Despite this, the feeding of US TV through the cables and satellite receivers is affecting the culture – the kids see more of the TV than they do of their parents, it is their nannies and tell them their ways, instead of the stories and weekends helping mum prepare provisions in the kitchen or help dad to fish, mend the boat, grow the back garden crops. They want to play basketball not cricket, they want big flashy cars, they want to wear the clothes of Harlem and the Bronx, heavy set clothes (skull caps, winter jackets, underwear hanging out of their baggy heavy jeans) for temperate latitudes, not tropical heat.
In a way, this looking to the States for the lead highlights the dichotomy that exists in the Caribbean Islands today; the split opinion of how the islands should respond to their vulnerability and uncertainty. As is often the case, it is the older generation who have tried to hold on to the past, making everything temporary so if it does get destroyed you have not lost too much. This is evident in the Chattel houses that are dotted over the islands.
Small, squat and usually made of wood, these houses sit on blocks above the ground to let the air through and the creepy crawlies out, but if you wanted to move, or more likely forced to move due to lack of tenure, you put it in with your other chattels and carried it off to the new location. The variety of styles is amazing, as Robert Potter brought out in his book on low-income housing. Sometimes very simple, sometimes little ornamental touches are put on (such as the gingerbread style), little flourishes on gables and roof tops give distinctiveness and variety. But although a house may sit in the same position for a lifetime, they all have the option of being moved, or rebuilt quickly if something drops off. The beach bars are of a similar ilk. Built from bric-a-brac, waste from the land and flotsam and jetsam washed ashore, if the next hurricane blows it down, you just go and pick up the pieces from the beach and fill in the gaps with whatever else blew up that day. The same with crops, don’t plant too many, have two or three plots, and try and spread the number of types you plant, if the gourds are bad, the plantain may be OK. If you lose your backyard crops, you still have your mountain garden to feed you.