Connecting the Dots   2 comments

Recently I visited another of Colombia’s beaches, at the Prado Mar Hotel, just outside of Barranquilla. It is not a large beach, let’s say by American standards, but it is nice with well appreciated breezes, Miami like salas close to the water, a beautiful view, music to make you dance and the hotel serving whatever you wanted to drink or eat. What is different about Colombian beaches, at least to me, are the numbers of people walking around selling stuff. From jewelry to sunglasses to ceviche these entrepreneurs are constantly offering you something. At the Prado Mar they were not overly aggressive, as I have experienced at some beaches here. If you ignored them they soon went away. One of them, a dark woman, whose age it was hard to tell, asked me if I wanted a massage. I politely said no and continued talking with my friends. She then pointed to her skin saying that we were the same color. The message was therefore I should buy a massage from her because we are the same color. She has beautiful dark chocolate skin. A color I would have been teased, even more than I was, for back in the mid 1960’s at DuPont High School. In my mind, I was saying this is great marketing. Appeal to my sense of our common struggle.

I also thought of my recent visit to the Museo del Caribe, a place I loved for the way it wove the area’s history around cultural stories about where people came from and how they contributed to the development of this part of the world. What struck me most about the museum was the way they depicted slavery and the slave trade. There were no stories of black folk who were always trying to escape hard work to go dance, laugh and sing. There was a telling of the spirit of survival and rebellion. It is for this reason that for a minute the museum made me sad. There was no memorization of who freed the slaves. This was a museum that told stories of the people, their maintenance of culture, their heritage and their spiritual connections, despite the realities of slavery and the slave trade.

One of the messages delivered by the museum is how the confluence of Caribbean, European, African and Indigenous cultures has strengthened the region’s identity. Wow was this refreshing. The museum is alive, it is interactive and it is high tech. It is not a collection of objects. It is a museum of living culture brought alive by the stories of the land, the life that lives here and the cultures that thrived despite the conditions of their arrival. There is a celebration of the things that I was taught to undervalue.

I remembered seeing a movie at the museum showing scenes from one of the Carnavales de Barranquilla. People dressed like clowns in black face, afro wigs, big red painted lips and huge bugging out white eyes were dancing in the street. Remembering the degrading depictions of Black people, my heart was offended. So I asked, what is up with this. I was told that this was a way of saying look, oppressors and conquistadors; this is what you thought of us. Look at us now. We are here. We have survived. We have lived and are doing well.

The museum promises to strengthen visitor’s “sense of belonging, esteem and appreciation of heritage, a place of inspiration and reflection, education and celebration.” For me it did that and more. It made my heart appreciate a reality that I did not grow up with. It lifted my spirits. And though I acknowledged that the woman trying to sell me a massage was my sister by blood, her marketing strategy did not make me buy the massage.

Posted May 9, 2011 by Wayne in Uncategorized

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2 responses to “Connecting the Dots

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  1. Hey Wayne,
    Wow! What a different perspective on slave trade taken by the museum and the people. Sounds like u are really absorbing yourself in the culture much to your reward. I’ll keep reading, you continue to write.

    Love u,

  2. I’m following even while I’m in Dublin

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