The film captures the stories and customs of English-speaking West Indians, mostly Barbadians and Jamaicans, and their descendants who immigrated to Cuba decades earlier.
It features interviews with migrants living in Cuba who tell of their ancestry, culture and for some, their longing to one day go back to their homelands. There were scenes that showed the cultural heritage through instruments, song and dance.
Although the film was produced in 1996 and some of the footage is dated, it was the perfect time to view it given its direct link to the We Gatherin’ 2020 celebrations.
Cuban Ambassador to Cuba Sergio de Jesus Jorge Pastrana, Barbados Ambassador to CARICOM David Comissiong, The Most Honourable Dr Anthony Gabby Carter, Sir Trevor Carmichael and director of the film Maria Rolando were all present for the viewing.
Co-founder of the Film Festival Sir Trevor presented Rolando with a Lifetime Achievement Award.
At the end of the film, a panel moderated by Sir Trevor which was made up of Dr Rosa Ana Herrero-Martin, Dr Yanique Hume, Ambassador Pastrana and Andrew Millington shared their views on the film and its impact. All contributors praised the filmmaker Rolando and spoke about the significance of having a film that tells ancestral stories.
When they opened the floor to the audience, Cultural Ambassador Gabby shared his first experience when he visited Cuba and admitted he now frequents the country. He recalled being on the bus from the airport and the first person he encountered was a Bajan working and living in Cuba.
“She boarded the bus, and she enquired: ‘This is the bus the Bajans pon?’ I looked around, and I said: ‘Yes’. She said: ‘Dem got any Leacocks pon this bus?’ I said: ‘Yes, Carolyn, she is in the back.’ She said: ‘Lemme go down there and see if she family to me.’ So she went down and said: ‘No, she ain’t family to we… we family from Charnocks. I said to her: ‘How long have you been here?’ She said: ‘I have been here my whole life.’ I asked her when she going back she said: ‘Going back where? I have never seen Barbados in my life. I am a Cuban. I am from Baragua…’
Ambassador Comissiong said such films were important to our cultural landscape and has a place in our history and story-telling. He explained that the migrants played a critical role in the economic development of Barbados.
“It is important to capture the role these migrants played in trying to loosen the bonds of oppression back home. It was those remittances that were sent back that allowed the Barbadians who remained at home to be able to buy some land, to be able to establish small businesses and bring down the power of the merchant class.”
But the most telling contribution came from a man who declared he was a Bajan-Cuban. He admitted that the film had a dear place in his heart as he knows there are many other Cubans of Bajan heritage who can also benefit from viewing the film. He praised Government’s move to acknowledge the grandchildren of migrants by granting them citizenship.
He urged Government and other entities to do more to strengthen the links between the two countries. (IMC)