Monday, July 24, 2006

Trinidad Debates Eurocentrism and Indigeneity

As some readers will already know, a current debate taking place in Trinidad and Tobago concerns renaming the highest national award, the Trinity Cross. The debate itself is not by any means new, but a recent court ruling acknowledged that the naming of the award was offensive and discriminatory towards the country's Hindu and Muslim population. Ironically, the same ruling, while supporting the charge of religious discrimination, threw out the motion to have the name changed since the name itself has been established in law.

In the meantime, Prime Minister Patrick Manning has agreed to change the name of the award by August 31st of this year, ideally choosing a word and symbol from the country's indigenous history. However, there will be debates as to what Manning and the government mean by "indigenous," as there is some suggestion that the steel pan may become the new symbolic emblem of the award, rather than the cross. In this case, needless to say, indigenous means "locally produced" rather than a pre-Columbian notion of "locally rooted."

The irony is that the name "Trinity Cross" may change, but Trinidad (Spanish for Trinity) will remain unchanged. It is interesting, perhaps encouraging, to see Trinidadians grappling with the legacies of colonialism and European cultural domination, even if it is momentary.

Garifunas Speaking Out Against Disney

Last week, Cherly Noralez of the Garifuna Heritage Foundation was interviewed on KPFK 90.7 FM Radio in Los Angeles. Luckily, the audio from that show has been archived (see the link below) and listeners/visitors may also post their feedback on that same page.