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SATURDAY’S CHILD: Yuma in uniform


SATURDAY’S CHILD: Yuma in uniform

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THE TERM “ALL-INCLUSIVE” can mean “including everything or everyone” or “denoting or relating to a holiday or event in which all or most meals, drinks, and activities are included in the overall price”. In practice, when you pay big money for a hotel stay that is “all-inclusive”, a party, a trip, a Carnival or Kadooment Band, it is also “all-exclusive”, meaning that part of the nature of the transaction is to keep out people who have not paid the full price.

In a way, this application of the term “all-inclusive” to also mean “all-exclusive” is like the words “flammable” and “inflammable”. You know they are different words and you might think that one is the opposite of the other but unlike “vulnerable” and “invulnerable” or “correct” and “incorrect” they both mean the same. Although some people feel there is no such word as “irregardless” the fact is that those who use it can use “regardless” without any loss of meaning. “Bone” and “debone” generally have the same meaning. However, you have to be careful with that application since “bone” is used in American slang to mean “to have sex with”.

“Press” and “depress” are also like “flammable” and “inflammable” in that unless you are referring to the media or to a psychological state of sadness they mean the same thing. Of course when you use the word “press” to mean the media it can be depressing in the way spy-thriller author John Le Carre describes the British media, “In the last 15 or 20 years, I’ve watched the British press simply go to hell. There seems to be no limit, no depths to which the tabloids won’t sink. I don’t know who these people are but they’re little pigs.” Interesting as his comment is, and as inclusive as I would like it to be, let us press on since the column is really about exclusivity.

Trinidad’s Carnival started off as an all-exclusive celebration held between Christmas and Ash Wednesday. It was restricted to the French colonists. However, in 1833, after slavery was abolished, it became almost all-inclusive. I grew up in Carapichaima, a little village which became the hub for Carnival celebrations in that part of Central Trinidad. It was then, and is now, a truly integrated all-inclusive community where people of African and Indian descent played “Diable Diable” (pronounced Jab-Jab), the original men in silk tights with whips who roved in small bands (without music but making up for it with their chants) and savagely fought other bands. The village people also got involved in the “stickfighting” to see who could inflict a head-wound (“buss-head”) on his opponent. My father sponsored an annual stick-fighting competition and while the drums were African, the chants were in dialect (When ah dead bury mih clothes/Bury it behine Lily back doh). The fighters were mainly of African and Indian descent and the many mixtures including Spanish, Portuguese and even Chinese. 

It was around the 60s that bands in Port of Spain became not just territorial and possessive but deeply intent on separating their paying patrons and players from the hoi-polloi, the unpaying majority who wanted to “jump up” in their band and mingle with their select, special and, in some cases, elite members. In those days you paid a fee which included your costume, the music and the few people in marked T-shirts, men and women who helped to either keep a rope in place between the band and the public or discourage non-paying guests.

With the coming into being and popularity of “all-inclusive” hotels, a carnival entrepreneur applied the concept to carnival bands. You now pay thousands of dollars for and get your costume or co$t-ume, food, drinks, “live” and recorded music, washrooms (always in short supply in the city) and even mist-blowing fans as well as “protection” from a uniformed strike force paid to “evict” interlopers and other degenerates intent on sabotaging the exclusivity of the inclusive. Last year a man was killed by the “eviction” team of a band when he sought to mingle with the paying guests. This year, a politician of the ruling party, sought to do the same with a band named “YUMA” (Young Upwardly Mobile Adults). He was wearing the wristband ID for another band and it seemed he took too long to leave the hallowed YUMA precincts. He is undisputedly relatively young and adult but in a flash he was downwardly stationary. Two women associated with him and who went to his defence, were also assaulted. Clearly the evictors lacked any sense of YUMA.

I was twelve years old when the movie 3.10 To Yuma starring Glen Ford and Van Heflin came to the Carapichaima cinema and the loudspeaker announcer going through the village in an old van described it as having “licks like fire”. The remake in 2007 with Russell Crow and Christian Bale had no such description but certainly had both an overcurrent and undercurrent of violence. Until the security guards, not just of YUMA but all the other bands are better trained, I would say it would be better to walk than take the 3.10 or any other train to YUMA.

• Tony Deyal was last seen saying that if you have armed and dangerous evictors in a band you will undoubtedly have real evictims.