They are us, we are them
Historically, Bermudians are of differing ethnic backgrounds inclusive of the Americas, the Azores, Europe and the Caribbean. Persons generally gravitate to the culture in which they were raised. This is simply a part of human nature; nothing more, nothing less.
Devonshire has quite a number of neighbourhoods of mixed ethnicities. It has never been uncommon to have those of diverse heritage attend school together and/or still live next door to each other.
So, today, I would like to take a moment to discuss a topic that many of my friends and neighbours of varying ethnicities have been asking over the past few weeks.
In early November, the Government of Bermuda announced plans to begin public discussion about strengthening ties with our regional neighbours in the Caribbean via Caricom. Within 24 hours of this announcement, some in the local media began to paint this proposal for public discussion in a negative light.
Subsequently, members of the Opposition and many of their followers have taken to online forums to launch a near-daily organised campaign of not only denigrating the mere prospect of public discussions, but also going out of their way to paint all the people of the Caribbean as impoverished migrants and corrupt governments.
Unfortunately, for Bermuda, this is not new. For centuries, there has been an ongoing narrative of telling Bermudians that they should have nothing to do with the Caribbean. What the powers that be purposely left out of Bermudian history lessons is that, since the 1600s, a significant proportion of Bermudians of all complexion originated from the West Indies/Caribbean region.
Here are the words of Cyril Outerbridge Packwood, one of Bermuda’s most recognised authors and historians.
“Many of those slaves were born in the New World and the Indians were the Indigenous people from the Caribbean Islands and America. Only a few ships carrying slaves arrived in Bermuda directly from Africa.”
“The first African-Bermudian arrived from the West Indies in 1616 and that ethnic population had grown to 4,103 (not including several hundred free African-Bermudians) at emancipation on August 1, 1834.”
This would account for many Bermudians having biological ties to persons in islands such as St Kitts & Nevis and Saba. Some of the common surnames of those islands are Adams, Byron, Christopher, Hodgson, Hassell, Johnson, Thompson.
Our ties to the region go both ways, as Bermudians populated other islands as well.
In the 1700s, in order to build and maintain the salt industry, enslaved Bermudians were taken to the islands of the Bahamas and Turks & Caicos. There they remained, and now their descendants populate those islands. This is why many speak with our distinct accents, carry the same DNA and have surnames such as Astwood, Bean, Butterfield, Durham, Frith and Talbot.
Anything sound familiar?
Facts not fiction
It is one thing to voice differing opinions. That is how healthy dialogue takes place between both persons and parties. It is quite another for some to wilfully make up false claims and then go on to denigrate an entire diverse region of 40 million persons.
In next week’s column we will address much of the misinformation that has been put out in the media over the past month. Additionally, we will discuss some of the proven advantages of close working relationships with our regional neighbours.
The reality is Bermuda is historically linked to the Azores, the Americas, Britain and, yes, the Caribbean.
They are us, we are them.
• Christopher Famous is the government MP for Devonshire East (Constituency 11). You can reach him on WhatsApp at 599-0901 or e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org