Bridget Brereton

At the end of last month, I was lucky to attend the 51st annual conference of the Association of Caribbean Historians (ACH) in Curacao. The ACH was formally established in 1974, but the annual meetings—out of which the ACH emerged—began in Guadeloupe in 1969. They’ve been held every year without a break since then.

ACH members are people who research and write about the history of the Caribbean, ranging from graduate students to senior, established historians; they include archivists, librarians, heritage experts and secondary school teachers. They live and work in the Caribbean, North America, Europe and further afield, and they write (and teach) in English, French, Spanish and Dutch. It’s one of the many regional non-governmental organisations which continue to thrive whatever the situation with Caricom might be.

The annual conferences are held all over the Caribbean, organised locally by a university in the host country. This one marked the third time the ACH has met in Curacao. The sessions were held on the impressive campus of the University of Curacao, which is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year. Curacao is one of the countries previously colonised by the Dutch, so there was a strong attendance by historians from Suriname and Aruba (also former Dutch colonies), as well as from Curacao itself and The Netherlands.

At every conference, the programme includes sessions devoted to the history of the host country. This year, Curacao was marking the 50th anniversary of what they call “Trinta di Mei”—May 30th, in Papiamento, the Creole language spoken there. On May 30, 1969, there was a major uprising, rather similar to the 1970 Black Power disturbances here. It expressed the many grievances of working-class islanders, most of whom were/are black; it combined issues related to labour and to race discrimination. Trinta di Mei, much like 1970 here, was a catalyst for the development of Curacao as a more just society.

This major uprising, which resulted in the destruction by fire of many buildings on the waterfront of Willemstad, the island’s capital, and some loss of life, was examined at the conference through different approaches. First, a young theatre director and dramatist discussed her theatre production, “Trinta di Mei: Riot or Revolution?”, giving the perspective of a creative writer and performer.

Second, a roundtable of five persons who had participated in, or witnessed, the uprising told their stories, speaking in Papiamento (there was simultaneous translation into English). This was oral history, using the spoken memories of living participants in a historical event. They told their stories vividly and honestly, reflecting the anger, passion and fear they had felt, as young men and women (one still at school) caught up in a dramatic and violent event.

Third, a formal panel session was devoted to research by historians and other scholars on Trinta di Mei. These presentations dealt with the political impact of the uprising on Aruba—it helped to bring about Aruba’s separation from the Netherlands Antilles which had grouped together the six Dutch islands—with women’s role in the revolt (two of the roundtable were women), and with the actions and reactions of students from the Caribbean in Holland at the time.

It was fascinating to examine a formative event in the history of a neighbouring island from these three perspectives. At every ACH conference, participants learn about the history of the host country, as well as hearing presentations of new research on the region’s past more generally.

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The 2020 conference will be in Guadeloupe, and is sure to be attended by many French-speaking historians. And the in-coming ACH president is a Trinidadian historian, my UWI colleague Dr Heather Cateau.

— Bridget Brereton is Professor Emerita of History at The UWI,

St Augustine


In spite of the fact that I am very disappointed that Ivor Archie continues to preside as Chief Justice of Trinidad and Tobago with very serious and scandalous allegations of misconduct still hanging over his head, I have reluctantly accepted a formal invitation by his protocol office to attend the ceremonial opening of the 2019-2020 law term in order to hear what the learned Chief Justice will tell citizens regarding his unprecedentedly stormy stewardship of the Judiciary for the past year(s).

DR Linda Baboolal was an acknowledged lady of firsts. A general medical practitioner who studied at the University of Manitoba in Canada, and then at the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons in Dublin, Ireland, she returned home and became a dedicated medical practitioner.

The sudden outrage against unnecessarily loud noise is most welcome now, especially as it applies to offensive fireworks. For decades I have had to cuddle and pacify my frightened, whimpering dogs affected every year by the loud noises of fireworks on Independence night in the Queen’s Park Savannah and on Old Year’s night as well.

On behalf of the Dr Eric Williams Memorial Committee and on my own behalf I wish to extend my deep and profound sympathy on the passing of a great, humble, honourable and distinguished lady, Dr Linda Baboolal, who passed two days ago.

The Caribbean Partners’ Forum, convened jointly by the government of Jamaica and the United Nations, and which was held in Kingston on September 11, created a space for regional stakeholders to consider new solutions to the dreadful threat posed by climate change.

How much kale do you need to eat to reap the benefits of this trendy superfood? How much quinoa? Yoghurt? How many almonds should you chomp? How many pumpkin, chia and flax seeds?