Vanderpool-Wallace: The United States of the Caribbean

By: Caribbean Journal Staff - May 29, 2013

By Vincent Vanderpool-Wallace
CJ Contributor

IN THE MIDDLE of musing about regional cooperation, tourism Ministers and Commissioners were recently invited to imagine a gestalt entity, “the United States of the Caribbean.” They were invited to consider what such an entity would look like.

Thomas Sowell has written extensively about the achievements of people from the Caribbean in the United States of America.

In summary, he showed that the achievements of people who came from the Caribbean to the United States in many ways not only far outstripped the achievements of African-Americans, who in many ways shared a common heritage, they have also outstripped the achievements of the average American.

Every day, people come across a new list of achievers who would make anyone proud to be “Caribbeans,” a word that has never taken root in our regional vernacular.

There is Oscar-winning Sir Sidney Poitier of The Bahamas.  There is one Cardinal Warde from Barbados, a professor of physics at MIT. There is Kenrick Lewis from Grenada, who has more than 20 patents in the development of silicones.

There is Robert Rashford, the aerospace engineer from Jamaica who has several patents, some of which have been used in the space shuttle and in the repair of the Hubble Space Telescope.

Every single Caribbean country has luminaries of similar status and stature. In the aggregate, however, the achievements of the region, the achievements of a “United States of the Caribbean” would be incandescent.

The United States of the Caribbean would win the track and field events at the Summer Olympics every four years with embarrassing ease.

The United States of the Caribbean would likely win Miss Universe and Miss World contests with greater frequency than any other nation. Remember the Miss Venezuela who won the Miss Universe event in back-to-back years?

The United States of the Caribbean would win a Nobel Prize every decade or sooner.

The United States of the Caribbean would win many Oscars, Cesars, Golden Calves, BAFTAs, Goyas, Emmys, Tonys, Grammys, Golden Globes.

As in athletics, in the cases where a current resident does not win any of these awards, one can be certain that persons one generation removed from the Caribbean would win quite a number.

The United States of the Caribbean would likely win the annual world baseball championship.  Just this year, the two finalists were from the Caribbean, namely, Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic.

The United States of the Caribbean would we well poised to win the World Cup of Football every four years.  In fact, Trinidad and Tobago was the smallest nation ever to qualify for the World Cup finals and, were it not for players from Guadeloupe and Martinique, it might be difficult for the French to field a successful team.

When we look at what happened with Jamaica’s Reggae Boyz and combine it with what has happened in the most recent World Cup, there is no question that the talent that hails from the Caribbean in this area is nothing short of overwhelming.

The United States of the Caribbean would claim the credit for the layout of the city of Chicago.  It would claim credit for starting and contributing to a number of the world’s most respected universities.  It would claim credit for establishing the US Treasury and most of the rules that undergird it to this day.  It would claim credit for the design of the US Capitol building.

The United States of the Caribbean would boast a place on the Forbes list of the richest people in the world.

The United States of the Caribbean, through his heritage, produced in 2008, the world’s youngest ever Formula One World Champion, Lewis Hamilton.

In short, the United States of the Caribbean would be credited with contributing much to the success of many countries of the world, most notably the United States of America, the United Kingdom, Spain, France and the Netherlands.

It is important to note that the term “the United States of The Caribbean” is not intended to be an expression of admiration for either the political systems or policies of the United States of America.

Our gestalt entity could just as easily have been the “Caribbean Union” or “Caribbean United.”

According to the group considering the concept before its presentation, “Caribbean Union” sounded too much like a labour union and “Caribbean United” too much like a football (i.e. soccer) team.

The ultimate selection of “the United States of the Caribbean” both recognizes the independent states that make up the Caribbean as well as the long-term desire for the kind of unity expressed in the name.

Like the European Union or the United States of America, unity does not require unanimity.

In fact, in the case of tourism it is its diversity that makes the Caribbean most attractive.

That is why, despite the usefulness of the gestalt entity in achieving our aims, the use of the phrase “the United States of The Caribbean” for tourism purposes suggests a monolith.

For tourism marketing purposes, we prefer to preserve the global understanding of diversity that is now conveyed in “the Caribbean.”

Vincent Vanderpool-Wallace is the former Tourism Minister of the Bahamas and Secretary General of the Caribbean Tourism Organization. He was named one of the 50 most influential people in Caribbean tourism in the last 50 years by Fast Company magazine. He is a graduate of Harvard University and the University of Miami.

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