The one thing I can say is having moved here to New York, you can clearly see a strong sense of “national pride” on display. It is a beautiful thing to be able to identify with where one is from, especially if you miss your homeland. Here in NYC, there are parades to go see, along with different neighborhoods coexisting side by side in certain areas. It really does make you feel like you can go from one country to the next in some spots by merely crossing the street. Some cultures can be a bit more accepting than others of course here, but many people have a firm grasp on what their roots are, and are pretty proud of it.
All this pride on display has me thinking: why does it take going to another place to really see national pride on full display? Doing an “unscientific comparison”, I thought of how my college experience and my time here in NYC are vastly different. For those not in the know, here in NYC we are viewed as “Caribbean folk” or “from the islands”. I had a friend from Japan come and visit and since she’s lived in the Caribbean before, I had to take her to a “Caribbean” part of NYC for lunch, because there’s no place really you can say it is solely “Trini”, “St Lucian” or “Jamaican” (although Mt Vernon here last a large Caribbean populous with many Jamaicans in its ranks). In many ways, here it doesn’t matter what island as much you are from, but you’re Caribbean first. It’s usually done so in a warm manner, even between people from different islands. Up here, someone knows somebody from your island anyways. In contrast, at UWI you seemingly had to battle the stereotypes of Trinis not getting along with Jamaicans, etc. I can say with some degree of certainty it’s probably no different at the UWI main campuses in St Augustine (Trinidad) and Cave Hill (Barbados) or the satellite schools. Is it historical? Some of it is, especially with how the whole Federation thing went down (http://www.caricom.org/jsp/community/caricom_history.jsp?menu=community or http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/West_Indies_Federation). But one could go out on a limb and say I big part of it are old stereotypes at work that are now changing for the better.
Now, I’m not glossing over things in NY either. I am also sure that there is just as much bickering amongst island folk on both an intra and inter island levels. But the feeling of camaraderie fostered here based on that is just a positive thing overall. Some of that might be due to relating to the same set of struggles easily. Still, it begs the question: why do I have to go someplace else to see as high a level of national pride as what I see here? Don’t get me wrong, it’s not like Jamaicans aren’t proud or anything like that in their own land, but many a conversation with good intentions has been started here with “where in Jamaica you’re from?” Perhaps when one is home in their own land, they may be more caught up in the daily grind to appreciate what is around them and to feel or foster that sense of pride.
In many ways that sense of “home” an “national pride” is what allows many transplants, particularly first generation ones, to survive, adjust and ultimately thrive in America. Make no mistake, it is such a grind here that is hard to explain to others how haven’t lived much less visited here. I’m a firm believer in the old adage that it takes about 18 months for someone to adjust to life in another country. But it does help to see those bits of culture that reminds one of home in a positive ways as one tries to make a life in another land.