Tales from Trinidad
I`m writing from a cybercafé in Trinidad, where The
Boss, the Young Whipper-Snapper, and yours truly have
now been for two weeks for my Indo-Trinidadian
father-in-law`s funeral, and in the apparently futile
attempt to get his affairs in order.
At 84, Pa left behind six daughters whose love for each
other, it has become apparent, does not have quite the
intensity they had long professed—especially once a
couple of them started calculating, a few years ago, how
much his estate was worth.
Of late, some of my sisters-in-law have loudly declared
that they have nothing to do with
(the British West Indian equivalent of
while running around, secretly spending
on Obeah priests in a sort of black magic arms race, and
on their persons. Last night, I declared,
"I went to my
Obeah man, and he made a circle around [my wife],
[my sister-in-law from New York],
[my son], and me."
sister-in-law and her daughter-in-law both laughed,
taking the joke as an attempt at breaking the tension.
But, while they couldn`t admit it, they also felt the
cut I intended, and without which the joke wouldn`t be
On the plane coming over, I somehow landed in First
Class, separated from my wife, sister-in-law, and son.
The man next to me was a
who was rushing back to bury his father, who had died at
92 a couple of days earlier from a massive coronary. The
Indian said that his father, like my father-in-law, had
to the end been in complete possession of his faculties.
Due to the Christmas crush, the Indian had had to pay
over $1,300, and fly first-class, or not at all; his kid
brother was riding in economy with my guys. I`d had to
pay almost $900 for my
seat, and deal with the additional inconvenience of our
flying out of
My neighbor proudly informed me that he was the father
of "a king`s
flush" of two sons, followed by two daughters.
With two exceptions, our conversation was quite
pleasant. And yet, when we landed at Port of Spain`s
he got up and left, in sullen silence, which led me to
re-evaluate the conversation. (I will beat my black
supremacist and white leftist readers to the punch here:
Obviously, it was my fault for ticking him off, through
some sort of racism.)
Having overbooked the plane, Continental offered five
passengers $500 each, a hotel room overnight, and a
place on the flight leaving in 24 hours, if they would
give up their seat, on the condition that they then fly
First class (so it wasn`t clear if the first-class seat
would eat up the $500 bonus). I remarked to my neighbor
that I couldn`t imagine how it could pay for Continental
to give a passenger $500 and a hotel room to give up his
seat. "They`re in
cahoots with each other!" he said of the airline and
I said, slapping my head,"
so the hotel is kicking back money to the airline!"
This was obvious to my neighbor, who added,
I retorted, "As
opposed to Trinis
bringing over their culture of bribery!"
Trinidadian culture, like virtually all Caribbean,
Central American, and Mexican culture, is corrupt to the
When my wife and I closed on our home in 2004, she
thought that it would only be natural to pass the union
lawyer who handled it a bribe of $200 or $300.
Two years ago, the kid brother of an Indian family
friend came to Trinidad from
with his teenaged daughter on vacation. After letting
his older brother wine and dine him for days, Kid
Brother came back and smashed in a pane of door glass,
forced his way in, and told Big Brother that the
property was his, and that Big Brother would have to
leave. The police then showed up, and arrested Big
Brother on a phony charge of having raped his niece.
Kid Brother had bribed a policeman he knew, to get Big
Brother arrested, and meanwhile had either bribed or
state power agency
into turning off his brother`s electricity. Fortunately,
while Big Brother was briefly in jail, neighbors helped
out his loved ones by temporarily storing his freezer
full of wild meats in their freezers.
Big Brother only got out of jail and escaped
prosecution, because he—a somewhat well-to-do
businessman—has his own (no doubt, expensive) friends in
the Police Service. I feasted with Big Brother at the
house last Thursday. As Kid Brother found himself unable
to steal the house in Round One, in the spring they will
square off in court.
When I asked my neighbor on the plane how long he had
been in America, he responded,
He`d been here for 25 years, working as a plumber. He
had initially lived in
but has for the past 14 years lived in New Jersey, and
commuted to Manhattan to work for a big plumber.
Weekends, he does private jobs. In classic West Indian
style he remarked,
"You gotta have
to make it."
If the man had been living here for 25 years, he had to
be an American citizen, but clearly he feels no
loyalty to America.
I mentioned that my father-in-law always spoke
Trinidad`s first (black) Prime Minister, Dr. Williams.
The man interrupted to
(In 1956, Williams founded the black party that has
ruled the Republic of Trinidad & Tobago for most of its
48 years of independent existence, the
People`s National Movement-PNM,
even though Indians enjoy a
slight plurality over blacks.
The Indian party, the
United National Congress-UNC,
was only founded in 1989.)
Ignoring his boorish interruption I continued,
father-in-law, may he rest in peace, said that when Dr.
Williams became president, he
tore up the railroad tracks,
declaring, `Master gone!`"
(This is a widespread belief among Indo-Trinidadians.
The official reason for closings was economic.)
"That`s a lot of crap!"
my neighbor railed.
(who was actually of mixed race, but who hated whites,
and wasn`t terribly fond of Indians, either) had torn up
the railroad tracks that the British had built—it could
be argued that railroads were
greatest gift to the
riding without paying.
My wife laughed when I told her the man`s story. She
an Indian criticizes a white, that`s a PNM man."
Trinidad Indians are generally not hostile towards
whites. Indeed, Indians have a
in Trinidad to
whites in America
and are well aware of it: To produce all of the wealth,
to have to support not only themselves but the blacks
whose numbers almost match their own, and to function as
Whatever the reason, Trinidad`s railroads were never
rebuilt. The tiny, pothole-filled roads are terribly
clogged, what with 1.3 million people today virtually
entirely dependent on their
own cars, "MaxiTaxis"
holding up to perhaps 13 passengers), and private
automobile drivers who are licensed as taxi drivers.
A couple of years ago, PM Patrick Manning`s PNM
government reintroduced buses after years without them,
but they are scheduled hours apart, and on top of that,
are unreliable. About a week ago in San Fernando, TT`s
second-largest city, we had to stand for over an hour on
the 4:30 p.m. bus to my wife`s hometown in the South,
because the 2 p.m. bus had never shown up, and some
aggressive young blacks cut the line.
My neighbor also told me proudly that he would be
retiring in two years, and had his retirement property
and retirement home already built—in St. Vincent`s.
According to the CIA`s World Factbook,
St. Vincent`s is 66 percent black, 19 percent mixed,
four percent white ("European"),
two percent Carib Amerindian, three percent
"other," and only six percent East Indian.
Why would an Indian want to live on a black-dominated
island with almost no Indians? The Boss and I concluded
that the man must be married to a black woman. And yet,
that still doesn`t explain his hatred of whites, and
apparent hatred of his own race as well.
Perhaps some human traits are not subject to rational
scrutiny. At least it shows that self-hatred isn`t
restricted to whites.
Nicholas Stix [email
him] lives in New York City, which he
views from the perspective of its public
transport system, experienced in his
career as an educator. His weekly column
Men`s News Daily
and many other Web sites. He has also
written for Middle American News, the