While Independence for Barbados usually focuses on things and people “authentically” Barbadian, there is a space for the celebration of naturalized citizens as well.
There are many people who have come to our shores and lived here for so long that the feelings of Independence burn within them as if they were born at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital or at Bayview Hospital.
As migrants across the world are confronted by hostile governments threatening to build barricades to prevent them from moving in, Barbados has continued to champion the cause of integration.
Consequently, the little island has given birth to a group of people who have claimed these fields and hills as their very own.
Barbados TODAY caught up with some of them pursuing honest work in the fields of Fisher Pond Plantation in St Thomas. At the time, they were sifting through acres of potatoes which will go into the sweet potato pie and pudding for hundreds of families during this Independence weekend.
While they reminded us that the vocation or pastime of farming in Barbados is not dead, they did indicate that it is dying.
The mere demographic of the farmers indicated that the occupation is one which has failed to replenish itself with a much-needed dose of youth.
Nevertheless, 20-year-old Justin Maughn, stepson of Guyanese-born Junita Reman, is part of the handful of Barbadians who continue to breathe life into the dying profession.
“Not enough young people are in agriculture. This is something that could make a lot of money for you. You can see your money at the end of the day. When you are doing work for other people, you have to take the scraps they give you, but here you don’t have to live like that,” said Maughn, who has only been in agriculture for the last six months.
Justin was introduced to farming by his stepmother who came to Barbados from Guyana over a decade ago. Reman, a vendor, said she had been picking her own potatoes for more than ten years.
“It’s fun, I enjoy it. Farming is fun, but I would encourage more young people to get into it. It is wonderful. Plant your own food and reap your own food instead of importing . . . . It’s better for you and healthier. We don’t need a lot of chemicals in our food,” she said.
Reman has been living in Barbados for the past 17 years and is now a citizen. She says the journey is one she does not regret.
“I love living here. Even when I go back to my own country, I don’t even spend a month. It’s just two weeks [in Guyana] and I’m back,” she said with a laugh. “Barbados is a very great place. It all depends on how you live. In every country you will find the good and the bad, but I have found wonderful people. My fiancée is Bajan, my children are Bajan, so it is great.”
The story of Marilyn Ambrose, who was born in St Lucia but has been living in Barbados for the past 42 years, is similar. She has been living here for so long that she shares in the country’s patriotic spirit.
“Independence here means a lot because I left St Lucia when I was six, but I love it here. That is why I took the citizenship. No matter what they say, I love it. I love my country too, but I love it here.”
Amid the country’s current economic challenges, Ambrose is confident Barbados will rise again.
“In time to come it will improve. We only have to take our time and trust in the Lord. I may not live to see it, but my grandchildren will live to see it. We should give the current ministers a chance and I believe it will improve.”
While they have tapped into Barbados’ economy and society for their own wellbeing, a long-time farmer believes that with the country’s multimillion-dollar food bill steadily increasing, it’s time for Barbadians to tap into other markets as well.
In fact, he has backed up his words by action. He has been plying his trade in the vast and fertile lands of Guyana.
“I never left agriculture. I had it in my bones. I went to Guyana and I produced cauliflower, black eyes and red eyes [peas] and someone saw what I was doing and took me to the Ministry of Housing And Lands to get five acres of land.”
For him, Independence means freedom to pursue his livelihood wherever he chooses.
“It is the opportunity, first of all, to come home without the stress of people pushing you around, and you could go into a field like this and have no one pushing you around. You could go into a field like this and have food. That is Independence,” he said.
It is quite fitting, therefore, that his Independence wish is related to agriculture.
“I would like to see that a lot of the land left vacant be put into agriculture. Give them and lease them to farmers so that they can plant, because if we don’t plant, we will perish,” he warned.