Emancipation Day

Trip Start Oct 30, 2010
Trip End Aug 27, 2011

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Flag of Guyana  ,
Friday, August 3, 2012

This past Wednesday (August 1st) was Emancipation Day in Guyana.Given that I haven't posted about such topics, nor updated my blog much more generally, it is probably obvious that I haven't done much traveling throughout Guyana, or even spent much time engaging in cultural activities. This is on account of two things: lack of time and lack of money (the interior of Guyana is extremely remote and the cost of transport is very high). Since I am nearing the end of my stay here, my interviews are winding down a little (although next week, my last full week here is definitely going to be a little hectic trying to wrap things up) I made sure to make time to go out to the National Park for the Emancipation Day Celebrations, and even made plans to go to Kaiteur Falls this weekend, but unfortunately they fell through, so here I am writing to you.  Anyway, It was really, really nice to get out and do something that wasn't work related, and to learn a little bit more about African culture and history. Perhaps my favorite part of the day of all however, was seeing the beautifully colored African print wrappers and dashikis worn by many of the visitors at the event.
One thing that became very obvious to me almost immediately, however, was that this was an African holiday, not a Guyanese holiday given that the event was attended by truly an extremely small minority of individuals of non-African descent (and as you will remember Guyana is a plural society comprised of six peoples, here listed in order of highest proportion of the population, to the lowest: Indo-Guyanese, Afro-Guyanese, Amerindians, Portuguese, Chinese and white Europeans).  This in fact, is perhaps at best a benign but visible marker of why many Guyanese feel that there is nothing to celebrate on 'Emancipation' day, as the country's people are still in social and economic bondage, and are not emancipated from inequality, poverty, or racism. Guyana's motto is: "One People, One Nation, One Destiny" which could not be more of a contradiction at this moment, especially given the recent murder of 3 protestors from Linden (a predominantly Afro-Guyanese community), where they were shot and killed by the police after refusing to disband from a bridge which they and hundreds of other Lindeners were blocking in protest over the hike in electricity bills (an increase which this poor mining community cannot afford to pay). Some argue that the killings would not have happened in an Indo-Guyanese town (politics in Guyana are racially polarized and the current government, the PPP, support the interests of the Indo-Guyanese majority [and saying this doesn't have to be a political statement, it is fact given that voting tends to be race-based rather than platform based and the PPP is informally known as the Indo-Guyanese party], -this is another very long story for another time), but irrespective of whether or not this is true, a country cannot move forward towards a unified destiny, when basic human rights are being undermined in such a brutal way (and I don't just speak of the murders, but the whole economic situation in this community which lead Lindeners to these protests in the first place). 

Since the shootings, numerous communities have been organizing pickets and protests in solidarity with the Lindeners which Red Thread has been heavily involved in, and for a brief description of the events you can see the link: here. Furthermore, Emancipation Day was the day these now martyred victims were  buried, thus recent events made the experience in the National park bittersweet for many.

Anyway, since pictures (especially in relation to cultural activities) tend to truly be worth a thousand words, am including a few photos courtesy of the talented Pere DeRoy of some of the more positive aspects of the day. And while we are on the topic of Afro-Guyanese traditions, please see the next post for a recipe for Provisions... a favorite African inspired Guyanese breakfast (or quoting Ian "whenever it's ready" dish). Can't wait to make it for the fam at home with some baccon and eggs. ~M
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