What's it mean to be Caribbean?

Dominica's Prime Minister, Roosevelt Skerrit, wants holders of Caricom passports to have the right of extended stay in any Caricom country.

What's it mean to be Caribbean?
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A Caribbean conundrum?
Dominica's Prime Minister, Roosevelt Skerrit, wants holders of Caricom passports to have the right of extended stay in any Caricom country.

He feels removing the current immigration restrictions on Caricom nationals would help with regional integration - and foster 'a sense of identity.'

But what does it mean to be Caribbean?

What is that definable Caribbean identity?

And how do you make the distinction between being a citizen of your country and being Caribbean?

Have Your Say

Well, I am in NY representing Haiti; this is very simple to me.
Being Caribbean to me has nothing to do with skin color, culture, ancestry. Cuba, Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico are all Caribnean Nations just as Haiti, Jamaica and others.
Rommel A Peltro
New York, USA

I would like to know how strong the memory of the Irish slaves are in the Caribbean. They were mainly children shipped out in the mid 16th century as slaves in order that the English could ethnically cleanse the east coast of Ireland. I notice many Irish names still extant and wonder are the descendants of these young Irish slaves aware of the terrible injustice inflicted on their white ancestors by its neighboring country in order to bring its version of "civilisation" to Ireland?
Martin Curley
Belfast, Ireland

Being from the Caribbean is just being Irie, like we all say. I live in Germany now and many people think that am from Africa. But am always quick to let them now that I come from the region where they make their holidays. I hope that the Caribbean will become one like the European Union because we need each other more than ever now. One West Indian Zone. I am so proud of my new Caricom Passport.
Wuppertal, Germany

The quotes from other writers below help describe a trait of many Caribbean people I have met that has given me, as an American, the strength that I needed to get up from being down.
But being Caribbean is most importantly having the strength and resilience to be grateful for life and appreciate what we have, who we are as a people and how far we have progressed.
Ellen Kevin
Ikuta, Japan

To be West Indian is to be a fun, colourful and energetic person.

Our identity for me is tied to our approach to life - we live!! We get joy out of the simplicities of life - a little dominoes here - carnival there - cricket match there - we live, we laugh!
St. Lucia

Being "Caribbean-like" is just being that blissful excitement and sense of joy that we Caribbean people usually portray in the world over;
T Dhanpaul Markham,

I think undoubtedly what defines being Caribbean is our approach to things, our laid back attitudes.
St. Lucia

I think we should consider ourselves West Indians and be proud of this, because it stands for unity, and a culture that binds us together as a region. Especially looking back at where we came from, where we are now and what we are about to achieve in the future as a region.
Fatima Apple
Georegtown, Guyana

It means being happy go lucky, having the beach at your doorsteps or the lush mountains to explore. It's a way of life (very "soon come" ish!), it's being friendly and easily met. Being Caribbean is fantastic because within the region you have all these other cultures and languages and because we share similar experiences of history, we can relate. Pity we don't make it our duty to learn as much about our neighbouring islands as possible. I question now why in high school, I spent more time learning about the history of Europe and the USA than I did about my Caribbean neighbours!
But I have done my own history lessons, travelling the Caribbean for the last 14 years, and moving from my native Jamaica.
St George's, Grenada

To be West Indian is to be a fun, colourful and energetic person. These are the things that make us distinct from other peoples in addition we are more in touch with the earth, life and nature

To be Caribbean means being the subject of a life of struggle and turmoil. It is a life of flux and frustration where politicians steal our money and academics distort our history.
Forbes Rodney
Georgetown, Guyana

I am a Belizean, or am I a Central American? Nestled right in the middle of Spanish speaking countries, yet more closely netted to our Eastern neighbours, the rest of the Caricom nations. Is my identity definable by where I am or by who I am? Living in this part of the world is in a few words of ours, "UNBELIZEABLE". Or as the Jamaicans say, "Out of many, one people." That is what defines our identities in this part of the world. As distant as we may be from each other, put together, we are a 'jewel'. Distinct in that we can shine in
many ways, be it education, sports, or even wisdom.
Desmond Leslie
Belize City, Belize

I think that being Caribbean is an honour for me. I dont think myself as being Afro Trinibagonian. It doesnt matter to me. Its the cultural diversity that makes the Caribbean. So let's embrace our culture and remember our ancestors. And to our Caribbean people who live aboard, they should remember where they came from.
Cole Williams

I'm West-Indian. I don't consider myself Afro-Caribbean. But I understand the phrase African-American. It connects them to a part of their history and heritage that has been distorted away from them. Yes, we may have moved on from the days of slavery but respecting the past is important. "Get a life..." I always fine that statement interesting as someone who studied history for years. Dear J. Daniels of the UK, do you think the field of success and advancement is equally among the races? If you do, you should research the new face of racism. Understand and knowing where you came from is important to help you know where you're going.
Tahira Dragon
Gouyave, Grenada

Glad to be Caribbean or West Indian - you name it. But most of all, proud to be St. Lucian. Since living in the US for the past thirty years, whenever I meet people from other Caribbean islands first question they ask where are you from? My answer: the Caribbean. Then comes the next question where in the Caribbean? My answer St.Lucia. One would say I'm a Trini, Vincy, Bajan, you name it. I'm very happy to be a Caribbean woman but most of all proud to be a Lucian.
Florida, U S A

All this politically correct mumbo jumbo is pathetic!!
This is just another "chip on the shoulder" stance by "African" decendants. Why do they always refer to themselves as "African" American or "African" Caribbean? We dont refer to ourselves as "Germanic" English or "Danish" English...we are just ENGLISH.
NO apology should be made as we (today's people) are not responsibile. Move on with life and look at the better life many of the slaves decendants have gained.
Get a life and move on!!!!!!
J Daniels
Devon, UK

I don't consider myself Afro- Caribbean or anything of the sort. That's the Brits wanting to be politically correct. Yippee for you, you're English and I'm West Indian. I don't have a "chip on my shoulder" but perhaps you should look at the beam in your eye.
Charlestown, Nevis

Being a St. Lucian who has lived and worked through out the Caribbean as well as the US - our identity for me is tied to our approach to life - we live!! We get joy out of the simplicities of life - a little dominoes here - carnival there - cricket match there - we live, we laugh!
St. Lucia

I was born in lovely Guyana and being "Caribbean-like" is just being that blissful excitement and sense of joy that we Caribbean people usually portray in the world over; which I am so proud of.
T Dhanpaul
Markham, Canada

I think undoubtedly what defines being Caribbean is our approach to things, our laid back attitudes. I'm always amazed when ever I travel to North America or Europe how people there are always in a hurry to do everything, never, or seldom stopping to enjoy the simple moments.
St. Lucia

Whatever language we may speak: English, Spanish, Dutch, French, we all come from the Caribbean and are proud of what we are, despite the fact we don't share the same cultures.
French West Indies

Caribbean is an area....the question should be what is it to be West Indian? The answer - United.
Charlotte Nanton
Camberely, United Kingdom

In Canada the so called locals call us Jamaicans or Africans. I know that I am from the Caribbean not Jamaica/Africa. I am - we are Caribbean people. Yes a DOMINICAN at that.
George Connor
Winnipeg, Canada

To be Caribbean doesn't have to have a colour or even an island. As a people we have a strength but we do not use to its full potential. We will continue to rise as long as we believe and trust in ourselves, and learn from our elders and our elders learn from us also. I have felt like an outsider when I visit the Caribbean sometimes, I have also been treated differently and even ignored, yet I have chosen to holiday there. I chose to shop from the local shops and buy from local craftsman, the indifference that is shown sometimes is painful as I want to show my support for the islands no matter how long I am there, and chances are I will go again island no matter how I have been treated.
Middlesex, England

I think to be Caribbean is to think and live Caribbean. I am a St Lucian and have lived in the UK for over 20 years, but I have never lost my identity. I brought up my children in the manner I was brought up in the West Indies and adhere to culture, respect, togetherness and looking out for each other. For me this is what it means to be Caribbean, and once everybody from the Caribbean shares such values, we would have a wonderful Caribbean unity among us.
Anna Joseph

Having lived most of my 47 years in my homeland of Jamaica; and having lived for 10 in the UK and now 9 in the USA - I think the Caribbean identity is distinct in so far as our still amazing racial diversity- i.e. when other places can be said to be a " tossed salad", the Caribbean is truly a "melting pot." Further, our unique history as a colonized people has wrought in many a resilience and a "can do" spirit, paralleled in few other peoples.
We may be defined as the islanders who are lion-hearted and our women are "tallawah" to use the Jamaican term for strong and brave! We have the capacity to just take a daunting situation and make it work, often relying on small resources, wit and yes, often cunning. Whether from the fiercest to the more docile amongst us, we are a people who are ambitious far beyond our narrow parameters.
A Caribbean identity would solidify our unique identity same as any other region on the globe. However, being part of the Americas, I believe it would be a retrograde step to run the risk of imploding!
Heather McPherson
Orlando, Florida, USA

I would like to bring up the point made by A. Hinds; though I am living in and was born in England, I grew up in the island of Barbados, with parents from Barbados and Jamaica and it was not until I left home (Barbados) that I began to think about what it meant to be West Indian. To me being Caribbean does not necessarily mean that you are born on one of the islands, but that you have a shared appreciation and love for the culture, history and people. We Caribbean people have come a long way since the days of slavery and have every right to be proud of our nation. I would also like to add that we need to analyse what is going wrong within our societies which is causing this rise in crime; this is not what the Caribbean is about, our heritage and upbringing is one of respect and love for others and we need do whatever is necessary to re emphasise this as it was done in the past. Being only 18 years old, I believe that we youth are the future and need the guidance of our elders.
Thus, being Caribbean means one family, one nation, one people, togetherness, love and respect!
S Vaughan
London, England

I have read all other responses before replying to this very important question. In the end they have all changed my answer from what it originally was. And now I do not have an answer for these are all correct answers. All I know is that I can pick an English speaking Caribbean person out of a room. The West Indian in me just knows it.
Steve Mayers
Rockville, Md, USA

Well, so many views about "What does it mean to be Caribbean?" In my opinion, it is indeed a great honour to be a Caribbean national, whether you were born there or not. WE have all come a long way within this region, portraying one people, one nation and one destiny in the most utmost and inspiring way. So, we are the Caribbean, we are the West Indies.
Colin Anthony Alexander
Georgetown, Guyana

Caribbeanness is a sense of being, an inner feeling, an identity that one carries in them regardless of when they left the Caribbean, as long as they were old enough to develop an identity. It is different for each person though, depending on what island you're from, your social and racial background, etc. In general though, we all have similar feelings that bond us to a degree...Peace!
Bud Ster
Los Angeles, USA

Being from the Bahamas and being closely connected to the USA it feels like the authenticity of our "Caribbeaness" has always been questioned by other Caribbean nationalities. However despite this I find so many things amazingly similar no matter which island in the Caribbean you go to. Islands within the Bahamas have vast differences. With this in mind of course, islands within the Caribbean will have their own unique culture and economic differences. The fact that binds us together though more than ever in a shrinking world is our proximity and shared ancestral background. We must use these common traits to bind ourselves together grow stronger together and progress as one. If all the islands in the Caribbean prosper imagine how great it would be. Moving freely whether you are a Bahamian, Haitian or Jamaican as one Caribbean. Forward, Upward, Onward, Together. Long live the Bahamas and may there one be a unified Caribbean.
Nassau, Bahamas

As Black Stalin said..."one race from de same place that make the same trip on the same ship."
I agree that our shared history, be it colonialism, slavery and indentureship, should be the uniting force in the region.
We are an example of where globalization is going!
However, looking at the examples of the WI Federation and Carifta, sadly I look at Caricm and CSME with a certain amount of skepticism.
I have also noticed that many of us who are defining "Caribbeaness" reside outside of the region. Is it that the notion of "Caribbeaness" only becomes important when one leaves the region? It seems as though it is only in a foreign land that national identities are overshadowed by a larger West Indian identity.
A. Hinds
Brooklyn, NY, USA

I concur with most of the views shared on this topic. Our rich and unique heritage from the Mother Land is what distinguishes us as a Caribbean people. The sore point lies with our politicians (not states men/women). Imagine US companies are killing our banana industry yet our leaders are in bed with the US burning one of our cash crops (Marijuana)and then selling us their eye drops. Again, our leaders are hesitant in fully embracing Cuba, our neighbour. Yet we benefit tremendously from the resources and good will of that island. Perhaps the relevant calypsoes of Black Stalin, Chalkdust, Ellie Matt, Short Shirt, Gabby, etc. can be more instructive! Political fortitude can harness the UNITY which we 'speak' so much about.
Charlestown, Nevis

Yes, of course there is a Caribbean identity ! Even if my island belongs to France and Europe, we do feel in my country our Caribbeanity!
We share the same history, music, food, the same people. Even if we do not speak the same language from one island to another we transformed them in such a way, that you can say that is Caribbean.
Karim Confiant
Vauclin, Martinique

To me being Caribbean is living a stress free life where home is the centre of it all. Not having to pay a dime for a simple thing as a mango or a banana, where good morning/good night is the norm for the day. Where the cultures are cherished holidays observed. Being Caribbean is savoring the tastes of sorrel, ginger beer, black cake, johnnycakes, roti, callaloo, pigeon peas, bathing in the rivers, walking the streets without fear, knowing that the neighbouring islands share the same thought. Being caribbean is calypso, soca and carnival.
Handell Vigilant

A citizen only has the claim of island as a birth place. To be Caribbean is to embrace the rich culture, history and spirit of our ancestors. I'm proud of my heritage, the mixtures of Ameri-Indian, African, Asians, and Europeans is absolutely amazing. One People, One Nation, One CARICOM. It's the feeling, the spirit, the beauty of the islands and the warmth of the people that makes the Caribbean.
Tahira Dragon
Gouyave, Grenada

Should we be talking about permanent members of the Caribbean Community - Caricom, we are definitely referring to nations that are permanent members of the Union eg. Guyana, Trinidad and Tobago, Barbados, Jamaica to name a new.
Geographically speaking, a Caribbean national is one that lives on the coast of South America, Central America and North America (in-land countries) and the islands of the Caribbean Sea and Atlantic Ocean.
Caribbean nationals are Anglo-Saxon (English speaking) and not those that speak Latin languages since they do not share the same culture. As such they are to be Latinos rather than a Caribbean national. Eg. Mexicans are North Americans, Mexicans from the coast are Caribbean even though they speak Spanish.
Julian Murray-Carryl
Sao Paulo, Brazil

A Caribbean national is simply someone who is born in the Caribbean region. They share many similarities but also display unique differences. The same way Europeans are identified by their nationalities. A Caribbean identity is more of a cultural, social experience. In the eyes of former colonial masters they are all members of "third world" etc. But their confidence should always be expressed whether you are Creole(-speaking), French, English, Spanish etc. Sometimes all it takes is one powerful hurricane to explain Caribbean identity.
Chris Harvey
New York, USA

Out of many one people says it all.
London, UK

I think being West Indian (or Caribbean) is about a lot more than being hospitable, easy-going party animals.
I think being West Indian is about sharing a common colonial heritage with all the opportunities and problems it presents to us today. I think it's about a common party culture, and that with its many, many problems. It's about our common developmental problems. Its about our common moral values and our shared difficulty in keeping them. Its about an identity crisis, really: being stuck somewhere between strong, enduring historic colonial influences, powerful contemporary American influences, and the invaluable contributions of the individual cultures of the many races that were brought here for one reason or another. Really, I think thats what its most about: being part of a beautiful tapestry of racial heterogeneity within a culture which is surprisingly homogeneous despite these racial differences. These, I think, are the Caribbeans identity.
Dauphine, St. Vincent and the Grenadines

In the Caribbean we share a common history, overlapping cultures, and a common goal for the future. We however, have to get over our obsession with out petty differences and jealousies to really become a cohesive society. But I believe this can be achieved through the CSME.
Dayton, Ohio, USA

The foolish leaders of the Caribbean are responsible for the economic disasters they face. Taxes, taxes and more taxes seem to be their motto of governing their countries. Take a look at the airfares to the poor countries of the region. When will they come together, stick together and build their countries?
Cedric Johnson
Tampa, Florida

You or a Family member was born in a Country surrounded by the Caribbean sea, That is the "Caribbean's Identity". We are all Caribbean People , we are nationals of the country of our birth. I am Dominican by birth but a Caribbean person, who lives and works in the UK. My Children see themselves as a Caribbean , born in England, so they are British nationals.
To me what symbolizes or captures what the Caribbean stand for is the beautiful, blue Caribbean Sea"
Mary Joseph
Harrow Weald, UK

I think I would agree with PM Skerrit. Travelling through the Caribbean I sometimes realise I get better treatment in Europe or foreign countries that what is dealt out by the immigration officers from my fellow Caribbean people.
Being Caribbean is being part of the West Indies Cricket team. Even if your island is not represented on the team you wave your flag as they represent us all. Caribbean is University of the West Indies (UWI) - the best integration experiment where we learn each others slang and dialects, marry someone from a neighbouring country and we mix up even more than we already are. Knowing how to work hard and knowing just how to kick back and relax and have a really great clean party listening to a not-too-clean Mighty Sparrow.
But being Caribbean is most importantly having the strength and resilience to be grateful for life and appreciate what we have, who we are as a people and how far we have progressed. But sad enough, that ability is never fully developed until we are away from it, as I am now.
Ikuta, Japan

The Caribbean identity lies with its indigenous people who once roamed freely from island to island. Mr Skerrit is correct, easier movement between islands needs to be facilitated. The islands share more in common than they share differences. Take it from a Trinbagonian- Dominican dougla mix with both Grenadian Bajan roots, married to a Dominican. Where should I live?
Roseau, Dominica

Until we Caribbean people wake up and realise we are the same people with the same problems and that most of our background is the same history. Things will never improve. Politicians have - and always be the stumbling block to Caribbean unity.
Tony Carr
Silver Spring,MD, USA

With all due respect for the Acting High Commissioner, this might be a description of a CARICOM identity. The Caribbean that encompasses Mexico, all of Central America, Colombia and Venezuela as well as the French and Dutch speaking countries can hardly be described as being of "the same ethnic group". Although we do share a wealth of historical baggage and needs, based upon our realities as countries living on and from a semi enclosed sea.
Luis Carpio
Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago

Ambassador Adonis is definitely on to something; being patriotic is one thing, but being West Indian in a Global sense makes for a distinct flavour, culture, and identity. This will help to create a segment of a global community joined together fighting for equality and or recognition. This gives us as West Indian a larger cohesive community association with difference that is minimal to our unique, oneness and sense of pride. In some community where we are out numbered as an individual country our West Indian pride will suffice.
Victor Rajcoomar
Georgetown, Guyana