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President Obama, and Secretary of State Clinton will be heading to Trinidad for the Summit of the Americas.

Davidow previews Summit of the Americas

Amb. Jeffrey Davidow, President Barack Obama's special advisor on the upcoming Summit of the Americas, briefed the State Department press today on plans for the summit, which is scheduled to take place April 17 to 19 in Trinidad and Tobago. Leading the U.S. delegation will be Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, he said.

On the U.S. agenda for the 34-nation summit, Davidow said, are the economy, the issues of inequity and social development, the environment, clean energy, and public safety.

Obama "is going to Trinidad with the intention of listening, discussing, and dealing with his colleagues as partners," Davidow said. "One of his concerns, and indeed the concerns of everyone at the summit, but particularly of the President and the Secretary of State, is the question of equity."

The State Department has its own web page on the upcoming Summit, as well as a Facebook page which includes a recent video of a Telemundo interview with Obama (English and Spanish versions).

I have assigned the students in my Caribbean Studies class to pay attention to the press coverage of the event, and to discuss the issues facing the Caribbean (specifically) and Latin America (in general).

AP had this article:

Obama travels aimed at re-engaging hemisphere

Obama will spend Friday through Sunday in the twin-island Caribbean nation of Trinidad and Tobago for the Summit of the Americas, a gathering of 34 Western Hemisphere nations. The leaders are eager for their own photo-opportunity moments with Obama, but they also want assurances that the U.S. is going to fix its economy and help them recover too.

"The perception coming up from the south (is) that in recent years the United States has turned its attention elsewhere, has neglected its relationships in this part of the world," Jeffrey Davidow, Obama's principal adviser for the summit, told reporters Monday night.

"Whether one agrees with that perception or not, it certainly is a very strongly felt perception," he said. "And I think this summit will give him the opportunity to meet with all the heads of state, listen to them, exchange views and come away with new ideas."

Each semester, I open my class handing out blank maps of the Caribbean Basin, asking students to put names to each country.


I have never had a student who could identify more than 5. Even students whose parents are from Puerto Rico or the Dominican Republic fail to identify more than the islands of their own ancestry.

The average is 2 or 3 - and some students cannot identify any of the island or mainland basin countries or areas.

When asked to identify Caribbean heads of State, the only name the students can come up with is Fidel Castro.

Sadly, the Caribbean is an area that gets news coverage only when a hurricane is passing over on the way to Miami.  Rarely is much (or anything) taught about the Caribbean in high schools, and there is still very little at the college level.

Yet much of the history of the rise of modern industrial capitalism is rooted in the wealth provided by the Triangle Slave Trade and New World sugar production.

For those of you who'd like to take the test see if you can correctly place:

Antigua and Barbuda
British Virgin Islands
Cayman Islands
Dominican Republic
Netherlands Antilles
Panama, Panama Canal Zone
Puerto Rico
Saint Barthélemy
Saint Kitts and Nevis
Saint Lucia
Saint Martin (France)
Saint Vincent and the Grenadines
USVI- St. Thomas, St. Croix, and St. John

Answers found here.

I will be following the news coverage of the event, from Caribbean as well as mainland news sources  and hope to have more diaries about it, and issues affecting the region in the days ahead.

So how well did you do?

Originally posted to Denise Oliver Velez on Tue Apr 14, 2009 at 05:12 AM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Can I go too! (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    historys mysteries, Deoliver47

    "...America can change. Our union can be perfected." President-Elect Barack Obama

    by Jack Dublin on Tue Apr 14, 2009 at 05:25:53 AM PDT

  •  my grandparents were (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    historys mysteries, Deoliver47

    big cruise-goers

    so I've had t-shirts from most of those islands... ex-girlfriends from the balance LOL (Dominica is one of the most beautiful places I've ever seen)

    I've actually never heard of St. Barth... (wait I just remembered 'st. barts' as I was typing that long name so yes I have hahahaha)

    "But Black Dynamite! I sell drugs in the community!"

    by mallyroyal on Tue Apr 14, 2009 at 05:32:14 AM PDT

  •  Sure - if you can find a place to stay (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    historys mysteries, mommaK, sherijr


    One detail that has been taken care of is providing additional sleeping accommodations. Two cruise ships have been chartered and will anchor in the nearby harbor to house delegates and 1,200 journalists.

    It' going to be pretty crowded :)

    "If you're in a coalition and you're comfortable, you know it's not a broad enough coalition" Bernice Johnson Reagon

    by Denise Oliver Velez on Tue Apr 14, 2009 at 05:35:13 AM PDT

  •  I've been to many of the islands (4+ / 0-)

    That's one of the benefits of living in South Florida. It's quicker to get to the Caribbean that it is to get to most of the United States.

    One day, maybe we can visit the island that is about 200 miles south of me. That would be cool.

    -7.38, -5.23 I survived the Purple Tunnel of Doom, no thanks to DiFi. I will remember this, though. Ugh!

    by CocoaLove on Tue Apr 14, 2009 at 05:49:11 AM PDT

  •  Caribbean here (6+ / 0-)

    Im from the Caribbean and I think we're all overjoyed at Obama's election and hope for a change towards a bit more humility in America's posture towards the region. I think most Caribbean people understand the US's leadership role in the region, but at the same time we don't like being treated as the USA's backyard.

  •  i got the basin countries + big islands right (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    hazey, hazzcon, esquimaux, Deoliver47, sherijr

    the little ones are beyond my ken; the caribbean is a long way from california, i've never set foot in an body of salty water not called the pacific.

    best hopes for america acting like a neighbor and not a hegemon, for a change.

    surf putah, your friendly neighborhood central valley samizdat

    by wu ming on Tue Apr 14, 2009 at 05:54:12 AM PDT

    •  I got a lot (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      wu ming, Deoliver47

      I can find the Big Island Jamaica, Cuba, Hispanola (Haiti + DR), Bahamas, PR. I know Trinidad + Tobago, Barbados (it's of to the side in the south), Virgin Islands (can't find them by name though).

      From reading a great book titled the Caribbean (it's about the islands history) I can find Tortuga and Gonave (large islands off Haiti). Isle of Pines (large island off Cuba was renamed don't know the new name??). I have a good guess where Martinique is.

      -1.63/ -1.49 "Speaking truth to power" (with snark of course)!

      by dopper0189 on Tue Apr 14, 2009 at 08:21:52 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  What no USVI? (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    I would have gotten 16 right.

  •  Good a pretext as any to visit the Caribbean. (0+ / 0-)

    The greatest compliment a prophet can pay is to remain silent.

    by Troubadour on Tue Apr 14, 2009 at 06:23:47 AM PDT

  •  I second your observation on Caribbean geography (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    hazey, Deoliver47

    I taught it once and students couldn't even find Puerto Rico...they're accustomed to thinking of it as right next to the US because it's quasi-American.  To be fair, I had to do a lot of cramming to avoid my own mistakes.

    Al que no le guste el caldo, le dan dos tazas.

    by Rich in PA on Tue Apr 14, 2009 at 06:37:02 AM PDT

    •  Sigh - geography seems to have (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      been tossed out of curricula - overall.

      Just to test for bias - I gave my cultural anthro students blank maps of Europe, Africa and Asia.

      They failed on those too.  

      Europe was the one that surprised me the most - most of them only managed to correctly identify Italy :(

      "If you're in a coalition and you're comfortable, you know it's not a broad enough coalition" Bernice Johnson Reagon

      by Denise Oliver Velez on Tue Apr 14, 2009 at 06:42:32 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  They're so poor (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    hazey, Deoliver47

    That's what our cruise director told us about the good people of Dominica.  She didn't mention, that they were fed, clothed, and everyone had access to health care, education, or that there was almost no crime.  You could walk good time drunk up the steet with 100 dollar bills falling out of your pocket and no one would mess with you.  Strange what some people think as poor.

    F-Tha NSA comin straight from the underground. Record this bitches!

    by Adept2u on Tue Apr 14, 2009 at 06:55:59 AM PDT

    •  Dominica - Carib Kalinago people (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      Several anthropologists are currently conducting research among the people's of the Caribbean's only indigenous "reservation"

      Carib Territory

      Dominica was the name given to 289.8 sq. miles of land, by Christopher Columbus, when he landed on the island on November 3 rd 1493. On the north eastern side of this beautiful tropical rainforest island is set aside 3782.03 acres of land known as Carib –Territory. It is situated between two villages, Atkinson to the North and Castle Bruce to the South. It is the home of approximately 2208 Kalinagos, the remaining survivors of the first inhabitants of the island. The people call the island Waitukubuli (tall is her body), and they call themselves Kalinagos. The Europeans called them Caribs.

      "If you're in a coalition and you're comfortable, you know it's not a broad enough coalition" Bernice Johnson Reagon

      by Denise Oliver Velez on Tue Apr 14, 2009 at 07:08:13 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Hurray for the teachers on KOS! (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        Everytime I see one of your diaries I know I'll get my daily mission to learn one thing new out of the way.

        Once I have made my generational fortune here I'd love to retire to that island.  I've never seen a more beautiful place. I had an interesting feeling while there, and i wonder if anyone has felt similarly.   I have travelled pretty widely in Europe and all over the northern part of our continent, but I had never been to places where everyone from the bum to the president was "black".  It was like a subroutine of a program of caution or something turned off for the first time.  Or maybe it was the first time I just didn't stick out.

        F-Tha NSA comin straight from the underground. Record this bitches!

        by Adept2u on Tue Apr 14, 2009 at 07:20:31 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  Not entirely accurate (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      There is genuine poverty in parts of the region. Haiti, despite being independent for over 200 years, is the poorest country in the hemisphere and one of the poorest in the world. Visit one of the inner city area of Kingston, Jamaica and wave that $100 bill around, my friend, I think you'd change your opinion.  

      Most Caribbean states tend to rank in the middle of the human development index compiled by the UN:

      While there are places like Barbados that have almost achieved first world status, for most people of the region life is a struggle and certainly not the utopia you are painting it to be.  

      •  No doubt there is poverty in the Carib (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        I wouldn't stroll up the streets of Kingston with the 100's, however I was speaking of Dominica specifically, and I wouldn't doubt that some human development index would find them poor.  However Their kids can run around without fear of being chopped up and put in a suitcase.  A nasty number of their citizens aren't locked up and etc.  I guess one mans poverty may be anothers paradise.

        F-Tha NSA comin straight from the underground. Record this bitches!

        by Adept2u on Tue Apr 14, 2009 at 07:26:17 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  National Boundaries in Central America... (0+ / 0-)

    Your map doesn't have the National Boundaries in Central America.

    For me, I tend to end up doing the Central American ones by process of elimination, Belize is the farthest north, Guatemala is the other one that borders Mexico, Panama is the farthest south, Nicaragua has the lake, El Salvador is the one without a Caribbean coast, and then guess between Honduras and Costa Rica (any help with remembering those two would be helpful, or any Mnemonic)

    I'm OK with the Greater Antilles, Cuba, Jamaica, Haiti and the DR. I also know the Bahamas.

    (I've never been able to forget which was which between Haiti and the DR after seeing Google Maps pictures where the border can be seen in amount of Forestry Protection. )

    As for the Lesser Antilles, I need to do some research, anyone got a boat I can borrow to do some first hand?

  •  This European Failed ... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    ... your test badly.

    Cuba I could identify, the others not - not even Aruba, Bonaire, Curacao, even though an aunt of mine had worked on Curacao in the sixties ...

  •  My MOM! (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    MY mom will be attending the summit and she said  everyone in Trinidad is eagerly awaiting Obama's arrival. They have been working around the clock to make sure that his visit would be memorable.
    They just love him down there!!

    Her invitation was approved after a background check etc. I will be speaking to her soon to get the full details.

  •  Eh eh...he's going to T & T? (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    I'll bet my relatives there are like kids at Christmas :) I'll have to call my cousins tonight!

    Illegitimi non carborundum

    by Vita Brevis on Tue Apr 14, 2009 at 07:49:03 AM PDT

  •  Recommended reading? (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Thanks, Deoliver47. As the son of Cuban immigrants, I'm glad that Cuba and Latin America are receiving some attention. I'm hoping that Latin American leaders will push Obama to engage Cuba and lift the embargo altogether. More thoughts here:


    Anyways, I'm planning to visit the island in the next year or so and would like to understand the history and people as much as possible before my trip. Can you recommend any good books?

    Many thanks,

    •  I love when this happens (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      there are so many Caribbean people here that we only hear about when a diary like this comes out.

      I have a funny story. I read the TNR, there black author wrote that he doubted that the term baby-mother came from Jamaica Patois because no young black people in America would have heard the term. I asked him if he new how many rappers were of Island origins (Busta Rhymes, Salt + Pepper, Tribe, Biggie Smalls, Heavy D, Jim Jones, Fugies, ect) if he knew how many island people were in NYC,Miami, Atlanta, Phili, Boston (the source was founded there) and since he was living in Boston if he had ever been to Blue Hill. I'm still shocked at how invisible Caribbean Americans are.

      The NYT did a story on immigration to NYC. It listed a page that showed where the majority of NYC people immigrants came from. It showed links to the DR and Cuba. It then showed a page where the top locations for foreign calls were place. Jamaica and Trinidad showed up int the to 7. Yet they weren't on the origins list? WTF

      I mean from WEB Du Boise, Marcus Garvey, Malcolm X, Strokely Carmichael, Colin Powell, even crazy ass Luise Farrakhan. Caribbean American have been at the forefront of black politics yet it's completely papered over. I just don't get it???

      -1.63/ -1.49 "Speaking truth to power" (with snark of course)!

      by dopper0189 on Tue Apr 14, 2009 at 08:32:25 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  My favorite history of the Caribbean (0+ / 0-)

      which you can probably find cheaply is

      From Columbus to Castro: The History of the Caribbean, 1492–1969, by Eric Williams

      For interesting fiction - backed up by an excellent research team - read Caribbean, by James A. Michener (can get a paperback for a buck)

      On Cuba specifically - the history book my students often read in a class entitled "Women of the Caribbean" is:
      "Marriage, Class and Colour in Nineteenth-Century Cuba; A Study of Racial Attitudes and Sexual Values in a Slave Society

      Verena Martinez-Alier

      My book lists are mostly anthropology/women's studies since that's what I teach.

      Hard to pick a contemporary book on Cuba. There are tons.

      I've ordered:

      The Cuba Wars: Fidel Castro, the United States, and the Next Revolution by Daniel P. Erikson

      will let you know what I think after I've read it.

      "If you're in a coalition and you're comfortable, you know it's not a broad enough coalition" Bernice Johnson Reagon

      by Denise Oliver Velez on Tue Apr 14, 2009 at 09:41:08 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  I am interested to see (0+ / 0-)

    If Obama will address HIV/AIDS issues in the region..Trinidadians didn't get HIV drugs until 2002, it'd be nice to see some equity in that regard.

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