Pirates model ‘does not suit the community’
This year, the Cayman Brac Pirates Weekend and Heritage Week Committee is choosing to focus on remembering those who died in war and in celebrating the island’s culture and history rather than on pirates, on what has traditionally been considered “Pirates Weekend.”
Heritage Day activities take place Saturday, Nov. 7, from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. on the grounds of the Brac Heritage House in Northeast Bay. The official theme for the day is “Preserving Our Past: Protecting Our Future.”
“We are … having nothing to do with pirates this year,” said Liz Walton-Thompson, leader of the Brac Heritage Committee. “It’s the long weekend where Brackers will be honoring [their] war dead and most people feel that it would not be appropriate to celebrate pirates.”
“Our heritage is important and that is the legacy that we want to leave behind, so we are losing the focus on Pirates Week activities,” Ms. Walton-Thompson added. “That model does not suit the community; the focus is about connecting the community to its heritage.”
Ms. Walton-Thompson also feels there is not enough manpower on the island to get all the Pirates Weekend activities coordinated.
Melanie McField, executive director for the Pirates Week Office, said Heritage Days have always been a very important feature of Pirates Week.
Ms. McField said the Grand Cayman pirates, like Darvin Ebanks and crew, will not be not coming to the Brac to celebrate Pirates Week this year, but will focus more on Little Cayman.
She went on to explain that the pirates going into the district were just an added component and district heritage days have never focused on the pirate “fantasy” part of the festival.
“It has never been about pirates but showcasing the history and culture of the Cayman Islands,” she said. “Pirates are a part of [our] heritage and culture whether we like it or not.”
Hyacinth Scott, owner of Treasure Chest gift shop, said she is not offended by the pirates theme.
“I know some didn’t like to hear Pirates Week because they thought it was belittling them, but to me, I don’t mind,” she said. “I guess that’s where we came from: pirates, years ago.”
However, she noted that many in the public are not happy with all the liquor consumption that comes with Pirates Week, so maybe that was why they decided to change it. “I think it sounds good to have a change,” she said.
The Brac’s ideas for Pirates Week align with McKeeva Bush’s focus when he was Leader of Government Business – to change the theme of the festival from piracy to turtling schooners and other seafaring history and culture.
Mr. Bush said the proposed change was driven by two factors: the country’s Christian heritage, and international politics, because the word was associated with Somalian pirates, who have hijacked numerous merchant ships in recent years. Mr. Bush at the time stated, “For us, the image of piracy or theft or hijacking, as it is also called, is not one that we can afford to embrace at this time. I think it’s prudent that we do everything in our power to remove any perceptions of or associations with piracy from the Cayman Islands.”
Churches previously have also called for the name of the annual event to be changed.
Heritage Day activities on Cayman Brac will start with an early morning breakfast at 7 a.m. across the road from the Heritage House.
Ms. Walton-Thompson says vendors will display many traditional handmade wares, crafts, artworks and old memorabilia, alongside numerous food stalls and stands filled with home cooked dinners.
Other activities will include a tour of the old Creek Post Office and jailhouse that once sat in the Creek cemetery, but was relocated to the Heritage grounds in Northeast Bay.
In the old post office, the Heritage Committee will showcase historic items from that era, such as old stamps, telephones, a telex machine and contemporary letters.
“The post office still has the slots where mail was placed, the building still looks the same, except for a fresh coat of paint, and it holds a lot of history,” said Ms. Walton-Thompson.
Other demonstrations during Heritage Day will be old-time games, thatch plaiting, cooking, rope laying, cold press coconut oil, catboats, coconut boats and lots of homemade candies. There will also be a kids corner showcasing how old-time toys were made, and a fashion show will bring to life an era when Caymanians dressed in plaid wompers and fishing gear.
An old-time gospel concert by church members, fireworks, a bonfire, music from Brackers’ favorite country singer Andy Martin and other local talent, and a teen disco for kids will complete the night.