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Global issue 20

In Focus Saint Lucia Saint Lucia’s search for a national identity Once a British colony where the local Patwa was frowned upon as a backward tongue, today Creolisation has restored dignity to the Saint Lucian language spoken by rural islanders, as well as bringing a renewed interest in local folk music Juliet Highet The name of the large square in central Castries, capital of Saint Lucia, used to be Columbus Square; now it’s Derek Walcott Square, honouring the island’s Nobel Laureate for Literature. The cricket ground, Victoria Park, has been renamed Mindoo Philip after a legendary local cricketer. Since independence in 1979, a movement to redefine Saint Lucian identity has accelerated in significance, symbolised by the recognition of local heroes and crystallised by Creolisation, specifically honouring traditional as well as contemporary cultural expression – that of its 90 per cent African or African-mixed population. This, of course, is the legacy of slavery. Another fraught inheritance, indentured labour, is represented by the descendants of workers brought to the island after 1858. They are a small minority, less than ten per cent, of East Indian ancestry, who tend to live in rural settlements, but who have contributed the delicious heritage of their cuisine to island life. A few, a very few, members of the old plantocracy linger on, and recently arrived traders of Middle Eastern origin thrive in Castries. The iconic image painted by the tourist authority – on which trade the island’s economy now largely depends – is to imagine yourself driving on the British side of the road to an Indian restaurant in a French town, greeted all along the way in Creole patois. Indigenous Caribs kickstarted the cultural blend, fiercely resisting British and French colonists for 50 years, 76 l www.global -br ief ing.org f i rst quar ter 2015 global


Global issue 20
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