UNITED CARIBBEAN: Integration not at all easy

Interesting article printed in the Barbados paper “The Nation”:

UNITED CARIBBEAN: Integration not at all easy

BY MICHELLE CAVE

THERE ARE CERTAINLY many challenges to integrating the Caribbean. But that is so with any process and certainly with one as productive as this will be. Cheryl Morales, a headmistress in Cuba, certainly knows this.

She has been at the forefront of a movement to have Cuba deepen its ties with the other islands of the Caribbean for nearly a decade. To her mind this will at once strengthen and promote self-awareness in the Afro-Cubans, simultaneously having the wider Caribbean alerted to Cuba’s great potential contribution of cultural, economic and social wealth.

Slowly through the last decade, she has been creating a generation of Cubans aligned with being part of the Caribbean, though having much in common with Latin America. Cheryl has painstakingly shown the examples of all the countries in the world linking, becoming a bigger, stronger unit for their greatest benefit.

She teaches them about the African Union with their 53 states – forming their union in daunting circumstances and the direst of odds.

She is going deep into the structures of the Asian examples of regional integration, how they have step by step brought the customs laws, then legislative aspects, the banking and monetary systems into unison.

She has them dissecting the American, South American and European models of integration, marvelling at the courage and even foresight of the European Union in wooing and bringing on Turkey with its mammoth market and population, bridging the previously unbridgeable – Christian and Muslim worlds.

Cheryl is clear that here in the Caribbean we have to figure it out, as it is silly to keep thinking of a population of 55 000 trying to find the resources to play on a continually levelling playing field in this globalised world.

Yes, she thinks it has to be accomplished regardless of the impediments. “And there are many,” she says, “even inside of us, saying we can’t do this, saying we have no experience of working, building together.

“So how,” she asks, “are we to unlearn fragmentation and competing, to learn cooperation and unification, after all of these centuries?”

She answers her own questions: “Well, we have been doing it, havent we? Bit by bit, we have been breaking down all of the walls we thought were made of hard rock, but indeed was just built from our imaginations.

“The math is stark: a single country in Africa, Europe or Asia – millions of people. A typical Caribbean country – 100 000. Regional is the way to go.”

“It’s pretty simple when you gain perspective, isnt it? The working it out, creating the structures to support and maintain it, is not beyond us. We certainly have the minds in this region to do anything we have the political will to accomplish; we always have.”

For example, everywhere I go, people are talking about how impressed they were with the system enabling freedom of movement through the region during the Cricket World Cup, and are anticipating its being rolled forward on a permanent basis.

But more. As Cheryl left, she said something, loosely translated: “I don’t know about you but my grandmother always told me, those people you don’t like, shower them with affection, you’ll learn to like them, and if you never learn, no one will be the wiser, not even you.”

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