2014-rehearsal-photos-ruben-blades (1)

Panamanian great Rubén Blades won his fifth Latin Grammys awards last night for his new album Tango. Here are excerpt from an article by Martin Chilton:

Blades spoke recently about the benefits of choosing tango over salsa.

Tango was also nominated for album of the year and the 66-year-old from Panama City said: “People probably have to rub their eyes and say, ‘What, Ruben Blades in the tango category?’ I was surprised because you never know about Grammy nominations. My album Siembra, arguably the biggest seller in the history of salsa, never got nominated for a Grammy.

Blades, who has also won four main Grammys, believes re-creating his salsa songs as tangos works, even though he had to use completely different phrasing and increase the tempo on songs such as Pedro Navaja.

Blades, whose successful acting career includes appearances in the Milagro Beanfield War (1988), The Two Jakes (1990) and Mo’ Better Blues (1990), has had a varied musical career that has seen him work with Little Steven and Paul Simon.

Asked about the change of musical direction, Blades said: “I felt that the instrumentation and the atmosphere that tango creates would make the lyrics more relevant and stronger. Salsa is action music, whereas in the tango you have space for reflection. There is something about tango that is very emotional. The instruments – the violin, the bandoneon – evoke nostalgia, sadness, opportunities lost and/or found. I always felt that some of my lyrics were shortchanged by the salsa format, with its strong rhythms that got in the way.”

Blades and his collaborator, arranger Carlos Franzetti, began discussing the tangos project more than a decade ago, but Blades put his entertainment career on hold to serve as Panama’s Minister of Tourism from 2004-2009.

Franzetti told AP reporter Charles J Gans: “Tangos reflects a genre-blending approach to music that Blades has dubbed ‘mixtura’.”

Blades will soon be going into the studio to do a “rock en espanol” album, also including some English-language songs he wrote with Lou Reed, with his new Paraiso Road Gang band that he formed with his wife, singer Luba Mason, which he says will play a mix from tango and salsa to jazz and bluegrass.

For full article, see


Here are just a few excerpts of a fascinating interview (in World Literature Today) of Robert H. McCormick Jr. by Jeremiah Gentle. McCormick speaks about his interest in Caribbean literature and the impetus behind his decision to translate Évelyne Trouillot’s Le Bleu de l’île. Access the full interview in the link below:

In June 2000 a group of soldiers from the Dominican Republic opened fire on, and killed, seven people in a tarp-covered truck they were pursuing in Guayubín. The cadavers of the six Haitians were buried in a common grave, virtually forgotten until a court ruling (albeit nonbinding) twelve years later found the Dominican Republic guilty of massacre (December 10, 2012, “Le Nouvelliste”).

Évelyne Trouillot’s The Blue of the Island brings these spirits back to life. By staging their dialogue underneath the tarp’s camouflage, the play merges past and present. The simple, often blasphemous, interactions of the passengers eloquently express the ordinariness of their lives.

Much like the play in its original French, Robert H. McCormick Jr.’s translation renders the cargo’s simply expressed small talk unforgettable and profound. In so doing, the original French play, and its precise English translation, further merge the past’s bare grief with present eloquence, thus laying bare the horrific events of a night in June for an even-wider audience.

Jeremiah Gentle: What is your background in Caribbean literature? What about the region appeals to you?

Robert H. McCormick Jr.: I came to Caribbean literature later in my literary life. My point of entry was, without doubt, the work of Maryse Condé. I read all her novels assiduously many times. Franklin University’s academic travel program was a second major factor. I organized five two-week academic travels to Cuba for students, as well as one to Venezuela and a couple to the Dominican Republic. Thus, from Guadeloupe, the scope of my interest expanded to include a wider, polylingual Caribbean. To broaden my own understanding, and that of my students, I initiated the Franklin College Caribbean Conference in Lugano, which I organized every two years over a ten-year span. Besides meeting Haitian writers who were our guests, such as Jean-Claude Fignolé, I became familiar with Évelyne Trouillot’s play through the essay of a conference participant that we published in conjunction with the Journal of Haitian Studies.

With respect to what pleases me about the region, literature comes first. I won’t cite too many authors, but the work of J.-S. Alexis, Jacques Roumain, Alejo Carpentier, Edwidge Danticat, Junot Díaz, Louis-Philippe Dalembert, and Maryse Condé have all impressed and influenced me in different ways. I like the weather, of course, but most of all the open sociability of most Caribbeans, a characteristic I associate with their humanity and one that manifests itself in their language.

JG: What inspired you to begin working with translations?

RHM: I came to translation even later. I was, though, in a position to translate what I liked and what I thought interested readers might want to have access to. My first literary translation was an interview I recorded in Guadeloupe with Maryse Condé at her former home there. WLT published that interview (see WLT, Summer 2000, 519–28). Then there was a long break. The idea to translate Le Bleu de l’île came after reading Stéphanie Bérard’s article about the play and learning that it hadn’t yet been translated into English. At that time, it hadn’t even come out in the French edition published by Coulisses (Spring, 2012). Now that I have since translated a novel and started another, my thinking about translation has taken a slightly more philosophical bent. I was disillusioned with various types of literary “studies” and felt I was often being led away from literature, and from its words. It is the sensation of dealing with this fundamental manifestation of literature, its verbal essence, that gives me the greatest pleasure in translating. I also feel I am making more accessible some of the many riches of Haitian literature that may be beyond the reach of those who don’t know French well enough.

For full interview, see

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