The Modern Caribbean Diaspora

Diaspora. To scatter, disperse away from a homeland. Humanity has seen the birth of many Diasporas over the course of history. What many of these groups have in common is that they were brutally removed from their homelands by force – the slave trade to the Americas, the colonization of the Incas by the Conquistadors. In other cases, they left in pursuit of a better future – the Jews exodus out of Egypt, the Irish immigration through Ellis Island. No matter how they came to be, the people of Diasporas always kept their homeland in their hearts and minds.

Some of the common features shared by diasporas include traits such that the group:

  • Keeps a collective memory of their homeland.
  • Considers the ancestral homeland as their “true home”.
  • Holds a strong desire and intent to eventually return home.
  • Is committed to restoring and maintaining their homeland with support of all kinds – using what they gain from their adopted land to benefit those still leaving back home.
  • Relates to the homeland in ways that shape their overall identity.

The modern Caribbean Diaspora is also unique. The people leaving the countries of the Caribbean region today are part of a much higher educated group, leaving many times with specific purposes (education, training, etc.), and when they return, bring back new and valuable skills and knowledge.  True to the definition of a Diaspora, they maintain their own individuality as a culture wherever they go. They are also deeply committed to sending support to their homelands in the Caribbean to improve the conditions there.

The Caribbean is made up of many individual countries, but they hold some common goals and share a lot of similarities throughout the region. CARICOM (Caribbean Community) is an example of how the Caribbean Island nations have joined together to tackle regional interests (i.e. travel, tourism, economic development, education, to name a few) and to compete in the new global economy.

While the people of the Diaspora are striving in other countries, they are also speaking with louder voices to influence world policy related to the Caribbean, helping to create financial policy that will benefit their homelands, and acting as ambassadors for the their region.  Interestingly enough, by showing the world how much more the region has to offer, the Caribbean becomes an even more intriguing place to visit, boosting the tourism it has long been known for.

Benefits of the Diaspora include the skills and ideas they learn in other countries that they can bring back home – often from sources completely unavailable in their home countries, in all areas of life.

Technology has made staying in touch with homelands a relatively easy accomplishment. With instant communication available, the bonds are strengthened between those still living in the Caribbean homeland and those living in other countries (predominantly the U.S.)

But technology is not only for communication; by being in a host country with significant technological resources, the Diaspora can arrange for many advantages to be sent back home far easier today than ever before. These resources often include hospital and medical equipment, technology for industry and schools, and more.

Specialized training can be tapped into by the Diaspora to make things available to members of their homeland. For instance, a specialized medical training can be achieved by sending a member of the homeland to the training, often at a negotiated discount through the Diaspora, instead of relying on foreign doctors to come to the Caribbean country.

Billions of dollars are involved between the Diaspora and its adopted countries. The Diaspora sends it back home, but they represent increased labor and industry that comes to the host country as well.

In fact, the biggest disadvantage to the homeland is the loss of some of the most skilled and talented workforce, even if temporary. But the overall advantages outweigh this shortcoming as the Caribbean seeks to become part of the global community and enrich the countries of the region with expanded abilities, knowledge, and resources that go beyond the tourism industry.

Visitors to the Caribbean will notice the difference. Today, they’ll recognize economies that are being built on more than just tourist dollars, and welcome countries that have a place in globalization.

But always, they see people with great pride in their homeland. And a beautiful place to visit.