A silver thatch necktie with conch shell tie clip, old-time stories, plantain trash beds and an old Singer sewing machine offered a step back in time for many elders attending a cultural day at the East End Civic Centre this week.
Hosted by the East End Seniors Fellowship group, the event on Tuesday, May 9, featured stalls depicting the culture of the Cayman people, highlighting the food, customs and traditions of seniors from various districts.
“It’s good for seniors to get out and mingle with other seniors from other districts, and at the same time promote their cultural heritage,” said Delmira Kirchman Bodden, who works in partnership with the fellowship group.
She said the group envisioned the culture day as a fun get-together, and each district was asked to prepare three items related to their district’s culture by revisiting old-time recipes, craft skills, artifacts and activities to win prizes.
Showcasing a traditional Caymanian house with thatch roof, work donkey, plantain trash bed and lots of fruits and produce, a group of East End women took first place with their display. North Side won second prize, and George Town came in third.
Arden McLean, MLA for East End, said the culture in the district is alive and well.
“It’s you all who carry it on for the young ones like me to be able to enjoy,” he told the seniors.
Welcoming the seniors from other districts, Mr. McLean observed that despite being from other parts of the island, they were all culturally connected.
“We could determine who was from West Bay … had the best turtle … George Towners would say which part you from, all that is cultural and we shouldn’t be ashamed of it,” Mr. McLean said.
East End Pastor Marcus McLaughlin said Cayman churches played an important part in the local culture.
No matter what, he said, everyone went to church – often fighting away the mosquitoes with shamrock leaves and smoke pans.
“The mosquitoes were so thick you could do this,” said Pastor McLaughlin, pretending to catch a handful of them.
“People still went to church.”
He said the smoke pan was kept outside the door and after service people took it up and walked home with it. Those days, he said, people had a mind to go church, it was a tradition that was kept up, while nowadays that was slacking up.
In the old days, he said, pastors were paid with fish, bottler (in the banana family) and cassava. Bottler was a staple in the diet and used in many dishes, such as porridge and dumplings, or boiled, fried or made into cake, and much more.
Winding up the occasion, Ms. Kirchman Bodden said she was often told by seniors on her rounds of East End that it was humor that took them through the hard days.
Celebrating the local dishes provided, the seniors put a new twist on the refreshments. Instead of heaping plates of Cayman-style beef accompanied by rice and beans, the gathering enjoyed beef or minced fish piled on homemade buns, conch soups, fried plantain, breadfruit, and heaps of homemade cookies, candies and heavy cakes.