Turks and Caicos Islands Feature
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All in the Family
Belongers, as local islanders are sometimes known, from the taxi driver meeting you to the chef feeding you, are often connected. "Oh, him?" you will hear. "He my cousin!" Development has been slow here, and as a result such family connections, as well as crafts, bush medicine, ripsaw music, storytelling, and even recipes, have remained constant. But where do such traditions come from? Recently, researchers came closer to finding out. Many Belongers had claimed that their great-great-grandparents told them their forebears came directly from Africa. For decades their stories were ignored. Indeed, most experts believed that Belongers were descendants of mostly second-generation Bermudian and Caribbean slaves.
In 2005, museum researchers continued their search for a lost slave ship called Trouvadore. The ship, which wrecked off East Caicos in 1841, carried a cargo of 193 Africans, captured to be sold into slavery, almost all of whom miraculously survived the wreck. As slavery had been abolished in this British territory at the time, all the Africans were found and freed in the Turks and Caicos Islands. Since there were only a few thousand inhabitants in the islands at the time, these first-generation African survivors were a significant minority (about 7% of the population then). Researchers have concluded that all the existing Belongers may be linked by blood or marriage to this one incident.
During one expedition, divers found a wrecked ship of the right time period. If these remains are Trouvadore, the Belongers may finally have a physical link to their past to go with their more intangible cultural traditions. So while you're in the islands, look closely at the intricately woven baskets, and listen carefully to the African rhythms in the ripsaw music and the stories you hear. They may very well be the legacy of Trouvadore speaking to you from the past. For more information, check out the website www.trouvadore.org.
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