As an expat living in Barbados, I have decided to experience all things Bajan, which includes Cropover. The Cropover carnival defines Barbados, including the friendliness of the people and their love of partying, the hot Caribbean weather and being scantily clad, and segregation.
Cropover is based on the harvest and is not a religious celebration like the Trinidad and Brazilian carnivals. It is a tradition that dates to the 1780s to mark the end of the sugar cane harvest. Back then, Barbados was the largest producer of sugar. There are still cane fields on the island, but the economy now revolves around tourism, which has made the pandemic crippling. Cropover has been canceled the last two years, and this year people were itching to get out there and party. This weekend also celebrates Emancipation, or the abolishment of slavery. It is a weekend of freedom.
The long weekend started with Foreday mornin’, which is a street party that begins at 2am. You go home Friday night and have the best nap possible because partying goes to 7 or 8am Saturday morning. This is fashioned after the Trinidad Jouvert, which marks the start of Carnival. Here is the gist: you dance behind a truck with huge speakers blasting Soca music, drink rum, and get paint and mud thrown at you. This is the definition of ditching your inhibitions.
Something that I have realized living in Barbados: North America is up tight when it comes to showing your body and expressing sexuality. Inhibitions can be good to keep you safe. But what if you are in a safe environment and have been given permission to let loose? What if respecting your body meant showing it no matter the size and shape, rather than covering it up?
Saturday morning you wear the t-shirt that organizers give you, which will eventually get plastered in paint. Monday, revelers wear the glittering revealing costumes that they purchase to be part of a “band”.
Grand Kadooment is the parade that takes place to culminate Cropver. It is always hot this time of year. Unlike Canada, you don’t have to worry about bringing a coverup, just in case the morning starts out chilly or there is an unseasonably cool day. Barbadians do not subscribe to the notion “if you got it flaunt it, and if you don’t, cover it up!” There is something freeing about knowing that no matter the shape, size, and age of your body, you celebrate it.
Celebrating includes shaking what your momma gave you. You “wine” and “wuk up” in a manner that would have shocked me in the past. Now I find myself thinking, if this is so much fun, why haven’t I always done this? Because I was taught that it was shameful.
Have you ever had the realization that some of the lessons of your childhood may have stifled your creativity and freedom, rather than kept you safe?
Kate came back to the island for the celebrations, and to sign the mortgage for the new place that she is buying here. When she told her mortgage broker that she was going to Foreday Mornin and Kadooment, he asked whether she was “jumping” with MixNutz and Blue Box Cart. Apparently, this is who the white people sign up with. And there we were, without even knowing it, segregating ourselves from the majority of the population.
Our Foreday celebrations were at a site shared with another organizer called Native. As you may guess, this group was predominantly black. Kate and I ended up dancing with the Native group, first by accident and then by choice. The loudspeaker beckoned to follow the music; Kate and I did so without realizing that we were following the instructions of the other group. But we stayed for most of the morning because dancing with the “Natives” was way more fun.
The Black Bajans knew how to move their bodies and dance to the beat. Part of this is stereotype, but part of it is the culture in which they grew up. During Kadooment, we saw a little boy shaking his hips and moving to the music on the side of the road. He could not have been more than four years old, completely oblivious of girls and the need to impress, focused on the euphoria of the music. This is what was missing from my high school dances where the boys stood on one side of the gym and the girls on the other! We were so worried about dancing with the other sex, that we forgot to enjoy the music.
Cropover weekend was a marathon! I subscribed to my new favorite Soca song, “drink da water and mind my business.” It allowed me to sleep, recover, surf, and settle into my new home.
Cropover threw me out of my comfort zone: staying up all night, walking down the street with little on, attempting to dance to Soca. It is part of my new regime to say “yes” and try new things. This is the theme of my time in Barbados. #bestmidlifecrisis