MY STORY: Cita shaped by mix of cultures
As part of the Nation Publishing Company’s 50th anniversary of Independence celebrations, the WEEKEND NATION team – through this series – This Is My Story – will be speaking to people who migrated to the island and visitors who have come and fallen in love with our shores. We invite you to share with us or point us in the direction of an interesting person we can feature each week.
GUYANESE BLOOD FLOWS in her veins, but at heart Cita Pilgrim is an example of a successful Guyanese/Barbadian fusion.
She was born in Guyana and married Barbadian Cecil Pilgrim, who spent the greater part of his life representing Guyana, where he had grown up with his Barbadian parents.
Coming to Barbados to live after her husband retired from Guyana’s diplomatic service in 1993 “was one of the best decisions we have made”, Cita told the WEEKEND NATION.
Her then 100-year-old mother-in-law was living here at the time, and it was important to her son to be close to her.
“We thought we would just sit here and live with Edith, which we did,” Cita explained. Happily, they were privileged to share happy times with Cecil’s mother as she lived to 103.
“She loved me dearly and I loved her dearly. We had such a good time,” Cita said.
Cecil had relished the opportunity to return home after spending so many years away from his mother fulfilling one diplomatic post after another for Guyana.
Cita met Cecil when he returned to Guyana from one such diplomatic assignment in China where he served as deputy to her uncle, who was Guyana’s first ambassador to China. She was then a Georgetown-based reporter for the Communist China Southeast Asia Desk.
When she says “Barbados is well known to me,” it is no idle boast. Before finally settling here, she had visited the island often and for a brief period worked as a reporter with the now defunct Caribbean News Agency. As she puts it, “Barbados is well known to me. I knew Barbados long before the big highways” – hence her disappointment at the gradual disappearance of things Barbadian that she liked in those early years.
“I miss the windows to the sea on the West Coast,” she said.
“I think the West Coast has become a little unattractive but those are the wheels of progress and there is absolutely nothing you can do to stop them.”
Still, there are many things she likes about this island – the people heading the list.
“I like the fact that it is a tough little country that works. You come to Barbados, the lights work, the phones work, the water is great. These are little things that people take for granted and I certainly don’t. I come from the land of many waters and Georgetown can often have a water problem.”
The gridlock on Barbadians’ roads curtails her ability to zip around the island in a mini-moke, as she used to do in days gone by. Yet she does not frown on progress.
“Physically, I have to say it is a pretty island, it is gentle, it does not have the dramatic beauty of, say, Grenada, but the gentleness of the countryside is pleasing.”
Cita, who is of Indian descent, retains her appetite for the cuisine of her native Guyana, where Chinese, Indian, Amerindian and other cultural influences combine in spicy dishes. But for her Barbadian husband of 37 years, she has no problems rolling up her sleeves in the kitchen to turn out one of his favourite dishes – a good macaroni pie.
Cita’s recent appointment as Guyana’s consul general in Barbados may be regarded as the spin-off of a happy marriage between the two nations and reflective of the friendly age-old relationship that has existed.
The day before she presided over Guyana’s 50th independence anniversary celebrations at the consulate, she told the WEEKEND NATION: “I often tell young people that they should watch what they say because it always comes back to haunt you. The phrase I am famous for using is ‘you get hoisted on your own petard’. That’s exactly what happened to me. I was called to serve. I tell people that they must serve, and I just could not possibly say no.
“I do feel strongly that if your country calls on you to do something and you have the possibility of doing it, you should do it.”
She has not only responded readily to the call, but has hit the ground running. As a founder of the Guyanese Association in Barbados, she has already forged strong links between the Guyanese community here and Barbadians and intends to build on them.
“My hope is that the two organisations can provide Guyanese with the kind of platform they deserve in the CARICOM sister nation,” she said.
Referring further to the Barbados/Guyana links, the consul general pointed to Guyanese with Barbadian names such as Pilgrim, Cumberbatch, Holder and Brathwaite, a consequence of the migration in colonial times of Barbadians to the South American country in search of a better future.
“At 50 years of independence we are the two countries with the strongest links historically, politically,” she said.
“Our leaders have had similar visions for their country – obviously they have taken different paths over the last 50 years. But the closeness of the relationships of our leaders have led to the fact that our people believe we have that.” (GC)