Watch as Cayman evolves

The good life

A column I wrote recently about the ingredients of the Caymanian culture generated a wash of positive feedback, even among younger Caymanians, with many individuals expressing concern about the changing culture here.

There was a wistfulness, sometimes even anger, in those sentiments and understandably so, but the reality to be faced is that cultural change is as inevitable as the tide.

We can be concerned about it and certainly make efforts to restrain it, but culture is a dynamic not a static force, with change simply a part of the condition.

In the case of Cayman, of course, the considerable ‘foreign’ cultural forces arriving here, via investors and workers, are certainly adding to the rate and nature of change, but cultures are always changing. Indeed, what is seen as Caymanian culture today is, itself, an evolution.

The curry goat or rice-and-peas dishes, for example, now seen as essential on a Caymanian menu, are an importation from another culture.

The houses our children are growing up in today, accepted by them as Caymanian, are actually models of the South Florida concrete bungalow that the returning seamen began building here many years ago.

It wasn’t part of Cayman culture before; it is now. In fact, the very building code we used previously was based on the Miami-Dade model.

Many expressions in the Caymanian dialect – horse dead and cow fat; unna; talwa; jinnal – are drawn from the Jamaican lexicon. The Southern US phrase ‘I be go to church’, is now an accepted part of the Cayman dialect, as is the Germanic pronunciation of ‘V’ as a ‘W’ brought here by the early English settlers who spoke that way.

Witness the recent revolution in roofing material, for instance, where we now see the hurricane-propelled shift to metal roof covering, previously used very sparingly here.

Young people being born here now will grow up accepting standing-seam as part of Caymanian house design; it wasn’t so 10 years ago.

Certainly, there are strains as these things evolve.

Not everybody will find the late-evening Jamaican atmosphere along Eastern Avenue to their liking, but there is undeniably an almost visceral bounce to that area that makes for a unique flavour.

Similarly, the British ambience of the Rugby Club environs, or the growing Latin influence in our nightclubs, are examples of new textures coming to Grand Cayman. As those influences deepen and sustain they are becoming part of the Cayman fabric; children growing up here, as mine are, certainly see them that way.

The prevalence of reggae, dancehall and soca among our young people is striking, as is their wide acceptance of hip-hop music, dress and language.

More ingredients are coming to the fabric all the time; the evolution is ongoing right before our eyes. A classic example is the recent controversy over a liquor store location in Savannah near a school.

On a proposal that would have been rejected completely 20 years ago, we now see the culture presenting more divided opinion.

But even as change looms, it is still not totally accepted with legislation now being suggested to establish restrictions on future liquor store locations. As in most evolutions, the graph is not always a perfect slope, but the rubric of tomorrow is being formed as we watch.

Of course, many will see these changes as degradation; a development to be resisted; ‘Government must do something’, but culture, and by extension, the evolution of culture, is an unswerving force.

It will do its work, through the majority choices people make gradually over time, despite the protestations from some.

The alterations are taking place right now, today, and more are looming.

Imagine, for example, the ramifications of a development such as Camana Bay on life in Cayman; they will be considerable.

For people who are discomfited by the changes, sorry; get used to them.

Certainly you can personally hold on to whatever aspect of the earlier culture you find valuable, and even organise groups for that purpose, but don’t expect the tide to stop for you, because when they happen it’s a reflection of the choice of the majority.

Your very children, whom you nurtured and expected to reflect your stance, are growing up in that new culture and simply seeing it as Cayman. The influences acting on them are different from yours, as yours were from your parents, and your children’s culture, too, in their time, will see further change.

So if you dislike the Jamaican influence in your food and dialect and rock walls, sorry – they are now as much a part of Cayman as turtle meat and silver thatch.

And so, too, for the American bungalow, the Latin music, the Rugby Club ambience, the American junk food and the preference for the NFL over cricket.

They’re here; they’re part of Cayman, and guess what? They’re not going to disappear. If you doubt that, ask your children.