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I am frequently asked this question, which used to annoy me because I’ve lived in America for twenty years. Even though I’m an American citizen, I’m still considered “different.”

“People do not buy goods & services. They buy relations, stories & magic.”

There are two sides to Trinidad. Please allow me to give you a glimpse into my positive memories.

I grew up in St Augustine. I was born in St Joseph just a few minutes away. Within fifteen minutes of St Augustine, I attended kindergarten, primary school, high school, and university. The first 25 years of my life were lived in this box.


Which brings me to the point of this post — Carnival.

Carnival has returned to the islands after a two-year pandemic hiatus and I am sadly missing all of it as I write this post.

Carnival is a time for celebration, the Soca blasting and people from all walks of life join together in dance.

Carnival in Trinidad & Tobago originated in the late-eighteenth century and was born out of resistance.


After the Spanish Cedula of Population 1783, French planters, slaves, and freed people of color immigrated to Trinidad.

A masquerade ball was held annually by French settlers and freed people of color shortly after immigration.

Carnival was enacted by slaves who were excluded from the masquerades in the slave quarters where they were allowed a modicum of freedom.

Since their merriments coincided with the period for burning sugar cane, this became known as Canboulay.

Despite the dancing and singing, ‘Canboulay’ is significant for mocking oppressors.

For slaves, these subtle forms of mockery gradually transcended a spirit of union and resistance.

It was held right before Lent, when one abstains from festivities and alcohol.

As a result, Carnival served as a way of making up for austerity by allowing individuals to express themselves freely.

Calypso music was used not only to mock the slave masters but as a way to covertly communicate between the slaves.

At some point, you’ll google “Trinidad & Tobago Carnival” and if you do, make sure the kids aren’t around. The culture shock can be overwhelming.

People I know have never been the same after experimenting with Carnival. In a good way of course.

We are a pelau of people. In pelau, we combine meat, rice, peas, carrots, coconut milk, & spicy pepper in a pot with the other ingredients. The right balance achieved like my Spicy Leadership.

The traditions of our ancestors came from all over, mixing up pain and joy.

We eat loud. We love loud. We “fight” loud.

The memory of my grandmother holding my hand and walking us to the street corner to watch the parade of the bands will always be one of my fondest Carnival memories.

I watched in awe as free people celebrated their freedom.

It’s a different kind of freedom, though.

In order to be US, we must be free from judgement and all the other external influences that keep us from becoming who we are.

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