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Celebrating our heritage with pride

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March has begun, and we are into Heritage and National Heroes Month, which is being celebrated under the theme “preserving our heritage with pride.” St. Vincent and the Grenadines may be poor in many regards, but when it comes to the heritage of our nation, riches abound.

During this month, Searchlight will focus on different aspects of our heritage, starting this week with cassava, a crop of tremendous historical significance for our country. No other agricultural product grown commercially in St. Vincent and the Grenadines today has been cultivated continually over the last two thousand years.

The commencement of production of farine (processed cassava) at the new cassava factory at Orange Hill has resulted in renewed interest in the planting, processing and marketing of cassava here. Farine from the Orange Hill factory is now being sold in local supermarkets, and from all accounts, demand exceeds supply.

This food is truly a part of our cultural heritage. Our Carib fore parents used it as a staple food and to make drinks and seasonings. Catholic Priest Father Adrien Le Breton who lived in St. Vincent from 1693 to 1702 wrote that cassava was used by the Caribs as “daily bread.” The method he describes that was used to prepare the cassava is the same method used by our small farine manufacturers today.

While preparing for this feature, we visited a small home-based farine manufacturing plant as well as the factory at Orange Hill. We noted how interesting the method used to process the cassava is, and thought how easily visits to local cassava processing plants could be incorporated into the tours we sell to our visitors.

Home-based farine manufacturers are located on both the Windward and Leeward sides of the island, and on the outskirts of Kingstown. Therefore tours to any part of the country could be structured to include “cassava tours”.

Nutritionists advise us of the importance of complex carbohydrates and roughage in our diet. Farine and bam bam (cassava cakes) provide both in abundance. Little packets of farine or bam bam along with booklets giving recipes and nutrition information could be packaged and made available for sale at the end of the tour.

This is an aspect of heritage and community tourism that should not be too difficult to implement, and is one in which we believe the Ministries of Tourism and Rural Transformation might be interested.

As the month progresses, we will continue our celebration of what makes us uniquely Vincentian by looking at aspects of our historical and cultural heritage and Vincentians who have made outstanding contributions to our nation.

Although some aspects of our culture are dying, or some may say, changing, there are signs that efforts are being made to preserve and promote other aspects. Over the past three weeks, we published in three parts an essay by Dr. Paula Prescod who has developed a writing system for VinC, the Vincentian dialect of the English language. We congratulate Dr. Prescod and encourage other local academics to continue in similar vein to add to the existing documentation of our heritage.

Happy Heritage and National Heroes Month, Vincentians. We have much of which to be proud.

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