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The Carnival reunion

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It is Carnival time again and we are about to get into the big weekend, a weekend that builds up to and prepares us for the final bash on Monday and Tuesday.

It is the highpoint for those who have spent months preparing for the grand occasion and others who have timed their holidays to coincide with it. It is fun, at least while it lasts. We have, however, to begin to look again at our Carnival and where it fits into the state of things. {{more}}Serious questions have to be asked, among them, can we afford to continue to have a prolonged or rather such a long period of carnival? Should we pack it into a shorter time slot?

There are of course certain realities that we have to take into account in making decisions about the future of Carnival.

One question obviously has to do with affordability. With minor exceptions we all love our carnival and would like to see it continue as one of our top festivals. Let us not kill it but instead, do what is necessary to preserve it as an occasion that merits the attention we give to it and justify the resources spent on it.

There is little doubt that our economy is going through a period of turmoil or to be less sensational, difficulties. We have to appreciate the fact that despite all of this so many of our people play carnival and by this I mean participate in the many carnival shows.

It is obvious that a lot of prioritizing is going on and has to go on. One obviously has to take into account the fact that immediately after Carnival parents have to turn their attention to catering to the needs of their children attending schools and universities.

Unemployment is still relatively high but interestingly quite a number of our unemployed people play carnival. They are making a hell of a sacrifice. Some persons who are pure carnival lovers as I would call them do not like any interference with the festival. These were the same kinds of persons who opposed the change of Carnival dates that took place in the seventies. When that decision was taken those persons behind the move had to bow to certain realities. Few persons today regret that decision.

The important consideration is to do what is necessary to preserve and develop the festival. Tradition sometimes has to bend to these realities in the interest of survival and development.

But Carnival is much more than what takes place at the park and around town and elsewhere. It provides opportunities for a number of other things. Carnival is really an occasion for a big reunion of the Diaspora.

There is no denying that the bulk of persons coming for Carnival are returning Vincentians, some of them taking the opportunity to bring along their friends to share and enjoy the festival. Persons meet others they have not seen for a long time. Many catch up again with their school mates and there is indeed a grand reunion. But others, families, school alumni, villagers use the occasion for a different, more programmed, more specific, more selective kind of reunion.

Really the possibilities are enormous and what comes home clearly is the need to maintain and strengthen links with the Diaspora outside the context of carnival. There is I believe, a consensus that Vincentians in the Diaspora can and constitute an important part of the Vincentian society even though not residing at home. Many contribute to the well being of their families, contribute to important causes at home and participate in national development at different levels and even in the national discourse such as exist.

When Vincentians are abroad they begin to understand who they are and to appreciate the land of their birth. Some of the earlier suspicions and jealousies have disappeared.

Gone are the days when persons spending a few years abroad felt they had some measure of superiority and authority over those who remained on these shores. They now realize that we see the same things they see on television, we buy the same things they buy in their stores, to a point.

The Internet is creating a global world and reducing some of the differences. While abroad, some Vincentians realize they do not know as much about their country as they thought especially when being questioned by their non-Vincentian friends. On their return home many take the opportunity to visit places they had never been before and have only heard about.

One of the fears is that outside of Carnival there is little to see or do, especially when they have brought friends with them. Some of this is changing since enterprising Vincentians now try to cater to those who remain beyond the period of carnival.

Montreal Gardens

In the same way we promote areas of interest in an attempt to attract tourists we need to do the same for those who want more than carnival offers. One of the spots in St.Vincent that is a major attraction although many Vincentians have still not had the privilege of visiting it is the Montreal Gardens. I was therefore shocked to see a notice in last week’s newspapers informing the public of the closure of the Montreal Gardens for an indefinite period of time from June 30.

What has rung alarm bells for me is the statement ‘Due to circumstances beyond our control’. This could really mean anything but circumstances beyond our control means exactly what it says that it has to be closed because of circumstances outside of the control of the owners.

Who controls those circumstances is anyone’s guess but let us hope that circumstances can ultimately be controlled. In this hard guava season when dictates of the World Trade Organisation are taking a hold on us one of the areas that still offers opportunities is Tourism. We therefore cannot slide on this one.

We have to ensure that our tourism product is built up and that every opportunity is offered to facilitate those who invest in tourism activities in the same way that we should support those who invest in other areas of the national economy.

Let us, however, enjoy Carnival 2005 but also look beyond Carnival.

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