Sunday, July 2, 2017

The #WATWB June Edition: Celebrating Diversity

Love rules!!!!

June 30th, was a landmark day for Europe. The German parliament voted to legalize same-sex marriage after an emotional, if brief, debate that resulted in a 393-vs.-226 vote in favor. After three decades of the struggle for equality, and especially given the present rise of conservative policies worldwide, this victory for equality comes as a beautiful, and much-needed, source of hope for a more inclusive climate everywhere. As one member of the German parliament put it during the opening debate, with the legalization of gay marriage "many will receive something, but nobody will have something taken away.” (Thomas Oppermann, parliamentary leader of the Social Democrats)

June 30th also brought cause for celebration on a more personal, but still related, note: my dushi celebrated 20 years since coming to live in Curaçao. He never imagined, back then, that he'd stay on this rock so long; like most financial services employees, he came to the island with a three-year contract, and he hadn't given much thought to what he'd do after. But Curaçao won him over rather quickly. People who had arrived around the same time he did began leaving: to other financial centers, back to Holland, or changing career tacks, marrying and moving away... And, year after year, farewell party after farewell party, Cor stayed. He was offered a couple of good opportunities elsewhere, but—for one reason or another—he ended up turning them down. (Which was a good thing; otherwise we might never have met.)

Curaçao does that to some people. Not to everyone, maybe not even to the majority of expats and immigrants who come here. Lots of people have a hard time with the island; many never adapt, several can't wait for their contract to be up so they can leave. The smallness, the endemic limitations, the heat, you name it: there are plenty of reasons to dislike living here. But, for some of us, the cons can't hold a candle to the pros.

The pros might seem obvious; we're a Caribbean island, after all. Sun, sea, flip-flops and shorts, seafood and ice-cold beer, feet in the sand, cocktails with umbrellas in them. Not to undervalue these, but... well, pretty much any seaside destination offers variations thereof. No, what makes Curaçao special—truly special—has to do with diversity. Over 50 nationalities live here; all religions are present, all cultures, all colors. Just imagine the variety of delicious cuisine we have! And food becomes a metaphor for all sorts of wonderful things. No, Curaçao is no melting pot; that would imply a homogeneity of flavor and texture that would become antithesis to diversity. Food, however, says it best: flavors meet in combinations that build on each other, that borrow from each other not just to improve but to broaden the experience. Our experience. Our selves.

Today, July 2nd, the island is celebrating Dia di Bandera (Flag Day), and our new Prime Minister—a man who stands for diversity and inclusivity—posted this message on his Facebook page:

TRANSLATION FROM PAPIAMENTU (mine): "Our island is very diverse. People from different origins, cultures, and religions, together forming a nation which is unique. Which lives from union, united in our diversity. We are proud to live together with each other, here in our dushi Curaçao. Let's keep caring for and supporting each other, so that we can all continue prospering, together under one flag. Happy Flag Day."

And this year it's an especially happy celebration for Kòrsou: our soccer team won the Caribbean Cup last week—for the first time! EVER! It was the first time they even made it to the final. That footage in Mr. Prime Minister's video above showing the crowds waving little flags are from the welcome the team got at the airport Tuesday evening. Yes, we're very, very proud of them. 

Celebrations at Brionplein last Tuesday, when the Curaçao soccer team returned to the island after winning the Caribbean Cup — for the first time in history!

But I digress. The point I'm trying to make here is about diversity, and about how sharing space—a city, a nation, a life—with others, with very different others, is no impossible dream. Curaçao is living proof of that. This island is far from perfect—same-sex marriage, for instance, is still not legal here—and there's certainly room for improvement on all sorts of areas (corruption is a big, big problem; illegal immigration is, too, and there's still a lot of unresolved conflict with Holland), but the thing that makes Curaçao different from other diverse places is the attitude. In Curaçao, difference is normal. No one expects anyone else to be the same as they are. Diversity in background and religion is a given; people take it in stride, take it even for granted: everyone is different. It's not just how it is, but how it should be. And people here do, mostly, get the enormous benefits of a diverse society. 

I have hope that the world will, one day, not too far away, take the hint and follow the example.

Curaçao's national anthem (original Papiamentu, with the English translation—mine, don't quote me—in italics):

Lantá nos bos ban kanta
     Raise our voices to sing
grandesa di Kòrsou;

     the greatness of Curaçao
Kòrsou, isla chikitu,

     Curaçao, small island,
baranka den laman!

     cliffs at arm's reach
Kòrsou, nos ta stima bo

      Curaçao, we love you
ariba tur nashon.

      above all nations.
Bo gloria nos ta kanta

      Your glory we sing
di henter nos kurason.

      with our whole heart.
Nos pueblo tin su lucha,

      Our people have our struggles,
ma semper nos tin fé

      but always we have faith
di logra den tur tempu

      we'll achieve every time
viktoria ku trabou!

      victory with our toils!
Ban duna di nos parti

     Let's do our part
p'e isla prosperá.

     so the island may prosper.
Laga nos uni forsa
     Let us join forces
p'asina triunfá.

     in order to triumph.
Nos patria nos ta demostrá

     To our homeland we show
Honor i lealtat,

     honor and loyalry,
meskos na e bandera

     same as we do to our flag
union di nos nashon.

     union of our nation.
Nos bida lo ta poko

      Our life is a small thing
pa duna nos pais,

     to give to our country,
luchando uní pa libertat,

     fighting together for freedom,
amor i komprenshon.

     love, and understanding.
I ora nos ta leu fo'i kas

     And when we are far from home
nos tur ta rekordá

     we all remember
Kòrsou, su solo i playanan,

     Curaçao, its sun and beaches,
orguyo di nos tur.

     pride of us all.
Laga nos gloria Kreador

     Let us give glory to the Creator
tur tempu i sin fin,

     always and endlessly,
k'El a hasi nos digno

     that He has made us worthy


This post is part of the We Are The World monthly blog hop, an effort to change the focus of our ill-riddled world to hope and positivity, hosted by the most excellent Damyanti Biswas, of Daily Write fame, and co-hosted this month by Belinda Witzenhausen,  Lynn HallbrooksMichelle WallaceSylvia McGrath, Sylvia Stein

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