By Kathy Badenock
It is a truth universally established that all Vincentians travelling overseas are able to adopt the accent of his destination just by boarding the plane. This fact is often met with equal parts hilarity and disgust at the cultural fluidity. Persons against this practice argue that is points to a lack of national identity.
After all, Jamaicans and Trinidadian accents appear to be genetic, passing fluidly from grandparents to grandchildren regardless of how far afield they travel or how long they have been there. This national identity seems to have skipped Vincentians much like any knowledge of their rich past.
However, I dare to propose an alternate theory. Paramount chief Joseph Chatoyer, and his brother Duvalle, were both renowned strategists and linguists. Chatoyer was fluent in English, French, Garifuna and knew some Spanish. They were self-taught and their proximity to the language awoke inherent affinity for languages. It is true that accents and fluency are separate constructs.
However, could it be that we as a Vincentian nation have retained our ancestral and, are I say, genetic affinity for linguistic appropriation? Hear me out. A chameleon changes its colours based on its environment. It does this in order to blend in. This mechanism is one for survival. Can it be that Vincentians are the chameleons of the Caribbean? Can it be that our national identity is our ability to adapt in order to ensure our survival?
Please do not misunderstand. While one can adopt to adapt, it does not change the fundamental nature of the individual. Callaloo soup is made with many ingredients. These all combine to add a rich flavour to the soup but that does not change the base of the soup — callaloo.
Teaching national history, taking pride in our cultural, art, artifacts, dances and food, will assist us as a nation in understanding what makes us who we are. That is the only way that we can embrace our nuances and stand with pride alongside other cultural giants as chameleons in the zoo that is this world.
The views expressed herein are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the opinions or editorial position of iWitness News. Opinion pieces can be submitted to [email protected].