Trinidad: The America of The Caribbean
Ramin Ganeshram 04.20.09, 11:50 AM ET
Reprinted from www.forbes.com
PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad -- When I was a child visiting my father's
country of Trinidad, where progress, it was often said, was roughly
about 20 years behind the States, I could see this was true. By 1980,
we had two color television sets in our home in New York, but the small
12-inch black and white TV my father brought to his family in Chaguanas
was the only one on the block.
The cases upon cases of beer and soda he bought to stock the kitchen
when we visited were a wonder of excess to the neighbors, and our
American clothes and shoes were a source of endless fascination to the
local kids. Except for Coca Cola, Pepsi and some Nestle products, there
were few American conveniences to be had at the local supermarket,
which was little more than what would be called
a corner shop in New York.
By the 1990s, progress had leaped to being just 10 years behind the
States. My father's village had become a bustling metropolitan area in
its own right. American jeans, T-shirts and sneakers jammed shops vying
for space with locally made Panama suits and East Indian clothes. Major
American health and beauty companies peddled their locally branded
lotions and cosmetics on the shelves of the local chemist shops.
Bootlegged CDs sold on the street featuring both American pop music and
as-yet-unreleased soca and calypso tracks.
When I was there in 2005, the gap had reduced to five years. Malls had
popped up around the country, mostly featuring Trinidadian versions of
American products. "Bling" abounded: cellphones, baggy pants and thick
gold chains on young men; girls with belly shirts and cleavage, a far
cry from the socially conservative society I knew, influenced by Hindu,
Muslim and conservative Christian mores, carnival-time being the only
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